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Blue skies

In the final part of his data series, Qbase’s Gary Olive urges you to think outside the box. Opportunities that were just pipe dreams a few short months ago are now in play but you need to think big to realise them.

By Gary Olive

Gary Olive’s data series 
May/Jun 2004The big idea - first steps in setting up a marketing database.
Jul/Aug 2004Data audit – what you have, what you need, how to get there.
Sep/Oct 2004Data protection - key to a sound strategy.
Nov/Dec 2004Database solution – DIY or use professionals.
Jan/Feb 2005Tactics and strategy - using the database to build business.
Mar/Apr 2005The great unknown - blue skying.

Well done. Your database is now in place, everyone’s on your side, marketing communications have improved by leaps and bounds and the bottom line is looking very healthy. Now is the time for you to start ‘thinking out of the box’ because this is a luxury that you can now afford yourself. So what’s next?

The great advantage of having a usable marketing database is that it can provide a wealth of opportunity for your business. Take subscriptions as the example.


Currently a subscription tends to cost the customer less than the cover price. It is a strategy that ensures copies are taken on a regular basis where a purchase via the newsstand could be affected by any number of external factors or ‘interruptions’ such as choice, access and budget. But does a price based strategy reflect the true value of your particular product in the marketplace? The answer is probably no, but the price offered may be the key point of difference in a marketplace that promotes to lifestyles rather than individuals. So how can you make your product more attractive? Where do you start?

Content is generally aimed at groups of ‘like-customers’. They fall into broad age bandings, they enjoy comparable income levels, they have similar tastes, etc. Do you see the pattern? Readerships are generalisations. However, you are now in a unique position because you have a distinct opportunity to establish a very clear picture of what your individual customers look like. More importantly, you have the capacity to converse with them on a one to one basis.

At this point I suggest that you forget about budgets and any other such financial constraints. Think about the perfect world and what it would look like for you as a publishing business. Let’s discuss a couple of scenarios where the power of your database can help develop and deliver ‘one to one’ marketing to your subscribers.

A good starting point would be content. How does this currently differ between the issue that a subscriber receives through the post and the issue that is generally available off-shelf? It does not. So how could it be different?

Print production

In-line personalisation is possible, so certain content could reflect the difference between various groups of customers and you would know these differences in advance, through segmentation of your database. Actual variation of content may be limited to between say 1% and 3% of the total content but the impact on the audience could be significant. This type of strategy is already employed in the digital environment where a registered user can access more content than a casual visitor and where a subscriber has the highest level of access of all. Why should hard copy content be any different?

Mailing house fulfilment

The mailing carrier sheet, covering letter and even the poly-wrap can convey very personal, highly targeted messages and ‘content’. Using these vehicles, you can start to relate on a ‘one to one’ basis, enhancing your publication’s content through additional pertinent copy and references. Setting the process up will take a little thought and attention to detail but the difference will be marked. Start small, think big.

Personalisation through mailing fulfilment need not be restricted to your own content. Selective insertion of loose inserts may be a very attractive proposition for your advertising clients who, in addition to mainstream off the page advertising in your title, may wish to offer certain customers a more direct, tailored offer based upon the data that you hold. You are in control.


The creation of a supplement to the main title (which could be anything from a simple newsletter through to a four colour multi-page printed item) would offer even greater flexibility. As such the supplement may tie into the publication issue date, eg. monthly, or run over its own production schedule, eg. quarterly. You may choose to refer to content in the main title and enhance/add to it through extra copy. You may choose to focus on wholly separate content including more targeted off the page advertising and offers from your advertising clients.

Added value or premium

I am not suggesting that your subscribers should benefit from these extra elements of content for free. Far from it. They should not be classed as added value. More tailored content, with more personal offers, delivered conveniently to the home or place of work should come at a premium because something given free has no real value. And this is what we are talking about. You want customers to value your offering above that of your competitor and to continue buying from you. Your database provides real competitive advantage in this respect. You can, and should, think outside the box because you no longer need to take decisions based on gut feel or market generalisations.

Finally, blue skies thinking is an essential part of future planning and the shaping of your business moving forward. We have looked at one blue skies opportunity within your business. There are many, many more, so start creating your list. And start it now!