Poor subscription marketing can kill


Creating a direct mail pack, home page and series of email promotions are all vital steps in subscriptions marketing today.

The big ‘announcement pack’ comes first and all other promotions follow – loose inserts, landing page, advertisements, billing series, emails, upgrade and renewal series etc.

To maximise response and profits the messages must all tie in. You are ‘branding’ your product and your readers will remember why they subscribed.

If your renewal series, for example, doesn’t bring back to mind why the subscriber decided to buy in the first place, then he’ll be more likely to lapse. That’s why discount-led promotions that don’t establish benefits are a short term solution. Readers are wise to early discounts that suddenly jump in price six months or even three months later. You can only count on inertia among customers when money is not a consideration.

The value of market leadership
If you are quick you can capture market leadership before the opposition knows what you are up to. Direct publishing is fast and discreet!

Becoming the market-leading publication is worth a great deal of kudos that translates directly into money. Advertisers and sponsors are very impressed by the top publication or website in its market. During a recession, weaker competitors fall away and fold, leaving the top two or three to bounce back even bigger when the upturn comes.

The need for speedy subscriptions marketing
One client of ours, launching into a very busy sector build 10,000 subscriptions in just 8 months using these techniques. Why the rush? The magazine needed more paid circulation to leap ahead of a rival about to distribute thousands of extra copies.

These days of financial hardship, the only way you can replace lost circulation and advertising revenue is to build subscriptions. But you have to move fast, before your competitors.

How long will the recession last?
Don’t wait too long to start marketing your publication in earnest. I am not an economist, accountant or financial journalist, so am much better qualified to forecast what is likely to happen next in this recession.

The law of probabilities indicates the recession will last around the same length of time as all the others I have been through. We all go down two years and then up two years. During most of that time banks limit or call in overdrafts and weak companies haven’t enough to pay suppliers and salaries – so they go under.

That’s why you have to move fast – which means creating valuable leads through Internet and mail marketing to convert into paid subscribers.

Make them respond quicker
There are tried and tested examples of effective consumer and business ‘urgency tactics’. Not only does this speed up response, but it increases response too.

The famous ‘free trial’ offer
This isn’t used much by publishers because they are not sure how they work. Get it right, however, and your mailroom will be overcome with orders. The best direct mail packs always use a free trial offer and no free trial offer is complete without a good billing series.

Billing series
You need a bespoke state-of-the-art seven part series from welcome letter upgrading your new subscriber, all the way to the ‘last chance’ notice. Today’s methods bring in more cash and large numbers of early-bird renewals.

A few useful lessons for us all

By Drayton Bird, Marketing Magazine

A couple of years ago, the top US direct mail writers were asked who they thought was the best of them all. A friend of mine won. He and his partner, who gets second billing, like many art directors in direct marketing – perhaps undeservedly – live in some splendour in Sonoma, California, never deigning to visit clients, who must needs come to them.

Apparently they charge up to $40,000 for a mailing depending on the results. They have a long waiting list. Hardly surprising because in a survey of America’s most successful mailings – those that beat all they were tested against over the longest period – they again came top. They have even been featured on the cover of the New York Times Sunday magazine.

This remarkable duo, like many leading U.S. freelancers, specialise in selling magazine subscriptions, probably the hardest of direct mail tasks. It gives you a complete (often bruising) education which, with a little imagination, you can apply to just about anything. That’s why, whatever your business, I recommend a newsletter called ‘Subscriptions Strategy’.

(Incidentally, most UK publishers won’t pay for decent work and with a few exceptions – like The Reader’s Digest, The Economist and Which? – don’t recognise it when they see it. This publication will, I hope, educate the publishing ignoramus.)

My criterion for a newsletter is simple: does what you learn repay the cost, this one qualifies easily. Every issue carries at least one article of value to most businesses. For instance: how to find out if a mailing list will work – before you mail it; which offers work best; how to reduce bad debt (vital as money gets harder to make, and customers less honest); how to profit from your mailing list; and how to work out the value of a customer.

Each issue analyses at least one mailing or ad. Most agency writers would learn much from these pieces. There are good inside stories, too, such as interviews with two publishers, Sylvester Stein, of Running and other magazines; and John Gomes of Penny Share Guide and Competitors Companion.

Sylvester Stein is extremely clever. Few have heard of him, yet he has made millions out of publishing first, newsletters and later, magazines. I bought the Business Ideas Letter from him twenty six years ago, thus acquiring a costly education. John Gomes once pumped me over lunch to find out what I had learned from that experience about newsletters. If he had listened to me carefully he wouldn’t have done nearly as well as he has: he must be dreadfully rich now.

Perhaps the most interesting story concerns a company I have worked for a little and admire greatly: computer publishers Ziff Davis, How did they build a very successful business, though late into a market dominated by three competitors?

The answer is satisfying in view of what I wrote above: they went for subscribers, ignoring the received wisdom (ie, stupidity) that the British don’t subscribe. That is what Subscription Strategy tells; what is not mentioned is how they corset their advertisers – another thing most publishers could learn from.

Subscriptions marketing: confidential information for sale, with four special reports free of charge

The Subscriptions Strategy newsletter publishes international case studies of ‘best practice’ marketing for the Internet, websites, newsletters, books and magazines etc.

As publishers ourselves, we live or die by results. If a promotion doesn’t work, we lose money. If it works we record the results and use it on our own, and our clients’ websites and publications.

Every issue of the Subscriptions Strategy newsletter carries examples of successful marketing.

How you benefit by removing risk
As far as we are concerned, our testing means the difficult and costly part is over. As far as you are concerned, you can benefit from this tried and tested knowledge because the risk of failure has been removed and profitability is assured.

You will also find Subscriptions Strategy a great resource for training staff in all aspects of subscriptions marketing.

Please click on the link below for instant access to your subscriptions marketing starter pack. You receive:

1. 20% off the full price of an annual 6-issue subscription to the digital edition of the Subscriptions Strategy newsletter (a saving of £40)

2. Subscription Marketing Workbook worth £33: 15 Subscriptions Marketing Innovations Every Publisher Should Know

3. Subscriptions marketing ‘rapid update’: three special Subscriptions Strategy reports worth a total of £99 to bring you up to date with best practice marketing procedures for online and traditional subscription marketing

*Start now! Click here to order an annual subscription and collect your four special reports worth £132

You pay just £157, a total saving of £211. If the material does not come up to expectations, email, write or phone for a full refund. This guarantee is valid for the lifetime of your subscription and can be exercised at any time.