A firm staple in many a Direct Marketers diet, continuity programs present great opportunities to leverage sustainable ROI, and it seems fairly obvious – doesn’t it? Having a portfolio of products (or services) that are continuity based carries great benefits for business and consumer alike – but that initial, often significant investment is completely reliant on the lifetime value of those customers and their loyalty to the product they ‘signed-up’ for to be successful. In essence that could be anything from the classic monthly subscription to magazines & books through vintage wines, chocolate and training courses.
In recent times, trends have not been great with the departure of several established continuity based companies hitting the wall, having lost their edge in this passive revenue sphere. The factors that such perpetuity programs were forecast upon are far more volatile, helping to erode the ROI along the continuity journey. Vital LTV falls sharply as customers (across B2B & B2C) tighten belts and withdraw from subscriptions or continuity programs too early to realise the revenues needed to tick the ‘success’ box.
Of course – that’s exactly the offer we marketers often promote at the outset – there is no commitment – free to cancel at any time. The difference is now more customers take us up on the offer – flexing their rights and greater confidence to change their minds, buy something else, respond to a new offer etc.
Analysis is key to proactive rather than passive marketing
Analysing conversion and cancellation rates over time – any business can see what’s happening after the event, but preventing it is another project entirely. Its relative of course, not every business and product needs an equal % of initial customers to get past month x before being a valuable asset. The great news is that business can intervene at any stage with a little creative thinking about improving customer loyalty, and without breaking the bank.
Having a high degree of segmentation and promotional material across multiple channels & offers is expensive and can be an operations nightmare, particularly if you are working with a legacy system. Crucially, work with what tools you can access and optimise them quickly – get the timing and message right and it will procure the best results possible for you.
Multi-channel opportunities can really come into play here, allowing flexible, integrated marketing strategies to work in harmony with tactical opportunities offering highly relevant communication at the right time via the right channel. Longstanding or fixed strategies can become stale, justifiably focused on the critical initial conversion rates whether from acquisition or retention campaigns. The golden rule of quality data (not just the transactional) apply but crucially, need to extend well beyond the early order stages.
All customers are not equal …
The behaviour of customers needs to be known before it can be understood and responded to appropriately. This is not easy – we all know transactional data is not the same as behaviour – it’s just not multi-dimensional enough in an age where customers can behave erratically and spontaneously across all the channels available to them. I might order online – and complain by phone, followed by a letter….that I post on Facebook … with my angry face on Pinterest! Furthermore, as a continuity customer, I may not interact with the organisation at all along the way, until I decide to stop buying.
Of course – if you’re starting out with a continuity portfolio – getting the right infrastructure at the start will reap rewards later on. Use a specialist multi-channel team that work together to think of EVERYTHING – you don’t need to implement everything straight away but at least have it on the watch list, creating an environment that can proactively adapt quickly to changes and demands as they arise.
Enhance every customer touchpoint as a key step to engage more, add value and gather the data needed to make the decisions that work – obviously not a process reserved for continuity programs alone, but generally better practiced for new orders or repeat business. Creating additional or tactical touchpoints is now easier than ever with online channels providing cost-effective platforms to increase contact and test ideas without significant costs when there is not necessarily a direct sale at the end of it. Equally, using more traditional methods like telemarketing and telephony in general, via non-sales routes can have a significant role to play in enhancing the relationship.
Sustainable continuity marketing has to embrace CRM principles and a large dose of common sense, ensuring we extend the life of customers and their loyalty levels as far as possible – whilst also realising it could be a shorter journey for the vast majority. In the good old days, marketers relied heavily on customer apathy to generate this pot of passive income – getting them to and beyond break-even into profit was more about hoping they won’t back out, that they valued the offering enough to stay with an organisation.
Customers are wiser and better-informed with more choice than ever before, so marketers must also raise their game and think creatively to ensure continuity programs stay alive and kicking.
By Googie Oktem, August 2012
With 25 years expertise in the Direct Marketing industry including agency and clientside roles, Googie has a reputation for getting the job done! She has been consulting since 2001, working with clients to implement and deliver successful ROI-driven projects, both online and offline. Her specialist knowledge of using telemarketing resources and call centres produces great results for clients and suppliers, exceeding client KPIs and reducing costs on numerous end-to-end telemarketing projects.
© Googie Oktem and Tuffill Verner Associates, August 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Googie Oktem and Tuffill Verner Associates with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.