Make a subscriber a ‘Millionaire for a Day’

September 29, 2015

By Peter Wagner
Iowa Information, Inc.

Newspaper sales promotions are an essential part of the publishing business and do more than just produce exceptional advertising dollars. A truly successful, well-planned, newspaper promotion will accomplish three things:

First, it will create unique income the newspaper might not otherwise enjoy.

Second, it helps expand the publication’s positive image as an effective “brand” in the community. The promotion will draw attention to the publication name at the top of the fold, as well as the quality of the news stories, features and art offered on each page.

Third, the promotion will often lead to a satisfying increase in the number of paid subscribers.

Our “Millionaire for a Day” promotion is a good example of a promotion that did all those things and did it for 17 weeks.

The basic idea was not original. Few ideas are. It came to me while I was listening to a Minneapolis radio station while visiting the Twin Cities one weekend. The premise was simple: register at participating sponsors to win one day’s interest on $1 million dollars. That sounds like a lot, but it really doesn’t add up too much in today’s financial market.

But the idea of being a millionaire for a day sounded fanciful, and it occurred to me that living like a millionaire for a day would be much more fun and personal.

To make the promotion interesting and effective, the sales teams arranged for dozens of one-of-a-kind prizes from area businesses. Each business provided a specific experience in return for the publicity provided through the promotion’s advertising and accompanying feature stories.

The prizes included a fresh bouquet of roses from a local florist to enhance the winner’s house, for example, as well as the use of a luxury car and driver from a nearby auto dealer. Other “Life of the Rich and Famous” experiences included a noon luncheon for up to eight in the boardroom of the city’s best restaurant, a tux and top hat for the man from a clothing store and a briefcase packed with 100 $1 bills from the local Edward Jones representative. The winner made a big thing of taking his “fortune” into a local bank to change the ones into 10s and 20s.

To make the event truly special, we arranged for an actor and actress working at a nearby professional theatre to serve as the winning household’s maid and butler. We thought we had everything in place the night before the big day. But when the servants arrived at the winner’s home early the next morning to serve the winners a catered breakfast in bed, everything got suddenly wild. The winning couple had forgotten about their special morning treat as they slept and almost decked the actors when they knocked at the bedroom door with the breakfast tray.

The newspaper promotion was scheduled to run 17 weeks, which is the normal length of many radio promotions. We chose that number because it sounded natural to buyers of both print and broadcast advertising.

Next, we determined the number of advertisers we wanted on the promotion. All of the participants would be required to buy a minimum size ad every week of the promotion. In our case, the number of advertisers targeted—and closed—was 16. Special attention was given to selling accounts that were not regular advertisers or were in a seasonal slump.

To keep the readers interested, we held weekly drawings at each of the 16 advertisers, who were designated sub-winners. Those 16 were awarded a free meal at Sheldon’s Hardees. They also had their name published in that week’s paper along with those of all previous week’s sub-winners and placed in the box from which we would draw a final winner at the end of the contest.

Here are some more experiences the winner would enjoy: free tennis lessons from the high school coach at the city tennis courts, a complete makeover for the wife at one of the city’s leading salons, exclusive use of the city golf course for three hours that day, unlimited movies from the video store to watch on their “home movie screen,” a selection of wines and a catered Prime Rib Dinner for up to 12 at their home that evening. Of course, we required most of the suppliers to advertise in the promotion.

Did the promotion stir up community excitement? You bet. Three TV stations from two different nearby metro markets showed up to film reports on the promotion. One TV reporter asked a participating department store manager if he thought the idea was a bit crazy. “Crazy like a fox,” the manager quickly replied.

When it came time for the final grand winner drawing, we asked our local mayor, who gives out orange golf balls with his name on it for calling cards, to pull the winner. His selection was the young family who lived in a trailer home next to the cattle yard where one of them worked as a caretaker. The entire city thought it was an excellent choice.

“Look,” they said, “it went to someone who otherwise had little opportunity to live high on the hog.”

For the second time, one of the TV stations appeared in town to film the winning family enjoying their newfound fame and wealth. That coverage, along with the stories in our N’West Iowa REVIEW and other area papers, added much to our image and respect for our publication.

As for revenue, the project was a huge success. It added more than 13,000 column inches of advertising to the year’s total volume. It also resulted in adding a number of new subscribers who were not aware of The REVIEW before our “Millionaire for a Day” promotion.

And what did the winner do other than eat three great meals that day and stop by Edward Jones to pick up his cash? He spent the entire day driving around town with his wife in the luxury automobile, impressing his friends, dressed in a tux and top hat, and giving rides around town. © Peter Wagner 2015

Peter W. Wagner is founder and publisher of the award winning N’West Iowa REVIEW and 13 additional publications. He is often called “The Idea Man” and is a regular presenter at State Press Association and Publishing Group conventions and conferences. He’ll be presenting at the North Dakota Press Association Convention November 5 and 6. late October. You can contact him regarding his programs “100 Ideas for Fun and Profit,” Seven Steps to Selling Success” or “Watch Your p’s and q’s” by emailing or calling his cell 712-348-3550 anytime.

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