Riding Out a Down Market With Little Tests
In a weak market for financial-newsletter publishers, Louis Rukeyser's Wall Street has found a way to engage potential readers and keep subscriptions streaming in.
In July, the Who's Mailing What! Archive received the current acquisition control for Rukeyser's, an 8-1/2" x 11", four-color, 30-page magalog effort that offers prospects a one-year deal for $33.50 or a two-year deal for $67, plus five free investment special reports (270LORUWS0704). The package represents a slight shift in direct marketing strategy for the publication, as it had long mailed 8-1/2" x 11" issue-logs, or "faux issues," that only employed two-color process.
The cover of this particular effort features a businesswoman in the desert holding a street sign of an upward arrow over her face, with the adjoining headline copy: "Keep Riding the New Bull: Its Move Has Just Begun." Previously, the publication used a photo of just a street sign with a bull on itsans womanplanted on an empty highway. (That image now appears on the back cover, just above the address information.) One would think the latter creative might be more representative of the copy at play here, but according to Dan Moser, staff copywriter for Louis Rukeyser's Wall Street, the new cover art bumped up response results by 55 percent.
"When we tested the new cover art, Lou[Rukeyser] felt more comfortable with not being so definitive with the creative," says Moser. "It's an arresting picture, and people responded well to it."
One other variable Moser and the marketing team tested recently was the body-copy type size; in April, they decided to increase it from 12 point to 15 point since the publication had long presented small type in its direct mail solicitations without "going large." In doing so, they were forced to tack on an additional eight pages to the folio, but Moser says the new "oversized" treatment lifted response by 20 percent. The overall graphic treatment looks more fit for an audience of elderly book readers than risk-taking investorsbig fonts, big photosbut the test ultimately proved successful.
However, not all recent tests have yielded positive results. Earlier this year, the publication decided to send out its standard subscription appeal in a slim-jim format. Copy had to be cut and pages still had to be added to accommodate the new tall-and-thin format, but Moser says, in the end, it depressed response by 5 percent.
Currently, the controlwhich has been mailing since December 2003is just about breaking even for Louis Rukeyser's Wall Street, pulling close to 1 percent. According to Moser, who admits that the last healthy years for investor newsletters were 1999 and 2000, the newsletter will continue to test, and test frequently.