When I first started UPPERCASE magazine back in 2009, I had no experience in managing a quarterly publication. I certainly didn’t know anything about “circulation management”, renewals and such. My primary goal was to reach 400 subscribers by the time the first issue shipped, and, when that was met, to reach 1000 subscribers by the calendar year-end. This would be enough subscription income to break even on the first year’s production costs. At the time, it was hard to see past the first year and those first four issues. But we made it! And then, I was faced with the reality that most businesses face: customer retention.
Though new subscribers were coming, those inaugural 400 were up for renewal. Half of them never renewed. Ouch! When it comes to percentages, I can’t help but fall back into my grade-school measure of success: high percentages mean good grades. 50% certainly felt like a failing grade. And it’s hard not to take it personally and think, “Why don’t people like me?" I know now that typical renewal rates for magazines are low. There’s always something newer out there, more competition for readers’ attention and wallets. (Here’s a fact: UPPERCASE was launched before the iPad came out!)
It will always be two steps forward, one step back. The magazine’s renewal rate averages 33%. I’ve had to acclimatize to this fact, and temper my expectations and be mindful of this number and how it affects my business on a cyclical basis. Each quarter brings an attrition, but with new subscribers steadily discovering UPPERCASE, as long as the overall number of subscribers is growing, then it’ll be ok. I have a core group of extremely loyal subscribers who renew consistently and purchase gift subscriptions for others, and I am very grateful for your continued support! I hope that all the interesting articles from our contributors, great imagery and inspiration-filled issues will convince readers to keep subscribing. I hope that you also find value in these weekly newsletters, my blog and social media streams.
The magazine has grown surely and steadily over the years and as of this moment, there are 3,879 active subscribers who will be receiving issue #23 in a few weeks. It would be awesome to reach a milestone 4,000 subscribers! Please share this message with your friends and colleagues and on social media and let’s see if we can do it together.
So, how do you ensure that you’re bringing in both new customers while keeping the existing ones happy?
After nearly six years and 23 issues, I’ve found that what works best for me is simply: do the work. First and foremost, create something of value. Pour your heart and soul into it. Invest yourself, invest your own money. Be open and honest. Be available and accessible. Put yourself on the line. If you prove every day that you’re committed, people will go all-in for you.
This message was originally published in my weekly newsletter. To see the newsletter, click here. Sign up for newsletters right here and you'll receive a free download of the UPPERCASE Surface Pattern Design Guide.