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Aug 24, 2001
How To

Guru Elaine Tyson's Five Tips for Growing Online Subscription Sales

SUMMARY: No summary available.
Since 1982, Elaine Tyson of Tyson Associates has helped more than 200 B2C and B-to-B magazines improve their subscription marketing efforts. We contacted her for some practical advice on how online subscription marketers could improve their results. Here are her top five tips:

1. Get a Direct Marketer on Staff (Now!)
Many Web sites and newsletters attempting to switch from free to paid donít have anyone on staff with substantial direct marketing experience. Tyson says, "It's terrifying how little people know. I'm not quite sure why -- technology and arrogance is a deadly combination. If you really know the basics of direct response advertising, you'll be way out ahead of competitors."

Tyson recommends the site to find qualified candidates.

2. Test Subject Lines When Email Marketing
"I don't know about your inbox, but mine's stuffed," Tyson says. "To get people's attention you have to stand out in a crowd." She notes that many subscription marketers don't try subject lines that are narrowly enough focused to particular recipients' interests. "People tend not to test over the Internet, but you have to test, test, test, test. Try saying something about their job, their particular interest in whatever it is you're offering. If you have a free offer, be sure 'free' is up there."

3. Test Copy Length
While it's generally a truism in postal direct mail that longer copy sells better, Tyson says, "On the Internet shorter seems to work a bit better, but you must test copy length."

Countless entrepreneurial subscription sites, such as Derek Gehl's have been highly successful with extremely long sales copy (Gehl claims more than 5,000 subscribers pay him $167 each) yet mainstream subscription marketers remain wedded to copy that doesn't require much scrolling. ContentBiz suspects this is so because these marketers are more used to layouts that increase pageviews for possible advertisers than direct response marketing.

4. Test Proven Subscription Offers
Tyson is surprised that so few subscription marketers for Web sites and email newsletters are testing the classic offers that have been proven successful time and time again in the offline world. The offers she suggests marketers test include premiums (free gift with order), especially editorially-related premiums such as best-of articles eBooks, limited time offers, and "fast 50" offers where the first 50 responses get a highly compelling extra free gift.

5. Add Benefit Copy to Your Subscription Order Form
Tyson notes that most of the marketing copy she's seen for online subscriptions at sites such as is, "not very promotional." She says, "They don't use copy that really sells and persuades people. They just give you a button that says 'Subscribe' and 'push here' to enter your name. Even on a Web site, you need to talk about benefits. That's why people buy things. You need to tell them specifically what they're going to get, and all the benefits of having this, and why it's important for them not to be left out."
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