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Subscription Marketing: Free Isn’t a Dirty Word in Offer Testing

Subscription offer testing is the highway to higher revenues and profits, but it does take a bit of elbow grease.

In digital marketing, you might have been told “free” is a dirty word. In subject lines, it could get you blacklisted (it won’t) or in social media, it’s over-used (free is still better than paid). However, giving away something for free is one of the best ways to start a relationship, and when it comes to selling products and offer testing, this strategy has proven to be a huge asset to the marketing mix especially when the free product is assigned a value.

Additionally, if you have a web magazine and archive, you have the opportunity to offer incredible value with a 30 or 60-day free trial, because you are offering the subscriber access to thousands of articles for what is absolutely zero cost to the publisher. Selling access is very different than selling print which allows us to really change the conversation with subscribers and we can emphasize the value of getting access to an archive, which often includes issues that have been sold out for years and unavailable in any other way.

Over the last year we’ve talked a lot about Six Sigma offer testing.

Six Sigma offer testing methods are used in direct marketing to test a control against a number of variables. You test each variable against the control in order to declare a winner and this continues until all the variables have been tested. This can take place over the course of a month, or over the course of a year depending on how many variables you have to test.

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Many of our publishing partners are actively using Six Sigma testing in their email promotions. And as one of them attested to at our Annual Gold Member Summit—it’s a lot of work. It requires a skilled copywriter to come up with new subject lines and copy on an going basis. And to be honest, testing never really stops, however your revenues will improve as you will always be saving the best-performing promotions from week to week until you have a master set. And then, of course, you’ll start over again because the promotions will become exhausted.

So let’s say you’re ready to start Six Sigma testing with your promotional emails. You are setup to send one 3X per week. Which offer should you choose? In the past we shared 12 different offer types you can use in your Six Sigma rotation, but today I want to focus on the free offers, which might be:

  • First Issue Free
  • 30-Days Free
  • 14 Days Free
  • 10 Days Free

We use these because they all have different dynamics when it comes to urgency of user-access. For publishers with more in-depth, complex products, users will fare better with longer terms than with shorter ones.

In your copy language, you want to emote the idea that you’re so confident they’ll love the product that you’re willing to give it away for free. And you also want to tell them how much it’s worth so they understand the value of their free offer.

Here are five hypothetical examples of free Six Sigma offers, including the dynamics of how it works on your end.

  1. Billed Monthly: 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.
  2. Billed Monthly: 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 $2.47) 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.
  3. Billed Annually: 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. Billed Annually: 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.
  5. Billed Annually: 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.

So why do free offers tend to perform better than paid offers, like “1 year for $10” or “$0.99 your first month”?

Because they offer a low-friction, no-cost introduction to your product. And unlike a blow-in card where you might offer to send them a few issues for free without obligation, we’re savvy on the web. So, we don’t give away something for free without a credit card. This is for a few reasons:

  • If they don’t cough it up now, they are unlikely to come back and do it later.
  • If you have an order flow, you can capture their email address on the first page before they abandon on the second, and promote to them later.
  • People who enter their credit card order for a trial, usually convert to paid subscribers.

Of course you’ll never know what works until you test, so I encourage you to come up with at least 12 offers to test. We recommend testing for two weeks across all web and email sources or four weeks, and then analyze your results and move to the next offer. Twelve offers for most publishers could take up to a year, but I guarantee you’ll see an improvement in revenue for your efforts.

Over the past two decades, we’ve guided more than 300 niche publishers through the process of transforming themselves from legacy print publishers into multiplatform operations that often dominate their industry niche and generate operating margins that surpass those created by their legacy print business. Learn more about how we can help you apply these strategies to your publishing business by scheduling a FREE consultation today.

Meet Us in Plymouth and Learn
How to Double Your Publishing Revenue

Join other senior publishing executives at the Membership Marketing Secrets: 2020 Workshop—where you’ll learn how to plan, execute, and optimize a profitable magazine-driven membership marketing system. And how to double your publishing revenue!

Secure your registration now, while seats are available and Early-Bird Registration is open.

Membership Marketing Secrets: 2020 Workshop

May 20-21, 2020
Mirbeau Inn & Spa
Plymouth, Massachusetts

This two-day membership marketing secrets workshop is intense—it’s not for the faint-of-heart, and it’s only for magazine publishing senior executives who have the vision and resources to grow their businesses.

This event is also for curious publishing executives who want the membership marketing secrets for publishers revealed—so that profits, growth, efficiency, and total transformation will power a magazine business that leads the industry and is the envy of competitors and collaborators alike.

You’re familiar with the growth and prominence of the emerging membership economy—you can see it daily as you interact with Amazon, Netflix, or even your local gym. And luckily, magazine publishers can learn a lot from others who have “paved the way” to condition consumers to buy memberships.

This is no fad, it’s a bona-fide trend that you should know about, understand, and latch on to membership marketing secrets for your own business’ purposes.

You should first know what isn’t a secret—having a metered paywall at your website. Yes, thanks to many news-oriented publishers, metered paywalls have become commonplace and are a powerful way to showcase your premium content and convert website visitors into buyers.

But having a metered paywall is not a secret. Who doesn’t know about metered paywalls or already have one for their content?

