An early business mentor, Bill Glazer, told me in 2004:
“Most business owners get a new customer to make a sale.
Smart owners focus on getting a new customer to buy a series of transactions.”
While I liked the idea of getting a series of transactions from a new customer rather than one sale, my first thought was, What’s the difference between a one-time transaction sale and a subscription sale?
Most subscription businesses use this transactional approach to offer their subscription program. However, subscriptions are a relationship sale. With subscriptions, you are selling a relationship, not simply a product.
Getting customers to make one transaction is far easier than getting them to agree to a subscription. To overcome this challenge, too many subscription businesses heavily discount their first payment. Some discount all the way down to a free trial. These discounts are intended to induce (or bribe) the customer into giving the subscription a try.
While offering bribes to try a subscription may increase conversion rates, it rarely optimizes subscription growth. Accepting something for free is not the same as appreciating the value of subscribing to a new service.
Subscription growth comes from retention—from forming relationships at scale.
What’s the difference between a marketing system intended to make a sale and one that’s optimized to generate a series of transactions?
Here are three essential elements of maximizing conversion with any set of new-subscriber marketing materials:
- Reason why
- Mental image
I’ll describe each element.
The Connector Effect, a book I co-authored, offers a clear before-and-after demonstration. This book is a new-member conversion and retention tool for the 10,000+ chapters of BNI, the world’s largest business-networking organization.
The first chapter of The Connector Effect thrusts the reader into a high-stakes situation: a pitch meeting with a new prospective customer. In this scenario, there are limited ways to differentiate yourself from your competition.
The book then confronts the reader with an unexpected turn: the contacts in their BNI chapter enable the reader to make the sale without ever having to ask for the sale.
There’s a clearly defined problem: getting new customers. And there’s a solution: getting new customers without having to be a salesperson.
This problem/solution framework is an important element in well-performing subscription marketing materials.
- Reason why
If your stock market investing system is so good, why are you making it available to me? If it’s so good, wouldn’t it be in your best interest to keep it to yourself and enjoy an early retirement funded by your high-yield investment portfolio?
This is the challenge VectorVest faces when offering its investing-system software to investors. Here’s an answer to that objection, paraphrased for brevity from subscription sales copy I’ve written for VectorVest.
VectorVest’s founder, Dr. Bart DiLiddo was an executive vice president at a Fortune 500 company. Although he was working many hours, he decided to try investing his own money. He quickly failed. Undeterred, he studied and perfected all the common strategies. None of them worked consistently. So he quit. He gave up on investing for many years.
Many years later he tried a new approach. He quickly earned enough money to retire from his high-pressure job and enjoy investing full-time.
In 1986, he founded VectorVest to share his investing system with other investors so they could succeed in investing, and enjoy that success, in the same way he did.
This story serves many purposes. First, it tells the reader a busy person can become a successful investor with VectorVest. And second, it illustrates that VectorVest was founded as a mission to help investors. Sure, everyone understands it’s a money-making venture. And yet, it feels good that Dr. DiLiddo wanted to share his strategies so other investors wouldn’t have to struggle through all the misinformation.
- Mental image
You may publish a stellar magazine, but if your potential subscriber can’t visualize herself sitting down to read it each week or month, she’s not going to subscribe.
Your prospective subscriber has a mental image of herself. The goal of your new-subscriber conversion process is to adjust this image to include the products your subscription delivers. She sees how she’ll interact with your subscription and what her life will look like when she’s using it on an ongoing basis.
This is one of the goals of Detox, Declutter, Dominate: How to Excel by Elimination, the book I coauthored for Perry Marshall. While I wrote this book to improve new-subscriber onboarding, it’s become a powerful new-subscriber acquisition tool as well.
The key element is that it enables a potential subscriber to visualize what her life will be like when she implements Perry’s philosophies.
There are three key differences between product-focused sales funnels and those intended to sell a new subscription.
How does your new subscriber funnel stack up?
- Does it demonstrate a problem and a solution?
- Is there a greater mission behind what you sell?
- Can your prospective subscribers imagine themselves using your product?
These are the three key elements I use to improve new-subscriber acquisition and retention for my clients.
May these help you make 2021 your best year ever for subscription growth.