Sell more subscriptions with member benefits

Why listing member benefits sells more paid subscriptions than product features

Don’t tell them what they’ll get with your publication, tell them how it will improve their lives. That’s the conclusion our own Pete Ericson reaches when he analyzes the differences between using member benefits rather than features as a sales pitch for paid subscriptions.

Pete walks through a number of actual publications, analyzing the language they use to sell their paid subscriptions, offering commentary and advice on how to find and phrase your best benefits.

Watch the whole video or skip down to the highlights below.

The Highlights

  • Most publishers are missing opportunities with their sales copy – focusing on features over benefits.
  • Consider how your publication makes your reader’s life better: that’s your mission and should be the focus of your copy.
  • It’s good to include features – readers like them – but not at the cost of your benefits.
  • Some examples of features, taken from actual publications:
    • Full content access, including 24/7 coverage
    • Subscriber-only newsletter or comments
    • Live events
    • Hidden ads
    • Post classified ads
    • Get critical product reviews
  • Some benefits may mirror your features, but restated in such a way as to form an emotional connection with the reader.
  • Some examples of benefits, taken from actual publications:
    • Be a better citizen
    • Take a virtual vacation
    • A vital role in supporting our mission
    • Clutter-free website
    • Interact with peers and our staff
    • Never miss the latest
    • Buy or sell boats or gear
    • Make better decisions
    • Enhance your intellectual life
    • Your government watchdog
    • Pursue your passion
    • Be informed, educated, and entertained
    • Inspire for as little as 4.99/mo
  • Consider these differences when composing the layout of your subscription page: start with your benefits and then flow into your features. Benefits help them decide to subscribe, features help them choose a subscription.
  • Interactions that should include benefit statements:
    • Subscription & upgrade nags,
    • Welcome email,
    • Your newsletter.
  • A recent study suggests that 33% of all new subscribers have already cancelled. Prevent this trend with education:
    • Benefits in your welcome email,
    • Set up a drip campaign guiding new readers through all your content and reinforcing your benefits.

Have a comment or want to talk subscription strategy? Let’s chat


Hi, I’m Pete from Leaky Paywall. And today I ask the question: why should I subscribe to your publication? And what I wanna tackle here is features versus benefits in other. The copy that you are producing on your website to compel the reader to pay for a subscription. Is it actually working and what I have seen over the last few years, and especially this week when I was researching this video.

Is that most publishers are really doing a poor job of bringing the benefits of subscribing to their publication, to the reader. Most are very feature related, get full access and are not really thinking about the thing that will make the life of their reader better. And so think about that, your mission based.

You are making the lives of your audience better. And the trick is to bring that concept forward in your copy on your website, because you’re selling subscriptions, you’re selling digital subscriptions and you need to convince people to buy them. okay. So let’s take a look at some features versus benefits.

I looked at a few publications that I thought were interesting, and they’re all successful and made a column here of features versus a column of benefits. Let’s just read the feature list and then we’ll talk about the benefits. The thing I see all the time on websites. Get full access subs, get a subscriber only newsletter join live events.

If you subscribe, you can hide website ads subscriber only comments, 24, 7 coverage post classifieds with your subscription. Get critical reviews if you’re product oriented and these features are great. And I’m not saying that features don’t work cuz they do people want features, readers want features.

But if you’re only selling features, you’re really missing a big leverage tool to convert pink subscribers. So let’s take a look at the benefits column, be a better citizen. And by the way, this is real copy taken off of real publishing sites. Be a better citizen. This is local news oriented. If you’re publishing local news.

you’re helping your readers become better citizens. That is an emotional connection. And that’s part of the trick is I will subscribe to your publication if you give me an emotional benefit. So think about that. Take a virtual vacation. This is a magazine publication, a vital role in supporting our mission.

Your mission based your audience can engage with you. they want to be involved. That’s emotional, a clutter free website. Okay. So if you’re smart and you’re hiding website ads and charging for that the feature is hiding website ads, but a clutter free website is a subtle difference that you can switch to.

It’s emotional. I want clutter free. There’s too much clutter in my life, subtle but important interact with peers and our. Okay. The feature is subscriber only comments, but what’s the benefit. The benefit is I get to interact with friends, peers, people of similar interests, and possibly the staff at the publication.

Never miss the latest that one’s emotional. Yeah, you can get 24, 7 coverage or breaking news, never missing. The latest is the benefit. Buying or selling boats in gear. Okay. This is a boating magazine. I can post classified that’s the feature, but I really want to sell stuff and maybe buy something, make better decisions.

Okay. Now I get the information, but maybe that information helps me make a better decision locally or through some Or through some activity that I love enhance your intellectual life, but you can’t guess which magazine this came from. This is really good. I am reading a publication that is educating me. That’s the feature, but it’s enhancing my intellectual life. Your government watch dog. this has an emotional ring to it.

