Q&A 

Subs marketing: 5 minutes with… Gerard O’Brien

The team at newstrade marketing specialists Marketforce is constantly being asked by their clients for advice on subscriptions and that is why they now offer integrated retail and subscriptions marketing services. We grab five minutes with Gerard O’Brien, consumer marketing director at Marketforce’s parent company TI Media for his thoughts on the latest subs marketing trends.

By Gerard O’Brien

Subs marketing: 5 minutes with… Gerard O’Brien

Q: What are the main marketing challenges facing publishers looking to build their subscriptions?

A: The biggest challenge to publishers is consumers today are demanding the ability to view content whenever, wherever, and in the format that best suits their needs at any given moment and are willing to move to those publishers who best satisfy those needs in both print and digital.

As well as this, readers increasingly seek free content online as digital media consumers are increasingly in the driver’s seat, totally in control with unparalleled freedom to choose whatever they want. Therefore, the challenge is delivering a brand value proposition that showcases the benefits of subscribing and building long lasting loyalty.

Additionally, with continuing overall decline in print circulation via retail, it is becoming harder to reach our core segment to drive subscriptions via traditional channels such as in-title ads and inserts. With social media and online taking priority over some traditional offline channels, it’s time for magazine subscription marketers to focus their marketing efforts on more digital channels.

Looking ahead, further challenges could come from the launch of platforms like Facebook News, where users will be consuming news on Facebook instead of on a publisher branded site, potentially taking away direct subscriptions.

Changes in consumer behaviour is something that all publishers must deal with as it’s constant, so the way that magazines are marketed to the consumer must adapt.

Q: Where are the opportunities for growth?

A: In the direct to consumer world, the opportunities for growth come from the digital landscape where publishers and magazine brands must start building their own customer funnels and creating strategies on how you’re going to find your readers, grow your data and build a recurring revenue model.

Being able to track what your audience read provides a whole new level of insight into what content is valued and therefore the propensity to subscribe or trial the magazine in either its print or digital format or both. Invest in capabilities to engage in constant testing and experimentation in your digital marketing to build brand engagement and ultimately convert those readers into paying, recurring subscribers.

Through digital, there is a lot more opportunity to experiment on subscription recurring revenue pricing models and increase margins and lifetime value by offering bundles and membership packages.

Additionally, expand your subscription acquisition channels through new digital affiliate partnerships as we have done here at Marketforce by offering 3rd party publishers the opportunity to sell their magazine subscriptions on our e-commerce platform, Magazines Direct and utilising our subscriptions marketing team’s expertise to drive new subscriptions and an additional revenue line.

Q: How should subscription marketing complement other forms of marketing?

A: For me, subscription marketing is often seen as acquisition led but key is that it integrates with retention marketing in terms of the customer journey and life cycle. As we know, keeping subscribers inspired to stay is much cheaper than gaining new ones, even though in some businesses, a third of revenue is typically set aside for new subscribers, but without an integrated retention strategy, the hard acquisition work is wasted.

Customers are the lifeblood of a subscription business, and retaining their loyalty is much more important for success than a single purchase.

Ultimately, the subs marketing team will want to ensure they’re using multiple channels to keep engagement up and readers interested. It’s important to know your audience as it will help you understand where you will find them and therefore make it easier to choose the right channels to focus your subscriptions marketing strategy on.

Q: What marketing techniques are currently delivering best results for publishers?

A: We are starting to recognise that by building our online customer funnels, potential readers are more likely to engage directly with us, the publisher, rather than other platforms. So, knowing who our audience are and engaging them to the content by signing them up to a traditional brand email newsletter has led to real growth in our email marketing channel in terms of acquiring new paying subscribers.

You need to construct your perfect marketing funnel, using paid social, PPC and content marketing to drive your audience to content via registration / data walls to gather interested readers, engage them with free options such as a newsletter and then entice them to take a trial via a recurring revenue model to convert to a fully paid subscriber.

Registration walls provide insights into what content is important to them. This potentially allows you to segment the audience and make different offers to different groups.

Additionally, we now sell single print issues direct to consumer via our e-commerce platform, which allows our brand sites to promote the latest print issue by highlighting the editorial content and showing them what they are missing so they are encouraged to buy or trial a print or bundle subscription.

Ultimately with all our campaigns, there is huge importance in not looking at CPAs in isolation but always within the context of LTV, as we should be looking for a 3 to 1 plus ratio. In practical terms, this means encouraging the subscription marketing team to always use a lifetime value calculator when putting together offers and test matrixes.

Q: Which titles are being particularly effective on the subscriptions platform?

A: When publishers have several related brands, it is certainly worth exploring bundles to upsell subscribers to multiple products, especially across print and digital in terms of premium online content to enhance the value proposition and brand loyalty, as we did with such an iconic magazine as Horse & Hound in December 2019 when the Horse & Hound Plus digital product was launched to provide exclusive news stories and features, opinion columns and expert veterinary advice, in a non-ad environment.

This has seen a growth in bundle subscriptions to include the print product and should result in higher Y1 retention rates, as traditionally bundle type subscriptions have greater lifetime value as it’s more of a 360-brand experience for the consumer across a print and digital proposition.

Q: How can magazine distributors, like Marketforce, help publishers with their subscription marketing efforts?

A: Publishers know they need to change to stay ahead of the game and they are keen to embrace the different strategies out there for generating recurring revenue and increasing their customer lifetime value and subscriber margins.

Marketforce is well placed to be able to offer integrated retail and subscriptions marketing services due to the TI Media Consumer Marketing Division being managed within the Marketforce structure, so publishers can draw upon a combination of Marketforce’s market and data insight and an experienced direct marketing and subscriptions team when needing advice and practical marketing support to better acquire and retain subscriptions and build a recurring revenue model.

...our focus is on helping publishers build their businesses...

About Marketforce

Marketforce is a performance marketing and distribution company, working with print media organisations. Distribution is a core service, but our focus is on helping publishers build their businesses through adding real value. We support product development, determine optimal pricing and deliver customer marketing for brands that grows sales. If you’d like to hear why more publishers are choosing Marketforce, call us for a chat about new trends and getting the distribution you need.

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