A primer for qualified sampling to help boost your circulation

By Bob Bobber

Qualified sampling is one of the best ways to obtain new subscribers. Qualified sampling is simply sampling of subscribers who have asked to be sampled instead of the carrier or the newspaper selecting who to sample. Here are three slightly different techniques for obtaining qualified samples. The conversion rate of qualified sampling can range from 10 percent to 40 percent. It far exceeds the normal 1 percent to 2 percent from random sampling, which is normally done by carriers.

Requested sampling can be added to any sales pitch whether it is telemarketing, kiosk or crewing. It gives your solicitors an additional arrow in their quiver of sales approaches.
Once your solicitor has determined that a sale is not imminent, simply add the phrase, "I understand that you're not interested in subscribing right now, but can I send you a sample of the Daily News for the next two weeks and then get back to you to see what you think of our newspaper?" The solicitor keeps a callback log.

It is important for the solicitor who set up the requested sample to follow up on it. It adds a personal touch to the potential sale. Obviously, you can't pay a solicitor the full price for requested samples but a small commission will encourage him or her to keep pushing for the sample, instead of just giving up on the sale.

Another method of obtaining requested samples is the market research approach. While it might appear to be a little sneaky, it is extremely effective. The pitch is simple. You call non-subscribers and ask, "We are doing market research for the Daily News and for quality control purposes we would like to get your opinion of our newspaper. We'd like send you a copy of newspaper for the next two weeks and then call you back and get your feedback on our newspaper." For weeklies, you can offer up to four weeks worth of issues.

Not only do you get a qualified pool of potential subscribers, you get answers to questions that can be used to improve your publication.

Then on the call back you ask four to six questions such as "Did you like our business section?" or "Did you agree with the editorial in Thursday paper?" or "Do you think we use enough color?" Assuming you get positive responses to your questions, you thank the person for participating in the survey and then tell him or her, "As a token of our appreciation for participating in our survey we'd like to offer you the newspaper at a special low price of $XXX, which is half the newsstand price for the next six months. Can I sign you up?"

Because the non-subscriber is participating in the survey, there is a much better chance he or she is going to actually read the newspaper every day and hopefully your product is good enough to get him or her hooked. The bottom line is that the success of any sampling program is getting the reader to actually read the newspaper and not just take it from the driveway to the trash can.

You also can pass on the comments of your surveys to the editorial department for their review and interest.

One thing to keep in mind is that the churn on sample sales is decidedly less than other types of subscriber acquisition, especially if you build in "Easy Pay" to the follow-up call.

© Bob Bobber 2010

Bob Bobber is a newspaper consultant specializing in circulation sales, training and public speaking. You contact him at rjbobber@bellsouth.net.

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