Were Publishers the First DTC Brands? How 2 Areas of Marketing Align

DTC brands are hot entities. Practically any consumer product can be translated to a paid subscription business model. As a direct result, circulation and subscription marketing professionals have become very attractive new hires to the growing bevy of direct-to-consumer brands.

DTC brands are hot entities. Practically any consumer product can be translated to a paid subscription business model.

As a direct result, circulation and subscription marketing professionals — a mainstay of the direct marketing discipline for decades — have become very attractive new hires to the growing bevy of direct-to-consumer brands. In reverse, too — publishers are enriching their content offerings for their customers in service to them, acting as DTC brands, themselves.

That was a main thrust at a recent joint meeting of the Direct Marketing Club of New York and The Media and Content Marketing Association. The joint meeting, titled “What DTC Brands and Publishers Can Learn from Each Other in Today’s Subscription Economy,” allowed publishers to exchange ideas with DTC brand reps and others.

DTC brands meeting
Source: DMCNY, Twitter @dmcny | Direct-to-Consumer Brands, Publishers and their Admirers exchange perspectives around customer value and experiences.

“Magazines are the original DTC,” said Mike Schanbacher, director of growth marketing at Quip, a subscription business for toothbrushes and dental care,. He noted that traditional circulation metrics, such as lifetime value and churn rates, very much factor in the business and marketing plans of a subscription commerce company.

Alec Casey, CMO of Trusted Media Brands Inc. (TMBI, which manages 13 brands, among them Reader’s Digest), described how his business continually explores expansion of product and content — to books, book series, music and video — and potentially podcasts and subscriber boxes.

“We are always DTC,” he said, meaning that customers’ interests drive every brand extension in the company.

Data can reveal interesting patterns, he noted. Visitors to Family Handyman digital content is 50% men, 50% women, for example, while print content is dominated by men.

DTC Is High-Speed

One hallmark of the newest DTC brands is velocity.

“When bananas and avocados are sitting in the warehouse beneath you, there’s urgency,” said Tammy Barentson, CMO of Fresh Direct, who previously had had a lengthy career in publishing with Time, Meredith, Hearst, and Conde Nast. Innovations are sought for and tested constantly … and rapidly: “There’s a mindset here … ‘That bombed. What did we learn?’’ ” she said, which is a marked change from her previous publishing posts, where testing was more considered.

Barentson also noted that the Fresh Direct executive team meets every morning to listen in collectively on each department’s dashboard of metrics — and that can inspire action.

“There’s a lot I can learn from operations and customer service data,” she said. “For example, how many deliveries are made per hour might tell me geographies where I might focus more customer acquisition.” Her own team pores through subscription data — who orders groceries one, two or three times a week, or just for special events — “how do we bring them up the food chain?” she quipped.

One of the first publishers to capitalize on digital was Forbes and Forbes.com, said Nina LaFrance, who is Forbes’ lead for consumer marketing and business development. Today, the corporation’s digital sites generate 80 million unique visits per month — but it’s the drill-down on the data that is perhaps the most exciting, enabling Forbes to help advertisers connect with customers across print, digital, programmatic display, brand voice, social channels, live events, apps, webinars, and more. Forbes has its own in-house studio to help brands develop content for marketing across the portfolio.

“We adapt and embrace,” LaFrance said, responding to the all the challenges and opportunities presented to publishers and DTC brands alike — issues, such as coping with “walled gardens,” tech giants, privacy laws, data restrictions and regulations, and the Cookie Apocalypse.

Communities Are Sticky

A common theme expressed by the panel was the desire to create a sense of “membership” and “community” — going beyond the transaction to create “stickiness.” That’s where content development matters. “

At Quib, we try and give a membership feel,” Schanbacher said. “Data is the goal,” noting the better consumer understanding and insights that come from content engagement, data collection, and analysis.

However, not every piece of content translates equally to profit, LaFrance reports.

“Visitors to our home page, or who respond to direct mail, may be more profitable to us than those who link to an article from a social post,” she says — and the ability to measure that customer value across channels is a success, in its own right.

Which is probably the most valuable insight of all. These professionals — DTC brands and publishers — revere how data serves, bolsters, and builds the customer relationship, and they have all pursued a shared culture for measurement, insight, and application to build the brands, build the business, and connect to consumer experience. As subscription commerce grows — it has doubled in the past five years — we know how invaluable such data reverence can be.

