Copywriting Keys That Will Get Customers to Renew and Subscribe

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"Market your editorial consistently to your existing readers," Jim Sinkinson told our Business Information & Media Summit audience in November. "You sold them a subscription, you're sending it to them digitally or by print. Don't take for granted that just because they paid for it that they're going to read it. And if they don't read it, they won't renew."

This point hit me hard. I'll see a question on the Discussion Forum or see someone at a SIPA dinner asking about new revenue strategies or ways to sponsor a podcast—topics I may have written about recently. And the person doesn't recall seeing the articles. When I send him or her links, they get excited and thank me.


Sinkinson spoke about a colleague he knows who greatly improved the open rates of his articles by always writing an email to subscribers basically selling them on the articles. (He asserts that you should be marketing your articles not the publications. It's the articles that provide the benefits.)

"He also sends that same email with a slight twist to every prospect," Sinkinson said. "Subscribers are invited to click and go to that article. Prospects can click on a link and sign up for a free trial. He sells trial subscriptions by selling every single article." 

A main Sinkinson theme, that frankly can't be repeated enough, is that you're selling benefits not news. A benefit is subjective, he said. It's the idea we put in our customers' heads. It's the promise to make a positive, tangible change in somebody's life.

He gave the example of an acquisition and a subsequent headline: Company A Acquires Company B. "Great, I read the same thing in Google," Sinkinson said. "Your editorial should not be about the industry per se, but it should be about the reader. There are important developments afoot in that acquisition that are going to affect [that reader]. 'Company A acquired Company B, and this is how it will affect you. There's a lesson here and we need to be prepared for the next lesson that looks like this.' That will take your editorial to a whole other level."

Sinkinson said that customers want something to change. They spend money and expect something to happen. "People do not buy your content because it is content. They are not buying facts from you." They want benefits. "Learning is not a benefit, updates are not a benefit. Knowledge is sufficient but it is not enough. It doesn't take you anywhere. You have to tell people what to do with it."

He said content should change people's emotional reality as well.  "What's the emotional thing that should change when someone reads an article? We're trying to give people a confidence that they know what they're doing. If a new law has been passed or if some employees are bad actors in the organization [the example he gave was in the HR realm], they want the confidence to control that bad actor. 'I'm a leader in that business. I know how to handle problems.'

"Whatever those emotional benefits are, how does our content convey that? That's what we're trying to do." The problem is, he said, that in most cases, editors are not thinking about changing the reader's emotional reality. "It should be, 'What does the new law mean in the context of your business and your life? How do we want customers to perceive our brand? By the benefits we provide."

Another Sinkinson-ism is that every information unit should sell itself from the outset. It should tell people why they should read it. "That has to do with how you should write it," he said. "The headline should tell you why it's important—not Company A Acquires Company B but that it shakes up the industry. Then the lead paragraph explains that more. In fact, all [our] editorial should tell why something's important from the outset.

If you can get to Boston on May 1 and attend this highly valued SIPA workshop, the benefits will be huge for you. Sinkinson will make sure of that.

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…