10 Marketing/Renewal Takeaways From SIPA Annual 2019

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In a well-attended Pre-Con Workshop on Day One of SIPA Annual 2019, Arno Langbehn, CEO, B. Behr's Verlag GmbH & Co. KG, covered Steve Jobs—"It's not the customer's job to know what he wants"—superheroes (well, kind of, "The hero is the customer," Langbehn said)—Groundhog Day (the film and the idea of using the information that you know to sell)—and ponchos ($5 when dry, $20 when it's raining—strike when something's hot). 

So entertainment and information went arm-in-arm and unsiloed in Langbehn's presentation for Extraordinary Examples for Marketing, Product Development and Sales and How to Implement Them Successfully Into Your Publishing House.

Denise Elliott, CEO of Kiplinger, and Chris Moffa, their marketing director, took over for the second part, focusing on renewals and email. Here are 10 takeaways from this engaging workshop: 

1. Focus on customers and not ourselves. You can greatly motivate customers by avoiding pain, Langbehn said. Losing $50 is more pain than the joy of finding $50. Find out your customers' problems and pain points and address those. "We are not in the coffee business serving people," Starbucks' Howard Schultz once said. "We are in the people business serving coffee." 

2. Give strategic choices. Langbehn cited an Economist sales sheet where it cost 59 euros for digital, 125 euros for print and 125 euros for print AND digital. The obvious choice for people was the 125 for print and digital—it looks like free digital. When they took away the print-only choice, more people chose just digital. We all want a deal.

3. Listen. "Wait for statements from the interviewee and hold back your knowledge," Langbehn said. He also suggested when possible to meet "in their office not the boardroom," so you can see what's on their desk, what they're working on, what they're reading. Also, "the interviewee determines the content," he added. "Be quiet and listen. Place the interviewee in the center of attention."

4. Be careful about discounts. Langbehn is not a big fan of discounts—it can burst your pricing structure as he demonstrated by puncturing a balloon. He gave many examples, including the play Mousetrap, one of London's longest-running plays ever that proudly never offered discounts.

5. Be the "est." "We want to be the best," he said, and work with the best. He cited many examples of the highest and deepest and longest, companies figuring out a way to proclaim themselves #1 at something. "We'd rather be first in the village than second in the city," he said. "Customers don't usually recognize the difference."

6. Check each segment of your renewal efforts.  "How does each renewal effort perform relative to where it is in the series?" Elliott asked. "You should be looking at every single month" for any highs, lows or numbers that stand out. Then look at the why. Direct mail should convert better than internet orders, she said. So If you're not seeing that, you need to dive into something.  You have to look source by source. 

7. Offer gifts/bonuses. Kiplinger has had success with giving white papers or reports free with renewals, especially with a 2-to-3-year renewal or if they renew early. Mr. Kiplinger would sign our early "nice" renewal letters, she said, and then Elliott would "take the hit" for tougher communications later on.

8. Offer more options early. "Our early notices have multiple options for delivery at different prices," she said, agreeing with Langbehn about offering that print/digital combo as the same price as just print. "They can see the value. If you haven't responded close to expire we'll whittle the choices down."

9. Fill out as much of the renewal information as possible for subscribers. Elliott said this is not always easy but they still go to great lengths to do this. "Email renewals to any subscriber with an email address takes them to a pre-populated landing page that is easy to use." 

10. Take a personal route. Moffa pointed to a test where a personal letter from Mr. Kiplinger beat a graphically more enhanced one. Their audience appreciates that type of outreach and familiarity. But always test, he said. Similarly, Langbehn talked about the power of emotion in marketing, where "the product [should] give me a good feeling."

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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…