5 Ideas for Subscription Box Direct Mail

It’s been a while since I’ve been a member of a continuity club or program. Maybe it was coffee, or wine, I’m not sure.
But seeing so much mail from subscription box services has got me thinking. Here’s my take on what works across this growing retail niche.

It’s been a while since I’ve been a member of a continuity club or program. Maybe last time, it was coffee, or wine, I’m not sure.

But seeing so much mail from subscription box services has got me thinking about joining one of the many startups from the last few years.  Food and clothing are pretty popular. Then there’s shoes, cosmetics, pet stuff, gamer items … it just goes on and on.

They’re convenient. You can save time and aggravation by getting your shopping done without setting foot in a brick-and-mortar store, or wandering among the thousands of choices offered by many retailers online.

Based on what I’ve collected for Who’s Mailing What!, here’s my take on what works across this growing retail niche.

1. Show What’s In The Box
trunkclubotherbox_01An element common to these direct mail pieces is the box that the delivery arrives in. Simplicity sells, like on this postcard from Trunk Club, another curated fashion service. It helps the shopper make the association between shopping and shipping.

2. Demonstrate How It Works
letoteprocess_01Maybe the most crucial task is to convince the prospect that the process is easy to understand and follow.

Le Tote, a women’s fashion rental service, does more. An entire panel of its self-mailer lays out the steps every member takes. Each one is described in simple terms, and accompanied by an illustration.

3. Provide Some Content
hello-fresh-recipe_01Hello Fresh ships ingredients for meals to its subscribers, as well as recipes. In a recent promotion, it included one in the envelope. Printed on an 8-1/2”x11” sheet of glossy card stock paper, it’s intended to help convince the prospect of the service’s value.

4. Be A Curator
stitchfix2fer_01A clothing shopping service, Stitch Fix, highlights the work performed for its clients by its stylists. Each employee profiles her customer. Their expertise builds credibility in the eyes of the prospect. And in turn, each customer provides a testimonial for the brand’s personalized service.

5. Keep Yourself Top-of-Mind
freshdirectmagnet_01Fresh Direct, an online grocery service, mailed a 5-1/2”x10-1/2” vertically-oriented postcard. “Fill your fridge in just a few clicks!” says the front. And, it has a checklist of the types of foods it carries. A magnet’s attached to the address side. Following the advice here provides a solution for when the fridge or cupboard starts to run bare.

At the end of the day, arriving home to see a package waiting on the doorstep  kind of feels like getting a present. And, depending on the company, it may include a few surprises as well.

7 Direct Mail Best Practices for Food Delivery

It’s been a long hot summer, mercifully drawing to a close. It’s been too hot to make dinner. The thing is, there are only so many times you can go out to eat, or get pizza, or order Chinese. So, the other day, I gathered up some mail I get at the office from food and meal delivery startups. I thought we could try something new.

It’s been a long hot summer, mercifully drawing to a close.

More than a few times, even with our AC on blast, it’s been too hot to make dinner. The thing is, there are only so many times you can go out to eat, or get pizza, or order Chinese.

So, the other day, I gathered up some mail I get at the office from food and meal delivery startups. There’s quite a lot of it, and I thought we could try something new.

But as often happens, I got a good look at how these marketers are using simple direct mail.

1. Reach Out to New Movers

FoodFreshD_01It’s been said a million times, but it bears repeating: New movers are people who represent one of the most potentially valuable segments in life event marketing. They’re ideal prospects for a variety of goods and services as they settle into their new home and neighborhood.

Here, Fresh Direct, a grocery delivery service, smartly welcomes a new mover with a $50 discount. The offer code appears on the back in a coupon.

2. Explain the Process

FoodGraze_01This mailer from Graze, a monthly snack subscription service, shows some of the products it offers. It also numbers and illustrates the steps for a prospect to follow, beginning with an invitation code.

3. Offer an App

FoodDelivery_01Delivery.com is an online marketplace of thousands of restaurants, grocers, among other types of businesses. This mail piece pushes the free app because it makes it easier to order and earn points. To get the customer started, it dangles a 30 percent discount.