How Pro Farmer Did Something 'Simple' to Boost Retention

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When Pro Farmer asked their audience if they would recommend the company to others, the 0-10 answer included an open text opportunity so Pro Farmer could get more information—specifically what might be most valuable and what might be lacking.
 
"Our survey resulted in multiple concerns from text responses about user log-ins and passwords to the websites," said Pro Farmer marketing director Joe May, in a webinar earlier this year that will also be given in a live session at our Business Information & Media Summit (BIMS) Nov. 11-13 in Hollywood, Fla.
 
"So what we did was proactively remind our users the basics—how to reset their password; how to set their browser to remember their credentials so they don't have to enter it every single time," May said. "That's a simple action that we probably all take for granted, but for our audience... [let's just say that] 50 years old is considered a young farmer. Age range can go from a farmer in their 20s to a farmer in their 80s. If simple reminders and how-tos are all it takes to get [them to recommend us more], that's going to result in measurable retention increase scores."
 
They also simplified the messaging as much as possible, including screen shots and a step-by-step process of how to reset the password. They also reminded members of the benefits they receive by using the website so they know it's worthwhile to log in.
 
"Lastly, we re-survey our audience 3-4 times a year just to make sure our responses are acceptable," May said. "It also gives us the opportunities to identify any new issues that crop up that we can address. The real value is monitoring results over time. We can't just hope for better results. Between surveys one and two you have to address concerns. We'll track it down to the individual level—monitor our text analytics."
 
The point of getting that feedback was not a celebration of unity but to be able to act on it before the renewal process kicked in.
 
"Our members will receive pretty steep discounts and one-offs on events," May said. "But they get more of an experience with us. They're invited to call up one of our editors or analysts at any time if they have a question. If you're advised to sell 10% of your corn crop, and one of our members had a question about what kind of thinking went into that recommendation, they're advised to call us up and we'll put them, on the phone with one of our analysts to explain in more detail."
 
Similarly, National Journal has dedicated advisors who have a whole process of staying in touch with members, starting with a welcome call. "There are significant touch points that we know are viable," Kevin Turpin, the Atlantic Media division's president told us at SIPA 2019 in June. "Like asking them what presentations they have coming up and then we put that on the calendar. We then reach out to them 3 or 4 weeks before and say, 'we know you have a presentation coming up—how can we help?"
 
Having members rather than subscribers does commit to a little more personal attention. "We identified our strongly felt challenges," Turpin said. "Now we try to offer surplus value. We wanted to make the bar higher [so members say,] 'They actually delivered more value that we expected.' We kept the listening arm of our organization open. Your customers have to feel like, 'I pay a premium price point [but] they're always there for me, they solve my problems, they ask to help.'"
 
It is still too early to tell exactly the effect that Pro Farmer's outreach has had on retention, but May is optimistic given their increased interaction with its members. We should be able to find out more at BIMS.

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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…