Case Study: How SSWUG Increased Paid Subscriptions 175 Percent

by David Eckoff · 0 comments

This article was originally published on on May 18, 2005.

When I first saw on the Subscription Summit agenda that the founder of a website called “SQL Server Worldwide Users Group” was going to present a case study, I wondered what I’d done wrong in a previous life to deserve having to endure such a topic. A site with articles about SQL servers and databases? I figured I figured I’d rather watch paint dry.

Boy, was I wrong.

Stephen Wynkoop, Founder of and Dr. Flint MCGlaughlin, Director of Digital Trust, Inc., presented highly valuable suggestions applicable to any paid content site looking to increase sales conversion.

First, Mr. Wynkoop shared with the audience three of his big ideas that turned out to be horrible failures:

  1. Free trial without a credit card (Result: hardly anyone converted from free to paid, DOH!).
  2. Implementation of a token system (Result: 90% decrease in paid membership, BAM!)
  3. Free 2 day access (Result: “zero results” OUCH!)

Not exactly the stuff that gets your smiling face on the cover of SQL Database magazine. Wynkoop knew he had to do something, and the smart person that he is, he sought the help of an expert: Dr. Flint McGlaughlin.

The good doctor showed our database hero how to dramatically increase sales by optimizing the elements on his online order page.

What follows is Dr. McGlaughlin’s bigger better deal for optimizing a subscription order path, what he calls “The 9 Principles of an Effective Subscription Path”:

  1. Track the customer’s buying experience
  2. Avoid surprising the customer with negative information
  3. Help the customer understand
  4. Save the customer time
  5. Give the customer options
  6. Help the customer feel safe
  7. Incentivize the customer to continue
  8. Help the customer select everything they need
  9. Solve the customer’s credit card problems

Following Dr. McLaughlin’s advice, Mr. Wynkoop’s registrations and sales for his site are up – way up: 700% increase in free registration and 175% increase in paid memberships.

And Mr. Wynkoop is smiling all the way to the bank.

Bonus advice from Dr. McLaughlin: don’t include in the order path a photograph of the author of a subscription product (sometimes done with the intention of putting a face with the product). “Photographs are often a mistake,” McCalughlin said. “No matter who you put, some people react positive and some people react negative. Better to have the person imagine what you look like.” (Memo to self: include a photo of Brad Pitt along with the bio following my blog posts.)

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