Tuesday, June 2, 2009

No sale

For the past year, I’ve had a complimentary subscription to a local magazine. You could call it a kind of courtship, I suppose. As expected, the magazine wants to our budding relationship to the next level. It’s seeking a long-term commitment in the form of a paid subscription. But I’m not feeling the love.

The announcement came to me in the form of a form letter. Apart from my name at the top, the letter could have been intended for anyone, not for me. The content is short, which would be a compliment if it weren’t also short on reasons for me to become a paid subscriber.

Instead of a well-written reminder of all the great, exclusive content the magazine offered me this past year, I got a reminder that my subscription is ending. Instead of persuasive words that communicated the magazine’s unique character, influence and perspective, I got a self-serving blurb about vibrant, sophisticated and challenging content with out any evidence to back it up.

There were no incentives or promises of exciting upcoming content to entice and delight me, only a bald request for me to confirm and send my payment. There was no attempt to demonstrate how the subscription fee offers great value, just the cost and tax all conveniently totaled for me. And instead of one final attempt to woo me, the letter ends with a vague hope that I will continue to enjoy the magazine.

You have to wonder how much time and effort went into a drab, anonymous letter such as this. Did anyone involved in its creation remotely think that such a weak and unengaging ask would be an effective tool for upgrading free subscribers? In an era where everyone is talking about the death of print media, how could such a nondescript letter possibly make a case for a magazine’s relevance? The answer is, it doesn’t.

As always, I have a moral, and the moral is this: be strategic in your communications. Know your audience, know your strengths, and communicate those strengths to your audience in a compelling, relevant way. People are skeptical, they want to be seduced and convinced. If you can’t speak directly to them and offer a good reason to continue or deepen a relationship with you, they won’t.

So, it would appear my relationship with this magazine has come to an end, and this is a Dear John or break-up letter. It was nice while it lasted, but I think I’ll be seeing other magazines from now on.

Dull marketing causing you to rethink a long-term relationship with a product or service? Email me at mark@wordsworthinc.com.