Join thousands of weekly readers and receive practical marketing advice for FREE.
MarketingSherpa's Case Studies, New Research Data, How-tos, Interviews and Articles

Enter your email below to join thousands of marketers and get FREE weekly newsletters with practical Case Studies, research and training, as well as MarketingSherpa updates and promotions.


Please refer to our Privacy Policy and About Us page for contact details.

No thanks, take me to MarketingSherpa

First Name:
Last Name:
Dec 13, 2000
Case Study

getAbstract Uses Four Classic Tactics to Sell $299 Online Subscriptions to Businesspeople

SUMMARY: Learn how getAbstract's clean site navigation, clever referral program and relevant weekly email sends helped the company increase its revenue via individual Web subscriptions.
getAbstract creates and distributes five-page, electronic, summaries of thousands the world's best business books in German, Spanish and English. The company's primary business model is a classic one — selling site license subscriptions to the corporate enterprise market. However, getAbstract supplements this income (while promoting corporate licenses) by selling individual subscriptions for $299 a year to all the archives on its website.

Because individual sales are not getAbstract's top goal, the company didn't want to spend millions trying to get known as a destination site for business people. Chairman Dr. Rolf Dobelli, who founded getAbstract as a hobby two years ago (now there are 35 full-time employees in four countries), gave us the details of the individual subscription sales campaign.

getAbstract focused its tight marketing budget on the four now-classic tactics used by many Web start-ups — traditional public relations, search engine optimization, affiliate revenue-share partnerships, and visitor referrals.

Michael Berkowitz, getAbstract's English Language Director of Corporate Communications notes that despite the fact that the company is global, "We're extremely sensitive to subtle nuances in each market and approach each differently. We are very much into customizing messages for the audiences." Thishas paid off in terms of media coverage in many countries.

In order to raise its site in search engine rankings, the company used WebPosition Gold software. getAbstract also lined up partnerships (involving a 30-50% revenue share depending on the prominence of the partner's marketing for the program) with other Web sites targeting the business knowledge market. Some English-language partners include The Deal, Congressional Quarterly and Knowledgemax.

Once these efforts drive visitors to getAbstract, the site's clever referral program uses them to get even more visitors. Visitors who use the program to refer their friends to getAbstract will get up to $30 cash — yes, cash directly credited to the credit card of their choice — for each friend who becomes a paid subscriber.

getAbstract's clean site navigation is designed to help a wide variety of executives find the perfect abstract for their needs in three clicks or less. Visitors can search for "Must Reads" by their job title, knowledge needs or simply skim lists of most popular and newest summaries. Visitors can view two sample abstracts on the site for free, everything else is US$9.80 per title. Subscriptions including full access to the archives are US$159 for six months or US$299 for a year.

To encourage subscribers to use the site frequently, the company also sends each a personalized weekly email with five-page abstract of a new book most likely to interest them.

About 15% of getAbstract's revenues now come from individual Web subscriptions. An additional five percent of overall corporate revenues come from affiliate partnerships. The average partnership grosses about $15,000 per month.

Although the company's English language site launched with little marketing less than six months ago, America already accounts for about 20% of global revenues. The majority of traffic comes from search engines.

Visitors using the referral system tend to refer an average of 2-4 friends to the site. Of these, about 10% become paid subscribers. About 80% of individual subscription buyers pop for the full year, despite the fact that a lower-priced six-month option is available and openly promoted, and the full-year option does not represent a significant savings.

getAbstract also derives some revenues from its own affiliate relationship with Amazon which they chose over because Amazon uses the same brand name around the world.

NOTES: Why would 100+ book publishers sign agreements to let getAbstract summarize their titles, especially when getAbstract rarely pays them a cent to do so? Dr. Dobelli explains, "The average executive buys two-three books a year and maybe only one of the three are read. Customers who have abstracts purchase four-five books per year. If you read an abstract and think it's great, the chances that you'll buy that book go up. If this wasn't the case, publishers wouldn't work with us."

NEXT: getAbstract is already planning its attack on the Asian market with offices in Hong Kong and Beijing. Dr. Dobelli says, "There are a great many books in the US that haven't been translated into other languages -- especially in China. The Japanese market is also just dying for American business knowledge."

Interested in contacting Dr. Dobelli regarding partnerships? Email him at He told us, "I answer pretty much every email I get except spam."



See Also:

Post a Comment

Note: Comments are lightly moderated. We post all comments without editing as long as they
(a) relate to the topic at hand,
(b) do not contain offensive content, and
(c) are not overt sales pitches for your company's own products/services.

To help us prevent spam, please type the numbers
(including dashes) you see in the image below.*

Invalid entry - please re-enter

*Please Note: Your comment will not appear immediately --
article comments are approved by a moderator.

Improve Your Marketing

Join our thousands of weekly Case Study readers.

Enter your email below to receive MarketingSherpa news, updates, and promotions:

Note: Already a subscriber? Want to add a subscription?
Click Here to Manage Subscriptions

Best of the Week:
Marketing case studies and research

Chart Of The Week

B2B Marketing

Consumer Marketing

Email marketing

Inbound Marketing

SherpaStore Alerts


We value your privacy and will not rent or sell your email address. Visit our About Us page for contact details.