Harvard Business Review Gone Wrong: When You No Longer Preach What You Teach

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Last weekend, while perusing the magazine rack at Barnes and Noble, I noticed that they were now selling full magazine subscriptions to the Harvard Business Review (HBR). I was surprised to see that the in-store price at B&N was only $69. Last time I checked, HBR was usually north of $100 so this seemed like a great deal.

I didn’t pull the trigger at the time, but left thinking that at $69 it was too good a deal to pass up.

I had subscribed to the HBR in the past so it was no surprise that later in the week I received an offer in the mail to resubscribe to the magazine. What was a surprise was the rate.

I was being offered a “corporate discount” that was the “LOWEST RATE WE ALLOW” for the bargain price of $79.

Really?

Technically, the $79 offer did include a free “bookmark” and “leadership guide” but why wasn’t the “LOWEST RATE WE ALLOW” the same or better than the in-store offer? Why didn’t they offer me an option without the gifts for the same $69 price? Oh, and as far as the “LOWEST RATE WE ALLOW”, right now Amazon is offering the same HBR subscription for $79.

The fact that HBR would offer a total stranger, who has seen not been a subscriber, a better deal, at a much great cost to them (when you take into account B&N’s margin), makes no sense at all.

While I really did expect a different experience coming from the Harvard Business Review, as a marketer, I do understand the challenges of aligning the different market channels – web, retail, direct mail, etc.

Creating a customer experience across channels is hard work and I would say requires maniacal discipline. Adam Richardson (writing on one of my favorite blogs, the Harvard Business Review Blog) talks about this challenge and why so few companies deliver when it comes providing a great customer experience. Adam comments,

Crafting a great customer experience requires enormous amounts of collaboration across groups in a company that often work independently and at different stages of product development. In many cases marketing, product design, customer services, sales, advertising agency, retail partners must all be working in concert to create even a single touchpoint.

I wouldn’t say HBR lost me as a customer, but I don’t feel like their marketing channels are aligned and I am definitely not feeling special at this point.

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