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Use your marketing voice

March 20, 2019

voiceVoice is one of the most significant trends we marketers have had to face in a while. Remember when the proliferation of mobile devices changed the way we designed and built websites? Voice is going cause the same upheaval and it’s going to come even faster and be more wide-sweeping than mobile ever was.

If the last decade was our mobile marketing revolution, then the upcoming decade is the era of voice.

The mobile revolution made it possible for brands to reach their audiences wherever they were, gather all kinds of data and then use that data to create near or real-time interactive experiences that felt personalized and intuitive.

That’s nothing compared to what voice is going to do to our daily lives. We talk about the proliferation of smart speakers like Amazon Echo, Google Hoe, and Apple’s HomePod but we forget we’ve been carrying a voice assistant in our pocket for years.

Almost 80 percent of Americans own a smartphone, where virtual assistants are included by default. Combine that with the fact that over 55% of American homes have a smart speaker and it’s easy to see how voice is going to influence marketing channels and choices.

Voice is expected to drive half of all searches on mobile, and it’s already having a huge impact on retail. Research done by NPD Group, Inc., found that online spending by consumers rose overall after the purchase of an Echo in every category except for travel. We haven’t seen the results of the relatively new partnership between Google and Walmart that will allow customers to “voice shop” via Google Assistant but you know it isn’t going to be minuscule.

We aren’t and won’t be limited to smart speakers or our phones. Soon we’ll all be chatting with our fridges, washers and dryers, our cars, and even our toilets.

Voice assistants of all shapes and sizes are going to have us thinking differently as marketers. Here are some of the more significant ways we’re going to need to re-think marketing:

The featured snippet: When we type our search query, the search engines serve up a list, and we choose the specific link we want to click on. But with voice search, it’s what is called a direct answer. The device answers your voice search with a voice response of one answer. If you’re asking Google, it’s going to serve up the featured snippet. The growth of voice search means that being on page one is no longer the holy grail that it was. The new goal is to be the featured snippet.

A whole new channel – Alexa skills and flash briefings: Brands are creating Alexa skills (because right now the Echo is the dominant leader) to interact with their consumers. Take a look at Purina’s Ask Purina Alexa skill that lets dog owners ask Alexa questions about their pets. This sets Purina up to be the authority in a very profitable and popular space on a broad spectrum of dog-related information. Not only are they helpful but the interaction builds trust and mindshare.

The biggest one? Writing for conversational search as opposed to keyword search. It shifts our focus to natural language and the intended meaning behind the searcher’s specific query. When we’re speaking out loud, we tend to use more words and longer sentences than we do when we type a query. Marketers need to think about how someone would ask the question that should serve up your answer. Those full sentences need to be added to your keyword list.

This is a fast-moving trend so find some sources to keep you informed. While you’re doing that, you should start experimenting with a refreshed search strategy, some Alexa skills and trying to become a featured snippet.

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Today’s version of word of mouth marketing

March 13, 2019

word of mouthPreviously, we talked about influencer marketing, which is a combination of old-school PR and word of mouth, with a technology twist. Today, anyone can create a position of authority, build a community around them and as a result, be an influencer.

There are the influencers we’ve always known, like athletes and actors, but more interesting and more potentially valuable to the average brand are the micro-influencers. These subject matter experts may have relatively small followings (could be as few as 500 or as many as half a million) compared to The Rock or Kourtney Kardashian. But to the people who follow them, their advice, point of view and recommendations carry significant weight.

Most of them are not “celebrities” in the traditional sense. They’re a 14-year old boy who reviews technology for teens, they’re a fitness coach who works with busy moms, or they’re an accountant who helps other accountants build their practice. That’s part of their charm – they feel accessible and ordinary enough that we can relate to them, their choices and their life.

The value of the influencers is not really their follower count. It’s the depth of credibility and connection they have with their audience. It’s very much like when your best friend recommends a movie or restaurant. Because it came from them (word of mouth) – you want to check it out. Today’s channels (podcasting, blogs, Instagram, YouTube, etc.) create that sense of intimacy and confidence between themselves and their audience. So whether they have 500 followers or 500,000 – the key is that their followers actually pay attention and take action, based on their content.

If you’re ready to dip your toe into this marketing tactic, there are some things you should keep in mind to maximize your investment and avoid trouble.

Follow the FTC rules: The FTC views having a celebrity or influencer endorse your product or service as an advertisement, even if no money exchanged hands. Whether you give them a free sample, or you pay them for using your product in a photo – the influencer must disclose that they are being compensated. It doesn’t have to be a lengthy disclaimer. It can be as simple as a hashtag (like #sponsored), or it can be a sentence or two that explains the relationship.

