Do you send out free copies?

Have you ever tried sending out a mailing containing a free copy of your publication with an invitation to subscribe?

What was the response like? Probably lousy. No matter how good your magazine is, few ordered a subscription.

One of our favourite small magazine publishers has sent in a comment on this:

“We discovered first-hand some years ago that sending a free copy of our magazine with a subscription offer significantly depressed conversions. Has there been any research into the reason for this? My guess is that sending a free copy devalues the magazine in the customer’s mind.”

Although there are three markets where a free sample copy of a magazine will bring in lots of subscriptions, this wasn’t one of them. Because of the weight of each piece, the mailing was a very expensive lesson in practical direct marketing.

Why the poor response?
So what is the reason for the poor response? Here are three:

1. The prospect thinks he is now on the mailing list, so there is no need to subscribe

2. He’ll think that if it’s going out free, that’s all it’s worth

3. He doesn’t comprehend the benefits, because why bother reading the sales letter – he’s holding the magazine in his hand!

As you know from hearing people sell – it takes ages to get to a decision. The buyer has to fully understand what the product will do for him. And what could happen if he doesn’t buy.

All that has to go in the sales letter and get read!

What about carrying free issues on your website?
Giving away whole issues on your website doesn’t appear to dampen response to subscription offers, whether through the mail, email or on the website itself.

Don’t ask me why this is..

We work with many publishers who upload each issue in full on their website, and sell subscriptions alongside without any problem. A recent test using email promotions brought in an impressive and highly profitable number of subscriptions for a specialist magazine – even though the people responding had registered on the website to view free copies.

I suppose that is what they mean when they say “Ours isn’t a ‘why’ business: it’s a ‘what’ business.

In the sense that all you need to discover is ‘What works?’

What works?
Converting a free publication to paid-for is a straightforward copywriting task, but needing a careful strategy, not only with your readers, but internally in discussions with advertisement directors and managers. All must come aboard or the show will flop.

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