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Direct Response Marketing for Subscription-Based Businesses

Posted by Katie Scheetz on 2/21/17 8:00 AM

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The subscription-based, “need it now” business model is a concept direct response marketers know all too well. It’d be a shame for agencies not to align their strategies with these desired consumer needs to drive both online and offline sales for this category of clients.

In a few short years, television subscription services like Netflix have taken the place of video rental. Curated boxes have been created for everything from beauty products to pet snacks to those who have a deep-rooted love for bacon. And each business success of this specialized model has been reflected in its sales growth. Blue Apron and other food delivery services are banking on the joys of convenience.

As we hit the ground running in 2017, subscription-based businesses continue to soar. Last year, Forbes wrote about “The Subscription Economy,” a shift in consumerism, which allows people to “pay as they go” or pay a monthly subscription fee. This comes sans the attached strings of a long-term contract or other hidden cost variables that might deflect interest in signing up, which is the sole objective.

The subscription-based market shift is a response to the increased consumer demand from people who want to receive products quickly without long-term commitments or difficult sign-up processes. Because there’s no “forced” implementation of continuing month after month, it makes the ask easier. Sign up is a cinch. And, because of this, businesses can profit more easily. It’s convenience without compromise.

When it comes to marketing your subscription-based business: pitch the ask, get the conversion.

Make the Message Count

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There’s no denying that increasing sales for subscription-based businesses are done best through direct response advertising. By using an offline-to-online model, you can create your campaigns for digital, then television; or vice-versa.

Standard branding ads aren’t typically as successful because people want easy and affordable ways to try out the service. And they want to know what they’re getting before signing up. You can tell them about the convenience, value, and quality, but to “subscribe” to this idea, they’ll still want to see for themselves what they’re signing up for. And if they like what they see, the required action must be clear and painless.

This means carefully crafting the messaging for your target audience. Find out what they care most about. For example, Plated is a food delivery service that delivers fresh produce, meat, and other packaged ingredients for you to create healthful meals on a weekly basis. It’d be a safe bet to say their target audience is primarily looking for convenience.

Secondary factors are likely scheduling flexibility and product variety. Their marketing messaging delivers the value: select the day when your box is delivered (flexibility), swap meals to create your own menu for the week (variety), and skip anytime you’ll be out of town or don’t need the delivery (convenience). Better yet, get a box for free (no strings attached).

By concentrating on the best features right away, it sets up the ask in a seamless way. And there’s usually no “try-er’s remorse.” After all, Plated isn’t asking anyone to buy; they just want people to try.

Perfect the Sign-Up Process

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Now that you’ve captured the attention of your audience with messaging, don’t make it difficult for them to convert. One of the perks of a subscription-based business is the ability to customize available choices. The clothing subscription company, StitchFix, sets up their customers with their own virtual stylist every month.

The signup requires the user to fill out information about their measurements, style, favorite colors, etc. to better customize the experience and to provide options that work well for each customer’s body frame and recorded preference. It’s a value to customers because it gives them individualized choices.

However, since there are multiple steps in this signup, each question must be relevant. Since people’s patience dwindles quickly, get them set up and on their way as fast as possible without compromising results. One of the biggest commodities considered for any direct response marketing campaign is time. If you waste it, it’s not likely you’ll get the sale.

Crowdsource Changes

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Customer complaints may seem like the last place to search for marketing gold, but in today’s digital world, if used wisely, it can help your campaigns excel. Review all feedback and find any common themes of what people like or don’t like.

If customers love your product’s packaging, for example, don’t suddenly switch to something completely different. Alternatively, if there are constant complaints about a decline in product quality, pinpoint the problem, fix it, and then, let people know there’s a solution in place. By taking action to demonstrate you’re listening to feedback, it will make your customers more likely to refer your business to others and continue their loyalty to your brand.

Riding the Wave of Change

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When you’re approaching how to market subscription-based businesses, you’re dealing with direct response advertising at its best. The focus is on capturing the signup, because once someone is happy with your product, it’s harder for them to want to discontinue service.

As your subscription-based business continues to grow and more data becomes available, market research may show a greater emphasis on less visible parts of your brand, which you’ll eventually want to explore. But in the beginning, capitalize on the growing number of people who are more willing to try because there’s no commitment to stay.

Topics: Direct Response Marketing, subscription based business

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