One of my favorite online retails is Squadron. They’re based just a few hours away from me, so shipping is always quick. Prices and selection are usually pretty decent, and their site is a solid ecommerce experience…. something this industry doesn’t often get right. So I like to support them when I can.
They recently announced they were moving their monthly mailing to a paid model rather than a freebie. On the surface, I think this is a great idea that I wholeheartedly support. To be honest, for 20+ years, I’ve never gotten much value out of the magazine/flyer they send out. Simply put, it’s a long, uninteresting text list of kits and prices sprinkled with a few pictures of a random kit on that page. This is a product of a far gone era where we needed price lists pre-Internet.
These days, however, that format is utterly pointless. I want a richer shopping experience, like I assume most modelers do. If I know which kit I want already, I’m not going to dig through the catalog, I’m going to go straight to Squadron’s site, or one of their competitors, or even to the forums to ask about a trade. If I don’t know what kit I want, a name+kit number+price isn’t the visually rich, product review heavy method I want to shop by.
When I heard that Squadron was moving to a new model for this (expensive) marketing vehicle, I was excited that we were about to get something made for modern times. Sadly, that’s not what we got. The “new” flyer is simply the old flyer with some short (and interesting, certainly) articles bolted on.
Squadron hasn’t asked, but considering my work background, I thought I’d offer a few suggestions for them. In my humble opinion, these ideas could help make this truly awesome, and an absolute bargain at $10/year.
- First off, change the name. It’s not a flyer. It’s not a catalog. It needs to be called the Squadron Magazine.
- To that end, make a magazine… not a catalog. Go all in. Take the risk. Change the operating/business model for the magazine… it can’t be working, at least not for much longer, if it even is now. Don’t make a catalog with marginal sprinklings of Fine Scale Modeler, make a magazine that competes with all of the modeling magazines out there.
- If the above point can be achieved, raise the price. People want what they value higher. And 83 cents an issue isn’t enough to create a sense of value. Again: go all in. Be brave enough to raise the price and show that you’re doing something new, or make it free and show the community this isn’t a cheap ploy to make a few extra bucks off a slightly new revenue stream.
- At no point should you stop thinking about this as marketing/sales. It is and always should be. But this is content marketing, not direct marketing… those two are very different things, despite having “marketing” in both names. Content marketing is about attaching a sales message to a piece of content that people truly value. Go deep on product reviews. Give us tons of ideas on how we can use the products beyond the initial box art. Take a kit like the Tamiya Opel Blitz and give me 5 or 10 or 15 ideas on what else I could do with it besides build a WWII panzer grey German army truck. Show me that it could be a post-war fire truck. Or a burned out wreck. Or a weird field converted field kitchen. Give me the ideas so I want to buy more copies, or build a diorama I never thought of, or build a new conversion. Focus this around the purchase path, not just the modeling content and you have something truly unique.
- Give us behind the scenes stories about your process, what you’re doing with the Warriors line, how you formulate your putties. Don’t let the Model Magazine be the only place this content gets out to the world… own this yourselves!
- Be our ticket into the manufacturers. Help them hear us, what we want, what we’re interested in. If I know you’re talking to them on my behalf about what I want to buy, I’m much more inclined to buy. You represent me in that case. But I need to hear that you’re doing that to believe it. I need you to provide insight not just about the products that manufacturers are about to release, but about how they think, what they’re working on in the longer term, and how they too see the industry.
- Make this about YOU and YOUR story.
Tell usShow us that you’ve been around this space for years, that you know the industry inside and out, that you’re driving the future of the business. Make us all aware of your legacy, your mission, your beliefs. Give us something to rally around and a reason to shop with you rather than your competition. And more importantly, give us a reason to believe so that we can be brand advocates on your behalf and convince others that yours is truly the best place on the planet to buy from.
- If you’re going to have a magazine, create an app that I could download into my iPad Newstand. Compete along side all the rest of the magazines.
Lastly, don’t forget the UGC. User Generated Content is being added to commerce sites all over the map. Look at many of the Amazon product pages and you’ll find the official images, as well as user submitted images. This helps to round out the reason to visit the site, gives a better and more authentic insight into the product, and creates a community ownership effect that’s incredible for driving user/purchaser connection to your brand.
Squadron has to be one of the strongest, and also one of the least leveraged brands in the industry. We all know Squadron, feel good about ordering from them, and know that there’s some cool stuff of some sort going on behind the scenes. But when our main point of connection to the brand is an outdated price list sent via paper once a month, it feels like it’s a brand serving days gone by rather than the future.