02/25/2016

Subscriber Relationships

In late January, I received a very kind email on my personal account from Sean. Sean is my Relationship Marketing Associate at the New York Philharmonic. How pleased I was to discover that Sean and I had a relationship! Actually, very pleased. Mainly because his email went on to lay out the details of their very simple subscription renewal process.

I would receive a copy of their brochure and renewal paperwork by the first week in February. If I didn’t receive it by February 19, I was to please contact them by email or at the provided phone number (how wonderful not to have to scrub their website for the correct phone number). Sean reiterated some of the perks of early renewal: a waiver of the subscription processing fee and a free pair of tickets to go with my subscription.   I was charmed and pleased by the service and information provided – you can understand why I wanted to be in a relationship with Sean.

We hear a lot about the death of the subscription model – and marketing directors across the country consistently bemoan changing demographics, have nightmares of millennials purchasing heavily discounted tickets 2 minutes before performances, and try to devise replacements for the tried-and-true model.

But at the end of the day, here are a few lessons that I was reminded of by this simple email:

There is an audience for subscriptions. I – and others like me – like the commitment that a subscription provides. It reminds us that there are performances we want to see and a subscription ensures that we will block time out of our schedules in advance. I will still buy last-minute, discounted single tickets to the Philharmonic, but I’m always assured of my three scheduled subscription evenings.

People respond to personal customer service. Sean exists (or at least I hope he does). He is not an e-bot or an automated phone line requiring that I enter a code. He and his colleagues sent a very clear and concise email providing the information in a personal way that encouraged me to engage with them, ask questions, and reach out for assistance.

There is value in reaching the most loyal audiences early. That email was sent in late January 2016. I still have two additional subscription tickets to use in this current season, but they reached out to me early, before I begin to make other plans or got distracted. Symphonies plan their seasons early – far earlier than most theaters, but theaters can (and should) get out early with their renewal campaigns. It can be done even before the season is announced; a “blind” renewal campaign hits the most loyal audience members, can convert them at a minimal cost, and can be the most successful component of a seasonal sales campaign. I have used it at various times in my career to some success – but it is not a revolutionary idea. Trust in the loyalty of your subscribers.

Subscribers cost the least to convert. The Philharmonic used the cheapest and most resource-efficient tool in a marketers’ kit – an email. They did send me a brochure, but they needn’t have done so. I would have renewed my subscription based solely on the email – and the added perks of the free tickets and the waived processing fee.

Sean’s email was unprecedented for me and pleasantly surprised me. It engaged me far earlier in the subscription process than I often transact. It was the simplest step, but as we all know when we are in relationships, sometimes the simplest gestures matter the most.