‘Not a schmooze sell’: Pricey publisher subscriptions require a special sales approach
As it becomes harder for publishers to grow digital ad revenue, they’re looking for money from high-end subscriptions costing not a few hundred dollars a year, but $5,000 or more for specialized news and information. Publishers from stalwarts like The Wall Street Journal to digital natives Business Insider, The Information and upstart Axios are betting they can wring as much as $10,000 out of subscribers.
“The thing is, if you’re going to sell subscriptions for $10,000, it has to be significantly different from what you’re doing today,” said Bobby Moran, vp of business development and strategy at Politico Pro, whose annual subscriptions for D.C. insiders start at $5,000 a year. “You have to recognize it’s not going to work out right away. And don’t hire within the industry.”
That last part may be a hard one for publishers to swallow, but those who have been at this a while say selling such services requires a special skill set that may be utterly foreign to people used to selling media. In addition to the high price, it’s a product that the consumer may be unfamiliar with and may not think they need. As a result, the selling process can take multiple meetings and conversations over as long as six months.
Over at Atlantic Media, National Journal adopted the selling approach honed by the Advisory Board, the consulting firm founded by Atlantic Media owner David Bradley. National Journal transitioned to a members-only operation in 2015 and charges $5,000 to $50,000 a year, depending on the size of the organization, for specialized research, tools and networking events for D.C. insiders.
Kevin Turpin, the president of National Journal, said the formula is to hire people who know the product well, almost akin to a researcher, know the market they’re selling to, and are relatable — which typically is a recent college grad without sales experience.
“It’s not a schmooze sell,” he said. In the ideal scenario, he said, “The prospect can look across the table and — and this is something David would say — see their kids in that person.”
Politico borrowed heavily from that model when it hired what it calls sellers for Politico Pro. Moran himself came from the Advisory Board. Back in 2010 when Politico Pro was launched, he said, people thought they could do the selling over the phone. Over time, they realized that not only were in-person meetings a more efficient way to talk to multiple prospects at once, but they led to a higher conversion rate and more money spent.
Now, account execs make sure they know as much as they can before a meeting about the people who will be in the room, what services they already use and how satisfied they are with them. Pro account execs also get put through training twice a year, where they get feedback directly from subscribers.
The payoff can be worth it, though. Politico Pro found that people were twice as likely to renew their subscriptions when they were contacted four rather than two times a year to check on their service and that if a customer subscribed for two years, the chances of them renewing were around 95 percent. So Pro’s account management team follows up on average four times a year. Last year, Moran said, it grew subscriptions 25 percent and revenue, 35 percent.
“It’s not a transactional sale,” Moran said. “Sometimes it’s a week; sometimes it’s several months.”
The tough part of this is also that selling this way isn’t cheap. Selling $12 magazine subs aren’t as lucrative, but they’re relatively cheap to sell because the process can be automated. Having human sellers cuts into profit margins. It costs money to make money.
Companies solve for this different ways. The Politico Pro model favors people with experience, but hires fewer of them. National Journal tends to hire people close to or at entry level, which lets it train people in it (and keeps costs lower). “We’re confident that this approach is working for us, as it allows us to groom and grow our staff according to these very specialized needs,” Turpin said.
How TikTok is taking lessons from the record industry in building a media business
Much of the industry conversation surrounding the app has centered on its ads business but its the creators on it that could spring the bigger returns.
Why TikTok stars are pivoting to gaming
Dressler and Waud used to derive a significant portion of their income selling merchandise to their fans on tours or at meet-ups. However, as these events have been canceled due to coronavirus and stay-at-home orders, they’ve sought to find another source of revenue online.
TheScore CEO John Levy on why sports betting is going mainstream
Consuming sports and betting on them usually happen in two different places. "If you look at the traditional way sports betting has been launched in Europe and even in North America -- in the offshore and black markets -- how people bet is through betting apps," according to John Levy, CEO of theScore, a Canadian sports media company. Those apps aren't where betters get their actual score lines and injury updates; they're where gamblers turn to once they've watched the game or read about it elsewhere. His company is looking to bridge that gap.
SponsoredVideo advertisers are turning to format innovation to push beyond interruptive experiences
In a new video, experts from GumGum, The Martin Agency and Pinterest discuss the future of video advertising — and outline their vision for how video ads can be less disruptive.
‘Less tangible for brands’: Marketers pull back from Pride Month sponsorships
Pride Month has become an economic engine, with brands pouring money into sponsorships for the many celebrations that normally take place nationwide. But with lockdown orders still in effect in many states, Pride Month in 2020 will be far different.
Member Exclusive‘You have full permission to hit the reset button’: Why marketers are using this period to experiment
With coronavirus tearing a hole through the 2020 marketing plan, some marketers see room for risk.