Time Inc.’s Kimberly Miller on Acquisition Tactics
The expression “the job is never done” is one Kimberly Miller, marketing director at Time Inc. for Real Simple and In Style magazines, can relate to very well. With far-ranging responsibilities—including retention marketing, acquisition, online audience development and consumer research—she is never one to rest on her laurels, or the controls; she continually changes up acquisition tactics and isn’t afraid to share the flops as well as the successes.
Meanwhile, Miller considers the mentoring of other up-and-comers a key part of her job, and she is termed a “faculty teacher” in Time Consumer Marketing’s internal training program. It’s also why the Direct Marketing Education Foundation recently named her a “Rising Star” in 2007.
EB: Since you became marketing director for Real Simple and In Style, how have your acquisition tactics changed?
KM: We have tried a bunch of different things actually. One very successful thing for us is what we call “The Welcome Package,” which is sent out as an early billing effort. They actually can’t pay on the package at all, which is pretty crazy. They’ve ordered, and we send out this package from the editor; it has a table of contents, what they can expect to see in the magazine and a free refrigerator magnet branded with Real Simple that tells you when to throw out certain produce and other things in your fridge. It’s a way to bring them into the brand in a positive way, as opposed to “Pay us now! And you probably haven’t even gotten your magazine yet.” This welcome package has been so successful that it’s been rolling for a year now. Our subscribers love it … and payment has gone up on [the] direct mail effort because of it.
EB: What are a couple of other new acquisition tactics?
KM: On Real Simple, we now have simple pricing. So that means that whether you’re a new customer or an existing customer looking to renew, every customer gets the same price. There’s not any price segmentation on the magazine right now—and that’s in-line with the brand: simple pricing, simple magazine, one low price for everyone. And we have seen great success with that, especially on the retention side. They like to feel like they’ve been with us for a while and they’re getting rewarded.
Another very exciting thing that rolled out just this January as our new control for Real Simple is a magalog. Real Simple has been around for seven years and is a pretty popular magazine, but most people don’t know what the magazine is about and haven’t heard of it—so our brand awareness is low in the market. In our direct mail, we have to go above and beyond in explaining the brand and showcasing examples of content that are in the magazine. Our control for a very long time was a polybag package, but we finally had a win after four years to a magalog.
EB: On the opposite side, what are some tactics that do not work to build a magazine’s audience?
KM: One thing that I’m finding, particularly on In Style, which is a very well-established brand: More isn’t better. A lot of things that we’ve tried that are promotional in nature—like a colored outer or a private sample sale-type package—just do not work. Consumers know what the magazine is; they’re very aware of competitive pricing and things like that. So straight vouchers with a solid deal, and a promise of a magazine and what its content is, tend to work best. That’s not always what you think about when you think of direct mail: You want to stand out in the mail, make sure your package gets noticed, but for a well-established brand, that’s not necessarily the case.
EB: Depending on the magazine, do you have to be careful with the type of discounts that you give?
KM: Yes, that’s a very slippery slope. You want to stay competitive in the market, and if you look at a magazine like In Style versus its competition, a lot of [the latter] is selling subs at $10 for a year; it’s hard to stay competitive with that. But if you consider yourself more of a luxury brand, you have to maintain your pricing. It’s one thing to give your consumers discounts for an additional term or for referring a new subscriber, but you don’t want to get into price wars because no one will win.
EB: Since you were recently honored by the DMEF, can you tell me how “teaching” factors into your job?
KM: I think any good manager is going to train their team, but training and teaching are very different things. I make it a point in my job to ask my team a lot of questions and not put them on the spot, to explain out loud their methodology. I have to make myself do that, [as] staff wants to hear that you did stuff that didn’t work. They want to hear why you tried something in the beginning.
[This interview originally was published in the September 2007 issue of Inside Direct Mail, a sister publication to Target Marketing magazine. To learn more about Inside Direct Mail, visit http://www.insidedirectmail.com ]