Evaluating the Efficiency of Your Insert Media Plan
By Barbara Henry
This article was the 2005 Insert Media Web Community Spotlight feature.
Many people use the end of the year as a time to take stock and reflect on the past — to make amends and plan changes for the coming year. The timing seems natural. We vow to exercise more, eat less and more healthily, organize the shoeboxes filled with photos from the last four years, and spend more quality time with our children. We start out the new year filled with good intentions, but one month in, are we meeting our goals? Are we doing the best we can? Or are we just getting by, resting on our laurels?
Much in the same way people "take stock" of their lives, marketing, circulation and acquisition managers evaluate their media plans. They look at all different aspects — from the creative to the list selection — and determine how well their benchmarks measure up to years past. One important area may be getting overlooked in all this, however, and that is the efficiency of the various plans. It's not only important to analyze whether your plan is working, but also to ensure it's working in the best way possible.
When evaluating your insert media plan, it's important to look at the areas of consequence to success. These include:
- target audience,
- average cost per thousand (CPM),
- response rates,
- printing costs,
- shipping and so on.
Don't just look at whether your plan is working, but if it's working to its maximum potential. You want to ask, is it efficient?
What do I mean by efficiency? The American Heritage Dictionary defines efficiency as:
- The quality or property of being efficient [acting or producing effectively with a minimum of waste, expense or unnecessary effort].
- The degree to which this quality is exercised.
- The ratio of the effective or useful output to the total input in any system.
With this in mind, let's look at how you can apply it to your insert media plan.
Printing and Shipping Services
Are you being best served by the printer(s) you're using? Many companies use the printer they're familiar with for other aspects of their marketing plan, such as their direct mail. Insert printing has its own quirks and peculiarities, however, and may demand a different printer's expertise and/or location to save time, cost, etc.
Low CPM certainly is a goal to reach for, but with inserts, plate change costs for proper keying also must be evaluated. The printer's cost structure should not be determining your keycode sizes. Rather, use these and other factors to determine it:
- program size and
- length of time to distribute.
Location of the printer also is important in relation to where inserts are being shipped. If the printer is far from the bulk of the programs, unnecessary shipping costs can make programs less viable for success. Choose and work with your printer wisely.
How often you print and how much you print can have both negative and positive effects on the efficiency of your insert media plan. Printing in large volumes affords you the discounts that allow the CPM to be driven down. At the same time, printing extra keys allows you to have inserts on hand to take advantage of new test opportunities when they become available. It also allows you to participate in programs in which remnant space and lower rates are available. On the flip side, expiration dates, stale offers and creative shifts can cause over-prints to be expensive. The costs of storage also need to be accounted for. Analyze the pros and cons. Like all areas, successful streamlining is dependent on the plan's stated goals and budget.
Many marketing managers rely on their printers to provide shipping services, but it isn't always the most efficient course of action. As your use of insert media increases, it may make sense to use a shipping consolidator to decrease shipping costs, time and energy spent on managing the shipping system.
Creative and Testing
Aside from meeting the stated marketing goals for an insert media plan, are you achieving those goals in the best way possible? In assessing these areas, one objective should be to make sure you're not passing by opportunities for testing because inventory isn't available to participate in a new program. When handled well, a minimum of effort on the planning end can yield big dividends at the execution stage. (As stated previously, this area must be evaluated in conjunction with printing efforts.)
Another objective may be to make sure there always is new creative in development to test and/or rotate in established programs. This allows changes that quickly can be assessed in your core programs. Shifts in response can be handled quickly and efficiently because multiple creative or offers are in the queue, ready to be used at any moment. Creative development as an ongoing area ensures it won't become a resource drain in the future.
There are many other ways to efficiently take full advantage of your efforts in the creative and testing arenas. While they may seem common sense, they bear repeating because their importance should not be understated.
1. Set aside some time to sit with your broker to identify the characteristics of the programs that work. Then find plans that share these characteristics, and put a plan in place to test them.
2. Alternatively, with your broker, identify potential programs not on the market that may accept your insert.
Be certain these steps are an integral part of your planning and evaluation.
In conjunction with testing and creative, your main objectives are program and audience selection. A good plan includes a broad range of programs—insurance against last-minute changes in program distribution. An efficient marketing manager will have her offer/insert cleared into many more programs than she expects to produce for, including programs that may be outside of the core audience. This really is a corollary to having additional keys to take advantage of new programs. In this case, you have standby programs to take keys when other programs go off the market, are running behind schedule or stop performing. When contingencies are planned for in advance, these types of problems become non-issues and are handled as a matter of course.
Of course, working with experienced professionals, such as an insert media brokerage, can help you achieve balance. A professional knows how to source programs, negotiate rates and follow through with a program. It will put the systems in place to monitor the process from clearance to receiving. You can utilize its resources, since commissions are covered by the program owner in your cost to participate.
Efficiency can be improved in almost every aspect of your insert media plan. By assessing the individual components, you can achieve your marketing or circulation goals more effectively. Byproducts of this analysis may include cost savings, streamlined processes and improved results. So take stock this year, but don't just look at whether you've accomplished goals — make sure you've efficiently accomplished your goals.
|Barbara Henry is vice president of Leon Henry, Inc, a list services and brokerage company specializing in insert brokerage and management. Reach her via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit the Web site, www.leonhenryinc.com.|