Spotlight conversation: To affinity and beyond

Q: What is your strategy since you took your position at North American Media Group (NAMG) last month?

A: It is a complete integration of how we look at customers. This is something certainly that NAMG has been doing, but I think we can really turbo charge it. NAMG has 11 clubs. Our customers have joined these clubs in specific tar­geted specialized areas that they’re very passionate about.

Q: Who is the typical NAMG member, and what’s so appealing about the audience type?

A: These are generally hobbyists and people involved in recreational activities like hunting, handiwork, gardening and cooking. These are people who have raised their hands and said, “I’m really into this area enough so that I’m willing to pay a membership fee.” We have a collection of media and channels in which we try to satisfy a lot of this per­son’s needs, wants, dreams and wishes in those particular specialized areas that they have indicated.

Q: How do you reach your customers?

A: We’re a club. So we reach these peo­ple in a lot of different ways. This could be through magazines, through online newsletters, through our Web site and, in some cases, we have TV shows. But we also have offline events that our members participate in. Again, these are people hunting and fishing and cooking and they like to get together. It is really the integration of all of that. It’s online, it’s offline, it’s multichannel.

Q: How has affinity marketing evolved?

A: We have a maniacal focus on the customer and reaching them from different directions. When you have someone who is really enthusiastic about something, they don’t want to just read a magazine, they want to go to an event, they want to participate with other people and hang out with other people. They want to know what the newest equipment is. They want to know the best fishing spot in a certain state. It really is about focusing on the special interest. We are more than just a magazine on a particular niche audi­ence, it’s about extending that customer experience across a variety of points. These people have a passion that they want to connect with in more ways than one. The more touchpoints we can provide, the better opportunity there is to really engage that person.

Q: What advice would you give to someone looking to start out in affin­ity marketing?

A: The advice I give out starting out in any area of marketing is always, “It’s the customer, stupid.” I really find that many people and many good marketers look at marketing channels and ways to get at the customer instead of trying to get inside the customer and look at it from his or her viewpoint. I think that’s especially important when you’re not selling a one-shot product that’s filling an immediate need, but when you’re trying to integrate something that is as important to someone as how they spend their free time.

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