Budgets – securing marketing investment

Meetings and discussions are often a poor place to explain the principles of direct marketing. Disagreements can quickly develop because those you are trying to convince often feel they know about subscriptions marketing and can contribute their ideas.

And a person’s ideas must be handled with great care or you’ll find you have created an enemy in the camp.

This scenario could not develop with an editor or finance director explaining their procedures!

The reason your methods will not receive the same respect
is that most people have received a subscriptions promotion and have thrown it away without really reading it. And the mailing piece and all the effort that went into it is assumed to have failed.

This is why the direct marketing industry is rarely held in high regard: personal experience has its place, but not in this case.

We respect those who can edit, write or run an accounting department because we all know how difficult these jobs are to do well. But an Editor or other manager will rarely recognise that the application of good common sense, while extremely useful in their job and around the meeting table, does not work with subscriptions marketing. This is why we hear statements like:

“No one reads these letters. Prospects need to see a sample copy. A single page order form with a copy of the magazine enclosed would be better” (Editor of a magazine for parents).

“Our readers are in the personal finance field and highly unlikely to be interested in a wristwatch calculator” (Board director of publishing company)

“We don’t like this promotional outsert. It will mask the cover-lines and newstrade sales will drop. Research done by COMAG found that cover-lines have most influence on a reader’s purchase” (Editor and Managing Editor of a consumer magazine)

“Readers won’t subscribe just to get a plastic stop-watch. I don’t want to be associated with these gimmicks” (Editor of athletics magazine)

“Nobody will read this!! This is really indigestable. Nobody will wade through it — even the highlights!” (Director and Editor of environmental and finance magazines commenting on an eight page letter)

Those outside marketing don’t understand what makes a promotion work — but they believe they can guess, through their own likes and dislikes, how to win new subscribers.

Never are so few personal preferences and prejudices projected onto so many thousands of others.

But of course this is what editors are paid to do! How do you break this professional habit and explain that your job is much more scientific than this!

Getting the message across to colleagues
Your message to your colleagues must be clear. A formal presentation is needed to help educate those within management who influence decisions.

You need to explain that you are addressing a tiny percentage of prospects — just one or two percent will usually respond.

Using intuition to establish what will make this tiny proportion of prospects respond is doomed to failure.

Our industry is driven by testing. Only trial and error will tell us what will work.

And you must back this up with industry standard principles based on historical testing. Many tests have been carried out already and you must explain what works and what doesn’t. Otherwise you will find yourself agreeing to test every daft idea that is thrown up.

You must explain that enclosing a sample of your publication kills response (unless you are marketing to libraries – one of three very specialist areas). That no further testing is needed because this has already been tried and accepted in the same way that an editor does not put all the cover-lines on the right hand side of a cover.

There are better ways to spend a budget than proving the already proven.

Then you must explain the other principles of subscriptions marketing, many of which fall under the ‘strange but true’ category.
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The Subscriptions Strategy newsletter publishes international case studies of ‘best practice’ marketing for the Internet, websites, newsletters, books and magazines etc.

As publishers ourselves, we live or die by results. If a promotion doesn’t work, we lose money. If it works we record the results and use it on our own, and our clients’ websites and publications.

Every issue of the Subscriptions Strategy newsletter carries examples of successful marketing.

How you benefit by removing risk
As far as we are concerned, our testing means the difficult and costly part is over. As far as you are concerned, you can benefit from this tried and tested knowledge because the risk of failure has been removed and profitability is assured.

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