Change is an inevitable precursor to growth. Amidst the corporate growing pains firms face when working to maintain company culture while embracing technology, remembering “what got us here” is a challenge.
Looking at the big picture, marketing guru Philip Kotler says authentic marketing “is the art of identifying and understanding customer needs and creating solutions that deliver satisfaction to the customers, profits to the producers and benefits for the stakeholders.”
For Des Moines, Iowa-based publishing dynasty Meredith Corp., creating solutions to satisfy customer needs involves using a decentralized approach to leveraging the housefile. It strives to achieve authentic marketing by focusing on long-term ROI with an emphasis on customer care and the marketing motto, “You can’t control the mailbox.”
Staying true to the vision of founder Edwin Thomas Meredith, who developed the service journalism concept in 1902 when he launched Successful Farming magazine, the 105-year-old company bases its marketing philosophy on service to the consumer. Meredith Corp., which originated from the founder’s desire to create a publication serving the Iowa farming community, now has 26 publications based on the core categories of home, family, cooking and decorating. These products are sold on the newsstand and via direct channels such as direct mail, Web, e-mail, space ads and others.
The keys to this publishing company’s success are thinking like a consumer, treating the customer like a next-door neighbor and hiring forward-thinking corporate managers with an expertise in, and passion for, direct marketing. According to Vice President of Consumer Marketing David Ball, guidance by leaders who understand the ins and outs of direct marketing provides a distinct edge for Meredith Corp. and “sets the company apart from many others in the industry.”
You Can’t Control the Mailbox
Using a decentralized approach to leveraging the housefile is a long-term strategy Meredith employs to create lasting results instead of focusing on short-term returns. This means shared access of its corporate master database of 85 million names by all magazine groups, providing cross-sell and upsell opportunities as soon as new names and/or activity data come onto the file. The lack of a database access hierarchy creates continuity across promotional groups to best serve consumer interests. Meredith Corp.’s motto, “You can’t control the mailbox,” translates into working to promote products only to people who might want them based on analytics-driven insights, rather than a forced set of promotion rules. “Our goal is to enhance shareholder value by building our brands as profitably as possible, and the key to our success is understanding our customers and creating excellent products that meet their needs,” Ball explains. “Therefore, trying to enforce a hierarchy of access is counterproductive to our goals.”