Which?: Subscriber recruitment

Principal author: Mike Colling, Mike Colling & Co


This is the story of rebuilding a subscriber base and defying market trends. It's a journey that has taken six years to date, and has at its heart direct marketing discipline and data insights, using advertising tools to achieve success.

In the ten years prior to 2005 Which? had seen declining subscriber numbers each year. Since then subscription numbers climbed from 831,000 to more than 1,330,000 in June 2011. Costs of acquiring a new subscriber have fallen by 44%. True return on investment has risen from 8% to an eye watering 176%.

There has been no one Damascene moment that solved all the issues facing Which? Rather this has been a six year iterative process, driven by consumer insights and from the rich data sets that a direct sale brand provides.

It's not been easy. The decline of magazine circulations is well documented, but ours are up by 52% over six years. The challenge of getting consumers to pay for online content is equally well known. We have more than 250,000 paying £9.75 each month for content they use and value.