Cats, Cars, and Cuddles: How to Reduce Inventory and Raise Revenue

For this promotion, making a modest financial gift to the Humane Society while Uber delivers kitten’s right to my office seemed like a no-brainer.

When I first opened the email I thought it was a joke.

Uber Kitten Email

Nina, the local manager for Uber in my area, was letting me know that they were partnering with the Humane Society to deliver furry, lovable kittens for cuddle sessions … for a small $30 snuggle fee. Wow … Really? (I thought excitedly.)

The fact is, I love cats (don’t tell my dog)… but my husband is not a big cat fan — especially after our last 12-year-cat-from-hell stint with the Tasmanian devil that I took pity on and rescued from a shelter. That little bundle of evilness barely let me scratch its head before he raked his incredibly long and sharp claws across my hand and arm. But that’s a story for another day.

For this promotion, making a modest financial gift to the Humane Society while Uber delivers kittens right to my office seemed like a no-brainer.

It turns out that other cities across the US were doing the same thing — as well as in Canada and Australia. The Humane Society/ASPCA/Local Shelter, partnered with Uber drivers to try and help raise money and increase adoptions.

West Michigan reported that their shelter raised nearly $1,000 during their four-hour event — and 83 percent of their participating kittens were adopted. In fact the demand was so high they couldn’t even make it to all the businesses!

In 2013, the first year of this cross-promotion, three cities raised $15,000 and found homes for 100 percent of the traveling kitties. So that makes it a definite win-win.

Uber, who has had some challenges in Australia when they were accused of charging $100 for ride fares during a hostage crisis in Sydney, seems to have created some positive press for a change.

Personally, I love cross-promotions like this. The Humane Society wins (with both gift revenue and an increase in adoptions), businesses win (employees who aren’t allergic to cats get some much-needed kitty cuddle time), and Uber wins with increased awareness and a chance to generate some goodwill.

Now, if only I could sneak one of these sweet little kitties past my dog (and my husband), and they’d have a win-win-win-win-win!

The ‘Continuity’ of Subscription Marketing — Wow, It’s Everywhere!

Somewhere down the line, I missed the memo that “continuity clubs” is now a yesterday term and that “subscription marketing” is preferred. While some of us may recall “12 CDs for $.01” or may even today have a favorite product-of-the-month subscription, it seems marketing has fallen in love with subscriptions.

Somewhere down the line, I missed the memo that “continuity clubs” is now a yesterday term and that “subscription marketing” is preferred. While some of us may recall “12 CDs for $.01” or may even today have a favorite product-of-the-month subscription, it seems marketing has fallen in love with subscriptions.

Such was the topic of a recent Direct Marketing Club of New York luncheon — where featured representatives from the entirety of the “subscription ecosystem” shared their perspectives: Barry Blumenfield, BMI Fulfillment; Jim Fosina, Amora Coffee & Amora Tea; Robert Manger, Sandvik Publishing; Pattie Mercier, Vantiv; Craig Mirabella, EverBright Media; George Saul, Fosina Marketing — and serving as moderator, Stephanie Miller, TopRight.

It is truly astounding so many products can be “moved” by subscriptions — nail polish (Julip), underwear (FreshPair), software (Adobe), music streaming (Spotify, Apple), men’s designer wear (Trunk Club for Men), women’s shoes (Shoe Dazzle), cosmetics and personal care (Birchbox), buyers’ clubs (Amazon Prime), and dates (match.com) — just a few of the examples offered up, in addition to coffee/tea (Amora), and educational learning (EverBright Media and Sandvik Publishing) that were represented on the panel.

While the channels and the product mix have expanded, some tried-and-true maxims from the days of “book and music clubs” have not been lost, according to the panelists. They include:

  1. It’s all about the bond with the customer — how you differentiate your product and service to justify a continuing relationship and greater lifetime value.
  2. This is a direct marketing business — pay attention to marketing ROI in every detail, even when business is great, there could be warning signs of waste and cost in specific areas of marketing spend.
  3. The entirety of the customer experience needs to be looked after — from product development , to advertising, to ordering, to service (extending from self-service to contact centers), to fulfillment.
  4. Pay particularly close attention to such areas as technology and fulfillment: surprise and delight requires such focus.

