How we’re seeing a larger return on our marketing investment by recycling marketing campaigns across platforms
When I first started working at Mequoda almost 10 years ago, we wrote a lot of promotional copy. We sent several promotions per week, and each one was brand spanking new. For a company that was limited on resources at the time, and who did all the work internally with Mequoda staff, this was a lot of production time.
Back in those days, we had paid handbooks, free handbooks, paid webinars and a yearly event. We sent weekly promotions for the paid handbooks, webinars and event. And every time, we were cooking up a 500-1,500 word email promotion that would get tossed to the side after email distribution, never to be heard from again.
When I was applying to colleges, I heard that a common practice at Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) was to make students throw away their artwork. It’s supposed to teach them the practice of not getting too attached to their work. I felt a little like a RISD student back in those early Mequoda days. Whenever I was particularly proud of a promotion I wrote, I’d pat myself on the back for 30 seconds, buy myself a burrito or something nice, watch the analytics to see if it worked, and then start working on the next one. We went on like this for hundreds of promotions.
At Mequoda, we usually refer to ourselves as the cobbler’s kids. The cobbler makes shoes for a whole town, but the kids run around barefoot. Based on the best practices we developed by studying the most successful publishers, we knew that content recycling was and would become a major way to increase digital revenue for publishers. But we were focusing on editorial.
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If you’re a legacy publisher with a big archive of editorial, you have more magazine articles than you know what to do with. The hardest part is digitizing it, but after that, a magazine article can become:
- A blog post optimized for search (we’ll refer to those as Portal posts going forward)
- A chapter in a book
- An entire eBook or white paper
- Chapters in an eBook or white paper
- The copy for a video Portal post
- The research for an online event or live event
- Part of a membership website
- Part of an issue archive
- A social media post
- A guest post on a well-respected blog
- An authoritative post on a site like Medium
- A viral post on a site like Reddit
If you publish a monthly magazine and each issue includes 50 articles, every year you have content for 600 free Portal posts or 600 premium website articles that remain behind a paywall in an archived online magazine library. Or a mix of both.
But despite being hunky dory in the editorial department, somewhere along the way, we were working harder, not smarter, in the promotional realm. So one day, once we were out from under the mania that is running a successful startup, we began to organize and streamline the way we communicated promotions. We’d start recycling.
But the rule was that if we were recycling promotional content, then the content must be measured and updated, or removed when it was no longer effective. Now at Mequoda, all of our promotional channels have some level of recycling:
Recycling marketing campaigns via email newsletter text ads:
In our email newsletters, we have three text ads between our three articles that promote three different products (more about our best-practice email newsletter template). Back in 2007, I would have been in those emails every day writing text ads from scratch, leaving room for rushed work on a busy morning, and definitely room for typos.
Now we have a series of text ads that we rotate through, and I’ll explain it best I can.
Mondays we publish three articles around multiplatform publishing and send out one email with those three email snippets.
In the first text ad position below the first article, we promote our Business Plan Development services. I have four text ads that rotate through this slot promoting a call with Don and Kim, related to the topic of multiplatform publishing. They’re pre-written and saved so that all I need to do is use short codes. My short codes, for example, are BPD1, BPD2, BPD3, BPD4. We write the text ads to be contextual to the topic of the email because if someone opens our email via a subject line that is multiplatform related, then we want to stay in tune with their current frame of mind.
In the next text ad position, below the second article, we promote an upcoming event. I have another set of four text ads related to the event and the daily topic of multiplatform publishing.
Finally, in the third text ad position, below the third article, we promote our Multiplatform Publishing Strategy handbook, and we have four text ads for those.
On Tuesdays, we publish three articles related to digital magazine publishing, and so we have a set of four text ads for each ad again, but this time they’re all written to capture the attention of the reader who has opened to learn about digital magazine publishing.
So we have four weekly emails, with three text ads in each, that have four different text ads, for a grand total of 48 email text ads that I maintain. More importantly, they all have unique UTM codes on them so that we can chart their successes, and re-write ones that stop performing.
Recycling marketing campaigns via email promotions:
This year, we’re hosting four different events, but last year we ran our Mequoda Intensive four times per year, all about 12 weeks apart. So what we did was write 12 Intensive promotions that got recycled every quarter.
We developed a 12-email series that followed a logical order. Covering the theme of the event, to the location, to the speakers, to the reasons to attend, to the success case studies, and everything else in between (more on this series and how to develop your own in a future post).
Then, beginning with the week after the event, we would re-run the series, dropping the “loser” emails from the last round, and adding in new ones. Every year, we create a new batch, keeping the winners that performed all year.
If you think this method might seem tiresome and readers might get bored of seeing the same thing, I can tell you the painful story of the time we decided to change up our marketing for one of our live events. Despite the event selling out or being near sell-out every quarter, we decided to switch up the marketing and the positioning of the event with a fresh approach to all the emails. Let’s just say that veering from the tried and true did not work. The minute we switched back to what we had used and tested prior, the event booked up.
Sometimes change is good, but sometimes if it ain’t broke, don’t try to fix it. We’ve since returned to our regularly scheduled program of using the best performing promotional emails. When they stop performing, we replace them.
Recycling marketing campaigns via the Portal:
Another strategy that we use to recycle promotions is by publishing them on our Portal, Mequoda Daily. In a spreadsheet, have columns for the promotion name (like DMW1 for Digital Magazine Workshop #1), the theme of the promotion, the link to edit the email template, and the link to to edit the Portal post.
The Portal post is not formatted like a sales letter. There’s no “Dear John,” or “Love Always, Don Nicholas” (kidding!). It’s cropped down to be Portal friendly and interesting while still a clear promotion for the event.
This year, the Digital Magazine Workshop is only happening once, in August, but if we run it next year, we’ll likely be recycling the email series, and I’ll be going in to re-publish these posts again according to the series order.
Last year, we used this strategy for the Intensive when it was quarterly, so I recycled them every 12 weeks using the same edits and cuts as the email newsletters so they are mirror images of one another every quarter.
As a second promotional recycling strategy, when we write free handbooks, which are used to attract and capture new email addresses, we then distribute the chapters as articles into the Mequoda Portal.
Publishing the promotions as Portal posts means they are delivered to the thousands of people who subscribe to our RSS feed, and it also means we can align our email promotional strategy with our social media promotional strategy.
Recycling marketing campaigns via social media:
On Twitter, they say your Tweet has a lifespan of about 18 minutes. There’s too much getting pushed through Twitter for all of your readers to see even half of what you Tweet.
You may have read about our 12x12x12 Twitter strategy, which is a way that we promote all of our evergreen editorial content. We write 12 unique Tweets, schedule them out for 12 days, and then re-use those 12 tweets to schedule them once per month for 12 months.
Promotions aren’t always as evergreen, so we just cut this one short.
Events are the trickiest because they come with an end date (unlike your magazine which I assume you want to continue selling forever.)
At Mequoda, on Monday a promotional email goes out, and then the same promotion goes out as a Portal post, and from there, a series of social about the Portal post goes out (which is often content recycled from the post).
We write 12 unique Tweets, schedule them for the first 12 days, and then once per WEEK for the remaining number of weeks left before the event (for us, that’s 12 weeks or less.)
When there are any “last chance” type promotions, we only run it until the early bird or last day to register ends.
Even if you don’t run events, all promotions have some kind of “deadline” so you can apply the same principles to your publication.
Your turn. I spilled quite a few secrets here, how do you recycle promotional content for an increased return on your marketing investment?