Blog - what we learnt about Subscriptions

By : PPA Communications

Quadrant Subscriptions Services, part of Air Business Group, and Reed Business Information (RBI) came to Glasgow to give ideas and tips to PPA Scotland’s member publishers – here’s some of the key things we learned.

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Subscriptions Strategy Workshop – what we learned

In general, what will help with any subscriptions drive is to convince top management of the ROI of subscriptions and get them to drive it across the company. If there’s no buy-in from them, then encouraging a subs first strategy will be twice as hard.

Once you’re on this road, here’s some of the things you can try:

Acquisition – Direct Mail

Direct Mail still works, with research showing that 77% of people read their mail as soon as they receive it, and 67% saying that mail makes them feel more valuable.

Test what works for your market with Direct Mail. Sometimes the simplest form can be the best one – RBI tested different versions of their Direct Mail subscription sign-up and renewal form, and the most effective was always the one with the simplest information and route to sign-up, rather than the best looking one, or the one with more images.

Don’t assume that having three packages (e.g. print-only, digital-only and print and digital) makes for an easy decision – test the market again. Sometimes the number of choices can paralyse people with indecision.

Acquisition – Website

Make your top KPI for the website to drive subscriptions

Make it super-easy to subscribe – RBI has SEVEN spots on their Farmers Weekly home page where you can sign-up for a subscription, with the red box on the top right hand side getting the most hits.

If there’s white space on the home page ask your digital team to use it for a subscriptions call to action.

Be up front about the price from the start – if people feel the price is ambiguous it’ll make them less likely to subscribe.

Landing pages for subs are very important:
• Clear calls to action with short concise information
• Strong headlines and images – test layout all the time
• Keep the primary call to action above the fold
• Tag the page to see where traffic is coming from in Analytics programmes
• Take the 5 second test – is it clear what you need to do within 5 seconds?

Use promotional codes with any subscriptions offer so that each is trackable for efficacy through Analytics programmes.


Quadrant Subscriptions Services works with RBI.

For 74% of abandoned orders a pop-up appears to ask the potential subscriber why they haven’t completed their subscription; the remaining 26% receive an email to remind them. This has saved 1,237 orders for RBI over the past year, with a cost of £20k but a revenue of £213k.

Quadrant use a live chat service on the subscriptions page to help at an early stage – this accessibility for the consumer is key. Research asking users of the live chat “what would you have done if you had not used live chat today?” showed that 43% of people would not have contacted them.

Don’t blame the consumer if their payment hasn’t gone through – email them first to notify them and then follow up with a call, and do it quickly. The longer you leave people the more likely they are to not subscribe – it’s too easy for the consumer to forget.

Good customer service is essential for Quadrant, with first impressions being key. The consumer needs to really value the subscription – each subscriber is contacted individually after sign-up with a ‘cuddle call’ to check they are happy with the subscription. This also gives the Quadrant team an opportunity to upsell and make sure that the subscriber is taking advantage of everything the subscription package includes.

If people don’t know what they’re entitled to they’re likely to place less value on the subscription, so make sure they’re making the most of it.


RBI’s renewal process begins six months before the expiry with an early-bird offer to renew. People are offered every option to renew – by direct mail, through the website, by Direct Debit or over the phone.

They send out around 10,000 renewal letters, emails and phone calls per week, much of which is automated. All letters and emails look different so that people don’t get bored.

To keep subscribers who have originally signed up at a discounted rate, RBI offers an interim price in year 2, before taking this up to full price in year 3.

The subscription process is kept as easy as possible, with consumers having access to their own account online and the ability to manage it. This means a self-service option; upsell and cross-sell opportunities offered during the subs sign-up process; pay an invoice and print receipt options; choice available to suspend delivery e.g. if the person is going on holiday; all programmes are mobile optimised.

Price Testing

A weekly magazine means a weekly opportunity to test a new price.
• Test in a controlled market i.e. to a small number of subscribers
• Use market intelligence
• Test against a control
• Use scenario modelling
• Ensure statistical validity
• Embrace failure – as long as it’s in a controlled environment!

Use predictive modelling – if you can identify the people who are price inelastic (the most loyal), you can charge them more. This can be calculated using a list of criteria – the number of issues they’ve subscribed for, when they paid last year, the total amount they paid, etc.

RBI looks at lifetime value of a subscriber, but more often has to justify changes within the first year.

Other ideas

10% of RBI’s annual orders are accounted for by Christmas and other seasonal offers such as Father’s Day.

RBI have found that free gifts as part of subscriptions packages don’t create loyal subscribers if the gift is at the original sign-up point, but can be a good tool to retain current subscribers.

More information

To get in touch with Quadrant for more tips on how to improve your subs strategy, please email

Tom Mullen at

or John Diston at

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