As the digital world moves towards a more regulated and controlled future without cookies and with data privacy boxes ticked, the value of a subscribed audience is more important than ever.
But how do you maximise that value, retain customers and keep them interested in your product?
Charlie Terry, Founder and MD, Ceek Marketing, sets out how brands can up their game and shore up their customer relationships for the long-term.
How many products in your house do you buy on a subscription basis? The rise in DTC (direct to consumer) businesses means there’s very little you can’t get delivered to your door on a rolling contract, from milk, flowers and groceries to razors, socks and loo roll.
While for those brands your subscription is invaluable – a loyal customer without the need for a recurring purchase decision – this should not be the only goal for brands looking to drive loyalty.
A subscribed audience can be anything from someone who has signed up to a newsletter, followed you on social media, subscribed to your YouTube channel or, yes, committed to purchasing your product on a regular basis.
While we should acknowledge there is a difference between people who have simply subscribed with an email address and those who have paid for a subscription, the common factor here is that each individual has made a conscious decision to have your brand in their life one way or another. Which in turn means they’re more likely to buy your products, visit your website and consume your content.
How can you create – and effectively use – a subscribed audience?
The key is to prove your value, and ensure you are showcasing that effectively. If you’re operating a paywall, for example, where is your content block?
If it’s too high up on a page the reader can’t work out if the content is relevant or valuable to them.
Equally, if your content is paid-for only, ensure you are creating shareable assets for your subscribers to post on their social feeds.
This way you can turn your subscribers into advocates, helping promote your business offering to their network for free.
This shareable content should be inspirational, aspirational or educational – anything someone would be moved to share.
Done well, these people become marketing channels on your behalf. They have proactively chosen to consume your offering and, thanks to the power of word of mouth, are better placed than anyone else to promote it.
Ask them for reviews, encourage them to share, and reward them when they do.
How do you retain your subscribers?
Never take them for granted, either in the quality of the content you offer them, nor the way you use their details.
A gated audience is your top level of permission marketing, but it’s critical you ensure they are receiving a regular supply of bonus material – unique content, offers or sneak previews – that’s not available to non-subscribers.
Don’t be shy about advertising that either – shout about the fact it’s subscriber-only stuff. Everyone likes to feel they’re getting value for money, and it will remind them every time that you are adding that all important value to their lives.
Don’t spam them, though. Subscribers are your gold-standard audience and should be treated as such. Never take advantage of this database by sending them anything less than impactful, value-add communications.
It goes without saying that a subscribed audience is typically interested in what you have to say, but when brands take things even further by asking this audience what content they want to see, that is when magic can happen.
However, brands should also not be naive to the notion that they will naturally shed subscribers. This could be because they have grown out of the content – for example, a new parent seeking information and advice around having a newborn, will not be part of that community forever – or their tastes and interests have changed.
But by never getting complacent and constantly working to add subscribers, you will future proof your business.
Consider thinking about the lifecycle of your audience and either grow with them, create a new channel or topic they can subscribe to as they mature, or accept your audience may not be with you forever and focus on renewing the community.
How do you create a balance between existing and new subscribers?
This will always be a juggling act: you have to really look at the difference in your messaging that is being shown to subscribed and non-subscribed audiences. But if everything is gated it’s harder to acquire new followers.
You need to show enough to entice people to join that community, while also ensuring the subscribers – especially those paying for your service – are very clear they’re getting value for money.
YouTube is a great example of a format that offers the perfect blend of both: you can attract new viewers to your channel and those people can then subscribe and get notifications going forward.
Effectively you’re putting content out to a non-gated audience on a subscription platform.
Once the audience is large enough and heavily engaged, you may then be able to invite subscribers to participate in a new platform, mailing list or subscription within your ecosystem.
There are multiple benefits to doing so, namely the ability for brands to be present on multiple platforms, thus spreading the choice of participation for new audience members.
Achieving a subscription – one that involves an email address only or full on bank details – is only the first step.
What you do with that gesture of loyalty will dictate how long that person subscribes, and how hard their commitment can work for you.
Putting a strategy in place for these audiences – including different plans for different levels of subscriber – will not only drive your sales in the short-term but will shore up your business in the long-term as you carry this engaged, committed audience with you.