|Converting Free Forum Users to Paid Subscribers|
What sort of incentives work?
I apologize if this topic has been covered elsewhere - I searched and didn't find anything.
I run a fairly large consumer review site / forum. The principal revenue models are direct sponsorships of various sections (e.g. movies, politics, banks, etc.), and AdSense.
My regular users (who account for 90% of the site's content) only rarely click on ads - they are much more interested in browsing around the site. Therefore, these users are getting very little value from the ads, and the advertisers are getting very little value from these users.
So, I'd like to take ads out of the equation for these users by creating an ad free version of the site available for a small subscription.
My sense is that the prospect of an ad free site is not enough to get regular users to convert to paid status, so I'm looking at various ways of incenting regular users to start chipping in a few bucks per month. Here are some of my ideas:
- Recognition - preferred poster tags, avatar options, etc.
- Tools for expressing yourself - currently only plain text is allowed. Paid users would have the ability to link text, bold, italics, etc.
- Tools for viewing the data. My database allows the ratings and reviews to be sorted various ways - I'm thinking about giving only paid subscribers access to these tools.
- Premium Content - as this site is entirely user driven content, this most likely won't work for us.
- Feel Good about supporting the site - more of a marketing spin than an enhancement.
- Access to "special" affiliate deals.
- Ad free viewing.
- Access to supporters forum
Has anyone else had success with introducing a paid subscription? Any other incentives that I'm missing?
For paying members, how about:
-a "points" reward system that they can trade in the points for prizes or extra benefits
-an email system
-"Priority" customer service responses via email
That's a fairly comprehense set of options. I'd recommend a couple of wrinkles:
1) Be sure to offer a family of benefits, since each feature will appeal to some people and not others.
2) To have some pizazz, your supporters forum should offer something special. Celebrity posters? Different rules? Industry secrets? Weekly articles for subs only? Use your imagination...
Thanks, good stuff.
Let us know how it goes, lorenzinho2 - I suspect there are a lot of forum owners who would like to find the formula that works!
One additional concern is keeping a balance between your free forum and paid forum/content. A successful free forum will bring in many new visitors and members who are potential subscribers. If you have too little subscriber-only content, it won't be attractive; if too much of the good stuff is hidden away, you risk damaging the free forum and incoming traffic.
This isn't an answer but a question. :)
Would a paid subscriber get some "ROI" fairly easily? e.g. Money-saving tips, coupon codes, etc?
That would be the nut to crack.
Analwalla, good question.
It's hard to imagine much ROI a user would get from joining. It's not like WW where that tip you get in the back room might generate income for you.
The site is more of an entertainment site - but with a 100K registered users with some of those bordering on the fanatical, i'm hoping that the opportunity to get a more robust experience on the site will be enough to incentivize some to pay.
Only one way to find out - we're probably not looking to roll this out until Q1 of next year, but I'll try and remember to report back.
nobody talked about the most important point yet: users (some of them spending hours per day on a board) love to feel 'special' and also 'to show off their membership' - it's mostly, if not completely a social thing.
How do you see your point translating into what we can do as Webmasters to help incentivize users to convert to paid subscriptions? Do you have anything in mind behind "Preferred User" tags or special avatars?
well, first of all it takes years before you'll be able to start charging... unless you have an extremely 'hot' / unique site.
moveable type makes millions because users are proud to pay for their product and also to show that they are able to to pay for it... that also makes their blogs a little bit more credible for readers showing that they are "serious bloggers"
for a community site example: fotolog has a "gold camera" for paid members which also works very well (plus, again users get addl. features... but I have a feeling it's really about showing the little icon)
Probably the higher the cost, the better the benefits should be to induce signups. I'd guess a lot of people might pay a small sum for a status increase, but a higher sum would require some demonstrable business or personal benefits.
Then again, status-seekers behave in strange ways. A very costly platinum-diamond-ultra level membership might appeal to some people simply because they could demonstrate their ability to afford it.
We have a system that seems to work fairly well. Paying members get the following benefits -
1. The ability to switch off advertising.
2. A larger PM box.
3. More attachment space, which lets them have about 20-40 images attached at all time (they can manage their attachments).
The advertising for the other members is CPM, so it pays regardless of whether or not they click on it (which they don't ;-)).
Another idea- statistics. I generate weekly reports for "premium" subscribers with statistics like: # of sign ins, total time spent signed in, number of posts read, highest-rated posts, rank in status, etc. They seem to love it and are requesting broader statistics.
I also do the larger PM box thing, a private board, public recognition, extra options and non-crippled access to certain functionality. In my experience, a certain percentage of the long-time regulars quickly bought subscriptions, and new subscriptions have only come in at a trickle since. It hasn't been a lot of money. Almost enough to cover the bandwidth for this site and a few others that I run.
Four Degreez, I love that idea. Things like profile views, who has rated your posts helpful, etc. - would go over huge with my users.
Leverage that vanity...
You may also want to consider some sort of giveaway to include with the membership/subscription fee.
Tshirts are a very inexpensive promotional item (you can probably get them for less than $5 each from your local screen print shop).
The "retail value" of a tshirt could be anywhere from $15-$20 or so.
A person paying a $20-$50 a year membership/subscription fee would in essence be getting a $5 t-shirt, but it can easily be promoted as a $20 value.
A tee with a cool slogan and your site logo would work 2-fold: more offline advertising for your site and more benefits for the subscriber.
You could hold contests in your forum to come up with a cool slogan as a lead-in to the subscription feature and allow only subscribers to get that gift.
Just some ideas :)
I have a fairly busy forum and offer the following 'Premium Member' subscription:
$9.99 for 3 months which gets:
1) No ads
3) Usenet access (non-binary)
4) Access to the forums via a NNTP news client such as Outlook Express
4) Private albums in PhotoPost with the ability to send ecards
5) Various additional forum benefits such as larger avatar, more PMs etc.
The forum is active with around 60 new members and 2000 posts daily, but out of 32,000 members, only 120 are premium subscribers.
I thnk the problem is that all these extras are available elsewhere at no cost.
I'm currently looking for other options to get members to convert with my top two choices being:
1) More 'recognition' to premium subscribers. A simple thing like a special user title goes a long way towards motivating people.
2) Play the guilt card and give the subscription more of a 'donation' feel.