Live from Direct Media Co-op: In Through Reiman’s Front Door

White Plains, NY—When your core products are magazines that don’t accept advertising, you’d better have other sources of revenue if you want to survive. Fortunately for Milwaukee-based Reiman Media Group, it has plenty.

As president Barbara Newton explained during her opening day address at Greenwich, CT-based Direct Media’s 32nd Annual Client Conference and Co-op, the company’s 13 magazines lead consumers to Reiman’s books, newsstand specials, cooking schools, Websites, tour business, and Country Store catalog. “Our model depends on getting a lot of customers through our ‘front door’ because we can make them multibuyers quickly and easily.”

In fact, 43% of Reiman’s 8 million active customers have made more than 10 purchases, including subscriptions, with the company. Only 11% are currently one-time buyers,

Purchased by Reader’s Digest Association in 2002, Reiman is perhaps best known for its “Taste of Home” magazine, which with a paid circulation of 3.5 million is the most popular cooking magazine in the country. That title has spawned three magazine spin-offs along with newsstand-only specials, books, “bookazines,” and a Website, A Taste of Home Entertaining home-party business is launching this spring.

Once a consumer subscribes to “Taste of Home” or one of Reiman’s 12 other magazines, she receives offers for the company’s other products. In addition to using direct mail, Reiman polybags offers—as well as its catalog—with the magazines. Newton even referred to polybagging as the company’s “secret weapon.”

The versions of the Country Store general merchandise catalog that are polybagged with the magazines are versioned so that the merchandise mix reflects the magazine’s content. Editions, or “supplements,” in Reiman parlance, that ride along with the 1.8 million-circulation “Birds & Blooms” gardening magazine, for instance, offer primarily outdoor products.

Country Store has 650,000 12-month buyers, who spend an average of $44 an order. While the catalog is only a small portion of the Reiman business, Newton described it as “a very vital part” because it’s part of the “back end” of revenue generators that justify the expense of creating the “front end,” or the magazines.

“I think we have a lot of potential [with the catalog business] because country living was a big part of the schtick,” Newman said, “but now that we’ve grown the cooking segment I think we can create something there.” She didn’t indicate, however, that additional catalogs were in the pipeline, other than the recently launched American Made (see “Reader’s Digest American Made: Not for Patriots Only”).

Given its multitude of offerings, Reiman contacts most of its active buyers about once a week via mailings, e-mail, or other media. “We’re promoting so much to our house list that we have to be careful not to overpromote,” Newman said.

To that end, Reiman strictly analyzes the effectiveness of its promotions and cuts “a little deeper” than some might think necessary to avoid burning out its house file. Newman advised cutting “further than you think you can” into marginal businesses, products, and promotions. The remaining offers tend to bounce back enough in response to compensate for any potential loss of revenue, she said.

Newman also cited two maxims of company founder Roy Reiman, “who like any good entrepreneur was really a marketer.” The first: “First do it different, then do it better.” The second: “Focus on the customer, and everything else will follow.”

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