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'Endorsements' Lift Response for Newsletter Publisher

Marketers have long known the value of endorsements, but one publisher has seen a different type of endorsement produce higher response rates for its insert program.

“An endorsement can be a powerful thing,” said Michael Feldstein, director of alternative media at publishing firm Boardroom Inc., Stamford, CT.

But Feldstein isn't talking about a celebrity or expert recommending a product. In insert media, endorsements are a mention of the product or company that the insert is included with. For example, an endorsed insert might have a line of copy that says something like, “Special offer for Company XYZ customers.”

Boardroom uses insert media to market its Bottom Line Personal newsletter, a twice-monthly print publication offering information about how to live better with topics such as health, personal finance and travel. Boardroom also publishes the Bottom Line Health, Bottom Line Tomorrow and Tax Hotline newsletters as well as several book titles.

Bottom Line Personal subscription-offer inserts go into programs such as package inserts for merchandise and magazine premium packages for various publications. Inserts for U.S. News & World Report, for example, include this line on the reply card, “Free Trial Subscription for subscribers of U.S. News & World Report.”

The company first tested endorsements on its inserts about eight years ago.

“It usually gives us a 10 to 15 percent lift, and it doesn't really cost us anything more,” Feldstein said. “It doesn't really cost much extra because it's only a black plate change at the printer. We just do different versions of banners or messages for each program that will allow an endorsement.”

The concept of the endorsements is that the person receiving the package already has purchased something from the program owner. When that customer sees the company name in the endorsement, he feels more kinship toward your product.

“The idea is that you just bought something from a company, you trust that company, you like that company, and now that company is saying 'here's something else that we think you might like,'” Feldstein said.

Though not all insert program owners consent to endorsements, Feldstein said, enough do so to make it worthwhile. He estimated that of more than 100 programs that Boardroom has been in, about 20 percent agreed to endorsements.

“My feeling personally is that once you allow something in the package there's an implied endorsement anyway, so why not make it more direct?” he said. “It is already a special offer for their customers because they are letting that piece ride along with their package, but when people see it in print it's actually even more powerful.”

Feldstein said that, surprisingly, few marketers currently use endorsements.

Though it isn't something that a broker would see on a data card for an insert program, he suggested that more marketers ask program managers whether endorsements are allowed when clearing insert orders.

Send a mock-up piece with your order so the program owner can see what the actual piece would look like, he said.

“Program owners who are looking for more insert business might want to allow this because if response is going to go up they are going to get more business,” Feldstein said. “If a marketer is going to get a 10 to 15 percent lift, that would be enough to make certain programs a success that wouldn't be a success without it.”

Feldstein said he encourages all types of marketers to test endorsements.

“I think it could work for any type of offer,” he said. “It's not the offer that's the key, it's the endorsement. It's one of those things that is a win-win.”

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