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?

Direct Mail That Worked on Me

I admit that I am very interested in direct mail. So I like to look to my mail box both at work and at home to see what others are mailing. As a seasoned direct mailer, I am critical of what I receive. Every year there seem to be fewer and fewer pieces that really stand out to me

I admit that I am very interested in direct mail. So I like to look to my mail box both at work and at home to see what others are mailing. As a seasoned direct mailer, I am critical of what I receive. Every year there seem to be fewer and fewer pieces that really stand out to me. Since that is the case, I thought it would be a good idea to share a couple of examples of direct mail I received that I really liked. You can do this too, what is in your mail box, what works on you? Keep samples at your office of good direct mail so that you can emulate what they are doing.

The first example is actually pretty old. I received it in the early 2000’s. However, I have kept part of it all these years because it was a great idea.

Mail Piece No. 1:

  • 6 x 9 envelope.
  • In the envelope was a letter and a strange shaped object.

It was made of card stock paper, but I was not sure what it was. I, of course, did not read the letter first—I wanted to know what that thing was. As soon as I lifted it out of the envelope, it popped out of my hand and landed on the desk in the form of a box. It startled me and I jumped! (Probably not a good idea to send to seniors) Each of the four sides of the box had different messaging in bold. On top it read “think outside the box,” another panel read “fulfillment is more than packaging,” the third “easy orders mean easy money” and finally, the last panel said “your increased success is one phone call away.”

I did read the letter, because by then I was curious about what they were selling! It was fulfillment software with inventory and store front controls. I did end up buying the software, and is has worked great.

This pop-up type of mailing can be very versatile. The best part about it is that it is unexpected and breeds curiosity. They can be created in many different shapes, so get creative and pop up your ROI. Now for the second mail piece that caught my eye.

Mail Piece No. 2:

  • 6 x 10 mailer with a three panel roll fold, fugitive glued closed.

The first thing I noticed was that it was not tabbed. (I prefer the look of fugitive glue.) As I flipped it over, I noticed that it was personalized. They included my name in the tagline. When I opened the mailer, I realized it was fully personalized. My name was again on the inside note. The best part was it had coupons for things that I buy. They knew what I was interested in, and only offered me coupons for those items.

Did I use them? Of course I did! The true advantage to personalization is that the mailer appeals directly to the needs or wants of the recipient. This becomes a valuable piece of mail to them.

If there are only two things you take away from reading today I hope that they are:

  1. Direct mail needs to stand out.
  2. Direct mail needs to be relevant to the recipient.

If you create direct mail campaigns that address these two concepts, your ROI will show it. Direct mail can also be a great way to introduce your organization to new prospects who are not familiar with you. Direct mail is not viewed as intrusive and can be held onto for a period of time without the issue of being forgotten. It does still require you to vet your lists to mail to only prospects who are interested in what you are offering. When purchasing a list of prospects, this can be done with demographics, psychographics and so much more.

Should USPS Retrofit Facilities for E-commerce Fulfillment?

Three trends make me wonder if there’s money to be found in U.S. Postal Service real estate. First, the Postal Service continues to bleed, despite higher revenue—no thanks to Congress for its inability to pass meaningful, fixable reforms. Second, network consolidation continues apace—with 141 facilities consolidated to date in the Postal Service’s plan for Network Rationalization—and another 82 slated for 2015

Three trends make me wonder if there’s money to be found in U.S. Postal Service real estate.

First, the Postal Service continues to bleed, despite higher revenue—no thanks to Congress for its inability to pass meaningful, fixable reforms.

Second, network consolidation continues apace—with 141 facilities consolidated to date in the Postal Service’s plan for Network Rationalization—and another 82 slated for 2015

Third, commercial real estate is booming—in the market for e-commerce warehouses—as online shopping now accounts for 6.2 percent of U.S. total sales. Industrial space is growing at an annual rate of 14.5 million square meters per year, while retail is rising at just 6 million square meters.

Is there an opportunity for some matchmaking here? The Postal Service does have a lot of commercial property for sale—43 buildings as of today’s writing—but what if some property could be reconfigured for e-commerce fulfillment? As the USPS expands its parcels business, it may make sense to reassess USPS assets—particularly as facilities are made vacant—and to determine some opportunities for expanding its parcel business, assessing suitability for e-commerce—including leasing to private firms—and taking advantage of USPS’s huge inventory and infrastructure advantages—particularly in and near population centers.

Same-day fulfillment is really a sparkler being tested and implemented in several cities. Tomorrow, it’s bound to be a fulfillment staple.

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!