By Maxine Briggs, Editorial Director at digital and direct agency Tullo Marshall Warren.
As with any marketing, the more relevant you are with your communications and messaging, the more effective you will be. However, despite huge advancements in digital printing and enormous decrease in the cost of personalisation, most customer publications are produced as ‘one-size-fits-all’.
This limits the potential that customer magazines have to offer – and with predictions that the market will grow from £904 in 2009 to £1.2bn by 2012 (Source: APA), that’s a lot of potential!
A customer magazine can be a great way to connect with your customers. By customising content you show consumers that you understand their interests and passions and will ensure they read more of your magazine, hanging on to it for longer.
This is a worthy goal as one of the unique advantages of a customer publication is that it is consumed longer than any other media – consumers spend 25 minutes reading a customer magazine on average.
With more brands starting to understand the enormous value that customer publications (both online and offline) offer, it’s important for marketers to unlock that potential through customisation. Here’s how:
1. Segment your customers
Customer segmentation is the starting point. The key metrics with which to segment your customer database are demographics, lifestage and lifestyle. Transactional data can also provide insight on customers’ current/future worth so you can understand which groups are worth targeting to receive different editions. You may find a very distinct group of people in terms of profile whose spend is low, but their potential could be such that it’s worth creating a retention strategy or rewarding loyalty.
2. Understand what makes them tick
You then need to carry out in-depth research to identify what content is relevant for each group. Focus groups and surveys are both invaluable here. As magazines are aspirational media, you need to look beyond consumers’ current needs and wants and also uncover what inspires them. It’s useful to find out the magazines they read regularly and get a real understanding of how they see themselves – or how they want others to see them.
3. Plan customised vs. generic content
The next step is to plan the magazine content by identifying what generic content will be suitable for readers and what should be variable. It’s unlikely that the whole magazine will need to customised for each segment and a good editor will identify where content can be shared across the different versions.
This should also include understanding where generic visuals are suitable and where tailored visuals would be more effective. For example, delivering tailored fashion features that offer inspirational styling targeted at specific age groups can be extremely compelling.
4. Create content!
Now create your content accordingly. Even where you have recognised the need for tailored content you may be able to use the same broad feature topics, but tailor them relevantly for the reader.
More subtle changes can make a difference too. Making recipes relevant to a specific demographic group will make readers feel warmer to a brand and, crucially, encourage product purchase. So even though the same recipes can be featured across customised editions, you can badge them differently - ‘mid week dinner party recipes’ for older women are ’20 minute family dinners’ for working mums.
Obviously the magazine cover is the most important point of entry. The right image, cover lines and offers should engage and resonate with the customer as soon as the magazine hits the mat – so it ends up on the coffee table and not in the recycling bin!
5. Generate advertising revenue
Another benefit of a customer magazine is that it can be generate revenue if you sell on advertising space. This is all the more effective when you talk to advertisers about tailored content as you are able to offer highly targetable audiences.
6. Measure and analyse
Understand and agree the metrics for success up front. Is it an increase in weight of purchase? Or rewarding customer loyalty? You can set up control groups whereby one group receives just the magazine, one group receives magazine and coupons and the final one simply receives coupons and then track the sales. For an online magazine, measurement is simpler. Monitor click-throughs or introduce promotional codes to track. As with any DM, test, test, test.
Also, evaluate what recipients think of the magazine by running ongoing focus groups. How relevant is the content? How much of the magazine do they read? How long do they keep it? What else would they like to see?
7. Incorporate learning into planning of next issue
Constant fine-tuning of the look and content of your magazine is vital to ensure that it’s kept fresh and relevant for your customers. Indeed, with online magazines you can tweak the content almost in real time to hone it to perfection.
None of this is rocket science! However, the effort in getting it right is worth it. As it gets increasingly harder to reach customers, the ability to engage with them in such depth makes customer magazines an invaluable and unique part of the media mix.
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