Given that a publication’s profitability is directly tied to its subscriber base for both subscription and advertising revenue, incenting new subscriptions and making renewal seamless is the logical place to start applying incentive marketing principles. Many publishers are also working to incent other behaviors, including advertiser program and research survey participation.

In particular, gift card incentives have been particularly successful for publishers due to their flexibility, program branding and the overall effectiveness of gift cards themselves as an incentive. The act of gift card redemption extends the value and “share of customer mind” publishers capture via the program. The “hacks” below provide some quick idea starters for your own subscriber incentive program enrollment efforts.

14 Publisher Incentive Program Enrollment Ideas

  1. Deliver gift cards in custom-printed envelopes promoting the next step you would like the subscriber to take. For instance, a subscriber receiving a gift card for converting on a new subscriber offer could be offered another gift card incentive to enroll in autopay or to refer a friend.
  2. For paper statement subscribers, promote your offer via statement inserts—the nominal cost for 4 color/2 sides is usually less than $.02 per insert.
  3. For electronically billed subscribers, promote your offer via a call to action (CTA) within the statement email.
  4. Make your offer easy to understand and easy to act upon. Use images of the gift cards offered, rather than solely brand or retailer logos, to help clarify the offer.
  5. If you are fielding a research study, give every participant a gift card. Small gift card offers for all participants outperform drawings or sweepstakes where only a small number of people win. Consumers have “I never win” mentalities, and sometimes are skeptical that winners are actually selected at all.
  6. Make sure your gift card incentive amount is aligned with the action you are asking the subscriber to take. For example, a $5 gift card for participation in a 30-minute survey is likely not enough incentive. However, a $5 gift card for participation in a 5- to 10-minute survey is perfect. “$5 for 5 minutes” offers work well.
  7. Clearly communicate three pieces of information to avoid frustrating subscribers. A) Are they eligible for the incentive? B) How do they participate? C) When and how can they expect their gift card?
  8. Think through cross-sell opportunities by establishing the series of actions you would like a subscriber to take over time. This is a double-edged sword here, as most reward promotions encourage one action, one reward. Be careful to not dilute the power of the offer with cross-selling opportunities.
  9. Use both online and offline channels to promote your offer, and don’t forget about your social media channels.
  10. Establish goal-performance metrics for the program. After all, if you don’t measure it, you can’t manage it. Never let “what if we have too much success” become a stumbling block. If one subscriber enrolling makes the organization $30, then 10,000 enrolling will make $300,000. The accounting department will be thrilled with that “problem.” Be careful about mixing goal-performance metrics. For example, if 65 percent of your subscribers are already in autopay, a huge lift really isn’t as possible due to saturation. Experiment with incentive campaign lengths, but always, always, always make the promotion “time certain” to motivate the subscriber. Some studies show that offering a consistent program for a year or longer can increase program performance in comparison to short programs. Regardless of your opinion on program length, offers that are too consistent run the risk of becoming an expectation rather than a behavioral incentive.
  11. Think of ways that you can work with advertisers to create an offer together. Are there opportunities for both you and an advertiser to achieve a business result together, reducing program costs for both of you, increasing effectiveness for both of you and advancing advertiser value and loyalty? For example, if Olive Garden is a current advertiser, is there an advertiser benefit to offer Olive Garden rewards?
  12. Use seasonal opportunities to build exciting gift card incentive programs. For example, run a “back to school” new subscriber campaign offering gift cards that are great for back to school shopping during July and August. A Valentine’s Day promotion offering restaurant gift cards, or a New Year’s resolution campaign after the New Year offering sporting goods retailer gift cards can be effective as well. In these cases, timing is everything with date-specific programs, and extensive lead time is necessary. For example, to run a Valentine’s Day-specific program, the program needs to be designed and marketed, the subscriber needs to pick his or her reward and the rewards need to be fulfilled so that they arrive near Valentine’s Day. In many cases, it is far easier to run a “Take your honey out” reward that is not date specific.
  13. Many times, subscribers associate their own dollar value with a “theme,” allowing the program sponsor to offer fewer dollars while appealing to their inherit value. For example, in a “lunch is on us” when you enroll in autopay promotion, the actual reward is a $5 gift card. In reality, consumers consistently associate a value of lunch as $8. By offering $5 for lunch instead of $8, the organization is receiving a 40-percent+ perceived value increase at no real cost.
  14. As good as it is to reach back to existing subscribers to change a behavior, it also pays to incent new subscribers IMMEDIATELY with the same gift to avoid having to chase them at a later date. In some cases, it makes sense to run an “always on” promotion (e.g.”subscribe today, get your newspaper for only $19.95 per month and also receive lunch on us when you enroll in autopay”).

To learn how subscriber acquisition programs using rewards and incentives can help you grow and maintain your subscriber base while also increasing profitability, request a copy of our white paper: Strategies, Decision Making Tools & Hacks for Publishers’ Incentive Marketing Programs.