The tyranny of the special offer

If you follow our Facebook page (I appreciate that not everyone does… and that’s fine) you’ll probably have noticed that, from time to time, we run special offers to entice new readers to sign up to a subscription. It’s usually a small discount, or a free t-shirt. These offers run for limited periods and, every time we run one, we get a small flurry of sign-ups. Which is, of course, The Whole Point.

Before I go any further, let me say this: here at Cranked we value all our readers equally, whether they’ve bought a single issue or have subscribed since issue #1. Without our readers there’s no magazine. It’s that simple. We know that, and it drives everything that we do.

Here’s the thing: we need more subscribers, all the time. All successful magazines do. Subscribers help us plan ahead, keep our advertisers happy (yes, we need them too) and invest in the future of the magazine.

Cranked is growing in a market that’s seeing other, long-established print mags struggling. It needs to continue to grow so that we can keep offering different, engaging and high quality mountain bike journalism (full disclosure: Cranked is 100% rider-owned; there are no financial backers or suits hovering in the background clamouring for their ROI although, like everyone, we still need to eat and pay the bills. No-one’s stuffing money in offshore bank accounts or contemplating retiring early here).

Most of our subscription sales are regular sign-ups. No discount, no free gift; people just like what we do and sign up for a year. Which is fantastic. Our UK subscription rate remains one of the most affordable around and, although Cranked isn’t ‘cheap’, we do aim to offer great value.

The deals do get us periodic bumps in sales, though. Some people just need a little nudge, and everyone likes a bargain, right? Win, win.

Or not, as the case may be. Every time we run an offer, alongside some extra sales we also manage to upset a very small number of our existing subscribers, who feel they’ve been short-changed. And we don’t, of course, like unhappy readers.

We don’t like unhappy readers, but nor can we retrospectively apply discounts or hand out free gifts. It’s in the small print, folks. The reason is simple: these are, by their very nature, special offers. Time limited, grab-it-while-you-can deals.

Whilst we’re doing our best to set new standards in a mountain bike magazine, we’re happy to admit that our marketing techniques aren’t exactly revolutionary. Special offers have been around for as long as people have been trading. We’re just using the same tried-and-tested techniques as everyone else. It doesn’t appear to be broken, so we’ve not tried to fix it.

This is why, when someone says to us “I’ve been a subscriber for x years, can I have a free t-shirt too?” the answer is “sorry, no”.

We’ve even had threats to cancel subscriptions if a free t-shirt isn’t forthcoming. The answer is still the same. And that’s because, if we handed out a t-shirt to one disgruntled subscriber, we’d have to do it for everyone. Suddenly, we’d have spent thousands of pounds on t-shirts and our special offers wouldn’t be special any more.

It ain’t rocket science, frankly.

We do occasionally hand out free t-shirts, though. It tends to happen when we’ve not been asked (or threatened). Maybe the postman dropped your copy of Cranked in a puddle (we also replace issues that have been lost or damaged in the post, free of charge –  you just need to ask). Or perhaps you posted something great up on social media, or you made us laugh in some way.

There’s no magic formula to getting a (free) Cranked t-shirt, but there is a surefire way of not getting one.

All of which garment-related waffle brings me back to the point I’d like to make, which is this: we aim to make Cranked the best mountain bike magazine we possibly can. I’d like to think that that, alone, makes it worth the subscription price. Although our t-shirts are similarly wonderful they are, fundamentally, just t-shirts. And what we do best (you might have noticed) is magazines.

Thanks for reading; thanks for subscribing. Sincerely. It’s what drags us off our bikes and back in front of our monitors, so we can keep improving Cranked. So long as our subscriber base continues to grow, we’ll keep on creating original, engaging and interesting content, printing it on lush, heavyweight paper, and delivering it to your door.

See you out on the trails.

Seb (editor, publisher)

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