Persuading visitors to actually pay for online content is probably the most difficult project publishers might ever get into.

According to John Ekman, who runs Conversionista, Scandinavia’s top conversation optimisation consultancy, the No. 1 business goal for publishers is to maximise consumer lifetime value.

The most important equation is the balance between acquisition cost and consumer lifetime value. Consumer lifetime value can’t be lower than the acquisition cost. The role of a Web site is to become the machinery for harvesting customer insights. 

If a publisher has this machine, he can deliver any type of digital service to his users. 

Media customer lifecycle is what publishers need to optimise, and this lifecycle is based on conversions: from visitor through registered and active prospect to paying member. Paying member should then be converted to staying member. As Ekman pointed out, publishers are in the business of nudging. 

At every stage in the conversion journey, publishers have to ask one question only: What do they want users to do? And then they must convert them accordingly. A programme for every single step in that process is a big plus.

The Chief Conversionista’s activation programme suggests:

  • Take nothing for granted. Users have no idea what you are doing.

  • Create micro-conversion paths.

  • Focus on key usage patterns, which predict final conversion.

  • Ask customers.

  • Test.

Publishers should think about how they can make existing paywalls softer. One example is communicating with users in a clearer way without statements like, “You must pay to read further.” Instead, Ekman suggests something like, “Please enter your e-mail address to keep reading.” 

Next steps should require a slow invitation for users to dive more into the content. Offering them free articles in return for their data or actions, such as phone number, sharing on Facebook, connecting to Google, recommending to friends.

Smart leading will convert users in the proper way.