How to Sell $38K of Subscriptions in 10 Days

If you’re a paid circulation magazine, you know that selling subscriptions online can be a challenge. However, I’d like to share an example of one publication that recently sold over $38K of subscriptions in just 10 days — and the subscription campaign strategy we used to do it.

If you run a paid circulation magazine, you know that selling subscriptions online can be a challenge. However, I’d like to share an example of one publication that recently sold over $38K of subscriptions in just 10 days — and the strategy used to do it.

The magazine we’re talking about isn’t a huge, national publication like Consumer Reports or America’s Test Kitchen. It’s actually a relatively modest, regional lifestyle publication and a member of CRMA (City and Regional Magazine Association).

The publisher’s website isn’t geared at all to drive subscriptions. They have no paywall in place, no digital subscription option, and no way to easily create effective landing pages. They also have an email/marketing automation system that is difficult to use at best.

Yet the team there overcame all of these challenges and, together, we ran a very successful campaign that generated $38K of subscriptions at an initial subscription price of only $11.

A Huge Boost in Paid Subscriptions

The magazine I worked with typically sells 10 subscriptions per day through various channels. However, during the campaign, that average jumped to 69 subscriptions per day … nearly 7x more. Look at the data and you can clearly see the day the campaign started and ended.

Subscription Campaign Success: Chart 1

In the 10 days prior to the campaign, the publisher sold $1,995 of subscriptions. During the 10-day campaign, however, they sold nearly $7,546 of subscriptions. So how does that equate to the $38K I mentioned above?

The publisher’s subscriptions include a non-optional, auto-renew program. That means that they don’t have to re-sell these subscribers every year. Thus, each auto-renew subscription is actually worth approximately $56 over the lifetime of the subscriber.

When you look at lifetime value, the magazine normally generated $5,620 in LTV revenue over a typical 10-day period. But during this 10-day campaign, they generated over $38,000 in LTV revenue … a 7x increase.

Subscription Campaign Success: Chart 2

How the Subscription Campaign Worked

The campaign offered a 50% discount on the normal annual subscription price and made it very clear that the offer was only good for 10 days. This combination of a steep price discount and the urgency of a limited time helped contribute to the campaign’s success.

But the other major factor was how well the publisher drove awareness of the discount and the limited time through all available channels that the magazine had: email, ads on their website, and social media. They also spent $1,000 in Facebook/Instagram advertising targeting a specific demographic in their geographic area as well as re-targeting website visitors and Facebook page followers.

Unsurprisingly, email was the biggest revenue driver accounting for 50% of the directly attributable sales. Ads on the publisher’s website drove 25%, with social media and Facebook/Instagram ads combining for the remaining 25%.

The Campaign Was Part of a Larger Strategy

It’s critical to note that this campaign was part of a larger audience development strategy that we’ve been working on for a while. The campaign wouldn’t have been anywhere near as successful as an isolated subscription sales effort.

The audience development strategy focuses first on building their email list. We create high-converting lead magnets that are promoted to their target audience with Facebook and Instagram advertising. Once an email address is captured, the person is then presented with an opportunity to subscribe to the magazine.

This allows the publisher to quickly build up their email list for free. They make as much money in year-one subscription revenue as they spend on advertising. When you take into account auto-renew lifetime value, the publisher actually makes money while building their email list.

Why is this important?

Their new email names converted at a higher rate than their old email names. The publisher’s pre-existing email list was larger than the new, lead-magnet-generated email list. But the new names converted to paid magazine subscribers more than 3x better than pre-existing names.

What’s Next?

While this campaign was off-the-charts successful, it’s not something that can be done more than a couple times per year. If you do it more often than that, you will condition your audience to wait for a big sale and campaign response rates will fall off dramatically.

Working with the publisher, we plan to do this type of campaign a couple times each year. In the interim, we’ll continue to build out their email list rapidly. They’ll add more evergreen lead magnets and will continue to promote them via Facebook and Instagram. We’re also testing the response rate of other programmatic networks like Google, Taboola, and Bing.