While channel expansion has brought to the marketplace new realities:

  1. Does your brand have a “thumb stopping” moment? With more and more mobile engagement, subscription marketers must make it easy to stop the consumer, make her pause, and consider the product/service offer in a mobile moment.
  2. There is a role for every channel — but each channel has its own metrics to pay attention to. While the panelists were proprietary with details, the lifetime value of a customer acquired via email, direct mail, DRTV, website or mobile most likely is distinct from each other — and may have different attrition rates. You’ll need to manage these distinctions in the marketing mix.
  3. A payment processing partner is important. In any given year, millions of credit cards expire — and this will be even more prevalent as chip-enabled cards flow into the marketplace.
  4. “Bill me” invoicing — once a mainstay in the business — has practically disappeared altogether over the last five years — as consumers in general appear to have become more casual about not paying.

To say the least, this business model has expanded far beyond books, magazines and music — and it makes me wonder: What’s next?

7 Magic Ways to Maximize Otherwise Boring Fulfillment and Collateral Pieces for Profit

Sure, fulfillment and inserts aren’t as sexy as other forms of marketing, but they can be viable ways to bring in steady, ancillary revenues. I’ve seen some online publishers bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars with a carefully thought-out insert program. For instance, taking a direct mail control piece and adding it in customer fulfillment packages as an insert. A no-brainer, right? Wrong! You’ll be surprised how many businesses are leaving money on the table by not doing this.

Sure, fulfillment and inserts aren’t as sexy as other forms of marketing, but they can be viable ways to bring in steady, ancillary revenues.

I’ve seen some online publishers bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars with a carefully thought-out insert program. For instance, taking a direct mail control piece and adding it in customer fulfillment packages as an insert. A no-brainer, right?

Wrong! You’ll be surprised how many businesses are leaving money on the table by not doing this.

Are you leveraging your fulfillment kit? Do you have a strategy for your inserts?

Here are some simple ideas, when applicable, for print and electronic fulfillment that help encourage sales (cross-sells) and help customer lifetime value:

  1. Personal Welcome or Thank You Letter (whether it’s for newsletters, products or services. It could highlight all products OR current top sellers). This is the first thing a new customer will see. Make sure it is written in a personal, comfortable tone—welcoming the customers and reiterating what a good decision they just made and thanking them for their purchases. You can also add a little verbiage about your core values and what makes you unique in the marketplace. Be sure to reiterate any product guarantees you have, as well as customer service contact information.
  2. Cross-marketing Piece. This can be a current direct mail piece edited for insert purposes. A flier highlighting a current hot product OR a natural, synergistic upsell from the product ordered. Or a “customer favorites” catalog. This encourages continued purchases now and down the road.
  3. Coupon or special discount offer. (or if electronic, coupon/promo code for online ordering). Consider offering a special “thank you” coupon or a “share this with a friend/family member” coupon for additional sales and viral/word of mouth marketing.
  4. Free Sample. (Women may remember Avon used to include tiny little lipsticks or perfume with their order. This approach can be translated in most any business—it could be a small, economy/sample size product, a bonus report, or more. Customers love, love, love freebies!
  5. Renewal at Birth. This is a popular publishing term. If you’re selling a subscription service or continuity program, you can include a renewal order form with your first issue at a special early discount rate.
  6. Packing Slip. Many people overlook this fulfillment piece, but it can be used for more than printing out what is being sent to your customer. You can print your return policy/instruction on this piece of correspondence, as well as adding several product return reasons to help evaluate customer satisfaction and product refinement, going forward.
  7. Feedback/Testimonial Form. Have a form to solicit customers’ feedback and testimonials. This information could be priceless, as far as customer service, marketing, and new product development. Make sure your testimonial collection process is compliant so you can use stellar comments in future marketing efforts.

As most direct response marketers know, the first zero to 30 days is when a customer is red hot—as legendary entrepreneur and best-selling author of, “Ready Fire Aim,” Michael Masterson, would say—in their “buying frenzy.” So don’t leave ’em cold. Give them cross-sell and upsell options.

Leverage this timeframe with your communications and turn your fulfillment pieces into another way to increase sales and relationship-build with your customers.

You may just turn on an additional revenue stream for your business!