The ultimate guide to subscriber onboarding

    Last updated: August 4, 2023

    You’ve already done the work to earn new subscribers. Now comes the hard part: keeping them active for months and years to come.   

    Onboarding has a huge impact on whether a subscriber renews, or whether they churn after just a few months. Done well, onboarding sets your subscribers up for success and reinforces the value of your product.  

    The best onboarding programs can even drive additional revenue by encouraging subscribers to add additional subscriptions or upgrades to their package. The worst ones will have subscribers wondering why they signed up at all.   

    Master subscription models: 9 Proven tactics to skyrocket retention & revenue:

    That has big implications for your customer lifetime value, revenue potential and even your reputation.   

    Below, we’re giving you six crucial steps to creating a successful subscriber onboarding program. Follow these best practices to deliver instant value to your subscribers and keep them invested long-term.  

    The ultimate guide to subscriber onboarding 

    1. Get them started right away  

    Traditionally, print subscribers have waited weeks after purchase to receive the first issue of a magazine. Pre same-day delivery, people saw this lag time as the cost of doing business. But now? New subscribers want access to the content they’ve paid for as soon as possible. Consider giving your new subscribers access to a digital edition upon purchase, or allowing them to pay individually to receive their first issue more quickly.   

    2. Create an orchestrated welcome experience   

    These days, it’s not enough just to send your new readers a confirmation letter along with their first issue. To keep your subscribers invested for the long term, you need to welcome them with a longer-term engagement campaign. This includes: 

    • Build trust: Sending a gift or comped issue before a payment clears signals that you trust and value your new customer. This sets the tone for a mutually beneficial relationship down the line.
    • Provide relevant information via phased messaging: New readers may become overwhelmed if you send all the information they need to get started in one email or letter. Instead, provide this information via a series of smaller messages, sent in the form of emails or push notifications.
    • Complement your publications with newsletters and other content: Besides keeping your audience engaged, this also allows you to create tiered subscriptions, increasing in price as your total content offering increases. 

     3. Offer incentives for engagement 

    As your readers get accustomed to your brand, take the opportunity to promote other publications in your portfolio (if applicable). You might offer a 3-publication bundle for a reduced price. Or you could give new subscribers limited-time access to a related event hosted by your organization. Promote this within your welcome email series or even your confirmation emails so your audience has enough time to act.  

    4. Collect information about your audience  

    By now, you’ve probably noticed a trend: Make decisions in accordance with your audience’s preferences. But that’s easier said than done if you haven’t been collecting first-party data from your users.  

    The more data you have about your audience, the more you can anticipate their needs, adapt your subscriber onboarding program in response, and ultimately keep them engaged.  

    Short on data? Below are some simple ways to get actionable intel from your audience.  

    • Ask customers to complete a quiz or survey with some brief qualifying questions. Common questions include job title, industry, company size and location. Use this to create more specific segments, then target them with more personalized content. 
    • Ask them to express their preferences for communications on a preference page. Some examples: They could sign up for a related newsletter, sign up for a free trial for another publication, etc.  
    • Conduct polls on social media, or during events, about your publication’s topics. If you use Omeda or another CDP, all of this data flows directly to your system of record, and automated workflows ensure that it’s cleaned and stored in the right place. This way, you can build a progressive profile of each user over time as they continue to engage with you, even if it’s outside your traditional website. 

    5. Tailor content to your subscribers’ needs 

    No matter how thoughtful your onboarding strategy is, your subscribers will still leave if your content doesn’t give them what they need. So especially if your publication has many different verticals, you need to proactively guide readers toward the pieces they’ll like most.  

    The key word here is proactive. Now that your audience has gotten used to hyper-specific social media algorithms and Netflix recommendations, you can’t expect your subscribers to search out the content they want. Give them multiple opportunities to opt into specific verticals, newsletters, etc. A few ways to do this:   

    6. Use the right technology  

    Your content and onboarding strategy may both be best-in-class, but if your subscribers don’t get your issues on time, or their payments keep failing, they’ll leave regardless of your quality.   

    Mistakes happen, but you can’t afford to make them in the beginning of the subscription lifecycle. The solution: Automate your subscription process.   

    This takes human error out of the equation, ensuring that users get their issues in a predictable and orderly manner while publishers can focus on higher-value tasks, like creating content.   

    This gets more and more important as your publication scales, so if you’re on the fence, seriously consider outsourcing subscription fulfillment 

    Not sure where to start? Look for a magazine subscription management software with the following capabilities: 

    • National Change of Address (NOCA) postal and email address verification 
    • Entitlement management 
    • Credit card processing 
    • The ability to handle multiple foreign currencies 
    • Automated invoice renewal 
    • Website gating  
    • A solution that’s part of an end-to-end audience management platform, including email, marketing automation and/or CDP functionality. 

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