Pursue your passion. I think a lot of magazine publishers can work with something like that. That’s emotional. Be informed, educated, and entertain. That’s a higher level benefit and inspire. This is, this was a great one I ran into just recently inspire for as little as 4 99 a month. Another magazine. Okay.

So now let’s look at these examples and see how they actually operate. Okay. The Atlantic be surprised, be challenged, be a subscriber. This is their subscription page. The benefit statement is up top. This is pretty good. Be surprised, be challenged, be a subscriber. Then they have their subscription cards and the features.

In other words, what are the nuts and bolts of what you’re getting end up on the subscription cards? And that’s good. That’s really what you want your, cards to do is is to show. what am I getting? It’s transactional. But if you go down below here, there’s a why the Atlantic, and this is the answer that you, this is,

this is the question you should answer for your reader. And the one I like the most in here is enhance. Is enhance your intellectual life. The Atlantic is the magazine thinking. People rely on for discovering bold ideas, inspired writing, and at nuanced insight and analysis. This is the benefit. It’s not a feature.

You’re not getting all access. You’re getting you’re connecting. Other people that are thinking, and this is their target audience. They should bring this up to the top. Okay, let’s go to the next one. This is a local news publisher that has a really great why pay for news page. So if you’re publishing local news, think about how this, how the benefits are positioned.

So here’s your be a better citizen. which will help you with with your community, with schools, with elections businesses, but being a better citizen is the benefit getting 24 7 coverage. That’s great, but you’re not missing the latest, that’s the emotion, your government watchdog that feels emotional, and government needs to be accountable for how they use their power. And your money. So that’s connected as a benefit to you, the reader, trustworthy journalism that has an emotional ring to it. And clutter free website. Yes. They hide ads and it gives the reader a clutter free experience. Okay. Next, our friends, small boats here.

This is their homepage. This is a magazine and they bring their benefit statement right up front to their homepage. Pursue your passion. It’s a great tag. Now, if you go down a little bit, they continue the benefit statements by their community. So as a reader you’re, really joining a community and right off the bat, they talk about delivering in depth articles that inform, educate, and entertain every person interested in exploring small boats and the adventures that come with them.

And you become part of a tight knit. Andd C. This is all very benefits oriented. And when I go to subscribe, I get a little more I get a little more,

I get a little more of the feature information. They start with the benefits and they flow to features. The Republic. This is another publication we work with. Don’t just read something, do something they’re helping their readers get out and be activists. This is a great benefit statement. It’s not just access to content.

It’s it creates an emotional connection. Okay. Catch. One of the things I would recommend when you’re exploring how to update your website is just go to your about page. You probably have one, and you’ve probably given it a lot of thought in terms of who you are and what your mission is and how you impact your readers.

From there, you might be able to find some gold. Now I read through the catch magazine about page and at the end is the gold. so at catch magazine, we’re dedicated to providing you with a spectacular virtual fly fishing vacation. In every addition. Now this is a fly fishing magazine, digital magazine, and you get a virtual fly fishing vacation in every addition.

That’s beautiful. That is the benefit. And Todd, if you’re listening to this, take this line and bring it forward. This should be everywhere.

Okay. Back to the tactics of where do I put my benefits? You have a subscription nag. Upgrade your account. Benefit statement. Good spot to do it. Comment on the actual form page. Don’t touch it, keep it simple need benefit statements here. When someone lands here, they’re ready to pay.

inspire for as little as 4 99. Stone soup is a magazine written by kids for kids, and it helps kids inspire other kids. This is a great benefit, very emotional. And then you have your subscription options below. And when it comes to subscription options, you probably have a subscription card page. If you do.

Like I mentioned earlier, this is where your features go. What do you actually get? It’s transactional and don’t forget your welcome email and your newsletter. So when your newsletter goes out, make sure you ha have a compelling benefits, oriented reason to join, the community, whatever the benefit is right along with your content.

Your welcome email also should be mission based benefits oriented. As soon as somebody registers, let’s say for a free subscription or pays for a subscription, this is your first point of contact. And it’s important that you remind them why it’s going to be, why your publication is going to benefit their life.

Now piano just released a recent study that suggested that 33% of all new subscribers have already canceled. And what that means is that people subscribe for a lot of reasons. Sometimes it’s an impulse. Okay. This sounds interesting. I subscribe. And then they cancel the next month or they cancel right away or they just never get to reading your content.

So what you need to do is you need to educate them. What is the benefit of reading my publication, make sure that’s in your welcome email. And if you really want to turn that on set up a drip campaign so that maybe you send three or four follow up emails, which lets your new reader, your new subscriber explore all the content that you have and, reinforce the benefit to them, to their life of being a paid subscriber.

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