Whenever you do a promotion, it is always worthwhile building in a test—you can learn so much from testing and there are so many different things you can try.
While $60.00 can sound like quite a lot of money, expressed as 60 cents per 100 issues can somehow seems far cheaper. How do I know this? I recently got this offer from The Economist and I subscribed straight away. In fact, my eyes were so focused on the “60 cents” when I got to the check out page and saw the amount of $60.00, I had a moment of panic—but I subscribed all the same.
If you cannot test a price, test a term—$60.00 for one year or $35.00 for six months. A test of this type will tell you lots about your readers and if the test fails, well, actually no test fails, you just learn and move on to the next test.
“Pay in Advance” as opposed to “Bill Me Later” is a good test to try. If your magazine is not well known, “Bill Me” is often the stronger offer. I will always try out a “Bill Me” offer to review a publication but will think twice about having to pay some money up front—even with a money-back guarantee.
Remember, you can only really test one thing at one time. If you test price and term together as outlined above, and the test wins against your control, you will not know what made it win—price or term. So, test price or test term, not both together.
Testing used to be far more expensive than it is now, mainly due to the invention of email. By sending out emails on a regular basis, you can test yourself silly if you want and learn a great deal. However, what works in one medium may not work for another. If you test a “50% Off The Cover Price” offer in an email and it wins, then for email this would become your new control. But, don’t then turn to direct mail, phone or fax with the same offer and expect the same result—it probably won’t happen. What you need to do is take what you learned from one medium and then test it in another medium and see what happens.
You can test design and copy as well, but remember just because you do not like the creative does not mean it should not be tested. We used to mail out a really bad re-qualification effort for a client that was a lurid pink matched with a green (the effort, not the client). It was so bright it used to make us all feel ill just looking at it. Have you ever seen a black and white cover of a magazine that is shaded pink? The trouble was it got the best response ever. Every year—year in, year out—we tested something against this stripy pink and green abomination, but the abomination always won. We even had a rival company come in and look at all the efforts we sent, and the first thing they said was, “This has to go, it is awful”—and they were right, but it got the most orders and at the end of the day, that is what it is all about.
So build in some tests, you will learn a lot and it does not have to be expensive. Remember that when a test wins, it becomes the new control—and then you start testing against that. Who said life is a circle?
Roy Beagley is Director of Publishing Services for Tyson Associates Inc. Roy started his career at The Economist and then The Spectator in London. He moved to the United States in 1992 and since then he has worked with Tyson Associates handling many controlled and comsumer publications. He is editor of Circspot.com, a website for circulation and audience development professionals.