Those that know me know that I hatched an idea almost 15 years ago to have people customize a ‘fake’ magazine cover that would help them celebrate a significant life event. At the time it was an idea that was interesting but not practical since printing costs would be hundreds if not over a thousand dollars (keep in mind that in January of 1996 digital printing was in its infancy and four color digital printing was just being rolled out).
But by 2000 digital printing had made production more affordable so we started YourCover (www.YourCover.com ). People came to our website and saw what we could do and then requested information which we would send to them along with a questionnaire for them to fill out which they would send back to us along with some photos for us to scan. Our artist would put it together with my copy and we would send them back a uniquely and completely personalized 4 page fake magazine cover. The price was $275 for 25. And it was $275 for 1 also.
Over the years we’ve refined the product, the offerings, and the way our customers can engage to purchase the product. We’ve generated much of the traffic through both organic (SEO) and paid (SEM) search. We’ve tried most every channel on a somewhat limited budget except for broadcast or cable television and radio.
YourCover is modestly successful but it never has been a huge money maker. Mostly because we’ve not had the resources to throw brand advertising dollars at the product and I wanted us to retain total control. Yet as my Vistage group pointed out several years ago (when I was mulling over our inability to make a big impact) that what we really had was a very cool and effective research and development lab. I had never looked at it that way but they were so right.
By treating our own product as a ‘client’ we’ve learned many things over the years. What works, what doesn’t, and why. We’ve created a unique blogging strategy that our agency has turned into a product. We’ve learned that affiliate marketing is not the right tactic for our business and which businesses might be more apt to have success with it. We take the knowledge we have gained at our own expense and bring that learning back to our clients and we all benefit.
We realize that YourCover lacks big brand identity and that is a huge stumbling block. Direct response is a great medium but there has to be an excellent brand positioning to make it work as well. DR people sometimes lose sight of that. I’ve learned that and much more.
Today we launched the newest version of our site at http://www.YourCover.com . My wife Michele, our Creative Director Nader Ashway and the entire YourCover team (thanks Kristina and Jessica) have done what I think is a terrific job in making it an easy to use and more engaging site. But I will let you be the judge of that.
So we are an agency that has itself for a client. While that may be unusual now, I see a time when agencies will own products on a much broader basis. It makes sense to me because a marketing agency that has its own product truly has ‘skin in the game’.
So does our agency have a fool for a client? It’s fine if your answer is yes but what do you think?