Skip to Content

How to Offer a Discount on Substack

How to Offer a Discount on Substack

Substack publishers have the unique ability to grow their audience by offering enticing incentives such as discounts. This approach not only rewards dedicated readers but also attracts new subscribers who may be hesitant to commit at full price. Managing special offers on Substack is a straightforward process that can have a significant impact on a publication’s growth and subscriber engagement.

By creating a special offer, a publisher can set the terms of the discount, which could be a percentage off the regular subscription price or even a completely free trial period. Substack’s self-serve special offers feature is designed for ease of use, empowering writers to implement marketing strategies that align with their goals. Discounts can enhance subscriber satisfaction and can be a pivotal element in a publication’s promotional activities.

It’s not just about price reduction; offering a discount can be a show of appreciation for the readers’ support and participation in the community. Substack makes it possible for publishers to foster this sense of community and belonging, which is vital in retaining readership and building a sustainable publication. Whether it’s providing complimentary access for select readers or rolling out a special promotion, discounts can serve as a powerful tool in a publisher’s arsenal.

Understanding Discounts on Substack

Substack offers content creators the opportunity to monetize their newsletters through subscription models. A common strategy to enhance subscription rates and reward loyal readers is through offering discounts. These discounts can serve as a significant incentive, encouraging new subscribers to sign up and providing value to current ones.

On Substack, publishers can set up special offers in just a few steps. They can choose between a percentage discount or a free trial period. The process of offering discounts on Substack is designed to be straightforward, allowing publishers to seamlessly manage their special offers and adjust them based on their engagement targets and audience needs.

It’s also possible for content creators to provide discounts exclusively to certain groups, such as subscribers from educational institutions. By doing so, they can reach target audiences more effectively and personalize their pricing strategies. The impact of such discounts extends beyond immediate gains, potentially increasing subscriber numbers and fostering a dedicated reader base. Understanding the various options and the flexibility Substack offers with discounts can be a pivotal point in a content creator’s strategy to balance value and engagement.

Types of Discounts to Offer on Substack

When creating special offers, Substack publishers have several options to attract and retain subscribers. They can leverage discounts to incentivize sign-ups and reward loyal readers.

Percentage-Based Discounts

Percentage-based discounts reduce the subscription price by a certain percentage for a specified duration or perpetually. For instance, a publisher might offer 20% off for the first year. This type of discount is compelling because it offers immediate value to subscribers and can be effectively promoted to captivate your audience with specialized content.

Fixed Amount Discounts

A fixed amount discount subtracts a set dollar value from the normal subscription price. If a Substack newsletter costs $10 monthly, a $2 discount would let new subscribers sign up for $8 per month. This straightforward discount is easy for potential subscribers to understand.

Time-Sensitive Discounts

Offering discounts for a limited time can create urgency and encourage prompt subscription. An example might be 50% off for anyone who subscribes in the next 48 hours. This approach can accelerate decision-making and increase the rate of acquiring paid subscribers, especially during promotional periods or holidays.

Exclusive Discounts for Selected Subscribers

Substack authors can also provide exclusive discounts to selected subscribers as a token of appreciation for their support or to reactivate lapsed subscribers. These might include discounts for subscribers who have been with the newsletter for a specific length of time or who are part of a particular group or community.

Setting Up Discounts in Substack

Discounts on Substack allow publishers to attract new subscribers and reward existing ones. This guide walks through the process of creating and managing discounts for subscription-based content.

Accessing Discount Settings

To access the discount settings in Substack, users must first navigate to the dashboard. There, in the settings menu, there is a section specifically for managing special offers. It’s essential to ensure that payment settings are enabled before attempting to create discounts.

Configuring Discount Parameters

When configuring a discount, publishers have options such as setting a percentage off the original price or offering a free trial period. It’s important to detail the offer by specifying the name, duration, and terms. These details help subscribers understand the value they’re receiving, and it sets clear expectations for the offer’s validity.

Applying Discounts to Subscription Tiers

Discounts can be applied to different subscription tiers on Substack, providing flexibility for publishers to target offers appropriately. Whether it’s a premium tier with exclusive content or a standard tier, the process involves selecting the desired tier and attaching the custom discount to it.

Creating Discount Codes

Substack also allows the creation of unique discount codes that subscribers can enter at checkout. These codes can be distributed manually to select subscribers or promoted widely as part of a marketing campaign. They can be an effective way to track the success of promotional efforts and can be used to import subscribers who have been given a discount code.

Communicating Your Discount Offer

When offering a discount on Substack, it’s vital to effectively communicate the promotion to maximize reach and subscriber engagement. The announcement must be clear, enticing, and well-timed to encourage action from potential subscribers.

