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Subs marketing: 5 minutes with… Gemma Heavens

A strong relationship between a publisher and their subs bureau can significantly improve subs marketing performance. We grab five minutes with HH&S’s Gemma Heavens to ask how publishers and bureaux should be working together.

By Gemma Heavens

Subs marketing: 5 minutes with… Gemma Heavens

Q: How can publishers and their subs bureau work more collaboratively together to improve their subscriptions marketing?

A: It’s really important to see your subs bureau as an extension of your own team so you can work more collaboratively. We really like to get involved in our clients’ marketing campaigns; advising on creatives and mechanics and making suggestions for improvements. Subs bureaux can offer advice based on the experience they have had with other clients and the feedback they get from subscribers themselves.

Q: In the ideal world, what would subscription bureaux like more of from their publishing clients?

A: We always say it’s good to have more engagement from editorial. We’ve seen in the past this makes such a big difference. When editorial is onside and really buys into subscriptions, it is much more effective. Particularly around tricky times such as price increases and busy times such as Christmas when you need as much space and support within the product as you can.

I also think that accessibility is very important. We are very lucky that all our clients are happy to meet and talk with us regularly but it’s not always a given. It’s so important to make sure you are available to your publishers but also that they are available to you so you can move quickly and tactically when opportunities arise.

Q: In terms of gold standard subs fulfilment, what should publishers and their bureaux be aiming for?

A: As a subs bureau, we would say innovation is something we should be aiming for in terms of fulfilment and marketing. And, again, a collaborative approach to this will be much more successful. Identifying what is working, what’s not working and how things can be developed and changed to ultimately improve the customer experience is what publishers and their bureaux should all be striving for.

Q: What are the hallmarks of a successful subs acquisition campaign?

A: The magic three – high volume, low cost per acquisition and good retention. If only it were as easy to achieve as it sounds! To even begin to accomplish this, you must really understand your readers and know who you are targeting. It sounds obvious, but ensuring your message is clear, easy to understand and has stand out is key.

Q: For publishers looking to improve their renewal rate, what advice do you give them?

A: Really think about how, when and why you communicate with your subscribers. Many subscribers sign up and never hear from the publisher again until they are asked to renew which is generally at a higher cost. As well as more regular communications, publishers should also think about how they communicate with subscribers in terms of customer care, resolving issues and answering questions. This is where a subs bureau can really add value. Ensure your subscriptions bureau also has cancellation and reactivation offers in place to use tactically. Also think about how you can add additional benefits to your subscriptions through a rewards program or additional content. These added extras make subscribers feel valued and special.

Q: Customer feedback is important - how can subs bureaux ensure that the customer’s voice is heard?

A: Feedback is critical. We feedback to our clients regularly what we are hearing from customers, good and bad. Most of the time, the subs bureau will know if things are or aren’t working before the publisher does so it’s our job to ensure we are keeping our clients informed and letting them know of any issues as soon as they arise. Most of the time, we speak to more customers than the publisher does themselves!

Q: What’s in the pipeline from HH&S?

A: We continue to refine and develop our multi-channel platform. It is becoming ever more apparent that readers want to have choice over how they consume publications whether that be having the choice of digital or print or even down to how they have it delivered; by post, home delivery, retail vouchers, flexible options, or combinations of them all. We keep the subscriber at the heart of everything we do, and our platform allows for complete flexibility for both newspapers and magazines. We work with our publishing clients to continuously develop our platform meaning we meet their own needs as well as their subscribers.

About us

HH&S is an innovative subscriptions services and marketing agency offering publishers a fresh approach to marketing and servicing their subscriptions. We have been in business for over 30 years providing publishing clients with the subscriptions and marketing services they need. We work with some of the UK’s biggest publishers handling 400+ daily, weekly and monthly newspapers and magazine titles.

Contact: Gemma Heavens (