SIPA Take Away #4: Membership Website Experience from Mark Ragan

Mark Ragan of and Ragan Select, tells publishers how their new membership website and social network has brought profitability from 31% to 49%

“Our experience in the last 20 months has shown that you can convert users over to a subscription and you have have fun doing it,” said Mark Ragan during his Keynote at the 2009 SIPA 33rd Annual International Conference in Washington, D.C. this week.

Ragan told publishers that Ragan Select, his membership website for communicators, launched with a forced free trial. This means that anyone on his list got a message telling them that they received a free trial subscription to Ragan Select. The message offered them their password, instructions and congratulated them. With this, they immediately converted 25%, and maintain a 46% renewal rate from that initial pool of subscribers.

Since the launch, they’ve also used a handful of other methods for getting people signed up for Ragan Select. In terms of direct mail, they’ve used benefit forms, more forced free trials, and email promotions. Ragan claims to have a $1.25 to $2.50 ROI with these efforts.

“My most successful email promotion was a 49 cents a day offer,” Ragan told the audience.

Ragan also told publishers that while 46% of his initial pool of subscribers have renewed, another 14% renewed after their subscription had already expired.

His thoughts on this? “Content is king, but it’s not enough,” he told the audience. Ragan explained that without adding discounts to the membership website, his renewal rate might not be so high.

When someone subscribes to Ragan Select, they receive a bulk of discounts on products and events. Therefore, when someone wants to attend an event in the future, and their subscription has expired, they are reminded of the discount they’re entitled to with a subscription. This causes users to re-subscribe.

Ragan told publishers that they’ve gained traction on social networks and have even gotten subscribers to Ragan Select from Twitter, which, as he reminded publishers, is a no-cost marketing tool. Ragan stressed the importance of using free online tools as a part of your marketing endeavours.

“Sell your site on usefulness, but delight your customers with personality,” is Ragan’s motto. As far as investment in, which includes the membership website, a social network, videos and more, with emphasis on their fun personalities and “info-tainment”, Ragan told publishers that the site cost $100k to build, but profitability went from 31% to 49%.

More coverage from SIPA:

SIPA Take Away #1: 17 Testing Tools from Sandra Niehaus

SIPA Take Away #2: Get Your Staff Pumped About Search Engine Optimization

SIPA Take Away #3: Create an In-House Audio/Video Production Studio

SIPA Take Away #4: Membership Website Experience from Mark Ragan

SIPA Take Away #5: Best New Product Development Ideas

SIPA Take Away #6: 10 Ways to Sell One-Shot Products

SIPA Take Away #7: Google Really Does Love Online Publishers


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