The surveys originated as a way to gather additional subscriber information, but then evolved into a bigger data tool for the publisher. According to Cheryl Dahlquist, director of database marketing services, “We wanted to collect information that would help us cross-sell subscriptions, so we asked our customers about their interests in core categories Meredith covers.”
Over time, as the company learned how to use the survey data it collected to send more relevant offers, it also learned what other information might enhance that process. “So then we started thinking, ‘Well, when do people get into the mode of creating and decorating?’ When they have a life event, they start cooking or decorating,” Dahlquist explains. As a result, some of the surveys were changed to include questions about subscribers’ plans for their homes; for example, “Are you going to move?” or “Are you going remodel over the next several months?” The surveys help determine the next best offer for a particular group based on areas of interest, she states.
According to Ball, “Our data services analysts help each group using the database to understand what is working, or if there are new enhancements to the database.” Lessons learned from one promotion “clearly spill over into the thinking and planning for other promotions,” he says.
About 30 percent of subscribers fill out the billing survey, says Dahlquist. If a subscriber does not respond to the initial survey, she continues, most of the time she still pays the bill for the magazine and, thus, receives the survey again with her renewal notice. If the customer does not respond to the survey at all, the company still may promote to her with direct mail or e-mail cross-sell offers.
According to Ball, responding to the survey serves the customer’s best interests, as this basic information allows the company to deliver product messages in a more targeted manner and cut mail volumes. “Sharing information across our products is the best way to [build brands and enhance shareholder value],” he explains. “We don’t want to ‘spam’ people, either offline or online,” he explains.