Crafting Your Discount Announcement

The discount announcement should be concise yet compelling. Creators must highlight the value subscribers will receive alongside the discount. It is crucial to emphasize the benefits subscribers gain by acting on the special offer, such as access to exclusive content or savings over time.

Using Email Campaigns

Email campaigns are a direct line to readers. They should use persuasive language to convert free readers to paid subscribers. The message should be personable and express appreciation for the reader’s interest, while also making the discount stand out as a limited opportunity.

Leveraging Social Media

Social media platforms extend the promotion’s reach. Posts should be attention-grabbing and utilize hashtags or tags to increase visibility. For greater impact, creators might align their promotion with insights from Substack Boost to enhance engagement and attract a wider audience.

Announcement Timing

Timing can significantly affect the success of the discount offer. Announcements should coincide with high-engagement periods, such as after the release of a popular post. Additionally, it is beneficial to learn how to schedule a post on Substack to ensure that reminders about the discount land at optimal times.

Legal and Ethical Considerations

When offering discounts on Substack, publishers must navigate a spectrum of legal and ethical issues to ensure compliance and maintain trust with their audience.

Complying with Advertising Laws

Publishers must adhere to local and international advertising laws when promoting discounts. This includes accurately representing the offer and not misleading subscribers with the terms of the discount. They must also consider how taxes are handled on paid subscriptions to ensure financial compliance.

Maintaining Pricing Transparency

Transparency is key in maintaining subscriber trust. Publishers should clearly outline what subscribers are signing up for and any changes in pricing, including when a discount period ends. This helps avoid misunderstandings and fosters a sense of fairness and honesty within the community.

Respecting Subscriber Privacy

While engaging with subscribers, publishers must respect their privacy. This means obtaining consent before using subscriber data for marketing and ensuring that the data is protected from unauthorized access. In the context of Substack, knowing who owns the content can also play a part in how subscriber information is managed and shared.

Measuring the Impact of Discounts

Offering discounts on Substack can be an effective strategy, but it’s crucial to evaluate their impact on your newsletter’s performance. By analyzing specific metrics, publishers can understand the short and long-term effects of discounts.

Analyzing Subscriber Growth

When discounts are applied, a significant metric to watch is subscriber growth. Publishers should track the increase in sign-ups before, during, and after a promotion. It is helpful to compare these figures to periods without discounts to gauge the true effect. A simple table might look like this:

Period Subscribers Pre-Discount Subscribers Post-Discount
May 250 300
June 300 450

Evaluating Revenue Changes

Revenue changes are equally important to monitor. While discounts may boost subscriber numbers, they can also affect the average revenue per user (ARPU). A bulleted list can clearly present the revenue before and after discounts:

  • Pre-discount revenue: $1,000
  • Post-discount revenue: $1,200

Special attention should be given to understanding the payment schedule and how discounted subscriptions contribute to cash flow.

Assessing Engagement Metrics

Finally, evaluating engagement metrics reveals whether discounted subscribers are as invested as full-price subscribers. Key engagement indicators include open rates, click-through rates, and interaction with content. High engagement from discounted subscribers can signal a healthy return on investment for the discount strategy. To illustrate, marketers could use a chart like this:

Metric Full-Price Subscribers Discounted Subscribers
Open Rate 75% 70%
Click-Through 30% 25%

By assessing these metrics, publishers get a comprehensive picture of how discounts affect their Substack newsletters – a strategy that can lead to more informed decisions for future pricing and promotions.

Best Practices for Discount Lifecycle

In managing discounts on Substack, creators must consider the timing, the subsequent engagement, and the insights gained from the offer. Each stage plays a vital role in the overall success and can significantly impact reader retention and brand loyalty.

Discount Duration

Length of Promotion: Offering a discount should include a clear start and end date, giving potential subscribers a sense of urgency. It is generally effective to run promotions for a limited time, potentially around major holidays or events relevant to the newsletter’s content.

Align with Content Strategy: The duration should also coincide with a creator’s content schedule. If a newsletter posts content frequently, short, regular discounts might keep the momentum. For less frequent posting, longer promotions may be necessary to ensure all potential subscribers see the offer.

Post-Discount Engagement Strategies

Maintain Interest: After subscribers join at a discounted rate, the key is to keep them engaged. High-quality, consistent content is crucial for this. Subscribers need to feel that their investment, even at a discount, holds substantial value.

Upsell Opportunities: Prepare strategies to convert discounted subscribers to full price. This might include exclusive content offers or personalized communications, highlighting the benefits of continuing their subscription at the standard rate.

Feedback Collection and Analysis

Collect Subscriber Feedback: Gathering feedback during and after the discount period can provide insights into its effectiveness. Surveys can be used to understand what drove the decision to subscribe and what expectations subscribers have.

