The scenario plays over and over again: A publisher invests the time and money to build a multiplatform publishing website, only to wonder why they’re not generating as much subscription revenue as expected. When we audit their efforts, we find they’re not sending any promotions for their magazine. Coincidence?
Our initial content marketing audits often find that publishers are doing a great job of creating and distributing free daily email newsletters. These newsletters keep the readers engaged with high-quality content and typically carry third-party sponsored ads, along with occasional in-house ads for magazine subscriptions, all-access memberships and/or one-shot products like books.
Unfortunately, we find that this is where many publishers stop. What they’re forgetting is a dedicated spotlight email, and we recommend at least one spotlight email, if not more, for every product platform you sell each week. If you sell books, a magazine or all-access membership, and a live event, there are at least three promotional emails that could be sent per week.
What is a spotlight email?
At Mequoda, we call any promotional email that features a single product or subscription a spotlight. The idea behind this email is that the publisher is shining a spotlight on one product instead of trying to sell a bunch of things at one time. There are plenty of benefits to featuring one item, for example:
- Creating a promotional calendar that aligns with the topics of your email newsletters and/or what topics sell best
- Better conversion tracking from email because there’s only one product to track
- The ability to track different calls to action and copy and see which one performs best for a single product
- More creativity when testing specific vs. non-specific subject lines
- Easy A/B tests on copy
- Room to support your promises with customer testimonials
- Focus, focus, focus from your subscribers
A promotional email template that attempts to sell more than one subscription or product reminds me of Gordon Ramsay on Kitchen Nightmares. In every episode he does three things: spits out their food, freaks out about how unorganized their cooler is, and tells them to chop their restaurant menu down to only a few items.
The reason is that buyers need focus. Having 50 items on a menu only confuses and distracts restaurant guests. Cutting it down to 10 things focuses not only the guest, but also the chefs. Be responsible for only so many ingredients and dishes, and you can excel at all of them. Try to do them all, and you won’t.
The same goes for email. Throw 10 products at an email subscriber, and you don’t have the space to talk about each one. The subscriber doesn’t know what to look at first, so they leave by closing or deleting the email. But give them one thing to pay attention to, and not only do you have the ability to add more detail and “reasons why” they should buy, but the customer can also quickly determine if the product is of interest and either close the email or keep reading and click through. The one-product spotlight email allows you to be more dynamic every time you send one out.
A series of 12 magazine promotion ideas
As with any product you’ll ever have, if you want to sell it, you have to promote it. Even the most search-optimized landing page for a bestselling product that generates free traffic from search, can generate more revenue through email promotion. Think about it: If your email list has 35,000 people on it, (or 100,000, or 500,000 or more), all you need is to hit “send,” and a big chunk of those subscribers will see your magazine promotion. If you’ve been delivering them great content every day through email, they might be most inclined to pay for your magazine.
To get in the habit of doing exactly that, first, develop your spotlight email template. In fact, develop, say, 6 to 12 of them. Below are the six best-performing email spotlight frameworks that our publishing partners send, which we review in depth here.
- The “You’ve Been Gifted” Spotlight framework is a new twist on simply saying “FREE,” and works well when selling an all-access subscription or membership where the vast digital library of back issues and content can be positioned as a “gift” for joining or subscribing—with the number of years or number of issues in the library used as a benefit.
- The “Charter Offer” Spotlight framework is perfectly designed to highlight an all-access pass in a way that responders feel like they’re “getting in at the beginning” with a new product or service.
- The “You are invited” Spotlight framework appeals to anyone who wants to feel special about being invited to something exclusive—this approach works well with any type of membership offer.
- The “Statement of Benefits” Spotlight framework is a digital take on an old direct-mail format—you’ve probably seen or received this type of offer in the mail, where all the benefits of the product are presented as line items in a statement-like format.
- The “Hero Shot/Short Form” Spotlight framework works well when the offering includes highly visual products—and a multitude of platforms and features graphical displays of the offerings.
In addition to these frameworks, we encourage you to try new ideas and formats that you think will work well for your audience. Additional ideas to test might include:
- A spotlight with video, featuring exclusive content only available to magazine subscribers.
- A spotlight in the form of a plain-text email from the editor.
- A spotlight that polls them on their favorite content from your site (with a more subtle CTA for the magazine).
- A spotlight that includes a “once a year” offer on the rate.
- A spotlight that focuses on reader testimonials.
- A spotlight featuring a “bonus gift”.
Once you’ve created your 12 email templates to satisfy a whole quarter, choose specific days of the week you’ll be sending these spotlights, and roll through them once a month. Our publishing partners often send three spotlights per week for optimal testing.
Because all of the magazine promotion ideas are so varied, your readers won’t become bored of them, and over time you’ll be able to determine which templates generate the most revenue. Once you determine your top templates, create more of those and ditch the ones that don’t work. But no matter what you do, don’t forget to promote your magazine.
Your turn. What’s the best way you’ve promoted your magazine?
Over the past two decades, we’ve guided more than 300 niche publishers through the process of transforming themselves from legacy print publishers into multiplatform operations that often dominate their industry niche and generate operating margins that surpass those created by their legacy print business. Learn more about how we can help you apply these strategies to your publishing business by scheduling a FREE consultation today.