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Thursday, June 21, 2012

Sampling effort paid off right from the beginning

Very shortly after we bought the newspaper, we did a round of “sampling.” This involved printing a few hundred extra copies of the paper each week and delivering them for free to households that did not already subscribe to the paper. Inside each free issue, we inserted a blue sheet of paper, simply asking people to subscribe to the Kuna Melba News, with a tear-off subscription form at the bottom which they were asked to mail in with $22 for a one-year subscription, or $20 for seniors.
Here's the subscription form we sent out in that early effort.
The Kuna ZIP code at the time was divided into nine delivery routes plus the post office boxes. Each route had about 500 to 600 addresses. If there were, say, 600 addresses in one route, and we had 200 subscribers on that route, we would print an extra 400 copies and cover that entire route. The next week, we would move on to the next route, and so on, until we had hit each route.
This is where a little bit of working capital helped. It cost probably $300 to print roughly 5,000 blue subscription forms, and then it cost about $60 to $80 extra each week to print and mail the additional copies.
We didn’t really know what to expect in terms of response. We were told that 1 or 2 percent would be a good return on this type of direct mail. Out of 6,000 addresses, we were going to send out about 5,000 free copies over 10 weeks. At 1 percent, we’d get 50 new subscribers.
So we sent out the first batch and crossed our fingers.
I suppose we should have had some indication of what the response would be. Word was getting around that there were new owners, and we started almost immediately getting drop-in traffic from people introducing themselves and signing up for a subscription. A couple of people told us that they had been waiting for someone else to take over the paper and that there were a lot of people in the community who didn’t like how the paper was being run and had canceled their subscriptions. They would spread the word, they said, that it’s OK to subscribe to the paper again.
Well, that first issue hit mailboxes on a Thursday, and by Friday we received two or three forms back already. That should have been an indication that at least a couple of people felt it so urgent that they must have filled out the form as soon as they got the paper and rushed it down to the post office immediately. There was simply no other way we would have received their subscription by Friday morning.
On Saturday, our post office box was stuffed with another dozen or so new subscriptions. The trend kept up just about every day, so that it was like Christmas morning each time we went to the post office.
We averaged probably 20 new subscriptions every week for 10 weeks solid.
Keep in mind, too, that each one of those new subscriptions came with a $20 or $22 check, so 200 new subscriptions meant new revenue of about $4,000 in just a matter of two months.

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