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InContext / An inside look at the business of digital content

5 Steps to acquire, upsell, and retain subscribers using customer data

October 22, 2018 | By Michel Benjamin, Director of Marketing—Lotame @micheltben

Advertising and subscriptions are two of the main focal points when it comes to driving revenue as a publisher. If you, like many publishers, are looking to driving subscriptions as a way to bolster revenue and not be so reliant on ad revenue, you may want to consider a few strategies based on existing customer data. Customer data, which you collect from multiple sources, can be combined into a data management platform (DMP) to drive insights about your readers, which your team can use to acquire, upsell, and retain loyal subscribers. Here are just a few strategies to consider.

1. Adjust Paywalls by Audience Type

Let’s say you already have a healthy chunk of subscribers, but you want to grow that loyal customer base. The first step to growing your subscription base is understanding who your current site visitors are.

Using your DMP, you could segment overall visitors into groups, such as:

  • Fly-bys
  • Loyal users
  • Users that natively come to site (not from social or search)
  • Newsletter readers
  • Subscribers

Once you have different audience segments created, you can test different paywall meters against the different segments. For example, you could offer your die-hard loyal segment seven free pageviews per month before a paywall, whereas you can offer your lukewarm segment three free page views per month before the paywall.

2. Use AI to Find More Subscribers

Now that you have segmented your site visitors, you can take a closer look at who your subscribers are to help guide you to find more of those valuable subscribers. The audience profile reports available in your DMP offer insights into each audience broken down into a few main sections: Demographics, Behaviors, Actions, and Interests. You can use this information to learn more about your subscribers and how they overlap with one another, or what they have in common.

The next step is finding more of those subscribers using artificial intelligence (AI) to help identify more of that target audience. The specific tool you use may vary, but the concept remains the same. You start with a “seed” audience, i.e. the audience you want to find more of, which in this case is subscribers. For the purpose of building your subscriber seed list, you might consider segmenting visitors who are already subscribed to your newsletter, as newsletter subscribers often have the highest conversion rate to become subscribers. The AI will help find more prospective subscribers who look and act like your original seed group. This is an efficient method of building larger pools of prospective subscribers with less manual work for you.

3. Onboard Subscriber Data and Retarget Them Online

For publishers who have a solid offline base of subscribers, you may be focused on remaining top-of-mind and relevant to current subscribers via online touchpoints. Data onboarding brings your CRM, subscription or other offline data sources online, to be combined with other data from websites, apps, social, search, and more, for a complete view of your audience across screens.

What types of data can you bring online? All the most valuable data that publishers have coveted for decades, including email and street address data, where you mail the print copies of your publication directly to your subscribers. With all of your data online and in the same place, you can use it to create the most effective ad campaigns, compelling content, and insightful reporting and analytics — efficiently and cost-effectively. Retargeting your offline audience on a digital platform is another opportunity to engage with your loyal readers.

4. Highlight Premium/Paid Content

Your free newsletter subscribers or social media followers are an excellent option for upselling, since you know they are already interested in your content. They might just be waiting for the right offer to come along to convert to a paid subscriber, or maybe they don’t even know that there is a paid/premium option. The regular communications you have with these readers are an ideal platform to mention the availability of premium content. You can still deliver free content, but you should highlight your premium content. Make people see what they are missing and give them an opportunity right there to subscribe.

5. Conversion Rate Optimization on Your Subscription Page

The last and sometimes overlooked strategy to increase subscriptions is to take a closer look at your subscription page. Is it easy to find? Is it easy to navigate? Does it offer a good user experience? If the goal is to make people convert here, this should be a simple, streamlined process. The subscription page is also an opportunity for you to sell your premium content. Consider adding more meat to the page beyond just a form to be filled out with a price.

Acquiring, upselling and retaining subscribers is not impossible. These five strategies are not a comprehensive list, as marketing tactics and strategies are almost limitless. But if you’re looking to grow your subscriber base in 2019, you may want to give these a try.

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