Trying to Figure Out Your Best Special Offer? Paul M. Sutter says, “Experiment!”

Yes, “astrophysicist” is an actual day job! But not all astrophysicists are alike — in addition to his day job, Paul M. Sutter uses his vast knowledge of black holes, comets, galaxy clusters, and more to answer questions on his YouTube and podcast series, Ask A Spaceman. Launched in 2015, his podcast series is now one of the top podcasts across all subjects globally.

When Patreon launched Special Offers in late 2018, Paul was one of the first to test it out. Initially, his Special Offer was for fans who joined his membership at the Interplanetary Traveler level (the $10 group) or higher and maintained that for two months. Those patrons would receive a signed copy of his book on top of the tier’s regular benefits. The book was worth $25+, so this was a great deal for patrons.

“It was simply fantastic!” he said. “The process was easy to set up, it was perfectly timed with the launch of my new book, and the tools and guides really helped me shape and target my outreach.”

Paul saw a significant increase — 40 new patrons signed up during the Special Offer window, earning $553 more per month — and half of the growth came from existing patrons bumping up their tier level.

“My income nearly doubled,” Paul said. “I braced myself for a huge drop-off in December, but in December, it went up. And then it went up in January, and up in February, and March, and April. The majority of the new patrons [who signed up through the special offer] stuck around.” When he spoke with some of them, he heard many express that they had been meaning to sign up for a while, but they needed an excuse. Maybe they were listening to the podcast on their commute and by time they got home, they forgot. But his new book was just the push they needed.

Since he already had a book coming out, the Special Offer’s timing was perfect. It would showcase his new book, make a connection with his existing patrons through a personalised message, and boost patronage. Win-win-win!

Paul’s first Special Offer went so well that he just wrapped up a second promotion on May 1st. “This one was more of an experiment,” he said. “I offered one-on-one half-hour Skype sessions where fans could ask me anything.” People could sign up for an individual session with Paul if they pledged at the $25 level or above.

He reports that there was about 10% growth in April while the offer was open. Roughly half of the growth was from existing patrons who upgraded, and half was from new fans coming to his page. But this time, as a part of his experiment, he didn’t promote the Special Offer in the same way. He didn’t plug the offer on his podcast, but he did on his very active social media channels.

“I wondered, what kind of reaction will this get?” he said. “And even without the big push that I did in the fall, it was a success. I have a bunch of sessions with people scheduled in the next couple months, and they’re really fun.”

Paul reports that his earnings have steadily gone up, though they do occasionally flatten out for a little while. “A few in the fall joined at the $100 per month level,” he explained, “and I didn’t expect them to hang around for long. So it takes time to build $100 back up when someone drops. But the number of patrons is more important to me than the income.”

So, what should you do for your Special Offer?

One of the most challenging things about setting up a Special Offer is deciding just what to offer. For Paul’s first offer, the timing synced perfectly with the release of his new book — so any time you have a new product coming out, consider making it a special offer perk.

But if you don’t create products in that way, Paul has some other advice. “Take a look at the ways you’re already reaching your fans and engaging with them. That’s exactly your vehicle for promotion.”

Ask yourself what your audience is hungry for, he suggested. “My audience was hungry for my book, to put an artifact in their hands that they could read late at night. And with the question and answer format — my fans like asking me questions, that’s the whole premise of the podcast and YouTube series.” So it made sense for him to offer personal one-on-one time for some of his most devoted listeners. His audience already had an idea of what those sessions could be like because they’d seen him in a similar format for his public work. “It’s rewarding for me to interact in that very special way,” he said.

But when it comes to figuring out precisely what is best for another creator’s special offer, “It’s more about knowing your audience,” he said. “Every creator is the expert on their own audience. You may have to experiment. Try one [offer] and see how it goes, wait six months and try something else. Find something that fits within what you’re doing already, that is an extension from it. If you’re an artist, things like sketches or designs would make sense.”

His book was a very clear extension of the work he was already doing, and so are the Skype sessions. “What’s something special you can make out of what you’re already creating?” he asks.

Check out Paul’s YouTube and podcast series, pick up his first book, Your Place in the Universe, and support him on Patreon here.