1. Reduce the frequency and amount of discounting. Research shows that voluntary, full-price starts tend to renew and stay longer than discounted starts to buyers with marginal interest in the product. While discounting will still occur some, the goal should be to get a higher percentage of full-price starts in the mix.
2. Sell longest possible term, one year when possible, or even longer. Three- or six-month starts are somewhat more likely to stop when the renewal date comes, or at least gives you less “months-per-sale” if they do stop. Consider an offer of 13 months for the price of 12 in lieu of discounting. Consider selling seven months instead of six, or four months instead of three.
3. Call new subscribers to verify if the paper started on time, whether by mail or carrier. Ask if there is any problem with delivery or bill, etc. This customer contact shows you are interested in a relationship, willing to listen and fix any problems, and allows you to actually find and fix them. Papers who have established retention programs are finding this step most successful.
4. Send an “owner’s manual”, or sheet of features, listing content, ways to use the newspaper, submit news/advertising, etc. to help new readers better understand policies and the value of our product. LCNI has samples to share upon request.
5. Hold special events open to subscribers only. These could include free concerts by military bands sponsored by the newspaper, or other deals worked out with events co-promoted by the paper (trade space for tickets) making tickets available to subscribers. Hold drawings with only current subscribers eligible. Samples available from LCNI.
6. Offer subscriber discount card that offers discounts (more than 10%) at major area merchants. News-Enterprise, Galax Gazette and Bedford Bulletin have used such programs in the past.
7. Give a free classified coupon once a year to all trade-area subscribers. No expiration date on coupon. Cost low, and builds usage of classified which may reinforce future buying of paid ads.
8. Offer “Deal of the Day” coupon at regular spot in each issue that always returns an amount (savings or free item) equal to or greater than the value of the paper’s single-copy price.
9. Make stop-saver calls to all expires one week before the stop to encourage payment and avoid the stop.
10. Empower staff to fix problems to avoid cancellation when dealing with angry, upset, or unhappy subscribers. Set boundaries, but don’t criticize if they are occasionally exceeded to save a stop. Praise conduct when stops are saved.
11. Send renewal notices earlier to give subscribers more time to pay or schedule the payment among other bills. We believe renewal notices should be sent at least six weeks before the expire. As you know, magazines start renewal efforts as much as 10 months in advance. Send second notice about one week before expiration date. Send return envelopes with all renewals to allow ease of return. We don’t suggest postage be prepaid at this time.
12. Do regular reader research in cooperation with editorial on customer satisfaction. Include service issues and product issues. Continuous Improvement in product and service in response to research can keep customers satisfied and retain them longer. Track stops by reason, retention by source of sale, and act to correct problems and sell more of what works the best.
13. Offer credit card billing for phone sales and in all other coupons, renewal notices, etc. Where possible, allow for automatic bank withdrawal.
14. Offer money-back guarantee on all starts, and pay if demanded. Try to save the stop first, of course.
15. Consider installment billing that allows a subscriber to opt for the more expensive annual term, but budget payments over the first 3-4 months of the term. You are more likely to lose that subscriber if he pays every three months. While neither DSI nor Interlink circulation software now facilitates this, we discuss this issue with them from time to time. It may become more feasible in the future, and is listed here as the last idea.