This is no market for young people

Older marketers remember what a real recession is like. Youngsters haven’t a clue.

The most valuable currency in marketing is experience.

Consumer sales are dropping. Increasing prices to compensate won’t work. Personal income continues to drop.

Falling sales is a problem for the marketers to solve. Unfortunately, their moves are sabotaged by bosses who ignore basic marketing principles.

A subscription promotion is a great way to catch those who (like most) don’t often browse in a newsagent. So where are all the subscription promotions telling people about the publications they could be reading?

There aren’t any. It’s as though the magazine bosses are ashamed of what they are offering and just can’t bring themselves to ask for the proper amount of money. You see plenty of offers for cheap or free subscriptions, but they say little about the magazine’s content, its USP.

That’s not marketing – it’s selling stuff off cheap and any fool can do that.

You demean your product by cutting the price simply to put it in the hands of a prospect. Unless you give a very good reason for offering money off, your magazine will always be viewed as something cheap and short-term, ripe for cancellation.

Publishing should have a profitable back end. We surely want long-term, committed readers we can sell other things to.

How logistics has replaced marketing
Good marketing isn’t easy so some publishers have simplified the job by cutting out the creative bits. Increasingly, magazines are sold via websites and the telephone. The volume of sales through these routes is rising fast, with some companies now selling most of their subscriptions via their own and third-party websites.

So the marketers and circulation people concentrate their attention on these new routes to market. That is what is keeping them busy. But when did you last see a good direct mail pack or long copy email promotion?

There aren’t any.

It’s not poor marketing. It’s NO marketing
The focus now is on the route to market. There is no marketing involved. It’s the route that receives all the attention and it’s a simple logistics exercise to get the order, process it and deliver the goods. Any renewals that come in a year or so down the line are processed without much effort, often automatically, until the subscriber cancels – and most new subscribers cancel at the first opportunity.

That is why most magazines show little growth. Subscriptions numbers are being held up by each publication’s long-term, loyal readers.

On paper, the MDs can point to a great deal of expenditure and so claim commitment to magazine marketing. But in reality, order processing and fulfilment of cheap deals has replaced any real marketing activity.

That is a dangerous and short-sighted strategy.

What good marketing looks like
A good marketing-led company can be distinguished by:

1. Clearly expressed financial objectives: are we aiming for cash or profits? Now or in two years’ time?

2. Time gained through training and delegation

3. Marketing spending determined by results not budgets

4. Everyone bought into the principle of measurement, from data entry to finance

5. Campaign results recorded accurately and analysed quickly

6. Marketers thinking like investment fund managers: is this a worthwhile investment for the company? Can I invest more?

7. Key measures understood so that decisions can be taken quickly – by marketers

8. Marketers’ incentives aligned with objectives

9. A renewing sub is understood to be likely to be more valuable than a new one

10. Urgency: subscribers not acquired today will never be caught up – especially on a new launch.

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Peter Hobday
Subscriptions Strategy Ltd