All about inserts
Anything that winds up being part of a mailstream falls under the rubric of insert marketing. That can mean renewal notices, billing statements, and yes, those subscription cards in magazines. Really, any contact that a magazine (or any other marketer) has with its customer may be a potential for insert media.
Insert programs are effective because of their low cost per distribution. They are taking advantage of an existing distribution system, so there's a lot of savings on the cost side, in comparison to direct mail. When compared to on-page advertisements in a magazine, blow-in cards tend to stand out a little more as far as awareness is concerned — and that's supported by ROI.
Some people complain about the “annoyance factor” of having insert cards fall out of magazines when they're flipping through the pages. The best thing a magazine with inserts can do is to make sure that the offer is really relevant to the buyer or winds up being something they would enjoy — then that annoyance factor goes down. The annoyance is higher when the offer is overdone or if doesn't pertain to that customer or their buying habits.
Current economic factors certainly affect the insert industry, but there are two parts to it: factors that work in the insert marketers' favor, and factors that work against us. Against us are the increases in paper costs and freight costs, which raise the cost of putting together a program.
Increases in postal rates, on the other hand, work in our favor. Those advertisers who have always looked at direct mail start looking at alternative channels, and inserts may be one of the first places they look because of the familiarity in the way that insert programs design their offer and acquire new prospects.
For advertisers that are new to the channel, getting the time to look at results winds up being the biggest challenge. Be aware: it's a longer process than what you might find with Internet marketing or even direct mail, but taking the time to read and fully understand the test results is crucial to building the base of an insert media campaign and taking full advantage of what the channel has to offer.
It's extremely important for someone who is getting into the channel for the first time to work with an insert broker. Insert media is built on trusting relationships. When you contract to have inserts sent to someone's mailbox or placed in a magazine, you're trusting that your partner will follow through on that. A broker that's working in the industry on a daily basis will know which programs and insert managers are best for you.
Different insert programs work well for different advertisers for different reasons — there's no “best” program. That said, insert campaigns do tend to be more successful when the offer is relevant and involves a familiar company that the consumer knows can be trusted.
Rob Stanton is the vice president of business development at Stanton Direct Marketing. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.