7 Publisher-Tested Ideas to Entice New Subscribers

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It used to be the idea was to get businesses to subscribe or join and then they will attend conferences and webinars, and engage in other revenue-enhancing activities. But now that formula might be reversed.

The American Booksellers Association is offering attendees of their popular spring forums a free trial membership through the summer. The offer applies to stores that have not been ABA members in the past two years. Following the trial period, stores will have the option to convert their membership to regular status until the end of the dues year (Jan. 31, 2019) for a prorated portion of the new member rate of $199.

"We are trying to both incentivize people to come to the live meetings and encourage new joins," said membership and marketing officer Meg Smith in Associations Now. "We've run free trial offers in the past in connection with fall regional tradeshows and have always gotten some takers."

Here are six publisher event, contest and community ideas that fit this model:

Entice people with a special interest. Digital subscribers to The Wall Street Journal can now secure an entry into the hard-to-join Paris Marathon. "Once you have successfully gained your race number, it takes one click to also view a recommended training plan, a guide to the marathon and the city of Paris as well as race advice, pre-race nutrition tips and a post-race recovery plan." Sounds like plenty of sponsorship opportunities there.

Hold a contest... I've joined organizations before so I could enter a contest. I'll think, "Oh I'll unsubscribe later or not renew," but then sometimes I will find the relationship rewarding. Today Tix and Museum Hack come to mind. Today Tix has partnered with Ford's Theatre—yes, the site of Lincoln's assassination—to hold a lottery to win free tickets for the first performance of every play. I'm sure they've signed up thousands of people this way. Here's a contest SIPA member Hudson Valley Parent runs.

...And ask subscribers to vote. Another SIPA member, Columbia Books & Information Services' American Painting Contractor, recently held a contest for their favorite contractor video. What a great way to assemble free, valued content, create a highly entertaining web page, and get sponsorships. "Winners will receive $100 of product from our sponsors California Paint and Golden Paintworks."

Promote a special community. Another publisher, The Information, offers a Young Professionals Plan." At $199 a year for five years, you get access to not just the usual range of articles and videos but also exclusive events and a members-only Facebook group. Jessica Lessin, CEO and founder of The Information, said the subscription tier was designed to "serve people who are early in their careers and haven't reached their earning potential and are looking for events where they can meet people from outside their own companies."

Facilitate conversations. The National Council for Behavioral Health launched a hashtag alongside its conference hashtag to enforce the message that the content presented during the event is designed for discussion 365 days a year. They held Twitter chats with speakers and assigned staff members and volunteer "ambassadors" to keep conference content in circulation. "We learned that people were craving that year-round conversation around behavioral health," said Alicia C. Aebersold, senior vice president of communications and strategic development.

Offer a lower initial price point. Brenton Flynn, publisher, Investing Daily, told a SIPA audience last year about not having success with a $700 product. So they went to a much lower buy-in of $60, and it worked. Some 20% of the people who paid $60 then bought that same $700 product, discounted to $600 after the buy-in. "Think about how you sequence your offers and price points," Flynn said. "That generated thousands of new subscribers for us."

Ronn Are you subscribed to the SIPAlert Daily?
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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…