Six Sigma Subscription Marketing: 12 Offers That Boost Response Rates

subscription marketing

12 subscription marketing offers you can test with your existing email subscriber list

Think selling magazines is hard? Look at Netflix. They’ve been able to get customers to pay $9+ per month as a membership website. Meanwhile, magazines have a hard time getting people to subscribe for $10 for a whole year. Netflix is also currently worth about $159 billion. Compare that to Meredith Corporation, which is currently worth a little less than $3 billion.

What’s the difference?

Meredith Corporation sells 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.



Learn how to choose the best subscription pricing & single-copy pricing strategy for your subscription websites & subscription apps when you download a FREE copy of How to Use Contrast Pricing to Increase Subscription Revenue.


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 $2.47) 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.

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. We could also have 2 different step-up prices here, one for renewal (1st year) and one for conversion (2nd year).
  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 Environmental Nutrition word this section on their landing pages:

Yankee’s $10 for the first year offer

Continuous Service Satisfaction Guarantee: If I wish to continue receiving Yankee Magazine after the introductory period, I may continue at the guaranteed lowest available monthly renewal rate. I may cancel at any time, and receive a complete refund on the un-served balance of my subscription. My satisfaction is always 100% guaranteed.

Environmental Nutrition‘s standard copy for all continuous service, no matter the offer, is a great template: 

Continuous Service Guarantee: I understand that unless I tell you otherwise, I will receive uninterrupted service and access; my subscription will be automatically renewed at the end of each subscription term, at the rate(s) then in effect. I authorize you to fulfill my subscription and charge the credit/debit card provided. I won’t be bothered with any renewal notices, instead, I will receive a clearly marked reminder notice with the then-current rate(s) about 30 days prior to charging my credit/debit card or receiving a bill. I may opt out of the automatic renewal at any time by contacting customer service referenced below and receive a refund for all undelivered issues.

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.

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.


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