And simply having a website where you publish content is not the answer to staying competitive these days … let alone blowing your competition out of the water.

For that, you need to attend the Membership Marketing Secrets: 2020 Workshop! You’ll not only learn about the membership marketing secrets, but you’ll also discover all the online publishing myths that often distract or derail many publishers from keeping their eyes on the prize—growth and profits!

When you attend the Membership Marketing Secrets: 2020 Workshop, you’ll be among the publishing industry’s elite—those who are ahead of the trends and will know exactly how to optimize your publishing efforts, based on the latest business intelligence. There will be plenty of time for networking, too, so you can get to know your fellow publishing professionals!

The 7 Membership Marketing Secrets for Magazine Publishers

So that you don’t have to wait until our event, here’s a list of 7 membership marketing secrets:

  1. Web Magazine
  2. Web Magazine Library
  3. Curated Special Collections
  4. Leveraging Existing Content Platforms
  5. Content Previews
  6. Email Marketing Frameworks
  7. Landing and Offer Page Frameworks

And of course, much of the “secret” is not just having a list, but fully understanding what’s behind these secrets and learning what to do about them, so that your own publishing system is in alignment with all these secrets.

When you come to the Membership Marketing Secrets: 2020 Workshop, you’ll learn about all of these in detail—and you’ll learn how to plan, execute, measure, and optimize your very own magazine-driven membership marketing system.

I promise you this now, too—when you register and attend our event, you’ll get 3 bonus membership marketing secrets. And while my colleagues prefer me to hold these bonus secrets back until you register, I can tell you they involve growing your audience, growing customer engagement, and growing revenue.

You’re probably wondering how I can make the claim that you’ll double your revenue when you register for our Membership Marketing Secrets: 2020 Workshop. Well, Mequoda has been around for more than 15 years—and we’ve helped many magazine publishers over that time, including Prime Publishing, Yankee Magazine and Hearst Magazines … and we’ve counted AAA Northeast and the Biblical Archaeology Society as clients (non-profit membership organizations that both have magazines!).

The Agenda for Discovering the 7 Membership Marketing Secrets for Publishers

You’ll leave this event with a clearer vision and plan for transforming your magazine publishing business. Here is the agenda for the Membership Marketing Secrets: 2020 Workshop:

Wednesday, May 20

  • Creating a New, Successful Membership Product
  • 3 Ways to Build Your Audience Marketing Database
  • Offer- & Price-Testing Strategies for Maximizing Revenue
  • How to Organize and Outsource Your Business Processes

Thursday, May 21

  • Building an Integrated Membership Marketing System
  • 4 Key Metrics for Measuring Your Success
  • Modeling and Budgeting Your Five-Year Plan
  • 3 Bonus Membership Marketing Secrets Revealed

For a full description of all the sessions, click here to download your FREE Program Guide.

This entire membership marketing secrets event will be led by me, Kim Mateus, as Chief Strategy Officer at Mequoda Systems. In 2004, I started with Mequoda as employee #2, and have since overseen strategic planning for many of Mequoda’s publishing partners. Having guided the development of more than 20 subscription and membership marketing systems, my team and I monitor and maintain a robust best-practices database of marketing techniques and business processes that helps power all Mequoda partner marketing programs. My focus on client content strategies is a natural extension of my journalism education and background.

And here is a high-level summary of the entire Membership Marketing Secrets: 2020 Workshop:

WHO: Besides senior executives like you from magazine publishing companies, the Mequoda Systems team who will join me at this membership marketing secrets event are veteran publishing professionals themselves—you’ll have plenty of time for networking with your fellow publishing executives and with the Mequoda Systems team:

  • Don Nicholas, Chief Executive Officer
  • Bill Dugan, Chief Copywriter
  • Nancy Horan, Chief Systems Officer
  • Eileen Shea, Content Marketing Director
  • Norann Oleson, Analytics Director

WHEN: May 20-21 (it’s NEVER too early to sign up!)

WHERE: Mirbeau Inn & Spa in Plymouth, Massachusetts

For inn room reservations at preferential rates for our attendees, click here or call 833-MIRBEAU (833-647-2328) for room reservations.

WHY: Because the magazine publishing world is fast-changing and keeping up with trends can be a full-time job—this membership marketing secrets event will help you focus on only the key initiatives that will help drive growth for your business.

For a full description of all the sessions, speakers, and the venue for this event, click here to download your FREE Program Guide.

I’d tell you to “mark your calendar” for this event, but if you only do that you might miss out—we only have a limited number of seats for this exclusive event, so sign up right now.

I hope to see you in historic Plymouth, Massachusetts, in May 2020!

Sincerely,

Kim Mateus
Chief Strategy Officer, Mequoda Systems
Program Leader, Membership Marketing Secrets: 2020 Workshop

P.S. If you already know that this event is for you, sign up right now while seats are still available (this is a small event—we really only have space for a few dozen people). Register now for the Membership Marketing Secrets: 2020 Workshop!

P.P.S. Prefer not to wait until 2020 to benefit from all these membership marketing secrets? If you have a sizable team at your organization who should hear all about this, email me at kim@mequoda.com and let’s chat about accelerating the process for you and bringing this membership marketing secrets workshop on-site at your company.

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