Manager's Edge Gets to the Point
Business newsletter subscription mailings usually are dry, sober affairs, often featuring sample issue promotions to draw in the professional crowd. Briefings Publishing Group was using just that sort of approach to promote its Manager's Edge newsletter when declining response rates prompted publisher Bill Dugan to try something a little more ... to the point (Archive code #250-418167-0501).
In 2002, the mailing for Manager's Edge was redesigned to include a barrage of bullet points. The outer envelope now features the tag, "What never to say to your staff," in bold black and red type, while the letter copy features teasers such as "How to say 'no' without being pegged as an obstacle and naysayer," and "Overcome procrastination with these simple routines," along with a slew of other how-to points.
However, this revamped package
for Manager's Edge may look familiar to some. After all, it owes a lot to a more-than-a-decade-old design Boardroom Inc. had used for its Bottom Line: Personal newsletter. In fact, the Briefings mailing mimics the format Boardroom used as its controlwith outer-envelope changes onlyfor Bottom Line: Personal from 1985 to 1995, but had phased out by the late 1990s. Dugan says he had picked up the format previously, with good results, during his tenure as the marketing director for Nutrition Action Health Letter. At Briefings he revived the same bullet-heavy, copy-rich design for the Manager's Edge mailing. He believes it continues to work because, "clear, compelling languagepresented in an easy-to-read formatwill always sell better than 'lazy' language that is distorted with 'overdesigned' graphics ... Our Manager's Edge package is simple in design, but heavy on benefit copy."
Dugan used the answers from a reader surveyasking readers to identify their interests and workplace challengesto form the backbone of the mailing's copy. "Communication is the No. 1 challenge for our readers, that's why the teaser on the envelope addresses that," he says.
Although Manager's Edge is a B-to-B publication, Dugan feels there's no reason to shy away from the more consumer-oriented approach of the bullet mailing when marketing the newsletter to prospects. "Consumer-like marketing techniques are often successful with a lot of things that we do, so there's no reason why we wouldn't test this approach here," he says.
Initial tests of the package in May 2002 proved him right. "We got approximately 25 percent increase in response," says Dugan. "In addition, this package was about 10 percent cheaper to produce." Larger tests in September 2002 confirmed the positive results, and Briefings has used the package as the control ever since.
Since it became the control, Briefings has continued to test the mailing. One test included an insert featuring the eight taboo words that answered the teaser on the outer envelope. Another test included a sample issue with the mailing. Both tests saw depressed response rates, as did replacing the package's three bonus "Success Workshop" reports with alternate premiums, such as a video. The mailing, says Dugan, is "mostly about selling the sizzle, not the steak." Revealing too much creates a disconnect. Dugan concludes, "This package is right on target with what people care about." The proof? Manager's Edge is the fastest growing title of the nine newsletters published by Briefings, says the publisher.