The best way to reduce churn is to make your subscribers feel like VIPs.
Whether you’re looking at a churn rate of 1% or 10%, there’s always room for improvement. Subscribers who leave after a short period of time are a drain on a publication’s resources. It costs so much more to convert a new subscriber than to keep an existing one, there’s no reason not to pull out all the stops to make your subscribers feel like VIPs.
If you’re wondering whether your current churn rate is typical, that varies depending on your niche and your publication’s audience. Broadly speaking, researchers have found that the top 5% of publishers have a 97% monthly retention rate. The average consumer today is likely to pay for one news subscription and up to three entertainment subscriptions. Nobody wants their publication to be the one that’s pushed aside in favor of a newer subscription.
Collecting data and testing seem to be two of the keys to preventing subscriber churn. With the right data in hand, publishers can put together strategies or formulas to keep readers coming back to their websites and preventing people from cancelling their subscriptions upon renewal. With propensity-to-churn models, some publishers have even been able to identify readers who are about to leave before they’ve decided to unsubscribe. Some of these publishers have developed strategies that use things like credit card expirations and website visit frequency to develop different pricing models.
Although numbers and data are always important, we’re seeing publishers have success preventing churn with softer tactics, as well. By making subscribers feel like VIPs, digital news publishers are decreasing cancellation rates and keeping existing subscribers around for longer.
In order to make their subscribers feel like VIPs, publishers need to make them believe they are a part of something bigger than themselves. This is true for publishers with traditional subscription programs, as well as the newer membership model. People around the world look to belong or feel like they are a part of something — a digital community can be just that.
Just selling a subscription isn’t enough to get people to feel like they belong. Personalized emails help, and so do regular check-ins via email or other digital communication channels. People want to feel like they are a part of a movement or a part of a group that’s going somewhere together.
That’s not something many local news publishers are accustomed to. For decades, publishers have been focused almost exclusively on putting out high-quality journalism products. That’s still vital, of course. But part of serving the broader community means connecting with people and bringing new readers into the fold. Publishers should ideally be providing high-quality products (journalism) along with great value (a sense of community or membership).
When you’re marketing your subscription and membership programs, keep the community aspect in mind. You always want your subscribers to feel like VIPs — whether that’s by sending them branded swag, asking for their feedback at regular intervals, or inviting them to private events on Zoom. You might even want to give subscribers their own way to contact your publication, like a members-only portal or a dedicated email address.
Facebook has proven to be an excellent tool for digital publishers trying to grow their communities offsite. Private groups can make subscribers feel like VIPs, and while they do take some effort to run and moderate, these groups are otherwise completely free for publishers. The ROI when creating private subscribers-only groups on Facebook is exceptionally high.
Not every subscriber is going to be won over with the same tactic, so diversification is important here. So is data collection. Keep close tabs on how churn rates are impacted by the various events and promotional efforts you’ve deployed to keep your subscribers happy. It shouldn’t take long to start seeing some trends. These are the strategies or the tactics you’ll want to zero in on moving forward.
To learn more about keeping churn rates low, check out 5 Things To Do Before Launching a Subscription Program.