Email Marketing Tips for Subscription Business Models
Innovative subscription programs are emerging across a variety of business verticals, and for good reason. Done right, subscriptions are a win-win opportunity for merchants and their customers — businesses turn a one-time purchase into a recurring revenue stream and subscribers get a little something extra that they value in return for their commitment.
If subscriptions are a component of your business strategy or if you're thinking of trying them, you can increase the value of your program by designing email marketing campaigns that align with the unique characteristics of your subscription model. Here are some email marketing tips for three types of subscription programs:
1. Subscribe to Get Special Pricing
- Subscription program: This is the traditional time-based subscription model, long used by publishers of print magazines and newspapers. Variations include "_________ of the month" clubs, and offerings may be curated by someone known for their expertise.
- Subscriber value: Consumers often join these programs to receive cost savings. If the products are curated, subscribers value the exposure to new products. They also enjoy the element of surprise that comes with each delivery.
- Email tips: Launch a multitouch pre- and post-product delivery email campaign. For example, email wine club subscribers information about grape-growing regions to build their anticipation for the upcoming shipment. Post-product delivery, send an email that drives subscribers to a social media site, where they can share what food they enjoyed with the wine. Since this group may be price conscious, test sending them special pricing offers on items related to wine, such as wine glasses and cheese pairings.
2. Subscribe to Get Automatic Delivery
- Subscription program: These subscription programs allow the customer to set up recurring delivery of things used on a regular basis. They can support a wide gamut of offerings, including physical or digital products, as well as access to services.
- Subscriber value: Whether it's delivering vegan chili via postal mail each Thursday or buying 3G data directly from a mobile device, convenience counts.
- Email tips: Since these programs may rely on a combination of customer-driven time- and usage-based triggers, email campaigns should make it simple for subscribers to make incremental purchases and to increase their usage. The emails sent must be mobile friendly.
3. Subscribe to Get Special Features
- Subscription program: This model is often associated with "freemium" programs, where a customer converted from a free version of a product to a paid subscription.
- Subscriber value: They want access to special features only available to subscribers.
- Email tips: Keep in mind that these subscribers will consider reverting back to the free version of your offering. Your email program should do the following: reinforce the value of the additional features subscribers receive; drive adoption of value-adds to increase stickiness; and reinforce the exclusivity that comes with the subscription. Consider sending these subscribers special "subscriber only" freebies or other offers they would find valuable.
If You've Got It, Flaunt It
Successful subscription programs depend on retaining subscribers for as long as possible. Unfortunately, some businesses mistakenly think they should keep quiet post-conversion, fearing that communication will remind subscribers to cancel. Any short-term gains achieved from this approach come at the expense of long-term brand equity. Instead, tailor email programs around the value of your offering. Use email to highlight that value to customers and to increase their brand loyalty.
Susan Tull is the vice president of marketing for BlueHornet Networks.
Related story: A Resolution to Unsubscribe?