This strategy works with paid circulation publications, e-commerce sites, or membership sites. It can even be adapted for controlled circulation publications with some modifications. It takes work, patience, the right tactics, close monitoring, and perhaps some system changes. But the right combination of ongoing email list development and focused, intense subscription campaigns is a powerful combination for any publication.

Irrational Customers and 2013’s Tip Top Marketing Campaign

Exhale, just landed from a jam-packed Direct Marketing Association DMA13 conference … You have to hand it to New Zealanders. For two years’ running, that nation’s marketing practitioners have nailed a Diamond ECHO from the Direct Marketing Association’s International ECHO Awards, which were presented last week during DMA13, the association’s annual conference in Chicago.

Exhale, just landed from a jam-packed Direct Marketing Association DMA13 conference

New Zealanders are Diamond
You have to hand it to New Zealanders. For two years’ running, that nation’s marketing practitioners have nailed a Diamond ECHO from the Direct Marketing Association’s International ECHO Awards, which were presented last week during DMA13, the association’s annual conference in Chicago.

This year’s top data-driven marketing campaign in the world was for ice cream maker Tip Top (Fonterra Brands Ltd), in a campaign created by Colenso BBDO/Proximity New Zealand called “Feel Tip Top.” According to the ECHO Award entry:

A 75-year-old local ice cream brand in New Zealand aimed to regain relevance and brand momentum using customer experience. New Zealanders flocked to Facebook for the opportunity to nominate friends, family members or colleagues to receive a personally addressed, hand-delivered ice cream. By encouraging folks to ‘feel tip-top’ and indulge in a sweet treat and fond memory with friends, Tip Top highlighted new flavors and sub-brands, exceeded its nomination goal by more than fifteen-fold, and turned around a 17.6 percent decline into 16.7 percent growth across all categories.

I guess I ought to “like” Tip Top on Facebook.

Solidifying DMA’s Books
During the Annual Business Meeting of the association, it was announced that DMA has streamlined and simplified its annual dues structure into six tiers—from less than $800 on the low end (startups, consultants and the like) up to $75,000 for US and global direct marketing leaders. DMA generated $22.5 million in revenue last year, compared to $20.7 million in expenses.

While at the Annual Business Meeting, President & CEO Linda Woolley spoke to the recently approved Strategic Plan of the association, where she reported advocacy, networking and compliance services are the three areas of focus for association activity in the year ahead. DMA recently (in late May) launched a DMA Litigation Center, which will look to help businesses cope with privacy litigation, and to fight patent abuse, among other legal issues. Outgoing DMA Chairman Matt Blumberg, CEO & chairman of ReturnPath, also announced that the new DMA Chairman for 2013-2015 (a two-year term) is Alliant President & CEO JoAnne Monfradi Dunn (congratulations to my client), who told members she plans to serve as an ambassador between DMA’s management and its members.

(Ir)rational Consumers
Dan Ariely, in a keynote session sponsored by The Wilde Agency, gave case after case where consumers were seen to act irrationally, and that marketers can influence outcomes (and response) markedly by designing and testing creative offers and incentives. One of my favorites was the offer by The Economist (I’m an avid reader) where potential subscribers were offered $125 for the print magazine, and $59 for an online-only magazine, and the online-only offer won. But when a third option was added—$125 for both the print & online magazine—that option was the clear winner.

When an insurance company wanted to sell life insurance policies, and try to convince persons to upgrade, it tried repeatedly to sell in copy the benefits of more coverage—but with little access. When it decided to include a chart that clearly showed the higher amounts of coverage available—that the consumer was foregoing at his or her existing amount of coverage—well, it resulted in a 500 percent lift. My takeaways: always test, find a clever way to visualize data and offers, and always expect the irrational as much as the rational. “Standards Economics are not the same as Behavioral Economics,” he said. Indeed.

Well, that was just from two page of notes from the conference—I’m still dissecting a dozen more sessions. I have to say, this was the first conference in many years where I was accompanied by a “newbie,” a practitioner on the brand side making her first DMA appearance. She had a lot to complain about—there were way too many great sessions on offer at the same time, and we tag-teamed a bit to cover them simultaneously where we could. I think next year, she’ll be bringing some of her colleagues.

