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    Cheater’s Guide: How to Grow Subscribers in 2021

    at Grow subscribers
    Deck dealer symbolizing "cheating" to grow subscribers

    Are you suspicious of posts on how to grow magazine subscribers? You should be a little skeptical. There’s so much fluff out there that purports to tell you how, but no one shows you how. 

    We’ll show you how to grow magazine subscribers (or any others) in this post. We’ll also show you how you can structure your funnel in simple terms to rope in the opt-in, the trial subscriber, and the long term paid subscriber.

    What’s more, we’ll show you how to do it using low-cost tools like email, social media and a few often-overlooked segmenting hacks that actually work. Whether your content is a magazine, catalog, blog or video channel, we’re going to show you how social media should be a part of your functional marketing ecosystem, not on the sidelines with its nose in the corner.

    NOTE: Do the following in order shown for the best effect.

    9 Ways to Grow Subscribers Faster

    Research your niche thoroughly

    Do your homework

    [The crowd gasps as all heads in the audience turn forward, jaws dropped…]

    I mean this in a gentle way, as a reminder, not to say you never do your own research. I also have some key aspects on how that research should be done, so just hear me out.

    • Respect the research phase. Too few magazine publishers appreciate researching their audience because they don’t respect the potential of digital marketing research in general. This is nowhere more essential than in social media marketing. Twitter blue check celebs aren’t speaking to the wind or on a hunch, they speak in calculated ways to their audiences in the ways they know they add value, be it a cheap chuckle or an introspective insight revealing how the person actually feels about things. 
    • It’s all about what keywords (“hashtags”) are trending in the 2020s. Politicians use social media just as a digital marketer might, especially when it seems they’re just talking to their base, because they’re actually speaking to data points on a trending hashtag graph. In fact, maybe politicians are the model here, since they tend to get the most response and their behind-the-scenes digital marketers are most often plumbing the depths of tons of online data before they gear up for a Twitter post.
    • To go after your true customer base, you need to imagine where they hide. Search for the keywords and hashtags that can reveal traits your base posts about or has in their profiles. Chart these in a tool like Hootesuite or semrush. Then after you’re scoured through tons of social updates on your topics, the next step is to personalize each.
    3 customer avatars for customer profiles
    • Make a profile of the kind of each sort of person you’re targeting with the specific demographics and cultural ties of your true prospect. Then make a master customer profile that embodies the collective set, and always aim for this profile with every post. List out the key traits and qualities this meta-customer embodies as in common in. HubSpot has a great template for this.
    • Invest in competitive intelligence to get inside the head of your customer profiles. Here again, semrush is the best tool for the job, since they benchmark data from across search engines, including Google, social platforms, and across the web. With this kind of data, you can know how to post on exactly the topics with a track record on regular web search results and find opportunities for special feature results like quick answers and other ways that Google peppers search results in key spots for certain keywords.
    • Next use trends and special research to bolster your selection of topics to cover. Make it a brand-centric experience where you demonstrate the value of being a subscriber to the brand that makes sense of the prospect’s world, which makes them feel they fit in with your brand’s worldview.

    Automate social media early on -- the RIGHT way!

    Grow Subscribers with Twitter

    On Twitter:

    Build followers here via a Twitter brand engagement (following) campaign. This can be via an ad campaign on the platform or organically following each. It’s too time-consuming to manually search for the people on Twitter organically, however. This is the perfect job for automation. Use one automated tool for this that doesn’t break platform guidelines in their user-end API. 

    Grow Subscribers with Facebook

    On Facebook :

    It’s tough to find new followers on Facebook without advertising via a “like” campaign. You can do this by boosting a post, the best method since it’s real content with merit.

    Grow Subscribers with LinkedIn

    On LinkedIn:

    Focus on reading material or business-first videos that speak to the bottom line. Don’t waste time with formats geared toward the B2C crowd. They’’re not in the audience. Use graphs, charts, and other sharable infographics when possible. Start meaningful conversations in the office. That’s what LI has to offer content makers.

    Grow Subscribers with YouTube

    On YouTube:

    Focus on your target. Use the other social media channbels to funnel followers there to your YouTube channel also. Consider an ad campaign to show off some of your best stuff as clickable ads.

    The largest, most influential video channel in the world and the only popular such venue in the US is about viral hashtags, literal and metaphorical. Every video you post should be based upon niche-centric competitive intelligence (CI) research and/or traditional market research (see step 1 above).

    Only make actionable content!

    Meta-outline every single piece of content before it’s written. What’s this? It means outlining the content in terms of what meta-functions it will be expected to meet for marketing and sales purposes. This includes not only in every piece of marketing content, but slapping a CTA at the end of every piece of your main content also. Not only is this a good editorial practice, it’s essential for content strategy in general.

    The reason is that you want to create an argument for an action, based on verifiable information from outside authorities and then an actionable call to action (CTA). Without offering a CTA, what are you really posting content for? For magazine articles, this amounts to formatting the piece with CTAs toward gaining either an opt-in to your email list or a subscription — preferably both.

    So what is an actionable CTA? It’s a CTA that demands action in clear language and links to a separate page where that action can take place. For magazines and paid blogs, this will either be a subscription page or an opt-in page. We recommend both on the same page and in the same opt-in. That way, checking a box takes them to pay after opting in and you haven’t yet let the prospect slip through your fingers.  After all, how can you grow subscribers if you constantly forget to try?!