Evaluate and Adapt: Use the data collected to refine future offers. For instance, if feedback indicates that subscribers responded well to a certain discount percentage, consider using that as a benchmark for future promotions. Analyzing subscriber behavior post-promotion also indicates if the discount helped in building a sustainable subscriber base.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

When offering discounts on Substack, creators should navigate the process carefully to maximize the benefits and avoid pitfalls that could undercut their efforts.


Substack creators sometimes offer steep discounts without considering the long-term impact on their revenue and the perceived value of their content. A substantial discount can set a precedent that undervalues the newsletter, making it harder to justify regular pricing to subscribers later on.

Lack of Clear Objectives

Setting up a discount without clear objectives is a common oversight. Creators should define what they aim to achieve, such as boosting short-term subscriber numbers or rewarding loyal readers, to tailor their discount strategy effectively and measure its success accurately.

Ignoring Subscriber Segmentation

Discount offers can be more effective if they are targeted. Failing to segment the subscriber list means missing the opportunity to tailor promotions to different groups, such as new, existing, or lapsed subscribers, which can lead to improved engagement and conversion rates.

Failing to Follow Up

After a discount offer, it’s critical to follow up with subscribers to gather feedback and build a relationship. Creators sometimes neglect this step, missing the chance to learn from the experience and potentially convert discounted subscribers to full-price supporters in the future.

Advanced Discount Strategies

Crafting effective discount offers on Substack can elevate a creator’s engagement and subscription rates. The article explores tactical methods that go beyond basic discounts to maximize subscriber attraction and retention.

A/B Testing Discount Offers

To gauge the effectiveness of different discount strategies, one can employ A/B testing to compare various offers’ performance. By presenting two variations of a discount to similar audience groups, creators can analyze which discount type yields a higher conversion rate. Consistently testing and measuring outcomes is crucial to refining discount offerings.

Personalized Discount Offers

Offering personalized discounts can significantly increase subscriber interest and loyalty. This involves tailoring special offers based on subscriber behavior, preferences, or milestones. For instance, rewarding long-term subscribers with an exclusive discount can enhance their sense of value and commitment.

Integrating with Other Promotions

Incorporating discounts into broader promotional activities can amplify their impact. For instance, aligning discounts with seasonal events or collaborating with other creators can create buzz. Combining discounts with a compelling content and audience strategy may improve the overall subscription growth.

Tech Tools to Support Discounts

When a creator wants to offer discounts to their audience on Substack, there are several tech tools that can streamline the process. Each tool serves a specific role, from tracking the effectiveness of discount campaigns to managing subscriber relationships.

Analytics Platforms

Analytics platforms are essential for understanding how discounts impact subscriber behavior. They track metrics such as conversion rates, revenue changes, and engagement levels after a discount is offered. Creators can then adjust their strategies based on this data to maximize their publication’s success. For those considering multiple Substack newsletters, analytics can be particularly helpful in managing and comparing the performance of each.

Email Marketing Software

Effective email marketing software integrates seamlessly with Substack to distribute discount offers directly to potential or current subscribers’ inboxes. Not only does it ensure high email deliverability rates, it also allows for the segmentation of email lists. This means creators can send targeted discounts to specific groups, such as new subscribers or those with high engagement.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Systems

Lastly, CRM systems assist in maintaining detailed records of subscriber interactions and preferences. With such systems, publishers can deliver personalized discounts, thereby fostering loyalty and potentially increasing subscriber lifetime value. CRM tools can be especially effective when a creator wishes to offer discounts tied to subscriber actions or milestones, enhancing the feeling of exclusivity and value among their audience. They serve as a hub for managing subscriber information, helping to tailor discounts and offers to meet the unique demands of the readership.

Continuously Improving Your Discount Strategy

In the world of Substack publications, providing discounts is not a set-and-forget strategy; it requires ongoing refinement and adjustment to ensure effectiveness and subscriber satisfaction.

Gathering Subscriber Feedback

To ensure a discount strategy resonates with the audience, creators might regularly reach out for feedback through surveys or engagement analytics. Regularly asking subscribers what they value most can directly inform which discounts should be offered to meet their needs. Timely adjustments to discounts based on this feedback can boost both subscriber numbers and satisfaction.

Monitoring Market Trends

Keeping abreast of industry standards and competitor offerings can guide a publication’s discounting tactics. Creators might consistently monitor the market to adapt their strategy and remain competitive. For instance, if a competing newsletter slashes prices, a Substack publisher may consider implementing a similar, yet unique, discount to retain and attract subscribers.

Iterative Offer Optimization

An effective discount strategy is never stagnant. By evaluating the performance of each discount offer through metrics like sign-up rates and revenue impact, publishers can pinpoint which promotions are successful. From there, they use this data to make informed decisions about optimizing subsequent offers, creating a cycle of improvement that promotes growth and profitability.