Mark your calendar for San Diego for the last week of October 2014.

2012 DMA ECHO Green Marketing Award Goes to: Vestas

The Green Marketing Award is not about marketing environmental products, services or causes. Rather, it’s about how efficiency and sustainability—and profitability—are incorporated in a successful marketing campaign. This year’s winner was Vestas Wind Systems (Arhaus, Denmark). The business-to-business campaign, targeting large-company executives at 23 Fortune 1000 firms, was remarkable in how it used market research, social media, direct mail and digital media to provide a truly personalized campaign to convince companies to consider wind energy as a power source for their operations.

During the summer, I had an opportunity to serve as a judge on a panel to select the Direct Marketing Association‘s special ECHO Green Marketing Award winner for 2012. That award was presented recently at DMA’s annual conference in Las Vegas, DMA2012.

The Green Marketing Award is not about marketing environmental products, services or causes. Rather, it’s about how efficiency and sustainability—and profitability—are incorporated in a successful marketing campaign. This year’s winner was Vestas Wind Systems (Arhaus, Denmark). The business-to-business campaign, targeting large-company executives at 23 Fortune 1000 firms, was remarkable in how it used market research, social media (InMail via LinkedIn), direct mail (custom Bloomberg BusinessWeek magazine wraps) and digital media (EnergyTransparency.com) to provide a truly personalized campaign to convince companies to consider wind energy as a power source for their operations.

Vestas tapped two research firms, Bloomberg and TNS Gallup, to complete two studies. One was a Corporate Renewable Energy Index that reported on corporations’ energy consumption, and the second was a Global Consumer Wind Study, that examined consumer demand for renewable energy. The surveys documented that consumers want products made with wind energy, and that corporations are eager to source more renewable energy.

Working with its agency partner, Vertic Inc. (New York, NY), the campaign targeted 419,000 employees and 300 top executives inside the 23 companies. Audiences were segmented by geography, seniority, work role and industry. Opinion leaders also were targeted. Using InMail, LinkedIn company-specific banner ads and the magazine wraps, traffic was generated to 600 individual URLs associated with EnergyTransparency.com where an executive could inspect energy consumption trends in their company and industry sector, along with customer brand preference information relevant to the company.

Overall, the campaign cost less than $1 million, and generated more than 10,000 site visits with average visit lasting more than 7 minutes on average—with 80 percent of opinion leaders visiting the site, and 30 percent of top executives targeted. InMails achieved at 13.37 percent open rate and 5.78 percent conversion rate. Business sales resulting from the campaign were not disclosed.

The judges welcomed seeing 1:1 communication, effective personalized used of social media, magazine wraps, banner ads, and successful delivery of brand interaction among C-suite executives—always a tough challenge. On the sustainability front, judges welcomed use of existing communications channels—magazines already subscribed to, social media networks where professional profiles already are present—to provide messaging, using little in the way of new production materials to convey relevant information. Overall, the campaign focused on energy use, so what better way to reach executives efficiently.

Global, integrated print & digital, b-to-b … congratulations to Vestas Wind Systems and Vertic!

Resources:
This Year’s DMA International ECHO Green Marketing Award Winner (see page 14):
http://dma.seqora.com/prod/Desktop/page.aspx?id=25&mode=SP&name=EchoAwards2012

Catalogers & Publishers Get ‘Lucky’ as Their Mail Gets a Valuable Second Life

I recently took a trip to Sonoma County, Calif. While I was there, I learned of an innovation with a firm called REMAG that would have consumers return their used, mailed catalogs and magazines to REMAG-administered kiosks and recycling collection bins in test store locations. By scanning a barcode on the label of a returned catalog or magazine at the kiosk location, the consumer can receive multiple coupons of their choice for a future purchase from a publisher or catalog, a wide variety of store items, or other kiosk marketing sponsor-partner.

I recently took a trip to Sonoma County, Calif., and while the trip involved some sight-seeing among my business goings-on, it also had its share of personal visits to the local grocer, a nearby store called Lucky.

