The Economist magazine is currently running a series of billboard advertisements about its debates, and is offering a completely free issue to anyone who texts a shortcode number. I’d been meaning to subscribe for a while, and thought I’d text first to see if the product was as good as I’d heard.

I’ve not received the free issue yet, but I’ve been very impressed by the process because it keeps one thing in mind: being as quick and easy as possible, so I get the magazine in hand for it to start selling itself. I’m sure we’ve all been hounded by magazines in the past when we’ve cancelled a subscription, so I was pleasantly surprised. Here’s how they did it:

  • An immediate response paved the way: Within seconds I received a text back telling me which number they’d call me on for me to give my address details (no “withheld number” to worry about) and roughly when to expect a call (within 48 hours). The call came on time, while the offer was still fresh in my mind. And during the day, so it didn’t interrupt my evening relaxing with my family. So they’ve passed the first hurdle, getting through to me.
  • The caller was professional: A well-spoken girl who, although evidently in a busy office, was on a clear line and using computer systems that kept up with the conversationthere was no delay when looking up my address from my postcode, for example.
  • The question script was short and focused: I appreciated not being bombarded with survey questions about my views or my use of media. She breezed through only a couple of questions unrelated to actually receiving the promotion: have I bought the Economist before, would I like a further issues for £1, do I have an iPhone or iPad and if so am I aware of the Economist’s apps, and can she call back in a few weeks to follow up. She accepted my answers without hustling for a sale.
  • The fulfilment is quick: The magazine will be in my hands within a weekno “allow 28 days for delivery”so my level of engagement won’t have a chance to drop.

To me it’s all about understanding the goal of each stage of the promotion and focusing on it. In the case of the Economist, the billboards piqued my interest. The magazine will do its own selling. So the interactive portion in the middle is just there to join the dots. They didn’t compromise my fledgling interest with delays, hard sales tactics or the temptation of market research. I think that this is a good example of how it should be donewhat do you think?

Posted by John on 6 October 2010