While many signs are pointing to digital marketing and communication overthrowing print, there are still a few pieces that may last, including the magazine. Many schools struggle though with the balance of cost to produce a magazine and the ROI. As marketers, we strive to be strategic and purposeful in our actions, using data to drive decisions, and track the success of those decisions. How do we apply these best practices to magazines?
1. Ask your readers what they want to see in the magazine.
Really this is true for all modes of marketing and communication, but we’ll focus on the magazine here. Survey them, ask them what they want to see, what they read the most, what they don’t read, and how long they spend reading the magazine. Let them tell you what they want, and most importantly, listen. The best marketing and communication methods focus on the end user experience, and not the preferences of the producer of the magazine. If you want to increase your ROI on the magazine, invest in understanding your audience.
2. Use that information to revitalize your magazine.
If your research says you’re on the right track, then keep it up and find ways to make it even better. If your research shows that your audience isn’t satisfied, listen. Fill the holes, remove the dead weight, and produce the type of publication that your audience has requested. This can take time, but doing it right is more important than doing it quickly with a publication of this magnitude.
3. Find multiple ways to track your success.
Tracking your success is crucial to knowing your ROI, and you can build these tracking systems right into your magazine. Include a specially-coded BRE in your magazine that will let you know your publication is being read and if it’s a strong tool for donations. Use direct links throughout your magazine that drive readers to various pages on your website, and watch your analytics in the weeks after the magazine mails. Spikes in direct traffic to those pages are indicators that your magazine is sending readers there. Use landing pages that can’t be found through general navigation menus to collect data from your readers, such as emails and cell phones. Include a link to an online survey in the magazine, and ask readers for feedback on the look, content, timing, and more. Continue asking questions about the magazine in person at events, mail a survey (or tell users where to go online to find a survey) to users whose emails you don’t have to read a wider audience (and be sure to ask for their emails!).
The key to being successful is knowing what your audience likes and dislikes, and acting on those preferences. While it can be disheartening to hear that we’re missing our mark in our efforts, it’s better to have the opportunity to make changes and improve for our readers than to continue to produce an expensive and ineffective magazine.