Lucky is part of a store chain owned by a firm called SaveMart, another California-based food retailer. SaveMart operates both Lucky and SaveMart in 243 store locations throughout California.

While I was there, I learned of an innovation with a firm called REMAG that would have consumers return their used, mailed catalogs and magazines to REMAG-administered kiosks and recycling collection bins in test store locations. By scanning a barcode on the label of a returned catalog or magazine at the kiosk location, the consumer can receive multiple coupons of their choice for a future purchase from a publisher or catalog, a wide variety of store items, or other kiosk marketing sponsor-partner. It’s not that much different from returning cans and bottles to a kiosk, except catalogs and magazines don’t come with deposits to be redeemed—consumers instead are rewarded with coupons for recycling.

It struck me how much of a win/win/win this is for everyone, and made me curious as to whether or not REMAG, which is a two-year-old company, is set to take off.

Think about all the benefits that are accrued here among stakeholders:

The consumer gets a handily located recycling kiosk just as they are entering a food retail location for this highly desired grade of recovered paper—old catalogs and magazines (OMG). OMG is highly valued since its fibers are usually long, dense and strong, making it a valuable component of subsequent manufactured recycled paper products. For their efforts, the customers are awarded a discount, coupon or other incentive to purchase from the very companies and brands they frequent.

For the retailer, REMAG kiosks are a great way to attract new customers and reward customer loyalty. The retailer also generates revenue for the valuable OMG that is recovered at the kiosk, alongside the customer purchases made during the store visit. In addition, with five cents of every coupon going to a local charity, the store gets customer “good will” for siting the kiosk and is assisting the local community—always popular for retailers. Lastly, as another recycling station—in this case for OMG paper—the REMAG kiosk is easily integrated into a store’s already-existing recycling collection center (where bottles and cans are collected, and deposits redeemed).

The catalog retailer and magazine publisher also gain from good will, while extending future purchase opportunities to the consumer who is performing the recycling collection task. (Most likely these consumers are already a catalog prospect or customer, or subscriber or casual reader of the magazine.) In turn, by way of incentives, these marketers may receive a new merchandise purchase by way of the coupon, or a new, renewed or gift subscription that otherwise may have gone untapped, or pushed off to another unspecified time. As magazine newsstand sales wane, this innovation could be an important method to attract new customers and remind readers to renew, or to perhaps extend a gift subscription to another.

REMAG gains, too. Whether or not the kiosks carry the REMAG branding, or that of the host store or other marketing partner (publishers, catalogers, recyclers, paper companies, etc.), the company gets to share a percentage of the coupon redemption revenue for every new product order or subscription it generates for its partners, as well as revenue for category sponsorships.

Local recyclers or paper companies with which REMAG does business get to put the collected papers to subsequent productive use—ensuring another life for a valuable fiber and an affordable source for that fiber. Despite the uncertain economy, there is a critical shortage of recovered paper—and all indications are that this commodity will continue to grow in demand globally. Magazine publishers and catalogers have an easy way to show that they are part of the solution.

Think global, act local. I suspect most California consumers, like most Americans, love to recycle, or at least support recycling collection activity as a matter of habit. The key is to make recycling collection easy and convenient. With a financial reward for recycling, both REMAG and SaveMart are excited about the prospects for a successful trial.

According to REMAG’s sustainability consultant David Refkin, the Lucky/SaveMart kiosk placement agreement initially will involve up to 8 stores in the Bay Area and the Central Valley of California for an initial test. If all goes well, it will likely roll out to other Lucky/SaveMart locations, too. One of the pilot location stores will be in San Bruno, very close to San Francisco Airport should you happen to be in the neighborhood.

For REMAG to be successful, many moving parts will have to come together successfully. There will need to be promotion of the participating store drop-off locations, as well as accessibility and awareness to the consumer. The collected material will need to be picked up, transported or distributed to a local or regional recovered fiber user.

The host store locations will hope to see local residents participating cleanly—as they potentially grow business by attracting new customers who happen to learn of the recovery drop-off sites, and choose to use them. And catalog retailers and magazine publishers will need to participate as well, to make sure they are leveraging this new and environmentally friendly “channel” in a smart business way that engages their prospects and customers.

