How The Times+ Saw a 12% Uplift in their Membership Conversion

Have you ever signed up for a free trial?

You either forget that you’ve signed up and continue paying for the service monthly, or cancel the membership and make full use of that free trial until it ends. But how do some companies ensure their customers always come back for more?

As you can guess, some do it better than others.

This week we found an interesting case study from MarketReach. The Times offers a membership trial of £1 for 30 days, which was successful at bringing customers in, but they weren’t converting. It is reported that they felt that the jump in price to £26 a month wasn’t worth paying. A situation I’m sure we have all found ourselves in.

How did they turn it around?

The Times set out to inspire customers to remain members by showcasing the exclusive Times+ events and content that was only available with the membership.

They started by sending out a selection of beautifully designed RSVP cards, each of which displayed a calligraphic apology stating: ‘You’re about to be so busy you’ll have to say sorry to your friends for not being able to see them’. The cards would allow the customer to get out of social events they didn’t want to attend, and also showcase to their friends their higher social status because they were attending highbrow functions – a private view at the Tate, for example – with The Times and The Sunday Times. Each card let the reader discover a different event open to them; one where tickets were held back to ensure nobody experienced disappointment. The cards were followed up with emails leading members to compelling online content and offers.

By combining multiple sources of data (cancellation reasons, engagement data, demographics), The Times built a digital tool to optimise targeting and timing for the campaign. The tool scored all new customers as high, medium or low, in terms of likelihood to convert after the trial. Customers with a high likelihood to convert (characterised by their high levels of engagement) were excluded as they already saw the value of membership at full price. Customers with a low likelihood to convert were seen as a huge challenge, therefore only a small cell of these was included as a test. The tool also indicated that the medium group would see value in full price. So, before sending out the RSVP cards, The Times applied a 3-month extension, at half price, to their trial.

With a 6-12% uplift in the 90-day conversion of the groups vs the control, it was clear that the RSVP cards were successful in engaging trialists to convert to paying members.

This case study is a brilliant example of Multi-Channel Marketing and content strategy. At Ice Blue Sky, our Content Strategy process guides you through the best way to produce high quality, relevant content and how to share the content effectively. We look at the business, the customer’s industry and profile, uncovering customer industry challenges and how they link to solutions.

This enables content to be better personalised around particular commercial challenges that organisations may be facing and ties those challenges into those organisation’s strategic priorities. For example, for one software company, we profiled 30 global organisations and created 30 bespoke reports that tied the commercial objectives of the global companies to common industry challenges that could be overcome using a specific type of technology. This led to a multi-million dollar pipeline of opportunities in 90 days, supported by a social media and direct marketing campaign.

If you want to find out more about how we can help you, send us an email at

About the Author

Emily Graham-Cumming

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