How to sell subscriptions

selling magazine, digital and newspaper subscriptionsSelling subscriptions isn’t hard. However, you still have to apply the same sales and marketing rules if you want to be successful. And these days, subscriptions just don’t apply to magazines or newspapers. Thanks to the internet, we have seen an explosion of subscriptions other markets, including entertainment, technology, communication and healthcare.

I’ve sold subscriptions to software and niche publications.

You would think that selling software subscriptions would be easy. You just do a demo, set up a trial, and the customer is impressed with what you have to offer, and then pays for your product.  However, like any sale, you still run into objections. And the higher the price point, the more objections you need to overcome and the longer the sales cycle you need to manage.

When I sold password security software, my sales cycle would run from one month to two years. This was because I was usually dealing with a lot of decision makers in different divisions within the company that I had to convince.

With niche publications, the biggest challenge you face is all the free content available online. So it’s important to offer unique information that your average customer would have difficulty finding online, or doesn’t have time to find through Google searches.

This is why I always laugh when telemarketers try to sell me print subscriptions to the Washington Post. I mean, really?!? With all the free news information online, I have no problem keeping up with international, national and local news. Sure, I may occasionally buy the print Sunday edition to read the comics, or get coupons, but beyond that, I just don’t need a print newspaper anymore.

Niche it down. The more unique your publication, software or service, the better chance you have of increasing and retaining your paid subscriptions.

When selling subscriptions, here are some good rules to follow –

1). Offer good marketing content on your website that attracts prospects. That would include blogs, white papers, case studies and interesting articles.

2). Create a good prospect list to contact by cold calling, emails and direct marketing. Obviously, target those that you feel will have the greatest interest in what you are selling. Also, it goes without saying, start with your potentially highest paid prospects and work your way down the list to the lowest ones.

3). Contact expired subscribers and try to bring them back on board. Maybe you could offer them a free trial, a special one-time discount or some other incentive.

4). Offer free trials for x-number of days.

5). Provide testimonials on your website. Or better yet, have a video collection of testimonials to send to your prospects.

6). Ask for referrals. Maybe offer a discount per referral.

7). If you are offering an online subscription with network licenses, make sure everyone subscribing to the license is using your service. Also, if someone leaves, immediately contact the key decision maker to find a replacement. Nothing hurts more than having a 20 user license and seeing it reduced in half because employees left, and you never bothered to quickly find their replacements.

8). Keep track of subscribers moving from one company to another. If an old subscriber lands a new job with a company that’s not currently subscribing to your publication or software, contact them and bring them onboard. Use LinkedIn to keep, Google Alerts and industry newsletters to keep track of your current subscribers.

9). Engagement. Create a discussion board to allow your subscribers to offer ideas and exchange information. This is also a good way to moderator what your subscribers are thinking that could help you make improvements. It also helps you to build a community. Customers today are not just interested in buying and using your products or services – they want to feel like they are part of your company, and they want to interact not just with you, but other clients too.

As mentioned in Zuora, Inc’s SlideShare presentation “Driving Success in the Subscription Economy”, there are 6 steps for a successful subscription campaign – Acquire, Nurture, Collect & Automate, Measure, Iterate, and Scale.

By Acquire, use the personal touch, offer value, and make it easy to access your information or services.

By Nurture, keep clients engaged and make it easy for them to renew and move through different subscription plans. In short, reduce the friction.

By Collect & Automate, make it easy for clients to pay and provide them with accurate billing information.

By Measure, use tools like CRM (Customer Relationship Management) to gain insights of your subscribers, and help you make smarter decisions about cross-selling and up-selling.

By Iterate, test to find out which pricing and feature strategies work best to enhance customer relationships.

By Scale, ensure your system is secure and scalable as you expand your client base and offerings.

And finally, below, I have compiled a series of articles I found on how to sell subscriptions. Please let me know what you think.

Alix Stuart, in her article “How to Sell Subscriptions – for Everything”, makes a good point of making sure your clients are committed to paid subscription model before you pursue that option.

Offering good content is obviously a key to your success, as pointed out by 3dcart in “How to Sell Magazine Subscriptions Online”.

Steve Burge from OSTraining, offers good advice in his article “Lessons Learned from 5 years of Selling Subscriptions.”  For example, he warns against using most payment processors and not to use PayPal directly.

Is there still a market for print magazine subscriptions? Rebecca Sterner in her article “How to sell Magazine Subscriptions” seems to think so. She outlines a series of strategies for selling both print and digital subscriptions.

MarketingSherpa makes a strong point in its article “Five Rules for Selling Subscriptions to Web Sites and Email Newsletters” about the need to survey your clients. How else are you going to sell and increase subscriptions unless you know what your readers want from you?

Please let me know if you have any comments.

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