The Beauty of Continuity Marketing

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Automatic shipments and the shameful “dirty load-up”

An ideal direct marketing business model is one where the advertiser receives an order and has permission to ship products on a continuing basis automatically and automatically charge a credit card each time.

For example, I recently had a client whose catalog business is dietary supplements and vitamins. The main object was to sell pills, capsules and beauty products.

The next—and very important—step was to persuade buyers to sign up for an automatic shipment service.

Benefit to the customer: If you’ve bought a month’s supply of pills and they are starting to work, it’s foolish to stop taking them. You are back to square one. Under the automatic shipment plan, you never have to remember to reorder and you never run out.

Benefit to the pill peddler: continual shipments with an automatic charge to the customer’s credit card mean automatic sales and automatic profits.

My client told me that 20 percent of his buyers were on the automatic shipment plan and these were the most profitable customers in his database.

To my way of thinking, one primary object of the business would be to raise the percentage of auto-ship takers from 20 percent to 40 percent and ultimately to 80 percent.

This is efficient continuity marketing.

I was fascinated to come across two stories in one week describing new businesses based on the continuity business model:

• TRUNK CLUB: Men’s Outfitters
Consult with a stylist, enter your sizes and choose the brand name casual wear you want (tee shirts, shirts, jackets, slacks, shoes, etc.). Each month subscribers receive a handsome box that looks like a trunk containing “10 or so” brand new items to try on at home. Return any items you do not wish to keep. Pay only for what you want. Shipping is free both ways. A great time-saver for busy men, who prefer not to shop at the mall or a retail store. One promise: guys that use TRUNK CLUB will have more and better sex.
• WHITTLEBEE: Kid’s Clothing Club
“Monthly subscription buying for kids can be hassle-free fun” was the AP story that caught my eye. From the Wittlebee website:

Denny Hatch is the author of six books on marketing and four novels, and is a direct marketing writer, designer and consultant. His latest book is “Write Everything Right!” Visit him at

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  • Barry Dennis

    The problem with continuity is…continuity. Too msny marketers take the loyalty-and continuity-of customers with "subscriptions" for granted. More than propects, more than new customers (who do need buying reinforcement), customers on auto-ship programs need regular nurtuting, reinforcement, and the surety of knowing that they are not being overcharged BECAUSE of their loyalty. Remember the ALLY bank commercials that offered "It’s not fair to give more benefits to new customers and take for granted the loyalty of existing customers." It may be profitable, but not necessarily in the businesses best interest.