Let’s see what happens in California and REMAG’s test there. We all might stand to get a little bit lucky.

5 Social Media Best Practices for Publishers

When it comes to social media marketing, some magazines and newspapers are doing it right, while some could improve their strategies. These issues were discussed at a session called “Social Media Marketing For Newspapers & Magazines,” held during the Search Marketing Expo East conference in New York, Oct. 6-8.

When it comes to social media marketing, some magazines and newspapers are doing it right, while some could improve their strategies. These issues were discussed at a session called “Social Media Marketing For Newspapers & Magazines,” held during the Search Marketing Expo East conference in New York, Oct. 6-8.

During the session, Adam Sherk, a search specialist at New York City-based search engine optimization firm Define Search Strategies, revealed the results of a survey showing that between the first and third quarters of this year, traffic on magazine sites coming from social media sites ranged from 0.6 percent to 18 percent of total traffic. Definitely a wide berth.

The session also discussed best practices in terms of getting a high percentage of social media traffic to a magazine or publisher Web site.

With this in mind, Chris Winfield, president and co-founder of 10e20, a New York City-based social media marketing consultancy, offered the following strategies for serving up a successful social media plan.

1. Research. “Find out where your visitors are already coming from,” he said. If they’re coming from Facebook, for example, start there. In addition, Winfield said that marketers should determine on which sites people are talking about you and who is already linking to you by tracking your inbound links.

In addition, “figure out what has worked so far in terms of social media marketing,” he said, “what hasn’t and what sites have the most potential for growth.”

2. Decide. “Once you figure out where your audience hang outs and what the demographics of these people are,” Winfield said, “decide if you should continue focusing on these areas. Also decide which specific media sites are right for your content and focus on those as well.”

3. Get your content up to snuff. “Make sure your content is easy for consumers to consume,” Winfield said. “Make it easy for people to share your content.”

But, Winfield warned publishers not to go overboard with social media buttons that users can click on to share content. “It’s a turnoff and people are not going to use them,” he said. He also suggested looking out for evergreen content that can be “easily updated and prettied up.”

4. Make internal changes. “Get key employees and stakeholders on board with your social media marketing plan,” Winfield said. “Get your existing readers on board. You’ll want to educate them and explain to them how your strategy works and how it can help them.”

While it’s important to make internal changes, Winfield cautioned attendees not to alienate their existing audiences.

5. Open up. Once your strategy is up and running, Winfield advised to maintain it by continually adding fresh content to your blogs, while also having a good RSS strategy.

“Many companies are not really sure what they are doing now when it comes to RSS feeds,” he said, “and they don’t understand how important a good RSS strategy can be.”

When working with microblog sites, such as Twitter, “don’t just be a feed,” he noted. “This can be boring. You want to be more than that — to gain new followers.”

Join Our Reader Panel

Hear Ye! Hear Ye!

Calling all e-tailers and e-marketers.

The editorial staff at eM+C magazine wants our magazine, Web site, and e-letters to reflect what you need to know to help you succeed in your e-marketing and e-commerce efforts.

To make sure we are on point, we’re forming a special eM+C Reader panel. Members will be invited to join in conversations with the staff, meet at conferences, provide feedback and critique, participate in polls, and generally share their feelings about the world of e-marketing and e-commerce.

Hear Ye! Hear Ye!

Calling all e-tailers and e-marketers.

The editorial staff at eM+C magazine wants our magazine, Web site, and e-letters to reflect what you need to know to help you succeed in your e-marketing and e-commerce efforts.

To make sure we are on point, we’re forming a special eM+C Reader panel. Members will be invited to join in conversations with the staff, meet at conferences, provide feedback and critique, participate in polls, and generally share their feelings about the world of e-marketing and e-commerce.

If you are an e-tailer or e-marketer–and a reader of our magazine, e-letter and/or Web site–please send me an e-mail at mcampanelli@napco.com. Please include the name of your company and your title.

Thanks! We look forward to hearing from you–and working with you!