- Posted by Nigel Edelshain
- On March 18, 2015
- Digital magazines
I’ve seen this scenario several times now. A hospital marketing director wants to start distributing their newsletter, or some portion of it, in a digital form.
But there’s a catch. The hospital does not have a well maintained (nor large) email lists. Without a great email list digital magazines cannot be as a successful as we hope.
Digital magazines are a great way to make your marketing budget go further. Printing on paper and then putting that paper in the US mail is an expensive proposition. When you’re sending tens of thousands of newsletters or magazines this way you’re looking at a large bill.
Some readers prefer digital
Our habits are changing. Everyone I know has a tablet. Some people (like me) even prefer reading magazines on their tablet to having them delivered on paper through their mailbox.
With today’s “retina” displays the way magazines and newsletters look on the screen can even be better than the way they look with ink on page.
Young people of course will tend to accept this form of electronic delivery and so there seems to be little reason not to move full steam ahead into the world of digital delivery of hospital newsletters.
Technology for digital magazines is improving
Not only are the devices that you can read digital magazines on improving but so is the software. The publishing industry is still working on this one but we’re getting much closer now.
Originally turning your hospital newsletter into a digital edition was pretty much just producing a “flipbook” that was not much more than a PDF with animated page turns. Things are moving on.
We’re now seeing technology, such as Turnstyle from our partner GTxcel that reformats the magazine content to optimally fit the screen of the device you’re on. For example this software can take a magazine story that cover one letter size page in print and reflow it so it covers 3 screens on an iPad, moving the photos around as needed.
This kind of display makes the magazine much more readable on a device and greatly improves the reader’s experience.
How to distribute your digital magazine?
But then there’s the catch. Readers’ appetite for consuming digital newsletters and magazines may have increased and it may be supported by technology that makes the experience much better but how do you get the magazine to your reader?
In the print world it’s acceptable to rent or buy lists of people that fit your demographic. You want only high-income households in Cincinnati? No problem! Rent the list and mail your newsletter.
OK some recipients are going to put your newsletter straight into their recycling container but overall readership studies confirm that this type of “unsolicited” ground mailing of magazines actually does rather well. And you can always work hard to get a good percentage of those recipients to “opt in” to your magazine over time.
We hate spam
But as much as we don’t like “junk mail” we hate “spam” ten times more.
We did not always hate spam so much but then certain greedy marketers cottoned on to the fact that sending email was free. There was no cost of printing and mailing to throttle back our willingness to blanket the world in our marketing pitch as long as some small percentage responded.
So now we live in a world where email is tightly controlled. Spam filters abound not only on your desktop but also on your corporate server (something like 65% of my email never even makes it to my “junk folder” it’s cutoff before it even gets that far.)
Not only do we hate spam but it really has a very small success rate these days (think 0.01%). So unless you have millions of email addresses you’re not likely to see many results from unsolicited emails.
Your house email list is your gold
Direct mail marketers have known this for years (I was one back in 1995): Your house list is your biggest marketing asset.
The key to email success in today’s world is getting recipients to “opt in”. Email sent to lists of willing subscribers actually does very well. Email still returns the highest ROI of all marketing forms but only when the email list is a quality one. (According to the Direct Marketing Association email marketing offers a roughly $40 return on investment (ROI) for every $1 spent.)
If you build a great house email list for your newsletter, you will have great readership (assuming your newsletter is great too.) Readers that open your emails train their spam filters to let your emails through. (Recipients can also manually add you to a “white list” to insure your emails are received—and if they like your content enough they will do this.)
How can I build my email list?
But how to do you build a great house email list? The ways are limitless really.
You can make people aware of your digital newsletter options in many forms of your communication with them. Then you need a call-to-action such as “click here to sign up” to get them subscribed. You can promote your newsletter email sign up in all your digital marketing but also in your print marketing and in various points in your hospital, just make sure to include an easy to write down URL where they can sign up.
I don’t have time in this post to get into detail on all the ways to grow your email list. We will do that later but here’s an overview graphic we developed to show hospital marketers some of the mechanisms.