Message & Media: Mind Your Message
Several months ago, I wrote a subscription renewal e-mail for the consumer magazine The Washingtonian. The goal was to test adding a lower cost, nonpaper renewal effort to precede its traditional direct mail renewal series. Sent four to five months prior to lapse, this e-mail currently has a 2 percent to 3 percent open rate with 1 percent to 2 percent of subscribers renewing. While these rates match or exceed industry standards, The Washingtonian continues to test subject lines, offers, timing and other key variables. As a direct marketer, the magazine’s goal is to beat the e-mail control by increasing both open and renewal rates.
Here’s another scenario with a different publication. In a lapsed subscriber reactivation effort, e-mail was tested against direct mail and won 4 to 1. Closer analysis showed 12-month-and-under lapses performed equally well with a significant drop in response at 12-plus months. Consequently, the next round of testing included offer, message and subject line tests to these 12-plus month segments. The goal was to find the right mix of media, message and offer to regain 12-plus-month lapsed subscribers as profitable subscribers. Testing over time will show if this goal is attainable.
Will e-mail always outperform direct mail? Is it always a better alternative because it’s less expensive? Not necessarily. For example, many marketers currently don’t have customer e-mail addresses—especially inactives or lapses—so e-mail isn’t an option. In the cases discussed above, those publications have e-mail addresses for most subscribers, but not all. This will change with time.
Another important influencer is your audience. How do your prospects or customers prefer hearing from you? What is their comfort level with the media you’re considering? Here’s an example of how important this is.