Wenner Media’s Nicola Wodinger on Marketing Partnerships
The idea that working with the right marketing partners can help a mailer both gain entrée with new audiences and deliver added incentive for its existing base is gaining momentum within the direct mail community. To wit, over the last year, the Who’s Mailing What! Archive has seen a number of mailers, including Don Dion, Pitney Bowes and Kiplinger’s, kick their mail efforts up a notch by joining forces with other like-minded marketers.
Another indication that this trend is starting to catch on is the inclusion of both a session and a roundtable on the topic at the Direct Marketing Association’s 21st Annual Circulation Day this past February. Nicola Wodlinger, strategic partnership director for Wenner Media, which publishes Rolling Stone, US Weekly and Men’s Journal, led the conference’s roundtable discussion, and spoke with me recently about how mailers can make partnerships a viable component of their marketing program.
TG: What role do partnerships play in your marketing efforts?
NW: Partnerships are at the core of one of our consumer marketing missions at Wenner Media. My specific focus is on growing our subscriptions through marketing partnerships. We work with partners that reach the same demographics, or psychographics, and then we drill down further by applying other internally established benchmarks that make a good subscription partner. We have been doing this aggressively over the last few years and have been fortunate in establishing ourselves at the forefront of executing [Audit Bureau of Circulations] partnership programs in the publishing industry. Partnerships play an integral and complementary role with our other traditional circulation channels, such as insert cards, direct mail, and the Internet.
TG: How can a marketer find the right partners?
NW: Look at your magazine: the readership studies, the demographics that you are trying to expand, and your advertisers. Remember, advertisers have already done the research to find that you are the right partner for them, and it’s often a two-way street. For example, Rolling Stone is the American music magazine, so we aren’t looking to do a marketing partnership with someone that is outside of that endemic interest category. We look at people who reach music fans—the music fans we need to get in front of—and then we look at the volume that we can expect a program to yield. This is based on a combination of factors, including the way a partner can execute the program logistically: What’s the data-capturing mechanism? How much promotion are they going to put behind it?
It also depends on the size of your magazine. We reach an audience of 25 million-plus readers with our three titles, so if I execute a program that will deliver 1,000 subscriptions, it isn’t going to justify our time or resources; it often can take as much time as one that will generate 100,000 subscriptions. We also determine the optimal number of partners per title, ending with a diverse yet manageable number of partners. It’s balancing those variables, figuring out your ideal target numbers, and then finding the partners that can deliver in terms of volume and demographics.
TG: Once you find those right partners, what are the keys to making the partnership work?
NW: Don’t overcomplicate things. We aren’t reinventing the wheel here. An overcomplicated program not only encumbers you, it encumbers the partner as well. Find partners that buy into the partnership as much as you do—who are equally as invested and involved. Work with someone who brings as much value to the table as you do. To make these partnerships work, you want to develop a relationship that will last.
TG: What are some of the special considerations of partnerships and direct mail?
NW: The best thing for mailers to keep in mind is that working with the right partner can positively affect your response rates, and direct mail’s ability to test means that you can determine the optimal partner with limited expense. Say, for example, you are a garden products mailer, you can find a great gardening magazine that wants to work with you on your direct mail because you can put them in front of their target audience, and they can offer an incentive that will help lift response. We have seen that our participation as a magazine partner has given our partners lifts against their control series, across multiple different controls. That’s key for direct mailers—approach the idea of partnerships as a value-add and a lift mechanism.
TG: What advice would you offer?
NW: Partnership programs have something of real value to bring to the table for direct mailers, but [you] need to make strategic decisions as far as the best way to execute these programs. Part of that is working with the right mailers. In the face of rising paper and postal costs, it makes sense for us find new and different ways to work with each other.
Tracy Gill is the former editor of Inside Direct Mail. This interview originally was published in the April 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