What if we told you starting a print magazine just might be a genius marketing move? You’d probably fall out of your chair.
But — brace yourself! — starting a print magazine just might be your next big marketing initiative.
We know this might sound a little, well, old-fashioned, but in a world full of digital screens, there’s something to be said for print.
As is the case with many SaaS companies, the marketing team at Blacksmith Applications was focused on digital content to drive leads for the company, which creates software for consumer packaged goods manufacturers (Think: Tyson Foods, General Mills).
But Jennifer Schiffman, Blacksmith’s VP of marketing, and Caitlin Orosz, the inbound marketing manager, felt they were missing a major ingredient in their content marketing strategy: print. The only catch? Neither one of them had ever created a magazine.
Is Print Dead? Not with Subscribers and Contributors Like These!
- We have about 500 subscribers from more than 60 major food and beverage companies. (Companies like Kraft Heinz, Impossible Foods, Smucker’s, General Mills, Welch’s read the magazine.)
- In every issue, people want to tell their stories! Some of the contributors include: Ventura Foods, Land O’ Lakes, Smithfield Foods and Technomic.
Caitlin Orosz, Blacksmith Applications
Fast forward two years and the Blacksmith Applications team has published nine issues of Smoke Jumpers magazine, a glossy quarterly for CPG trade & tech executives.
Spoiler alert, people: Print isn’t dead
While it’s not top-of-mind for most marketers, print is still a very relevant way to share your message.
Here are some fun facts: Ad Age reported a number of big brands launched print magazines in 2019, including REI, Bumble, and Uniqlo. And the Content Marketing Institute declared, “print’s very much alive,” citing approximately one-third of B2B and B2C marketers use print.
For Jennifer and Caitlin, launching a print magazine was all about taking a comprehensive approach to their marketing strategy.
“For us, it’s really just about knowing our audience, meeting them where they are, and taking that 360 approach,” Caitlin says.
Jennifer thinks of it like baking a cake: You’ve got your SEO strategy (the eggs) and your social strategy (the sugar). The print strategy (the flour) is just one more ingredient.
“It’s going to take a lot of ingredients to really make this perfect marketing picture — this perfect cake we’re trying to bake — because you can’t just be one-and-done on the tactics and approaches,” Jennifer says.
And, hey, while everyone else is out there saying print is dead, Jennifer and Caitlin saw this as an opportunity to do something different — to stand out from other SaaS products. Plus, it’s a great way for them to flex their knowledge.
Not to mention: The Blacksmith Applications sales team loves it. Seriously. Although there was some initial apprehension around “these crazy marketers who just want to do this magazine for fun” (as Jennifer describes), they’ve really come to rely on it as sales enablement content.
They hand out copies to potential clients, leave them in the lobbies of corporate offices, and email PDF versions to leads.
“It helps our sales team demonstrate that not only do we really understand the industry, but we understand it enough to put out a magazine on a quarterly basis,” Jennifer says. “That makes it really believable we will be able to help them solve their business problems through our SaaS application.”
How to start making headlines (literally)
Now that you’ve pulled yourself off the ground and have settled back in your chair (we tried to warn you!), you’re starting to see how print could fit into your marketing strategy, right?
But now the question becomes: How do you even get started? First, you’ll need to convince your team this is a good idea.
“Be prepared for individuals within your organization to think you’re a little bit nuts,” Jennifer says. “If you believe that a magazine is going to be effective for you, have a reason for why that is.”
Then, in terms of actually producing and printing a magazine? We won’t sugar-coat it. It isn’t the easiest feat, but Jennifer and Caitlin, now experts in the matter, share some of the insights they’ve gathered along the way.
1. Become best friends with a magazine expert
Once Jennifer and Caitlin decided to launch a print magazine, they faced one tiny obstacle: They had no idea where to start.
So they tapped into their industry resources and reached out to Angela Vannucci, a project manager at Chief Content Officer magazine from the Content Marketing Institute. They started with an informational interview — just getting the lay of the land — and ultimately hired Angela as a freelance consultant.
She showed them the ropes — everything from recruiting a solid editor to finding a printer to building out sustainable processes.
Because they invested so much time and energy into figuring out these details upfront, the Blacksmith Application team can now handle most of the magazine production internally.
2. Find your voice
When it comes to creating a magazine, the writing style is key. You have to find your voice and balance your tone. For Jennifer and Caitlin, they knew they wanted the content to feel conversational.
“We don’t want reading the articles to feel academic — these are not robots articles,” Jennifer says. “These have personality and life and interest and humor and curiosity. And so we take our writing style very seriously.”
When starting out, they worked closely with an editor to help flesh out their voice. Now, when they have contributions to the magazine, they pay close attention to that voice and tone so it matches the rest of their content.
3. Ask the audience
Each issue takes at least three months to plan and produce, so Caitlin has to work ahead. That means the magazine content is less focused on current events and more focused on overall industry insights.
To determine exactly what goes into each issue, Caitlin starts by polling her team.
This includes members in the sales department — the ones communicating directly with prospects and customers — and internal subject-matter experts. She gets a feel for what’s abuzz in the industry and what pain points they may be able to address.
4. Grow the fruits of your labor organically
Since the launch of Smoke Jumpers back in 2018, Jennifer and Caitlin have driven traffic to the magazine 100% organically. They promote it on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook.
“Typically we generate leads just by giving a sneak peek into the content,” Caitlin says.
“For example, we might have a blog post that teases the introduction of a story and if you want to read more you download the magazine.”
That brings up another good point: The magazine is also published digitally so anyone can get immediate access to it. But because it’s a gated resource, the team is also able to gather contact information and leads they can then nurture down the funnel.
It’s also worth noting they produce PDFs of specific articles and case studies the sales and business development teams can email to targeted individuals. For instance, if they know a company is a specific size or if there’s a case study addressing a specific topic, they can say, “Hey, this might resonate with you,” and gain subscribers that way.
5. Be limber
If you don’t have extensive experience publishing a magazine, just remember this is going to be a learn-as-you-go experience. There’s going to be some evolution, so don’t resist it.
For instance, Jennifer and Caitlin had to drastically adjust the number of copies they printed after their first run. Initially, they printed thousands of issues and sent them out to almost everyone in their CRM database.
But they quickly realized that wasn’t the most effective approach — the magazine just wasn’t ending up in the right hands.
So they adjusted their strategy and reduced their print run. Now, they print mostly for individuals who have subscribed to the magazine and the team’s sales representatives.
Like baking the perfect cake, adding a magazine to your marketing strategy might take some experimentation, but it could pay off in the long run, like it has for Blacksmith Application.
Want to hear more of Jennifer and Caitlin’s magazine advice? Listen to this episode of The B2B Mix Show, and subscribe to The B2B Mix Show on Apple, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts for new episodes each Monday.