The trick to this is – you’re responsible even though you are not creating the content. You need to make sure the influencer is following the rules by monitoring what they are publishing. If they’re producing a series of blog posts, the disclosure must be on every post, not just the first one.

Be creative with your content: While the FTC views influencer marketing as advertising, it really shouldn’t be constructed to look like an ad. Work with the influencer to make the content interesting and useful, rather than use them posing with your product or endorsing your service. Have them tell a story and have your brand be a character in that story.

Reviews, demonstrations, an on-going series showing your product through some sort of evolution or a giveaway contest are all ways you can increase engagement with the influencer’s audience and encourage them to go from reading about you to wanting to learn more or even sample what you sell.

We are just at the beginning of this trend, and there’s nothing to suggest this is a short-term opportunity. No matter what you sell – this is a new twist on a tried and true tactic that is even better than it was initially. In the old days, a celebrity endorsed a product to everyone. Today, an influencer talks directly to the people you want to connect with and makes that introduction.

 

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Who is an influencer?

March 6, 2019

InfulencerHere are some truths we need to grapple with in today’s economy:

  • Consumers trust word of mouth recommendations from family and friends more than advertising
  • Consumers trust recommendations from perfect strangers more than advertising
  • Anyone can create a position of authority and attract a community if they demonstrate expertise, credibility and consistently produce content to keep that audience engaged

All of those truths have led to the popularity and effectiveness of influencer marketing. If you aren’t familiar with the term, influencer marketing is a new twist on an old tactic. Remember celebrity endorsements? When someone you liked, an actor or athlete, endorsed a product or service, you thought more favorably about it. Expand that definition of “celebrity” to anyone who has created subject matter celebrity or notoriety and has a defined audience that trusts their endorsements.

This could be a teenager who reviews technology for other teens on YouTube, it could be a person who reviews convention hotels, or it could be a mom with a popular blog aimed at other moms. These people have some things in common that will help you identify them as a genuine influencer:

  • They regularly produce content on a specific topic
  • They give away a lot of information for free
  • Typically, they will have a core channel (YouTube, podcast, blog, etc.) but also have a very active social presence
  • They have attracted a group of people who are all interested in their niche topic and consume their content regularly (through subscription, attending live events, etc.)
  • They rarely stray from their core topic or subject matter expertise
  • They write for other publications, channels, or media outlets

No matter what their specific subject matter expertise is, all of these people have the ability to influence the behavior and/or opinions of their audience because they’ve earned their trust.

One of the biggest shifts in this tactic is the emergence of micro-influencers. Back when we only had three to four channels (TV, radio, print, outdoor) all of the influencers were bigger names and had a broad base of appeal. In 1960, you might have seen a magazine ad featuring Claudette Colbert telling you why she chose to smoke Chesterfield cigarettes or Humphrey Bogart reminding you to buy a box of Whitman’s chocolates. Today, we’d call these kinds of celebrity endorsements macro influencers.

Interestingly, they are not the focus when it comes to influencer marketing now. In a world where niching and targeting are greatly valued, the power seems to be in the micro-influencer. Consider Mischa Pollack who has 74,000+ subscribers on his Drunk Tech Review channel on YouTube where he leads a roundtable discussion (with alcohol being liberally consumed) and testing of gadgets, technology and toys (anything from Bluetooth speakers to jet packs) or Alexandra Lerner who uses Instagram to talk about yoga and wellness, while collaborating with brands who want to reach her audience.

Micro-influencers could have as few as 500 followers/subscribers but most have between 10,000 -500,000. You name a topic and there is someone out there who has built a following around that subject. One of the challenges of influencer marketing is that it’s a bit like the wild, wild west. In some cases, the influencer will have a media kit, pricing, and contracts. In other cases, you will have to work with the influencer to define the rules and deliverables of the campaign because they haven’t formalized their process yet.

This can be a very effective tactic, but it can also go south in a hurry. Next time, we’ll explore some best practices for working with influencers to make sure you get a great ROI from your efforts.

 

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Are you forgetting the Xennials?

February 27, 2019

XennialsFor the past several years, the world has been obsessed with Millennials. Employers grouse about them, marketers try to understand them, and Gen X parents hope their kids don’t become the stereotype. The general demographic cohort that we have labeled the Millennials were born between the early 80s through the early 2000s. That’s a considerable span, and as you can imagine, the people born in the 80s are experiencing life in a very different way than someone born in 1999. Enter the Xennials.

