Sunny Things Happen on the Way to the Forums

Price Points, Loyalists and Renewals: SIPA Online Forum Leads by Examples

“How are publishers REALLY helping long-time subscribers who genuinely have no budget?”

This was a question posted a couple months ago to the SIPA Online Marketing Forum, one of seven forums that SIPA members can access through the Website. The others are Editorial, Information Technology (IT), Conferences, Fulfillment/Operations, Electronic Publishing and Large Publishers.

These forums provide incredible benefits for SIPA members. That above message was posted at 12:23 p.m. on a Monday afternoon—along with this example:

“One SIPA member received the following in response to a renewal call to a subscriber who has been continuously active for 14 years: ‘I’m sorry to say that my manager has not been granted a publications budget yet that would allow us to renew at this time. Believe me, your publication is valued by our staff but our company is still proceeding very conservatively with respect to spending after a tough FY2009. I received your phone message this morning. I hope you’re doing well. Thanks for the personal contact. I’ll let you know when we’re able to renew.’ ”

At 2:48 p.m. the same day, Tom Gale, publisher at Modern Distribution Management, responded to the original message:

“We created a six-month offer last year as a response to this. It proved effective and we have continued. It brought the annual price point from $345 to $195, and I think it allowed many longtime subscribers to justify, primarily to themselves. We have seen response to the six-month offer slow down at the end of the year, but it has now picked up again. Our two-year sub offer ($595) is working very well, for renewals of loyalists who are now seeing their business get better, as well as for some who stopped last year but are now getting back onboard. I’m not sure if the same tactic might work now. The timing for our industry seemed right in hindsight.”

A few minutes later Rob Lawson of Credit Today, LLC, also responded. He wrote that they get this all the time and their renewal rate was holding up well.

“What are we doing?” he asked. “We’re hustling on the customer service end more than ever, calling subs during the year (ideally, 6 months in) to educate them about our various services (on the web) and just make some personal contact for feedback or whatever else comes up. Those calls uncover all kinds of things in advance of renewal, in particular staff turnover. Of course, a replacement has a much lower chance of renewing than the original person, but that personal call raises the odds dramatically.

“If I had to throw out a number, I’d guess the odds of renewal might be 30% without the call (for a replacement subscriber), but you can probably raise that to 50-60% with the calls. (Updating their name, letting them know what they get, etc…) And we also increase the odds that an existing subscriber will renew with those calls. Education about what they’re getting and the personal touch. I’d guess that can add 5 to 12% to long-term renewal rates.”

The quick, substantive and unselfish qualities of these responses are really par for the forums. SIPA members realize that a tool like this works well because of their own participation. I could provide more examples. But SIPA members see those every day; others aren’t as fortunate.

A few minutes after Lawson’s email, another came with more advice: “Get yourself off the publications or subscriptions budget and onto part of the budget that’s still funded. Training, legal services, etc. Rename what you do.”

And then another: “We are experimenting with offering a ‘grace period’ to expires and cancels. We send a newsletter with copy telling the sub that we understand the economy is making it hard for our subs to renew. We offer them three issues without charge or obligation and we hope they will be able to renew at the end of this period. Response rates are >5%.”

So in a period of about four hours, a valuable question was posed and discussed, and answers were suggested.

Hmmmm. I wonder if anyone on the SIPA Online Forum knows what to do about a leaky head gasket.

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SIPA 2010 Annual International Conference

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