The Marketing that Won the Presidential Race Can Win Back Magazine Subscribers


Multiplatform magazine subscribers are looking for more from you. “Let’s make magazines great again,” shall we?

Last week, after over a year of grueling controversy and debate, the US named Donald Trump as President-elect. While half the country was caught scratching their heads, and the other half applauding, Fortune wrote an article about how good marketing got him to the White House. Their first point—and this is something we’ve known about millennials in particular for some time—is that inclusion is the key to loyalty.

Inclusion might not be the first word that comes to mind regarding the election, but John A. Quelch from Fortune writes, “Let’s Make America Great Again” is an inclusive call to arms with a powerful goal that each voter can interpret for himself. It embraces passion and purpose. Clinton’s “Stronger Together” is also inclusive but it evokes process, not that process isn’t important, but the desired outcome is much less clear. Good marketers know that, if you don’t position your brand clearly, your competitors will do it for you.” I know many people who will say Trump’s campaign was anything but inclusive, but the marketing machine behind his campaign (and Reagan who used the same slogan) knew what they were doing with their wording.

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Magazine subscribers want to feel included

Now think of the publishers you know who have the greatest brand loyalty from their magazine subscribers. Most of them have some kind of consumer-driven loyalty strategy, whether it’s as simple as accepting questions to a monthly column, or giving access to free online forums where they can talk about their niche interests.

Men’s Health has a fairly young demographic, meaning their primary audience is what we call digital natives – people who’ve never known a media world without computers, laptops, smartphones and tablets. The Rodale publication appears to be meeting that challenge well in all digital aspects. Back in 2011, for example they had a Facebook contest in conjunction with Women’s Health called the Fittest Friends of Men’s Health and Women’s Health where fans sould submit photos of themselves and let the community vote before reaching the final stage which included celebrity judges.

Metro Parent has an excellent strategy as well, where they have monthly cover contests. This southeastern Michigan parenting magazine asks parents to submit the cutest photos of their children for a chance to be a on the cover.

Ceramic Arts Daily, home to Ceramics Monthly and Pottery Making Illustrated, has the Ceramic Arts Community, a community content model that includes a large user-generated forum that gathers ceramic artisans and gives them a place to visit and congregate.

But inclusion doesn’t end at allowing customers to be part of the narrative.

Magazine subscribers want to know you’re thinking of them

Another important statement from the Fortune article has to do with inclusion. The key to inclusion, Quelch says, is to pursue forgotten customers. “Most financial firms chase the same high net worth prospects, ignoring or at best taking for granted millions of modestly prosperous people. Trump turned the Democrats’ commendable embrace of diversity on its head to invoke the “Forgotten Man,” winning over lunch-bucket Democrats overlooked by their party as well as bringing in new voters and energizing lapsed ones. At the same time, almost all Republicans came home to vote for their nominee. Good marketers always know how to balance new customer acquisition with customer retention.”

Regardless of who you voted for, the psychology is there. Who are your forgotten customers? What do consumers really want from you?

Maybe customers aren’t renewing for a reason. Contrary to what publishers often believe – they don’t necessarily want to make choices among your products.

This has led some publishers to bundle all their magazine editions – print, digital, web (if available) and archive – for one all-access price. Other publishers  insist on pricing all three things discretely.

But Mequoda has discovered that publishers can meet consumers’ needs and, at the same time, make exponentially more money. You can do this by offering print and digital editions, along with your archive of past issues, all priced separately, plus a bundle of all three for just slightly more than the most expensive of your individual products.

One of the most rewarding things about studying this phenomenon, which we refer to as contrast pricing, is watching the number of orders and the revenues pile up when you switch to this pricing model.

Once you have your bundles and prices established, the next step is to actually promote them to your “forgotten customers” and your existing audience. Tell them you’re listening to them and you have a solution to what you think they’re looking for. Because let’s face it — they subscribed once. If they didn’t subscribe a second time, you missed the mark somewhere but you may be able to get them to subscribe again.

Mequoda starts with an 18-effort renewal series that we introduced at TIME in 1995 – the basics never change! – and we’ve upgraded it for the specific purpose of promoting digital products to your print audience.

All efforts are sent in print and email, to ensure that every magazine subscriber receives them, whether or not you have email addresses for your entire list. At an early stage in the renewal process, magazine subscribers are offered only the full bundle, or combo package. The savvy magazine subscribers who renew early get instant access to the digital editions for the remainder of their current subscription – an appealing incentive indeed.

At the same time, these magazine subscribers are switched over auto-renewal via credit card, which should always be your goal going forward.

Later efforts offer a choice of editions, with the contrast pricing strategy clearly in play. Finally, if they haven’t jumped at a digital edition by the latest efforts, they’re probably determined to remain old-school, so the only offer is the print edition. As time goes by, of course, even the most devout Luddite becomes gradually accustomed to digital reading material, so your efforts may bear fruit a year later, too.

Despite whether you feel like you won or lost the election as a voter, we hope you’ll always be thinking of the “forgotten customer” and making sure you’re continually thinking of ways for them to win.


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