The process of publishing a periodical is very similar to that of email marketing. We can learn from it. Publishers receive feedback from unsold magazines, albeit a couple of months after that particular issue was sent to the printers. They need to grab a passing customer’s attention, using images and words to get them to buy. It’s like looking in a mirror.
Even if you are not a philatelist, you will see what was in the mind of the publisher of a particular stamp collecting magazine. The background was a full page image of the Union Flag, with ‘101 GB STAMPS’ as the main title, reinforced underneath by ‘you need to own!’. It’s targeted. It’s precise. It’s clear. It’s what we aim for.
A recent magazine on computers ran with a feature article on building your own PC, the subject providing the obvious title. There was a subheading, ‘everything you need to know’, obviously aimed at a particular demographic. The background image was unspecific. It showed a man’s left hand, holding a screwdriver, prodding something equally vague on a printed circuit board.
This is email marketing in action. The title, which would make an excellent Subject Line or heading, is aimed at a specific group, for us a split email marketing list, and the subheading promised a great deal. The image merely caught the eye without it having to be understood or interpreted. Who cared what the prodded item was?
In many cases, the cover headline differed in wording to that of the article itself, although the subject matter was the same. In other words, they were broadening the appeal. Motor Sport’s main feature this month, highlighted on the cover, was ‘The Magic of Le Mans’, but the contents listing showed, ‘The Magic of the Mulsanne’, which is the name of the circuit’s long, fast, straight. The heading of the article was ‘Mulsanne – Motor sport’s greatest blast’. The same thing said three ways.
The cover was like our Subject Lines, meant to grab the interest, which it must have done for anyone who knew the 24-hour race, so it was well targeted. The contents title was our heading for a marketing email, meant to be more specific, without putting off those who perhaps weren’t interested in a straight bit of road. The subtitle excited. Greatest and blast; two words to enthuse motor racing’s aficionados.
Publishers of periodicals have been perfecting their craft much longer than we have, and there’s a lot we can learn from them. And pinch of course. It’s much better to benefit from their efforts than to pay, if only in time, for our own.
While you might be concerned about a full inbox for the subscribers to your email marketing list, spare a thought for the packed shelves of newsagents. They stack them high. The tricks, expertise and use of design and words that are required to succeed mean that those at eyelevel have normally earned their spot by being pretty good at grabbing and holding the interest of their demographic.
Seeing experts in action, with their honed skills, should inspire you.