The Janesville Gazette’s Lon Haenel on Free Trial Programs
In the May issue of Target Marketing, I mentioned how out of place forced free trials are in modern circulation tactics, particularly when the continuation notices are delivered independently of the sample issues. And especially when a mistake means a prospect gets the notices but not the samples. But being curious about what publishers were experiencing themselves, I asked for reader feedback.
Lon Hanael, circulation sales and marketing manager of Wisconsin’s The Janesville Gazette, responded with a new take on the free trial concept. By removing the “forced” aspect and building in a variety of channel touchpoints, Hanael has found a smarter way to sell the steak for this 22,000 circ daily.
Target Marketing: What free trial technique were you using before implementing a new sampling program?
Lon Haenel: What we’ve done in the past is probably something real similar to what a lot of our associates in the U.S. newspaper industry have done, which is relying on our newspaper carriers … and they are simply instructed by their district manager that as they’re doing the route, take note of the households that don’t subscribe and just deliver them a free sample for a week or two. And that was really it, as far as a plan. There wasn’t the touchpoints communicating with the households that were receiving a free sample, and certainly there was never any intention to ask that customer to buy. After all, the newspaper carriers delivered the product, but there rarely was the expectation for them to sell it. That was kind of the old school approach. Additionally, the newspaper carriers are compensated for delivering a sample for a week or two weeks, or whatever the trial period is, and there’s really not much emphasis placed on converting a trial sample to a paid subscriber.
TM: What were response rates for this approach?
LH: When we employed more of that old school technique, we got approximately a 2 percent conversion rate.