    So what is an actionable CTA? It’s a CTA that demands action in clear language and links to a separate page where that action can take place. For magazines and paid blogs, this will either be a subscription page or an opt-in page. We… Click To Tweet

    Word to the wise: if you’re busy making “SEO pages” that don’t engage the visitor to take logical actions on your site according to your business model, you’re officially wasting time. Those pages will be dragged down by bounce rates in the end, leaving you with zilch value for that time and money spent making value-empty pages, and a lower domain authority, to boot! In SEO terms, that is the OPPOSITE of an SEO win! 😐

    Example CTA to convert visitors to a magazine.!

    CTAs that grow subscribers faster:

    1) “Free issue for opting in!”

    This one is great for getting that precious email address. Make it clear you need the email address to send them the private access only link. 

    2) “Free trial for 3 months!”

    Here we get the email address as part of the sign-up process and their credit card on file to charge at the end of the trial. Always make sure to offer a risk-free refund if charged accidentally. You want people to relax with your magazine, not tense up around the idea of your having their credit card number.

    Write post titles that ALWAYS either challenge or tantalize

    Most people don’t read niche content every day. They work jobs. Don’t expect anyone to follow you along as you tease out a message unless it’s a cult following for your band or product. Impact upfront: make it clear this is big stuff or rethink what you’re posting.

    On the other hand, some people do. You can tease out via small details for audiences who have nothing but spare time, like maybe the recipient of a real estate or yachting magazine. If you adopt both strategies, then clarify and segment them by creating a visualized, named customer persona for each kind of different customer you hope to reach. Write to your customer profiles, and ONLY to them if you want to grow subscribers from fans of your tantalizing messaging style.

    Avoid these deadly social media mistakes

    Avoid any behavior that could be described as abusive or awkward by an onlooker, such as anything that smacks of spamming (posting the same identical thing multiple times a day works for some and is not yet against any rules, but it’s not the most original way to engage people. Those who’ve heard it before will be let down possibly by seeing you on a loop. Those who didn’t pay attention the first time or were put off by a rote phrase will possibly be intrigued with the reworded version the second time around.


    • Individualized automated replies 
    • Retweets without constraints
    • Re-posting identical social updates 
    • Purely automated per-user CRM messaging

    People want brands to address them specifically and accurately. It’s difficult to get automation to do that, but not impossible. It makes sense to use site and social chat bots, for example, if they can blend in with more human agent participation after the initial sorting phase of the interaction.

    Some of these people are really just asking where to sign up. Listen closely to what they’re asking your brand even if it just seems like complaining about the brand. They’re implicitly asking you to do that by complaining out loud. Take the hint. Respond appropriately. This is a lucky chance to make a friend of your brand for along time to come — one of the very BEST ways to grow subscribers when onlookers see what you did there.

    Work your followers!

    Not doing it yet? If you’re NOT trying to hook your followers into opting into your email list, your YouTube channel, and other social platforms you have a presence on, you’re making a huge mistake. You need your email list to breathe as a publisher. Once they get on your email list and some other fave platforms, they’ll be hitting your site at some point. That’s when the next one comes into play.

    Segment & automate that email list!

    Your sales process may not technically exist if you’re not using a CRM solution. It should allow a mixture of semi-automated, semi-personalized interaction with each individual lead. While you may not be able to address each sales lead individually per se, as soon as one engages you, you should be able to respond to them and do so with access to an individualized CRM profile from within your semi-automated CRM solution. 

    Without this, you’re asking your sales people to annoy the prospect, rather than connect with them in a way that is in-tune with their true place in the qualified sales lead end of the funnel — which is where they belong at that precise moment.

    Use browser & push notifications to grow subscribers

    This is where the rubber meets the road for publishers. Email is a good safety net, but it’s not enough in the 2020s. Without web and push notifications reminding your prospect about key content, you’re not really trying. Use a sophisticated opt-in system to ping them only on the things they really care about, never the things they don’t. This is the way to grow subscribers from eager notification recipients.

    Track your subscriber funnel goals

    How to use Google Analytics to grow magazine subscribers

    This is not rocket science.  Ever hear of a little tool called Google Analytics (GA)? It’s free. But even if most content-producers have heard of or are even using it regularly, they’re probably not really using it to full effect. 

    To get the most out of GA, you need to properly configure goals that work and then track your conversions by the roles they fill within a distinct lead funnel. If you don’t have that funnel drafted yet, there’s yet another simple but of drawing for you to do.  If you only have one goal, “grow subscribers”, then you should at least have another called “Get the opt-in” and then one called “Trial offer” after that.

    Without the opt-in, you’re not working on a subscriber, you’re begging from strangers, not creating a relationship. Get them to get to know your magazine first. Warm them up with a few freebies, a free issue for opting in, and 3 month trial, and a free lightweight branded tote for subscribing for 2 years instead of canceling the trial. Get crafty. It’s okay to ask for something big in return. It’s not okay to ask for nothing — not if you actually want to grow subscribers.

    If you haven’t yet, go ahead right now and sketch out on paper what you think your funnel should be. Try to answer these questions as you go:

    • How many steps should it have?
    • Is there more than one such funnel?
    • How could you make a master funnel pattern (a customer journey) that pans out to several or many differing specific iterations for each product or service? 

    Go ahead and complete the process and then come back to this post. 

    …All done? Now you have a game plan to put all of the above knowledge into action and start to grow subscribers in a methodical, predictable, and thus scalable way.

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