Premium Conntent

Last week I told you I was trying an experiment with my newsletter, announcing a premium content feature experiment. While the full scope of the experiment will still play out over time, I thought I’d share the results of the first 24 hours. Future updates and a more formal case study will likely be published by Blue Sky Factory down the road.

In the first 24 hours, the newsletter went out to 9,533 active subscribers. (there are more total, but some deliverability issues from me not following best practices bumped that down) 1,448 people opened the newsletter in the first 24 hours, or about 15.2%. Of those, 159 “upgraded” to premium content, or 11%. I was predicting 2-5%, so 11% makes me very happy.

Now, if I didn’t ask for money, what did I actually get?

The same thing that I’ve been preaching about since I first heard Jeff Pulver say it in 2006: we live or die by our database. I was able to get 11% more data on the people on my mailing list, from names to titles to companies, and let me tell you this without breaking any confidentiality: you folks on my list are a damn impressive crowd. Lots of entrepreneurs, lots of business owners, a bunch of VP/EVP folks at Fortune 500 companies, and a few people that even made my jaw drop. Hi there. I suddenly feel like I’ve been wearing a t-shirt and jeans while not realizing I’m at a black tie party.

I would have known little or none of this had I not done the premium upgrade experiment.

A few things that made this work. First, the dynamic content feature in Blue Sky Factory’s Publicaster email marketing software made it incredibly easy to set up logic loops (if/else statements based on database variables) to dynamically change content based on what was in the database. More important, once you “upgraded” to premium, you could visit the web-based version and see your upgrade immediately.

The second thing was a concept that John Wall, my Marketing Over Coffee co-host, talks about frequently, the greyed-out feature. Some software, like Zoho CRM, does this brilliantly. It shows you exactly what you’re missing with a subtle (or not subtle, in my case) message saying, “if only you had paid a little more, look what you could be using right now”. By putting content placeholders in the premium spaces with a clear call to action for an upgrade, it was relatively obvious what you were missing if you weren’t a premium member and there was a path to upgrade immediately.

The third thing, of course, was that the premium upgrade cost no money. As one subscriber pointed out to me privately, most premium upgrades cost money, and so to see one that did not likely made the upgrade path easier.

Will I continue with premium content in my newsletter? Absolutely. In addition, I’ll be making a few minor changes here and there to create content that better suits my audience, now that I know who you are a little better. For example, I need to do some DNS work to improve the deliverability of the newsletter. I’ll also be upgrading its design some from “slapped together in Dreamweaver” to “slapped together in Dreamweaver and then asked a designer for their opinion”.

As my experiments continue, I’ll share more results with you, but I have to say in the first 24 hours of data and results, premium content as recipe for marketing (and upgrading your email marketing list) is definitely working better than I’d expected, and is something I’d recommend you investigate for your own marketing efforts.


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