I was reading an article titled 8 Opportunities for Subscriber Retention on the INMA blog by Amy Shioji, vice president of customer experience and insights at Gannett, and maybe the takeaway that struck me most was number 7: Collaborate with newsrooms early and often.
We don't typically think of retention as the responsibility of editorial. We talk about marketing's role in talking up the benefits, membership or customer service's role in measuring engagement and reaching out if a subscriber is not engaging. Reminders need to be sent, onboarding needs to be done.
But wrote Shioji: "A key first step is to begin having retention conversations with newsrooms and sharing digestible data on the retention and revenue opportunities at hand. Share subscriber reading habits and the topics, vehicles, or features (like notifications) contributing to better engagement as a way to spark active newsroom participation and involvement."
I still wonder how many of those conversations are taking place. I recall a marketer from Ragan Communications once telling us that they ask questions on Facebook and "get market research that way. It's great information to pass on to editorial to help them know what people are interested in." (Diane Schwartz, Ragan's CEO, will speak on a culture panel at BIMS next month.)
Here are more retention keys, from Shioji and our own files.
Establish an engagement North Star. "Look at the engagement behaviors that contribute most to subscriber retention for your business," Shioji wrote. "It may be site frequency, time spent, active days, section or sub-section, or possibly some combination thereof. You may find that newsletters, alerts/notifications, or apps are particularly effective at driving subscribers (and overall users) back to the site as important communication vehicles."
Reduce customer effort. This was Shioji's number 2. But it's probably number 1 for Joe May, Pro Farmer's director of marketing, after a recent audience outreach initiative. "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. That's a simple action that we probably all take for granted, but for our audience, 50 years old is considered a young farmer. If simple reminders and how-tos are all it takes, that's going to result in measureable retention increase scores."
Deliver more than expected. 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, National Journal 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? We wanted to make the bar higher [so members say,] 'They actually delivered more value than we expected.'"
Say thanks. This is Shioji's number 5. "...every publisher can take a moment to thank subscribers for their support and contributions. Engage and partner with newsrooms to craft thank you messages from editors or key journalists and personalities. Keep it simple and honest; don't try to push other calls to action or upsells in the message." Kristina Dorsey, a client director at FiscalNote, once told us that she sends handwritten thank-you notes for high-dollar clients—something she learned from her mother. And she buys cupcakes to send to clients.They remember that around renewal time.
Develop usage reports of your products. Magna Publications president Bill Haight, who will be speaking about onboarding and retention at BIMS, said Magna started developing usage reports based on customer requests. "It's good to know how many people are using this product." The down side could be when usage is low, but Heather Farley, COO of Access Intelligence, said that, "We'll look at those usage reports and then reach out to the super users, trying to understand the best path to take. 'How are you using it, what are you doing [based on it]? Are there other people in your organization who you think could benefit?'"