New Product Development: Do’s and Don’ts

Creating a successful new product–whether it’s a subscription based newsletter, a webinar, a conference or membership program–can be a challenge.  The key is taking the time to understand the target market and its needs.  In a PowerPoint I presented in 2016, I reviewed important steps that will enhance your success of launching a new product that will succeed.   View the PowerPoint



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The Benefits of Subscriber Surveys

Surveys have become easier and much less expensive to do and can yield valuable  information about your customers’ likes and dislikes.  Surveys can be used for a number of purposes including product positioning or new product development, editorial feedback, subscriber or customer satisfaction.

Here are a few basics to remember:

Before you design your survey:

• Clearly articulate the goals of your survey. Why are you running a survey? What, specifically, will you do with the survey results? How will the information help you improve your customer’s experience with your agency?

• Make sure that each question will give you the right kind of feedback to achieve your survey goals.

Survey Design:

• The opening should introduce the survey, explain who is collecting the feedback and why. You should also include some reasons for participation, and share details about the confidentiality of the information you are collecting.

• The introduction should set expectations about survey length and estimate the time it will take someone to complete.

• Opening questions should be easy to answer, to increase participant trust and encourage them to continue answering questions.

• Ensure questions are relevant to participants, to reduce abandonment.

• To minimize confusion, questions should follow a logical flow, with similar questions grouped together.

• Keep your survey short and to the point – fewer questions will deliver a higher response rate.

• If you have sensitive questions, or questions requesting personal information, include them towards the end of the survey, after trust has been built.

• Thank your participants after they’ve completed the survey.

If you’re using an online survey tool consider re-sending the survey a week later if you feel you want a higher response.  The tool should be able to suppress the addresses of those who have already responded.

Subscriber surveys can be done annually or bi-annually. After you’ve completed the first survey you can use it as a benchmark for the later surveys.

Online survey tools are reasonably prices. My favorite is SurveyMonkey.


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The Subscription Economy

Publishers have been in the subscription business for years.  But as many publishers grapple with how to maintain their subscriber files and rate base, non-publishing newcomers are horning in and doing a great job of getting folks to subscribe to their services.

Walmart recently announced a new ecommerce subscription service. For $7 a month, a subscriber will get a box of sample foods.The new subscription service called It is by invitation only right now and is just moving out of its test phase.

Amazon has a slightly different wrinkle with its “subscribe and save” offer. For products people buy on a regular basis—coffee, tea, toilet paper—Amazon offers you the chance to “subscribe”, i.e. place a standing order to have the item delivered periodically (every month, two months, etc.).

While these two mega companies have taken different approaches, the basic concept is the same.  Get a someone to become a repeat customer by delivering some service on a regular basis. And a repeat customer equals a loyal customer and is good for the bottom line.

Publishers have know this for years. But unfortunately many devalued their content by giving it away online. The upshot: former subscribers have flocked to the web.  Why pay if you can get it for free?

Reward Loyalty

Walmart takes the concept a step further. has a social community online where subscribers can post reviews to earn loyalty points.These points can be redeemed in the future for boxes or items in the store. Another benefit: Walmart can do product testing through the reviews.

Amazon ensures loyalty in a different way through its Amazon prime program. A customer pays $79 a year to join Amazon prime but then they are entitled to free two-day shipping, a free Kindle book a month and free TV and movies through the Amazon prime channel.They hooked me. When I want to buy something online I usually go to Amazon where I find competitive prices, free shipping and great service.

How do many publishers reward loyalty?  They jack up the price and usally the most loyal customers pay the most.  Hmmm.  I guess it works because publishers have been using this formula for years but couldn’t we at least find ways to reward our most loyal customers with additional, no-charge features?

Here’s a another variation from children’s clothing seller Wittlebee.  At Wittlebee’s, you subscribe to get a box of specially selected clothing for your child based on preferences you give them. Their motto is: “Put your kid’s clothing on auto pilot.” The benefit? No more malls, no kid meltdowns while shopping and lower price than you pay for an equivalent articles of clothing at a store, the retailer says on its website. The subscription price is steep–$39.99 a month, but for busy moms it could be worth it.

All of these subscription programs depend on the retailer giving value and great service for the subscription. Without superior value and customer service it’s too easy to click and unsubscribe.

With these three examples in mind what steps can publishers and online content providers to improve their subscriptions models?



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