Angie Hicks Bowman, co-founder of the home service rating company that carries her name, is one of the smartest marketers I have ever interviewed. She started her company as "Columbus Neighbors," personally going door to door in Columbus, Ohio to sign up members and collect ratings on local contractors. After her first year of door knocking, her company had 1,000 members. Today, that number is over 1.5 million paid members.
When my wife Lynn became an Angie’s List member, a monthly print magazine started showing up at our Brooklyn brownstone. I was intrigued. In a time when many marketers are scaling back print magazine marketing investment to favor digital media, here was a prominent digital content company publishing a print magazine. Retro marketing? Not on your life. In an interview with Angie I found her rationale for using print magazines so rooted in common sense I wondered why no one had thought of explaining it her way before.
When I asked Angie why she is sticking with print magazines she said, “I think people interact with print publications differently than they do with online content. Angie’s List is essentially a problem solving service. When people say, “Oh, I need a plumber” they come to us. But our print magazine allows us to interact with members when they are not in need of a plumber.” Angie added that her magazine helps differentiate her company in the crowded online market: “It’s one of the neat differentiators about us. We are not only collecting all of this content but actually packaging it into this kind of “news you can use format.”
In addition, Angie said her print magazine helps drive incremental activity by educating members: “Maybe someone had not thought about buying a geo thermal heating and cooling system, but read an article about it in Angie’s List magazine. That person may not have gone on our website to read the article but read it in our magazine, and it created incremental interest.”
The magazine also serves as a way to introduce new members, said Angie. “Angie’s List members are busy people, and getting the magazine delivered to them can be a very easy, great way to kind of break in.” She continues, “I get tons of e-mails but on Saturday I might sit down to read a magazine at home, where I don’t want to be sitting in front of my computer. Our members are very passionate about our magazine and a lot of consumers leave it sitting out on their coffee table.” And members love the magazine. Angie recalls, “I remember getting a call from a member who had a hospital stay during which her daughter came in, cleaned her house, and threw away her Angie’s List magazine collection. She was so upset she called and asked if we could send her a whole new set.”
For marketers, Angie’s best wisdom came when she described how magazines keep her customers engaged even “when they are not in need of a plumber.” As more marketers raid print budgets to fund digital initiatives, her comment reminds us of print’s unique marketing value, which is not easily duplicated online.
When a print magazine arrives in a home or office it can be read in any physical location, and does not compete for online time with other websites.
But more to Angie’s point, website content is often “purpose driven”—designed for users to choose their own sequence of information as they search for content and solutions to problems. The magazine experience is different, because an editor selects the sequence of content within an area of interest. The magazine read may offer fewer content options, but sometimes it’s really nice to sit back and have someone who really knows the neighborhood be the tour guide.
Magazines extend the impact of digital marketing because they reach users differently--especially when they are NOT searching for products, information, or solutions to problems. Need a book? Go to Amazon.com. The latest political news? Politio.com. Tech news? Mashable.com etc. But what about when you do not need a book, political news, tech news, or a plumber? Maybe you are sitting on your couch just reading a magazine, maybe the one published by Angie’s List.