Meet the Masters: Elizabeth Safford
Currently vice president of strategic marketing in the consumer and member marketing group at National Geographic Society, Liz Safford has been directly involved with all aspects of both acquisition and retention marketing for the Society. Previously she directed renewal, gift and billing activities for U.S. News & World Report. She now takes a moment to sound off on the extinction of sweepstakes as a circulation builder, the growth of innovative young marketing talent and how her days working at a bank in Colorado spurred a career in direct marketing.
Q: What was your first job?
A: My first job was working as a coat check girl at a Midwestern supper club. I quickly learned that the key to better tips was to make the customer feel special. Recognizing repeat customers, complimenting customers on their attire, hair, etc., and chatting with them while they waited for their table paid dividends when they left.
Q: What made you begin a career in the advertising/marketing industry?
A: Like many, if not most, "circulators," I fell into this line of work. After college I moved to Colorado and got a job at a bank. The bank I worked for handled some of the deposit accounts for magazines that were fulfilled at the old Neodata. After a few years I was managing the department, and found it advantageous to get a better understanding of the fulfillment business. Several years later I relocated to Washington, D.C., and heard about a job opportunity at U.S. News & World Report from a good friend at Neodata. That got my foot in the door.
Q: What are the biggest prospecting challenges facing circulation directors right now?
A: Finding ways to increase the perceived value, and thus the price consumers will pay, for our magazines. Even with a magazine like National Geographic, which our research shows has a very high perceived value, what our testing shows is that price can be a real barrier. Finding creative ways of presenting the price/value proposition that will allow circulators to increase the contribution made to their magazine is essential to the continued success of our medium.
Q: What role should e-mail marketing play in a circulation director's mission?
A: E-mail holds a lot of promise for circulation. Not surprisingly, the early success seems to be in addressing
current customers. Renewal e-mail reminders are becoming more popular as a way to bring in incremental orders for many magazines. New business acquisition is a lot tougher, probably because of the quality of the lists available and the reluctance of the public to open and respond to e-mails from companies that they do not have a current relationship with. Traditional mail is so much more impactful than that short little "Re:" line that shows up in your e-mail box.
Q: How have magazines regrouped after losing sweepstakes as a circulation builder?
A: The loss of sweepstakes has been very hard for the industry. Circulators have struggled to replace the volume of orders once provided by the big sweeps agents. Unfortunately, many of the opportunities that are out there today that can drive significant volume do not have the same economic benefits associated with the sweeps agents. The remit structures are often less favorable and conversion rates much lower.
Q: What doors have the recent ABC rulings opened?
A: Partnership and combo offers have been a real boon, both with other magazines and other types of business. We've found some real opportunities working with companies out in the publishing arena to introduce our products to a new consumer. We've also been pleased with results from combining our magazines with other magazines with complimentary content.
Q: Which advertising or marketing icon, dead or alive, do you admire most?
A: That's too hard a question. There are so many fabulous marketers now and in the past. What I guess impresses me most is the number of smart, dedicated and innovative young talents that are attracted to our industry. The future is limitless.
Q: Which companies do you find market best one-to-one?
A: Amazon.com does an incredible job. Lands' End, The Pleasant Company and Babycenter.com continually impress me. I think publishers have a tremendous opportunity for improvement in this area.