Subscription Website Publishing

12 Six Sigma Subscription Marketing Offers That Boost Response Rates

Think selling magazines is hard? Look at Netflix. They’ve been able to get customers to pay $9+ per month as a membership website for over a decade. Disney+ signed up ten million subscribers for their $7/mo streaming service, on their very first day.

Meanwhile, magazines have a hard time getting people to dish out $10 for a whole year of content.

What’s the difference?

Magazines sell subscriptions and advertising.

Netflix sells memberships.

We are absolutely convinced that every magazine publisher can dramatically improve their revenue, profits and market capitalization or net worth by moving towards a membership-driven business model.

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Let’s talk about how the membership mentality is helping subscription publishers in a way they never expected, and for higher profits.

In the past, we have reviewed how to use the concepts of Six Sigma in subscription marketing and testing. Today we’re examining the actual offers we suggest you test when using the Six Sigma system. 

But first, what’s in your inventory?

Publishers switching from print-only to a multi-edition magazine system for print, tablet and web editions now have one of the biggest revenue opportunities on their hands. Offering multiple editions enables you to charge more for your magazine as you can use contrast pricing to encourage subscribers to purchase an all-access pass, often priced higher than any individual edition. Another benefit of having multiple magazine editions is to renew print-only subscribers at a higher priced all-access subscription.

Based on the fundamental subscription marketing and renewal principles that our executive team has used for decades (please see our post on Six Sigma), we’ve created an email marketing program in which we use offer, price, platform and incentives to maximize multiplatform, continuous-service subscription sales and renewals.

This is the same subscription marketing program, upgraded for the digital era, that we introduced at TIME in 1995, and used at ComputerworldModern DrummerPC World, Consumer Reports and all of our successful niche publishing partners.

For the sample test offers below, the full price of the magazine is $19.99 (tablet edition), $24.99 (print edition), $29.99 (web edition) and $34.97 (all access). $2.97 is the standard monthly price, but the card is charged quarterly, making it $8.91 every three months. 

Monthly Pricing, Quarterly Billing

  1. 3 Months for $3 – Initial charge of $3 for 3 months of all-access, then start recurring charge of $8.91 on continuous 3-month terms (every quarter).
  2. $2.97/Month All Access – Initial charge of $2.97 for 1 month of all-access, then start recurring charge of $8.91 on continuous 3-month terms.
  3. 30 Days Free All Access – Initial charge of $0 for 1 month of access, then start recurring charge of $8.91 on continuous 3-month terms.
  4. $.99 All Access One Month – Initial charge of $.99 for 1 month of access, then start recurring charge of $8.91 on continuous 3-month terms.
  5. $2.49 Any Platform; $2.97 All Access – Initial charge of $2.49 or $2.97 for 1 month of access (depending on the platform/option they choose), then start recurring charge of $7.47 or $8.91 on continuous 3-month terms.
  6. 30 Days Free then $2.49 Any Platform; $2.97 All Access  – After picking a service level (All Access for $2.97 or Web, Print or Tablet for $2.49) there’s an initial charge of $0 for 1 month of access, then start recurring charge of $7.47 or $8.91 on continuous 3-month terms.

Annual Pricing, Annual Billing

  1. $19.99 Any Platform, $24.97 All Access – Initial charge of either $19.99 or $24.97 for 1 year of access, then start recurring charge of either $19.99 (tablet), $24.99 (print), $29.99 (web), $34.97 (all access) on continuous 12 month terms.
  2. Straight Basic Rate – Initial charge of either $19.99 (tablet), $24.99 (print), $29.99 (web), $34.97 (all access) and start on continuous 12 month terms.
  3. 30 Days Free, then Basic Rate – Initial charge of $0 for 1 month of access, and then start recurring charge of either $19.99 (tablet), $24.99 (print), $29.99 (web) or $34.97 (all access) on continuous 12 month terms.
  4. $10 for One Year All Access – Initial charge of $10 for 1 year of all access, then start recurring charge of $34.97 (all access) on continuous 12 month terms.
  5. 30 Days Free, then Basic Rate All Access Only – Initial charge of $0 for 1 month of access, and then start recurring charge of $34.97 (all access) on continuous 12 month terms.
  6. 30 Days Free, then Basic Rate Digital Combination Only – This one is recommended for international orders where print isn’t an option. Initial charge of $0 for 1 month of access, and then start recurring charge of $34.97 (digital combo which is tablet and web) on continuous 12 month terms.

Your offer testing campaigns, where you’re testing one of the offers above, could last for 4 weeks. During this 4 week offer cycle, we’d recommend aggressive creative testing on your spotlights so that you can identify the winners, keep those in rotation, while dropping the losers.

After you’ve completed one offer test campaign, you’d start another one. While the second offer test campaign is running, you have the time to analyze the data from the first campaign, which is then used to develop the third campaign. Data from Campaign #2 helps develop Campaign #4, and so on. You’re continuously refining and improving your marketing by keeping winners until they fatigue and replacing losers with new offers and new creative, and it’s all done with Six Sigma discipline.

Our overall philosophy is to be constantly testing offers and creative. As they say, “different strokes for different folks.” If you’re not yet testing your magazine offers, we suggest you start and seek to continuously improve your response rates. Our experience shows that over any given 12 month period, response rates will decline by about 40% for a publisher who keeps the same offer up year after year.

To get accurate test results, you’ll need the proper source IDs in place to make sure you know where the orders are coming from. These indicators are important to the accuracy of the tests.

Additionally, consider your continuous service language. Here are a few examples of how Yankee and I Like Crochet word this section on their landing pages:

Yankee’s $10 for the first year offer

Continuous Service Satisfaction Guarantee: If I wish to continue with Yankee after the introductory period, I may continue at the guaranteed lowest available renewal rate. I may cancel at any time and receive a complete refund on any unserved balance of my subscription or membership. My satisfaction is always 100% guaranteed. Continuous Service is not available in Vermont or wherever prohibited.

Recipe Lion’s Gold Club offer

Your Satisfaction is 100% Guaranteed: Your membership will continue uninterrupted unless canceled, and your credit card will be charged according to the terms you’ve selected above. If you are dissatisfied at any time, for any reason, you may cancel without further obligation, no questions asked. Your complete satisfaction is always guaranteed.

The biggest takeaway I can give you if you plan to try this testing method is this: BE DISCIPLINED. Stick to the test and wait until the end to make any conclusions. Let the data speak for itself.

By Kim Mateus

Chief Strategy Officer

Kim Mateus is Chief Strategy Officer for Mequoda Systems and the Mequoda Systems Content Network where she oversees strategic planning for the organization's 200 plus premium subscription products. Over the past decade, she has guided the development of more than 20 subscription marketing systems including I Like Crochet Network, New England Network and Your AAA Network. She and her team maintain an exhaustive best practices database of subscription marketing techniques and business processes that she uses to advise her clients and optimize the more than 60 websites that make up the Mequoda Systems Content Network. Kim is a frequent speaker at industry events and serves on the board of the Specialized information Publishers Association.

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