Many are now suggesting that the older Millennials (who are 30-45) are blending with the younger Gen Xers to form what has been defined as The New Adulthood or Xennials. This melded age group has more in common with each other, as opposed to either the Gen X or Millennial groups they actually fit into, based on their birth year.

This “in-between” generation has redefined what growing up looks like and it’s worth our time to learn more about this forgotten group of consumers. Xennials comprise 8% of the US population or approximately 25 million people and were typically born between 1977-1983. This group is also called the “Oregon Trail Generation” in reference to a popular computer game when they were growing up.

One of the more telling facts about this group is that they had analog childhoods and digital adulthoods. They were born without the internet but used it to find their first post-college jobs. They’re the last generation to remember using the landline phone to call their friends to make plans for the weekend.

Here are some characteristics of these New Adults:

  • Many of them will never work for an employer but instead will move right into being an entrepreneur
  • They marry later
  • Many of them are opting out of home ownership
  • International travel is a priority
  • They are tech savvy but not tech absorbed
  • They are very financially literate and comfortable managing their money

From a marketing perspective, what will ring true for this target audience?

Nostalgia plays well: This group invented social media, but they remember how good life was without it. They like to reminisce about the days when everyone wasn’t connected 24/7, and you still watched TV to get the day’s news. Shows like Stranger Things appeal to their fondness for the 80s, and they get credit for the resurgence in vinyl record sales and Fuller House.

The defining moment of their childhood was 9/11, so they also tend to demonstrate more patriotism and believe in the country’s resilience. Family bonding is very important to them, and they love to cook and entertain. Interestingly, they’re also most likely to pay professionals to do chores to save time, and they’re the ones who brought about the open concept trend.

They’re natural optimists: Another nickname for this generation is the “lucky generation.” They were old enough to grow up without the challenges of the digital age like cyberbullying, sexting and having their every embarrassing moment shared with the world. They grew up as the Berlin Wall fell and Apartheid ended.

They got their first job before the recession and bought their first home (if they bought one) before property prices hit the roof.

They’d rather be associated with Gen X than Millennials: There’s no bigger insult to a Xennial than to assume they’re going to behave like the stereotypical Millennial. They see themselves as very hard-working savvy investors and view their entrepreneurialism as a way of continuing the American Dream.

They straddle the tech fence: This micro-generation loves to use innovative devices that improve their life like fitness bands, smart appliances, and VR/AR headsets. But they disregard some of the more frivolous social networks like Snapchat and still subscribe to magazines and newspapers.

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Time to double down?

February 20, 2019

double downIf your business is like the majority of organizations in the U.S., things have been pretty good. Sales have been more plentiful and come a little easier. In fact, if you’re having any trouble at all, it’s hiring and keeping the right employees to serve all of that business. Many businesses experienced one of their best years in 2017 or 2018. It’s easy to assume that we’re going to keep riding this wave, but I believe we’re about to see a shift. I’m seeing subtle signs that suggest things are about to get a little tighter. From a marketing and sales perspective, I would recommend it’s time to double down.

What I mean by that is I think it’s the right season to invest more time, talent and budget into the customers you already have. When people start spending less or are slower to spend, they are more likely to keep spending with an organization they already know, trust and value. If you’re a long-time reader of mine, you know that I think every business underestimates how much of their budget and attention should be invested in their existing client relationships. We spend too much of our time, attention and money chasing after new dollars as opposed to being more useful and valuable to our existing clients.

Your job, as we enter this season of scarcity, is to make sure the relationships you have with your current clients are rock solid. If anyone is going to give you new dollars in a tight economy, it’s someone who is already giving you dollars.

Here are some ways you can strengthen those relationships now, so they keep bearing fruit if things tighten up.

Ask their opinion: Everyone likes to provide input. A customer satisfaction survey will not only show you some places that need your attention, but it also creates a bond with the people who respond. Some business leaders shy away from customer satisfaction work because they think it invites complaints and dissatisfaction. In today’s rating and review economy – that’s happening anyway. You need to get over yourself and ask.

The key to this going well is promising the respondents that you will share what you learned from the effort and how you are going to act upon the feedback. After you’ve compiled the results, write a letter thanking everyone for their input, telling them what you learned (good and bad) and what you are implementing to elevate on the areas that need some improvement.

Bring them together: A customer-only event is a smart way to strengthen customer relationships. First, you are giving them access to something that no one else can attend. Second, you’re going to make your event something that helps them improve (based on what you sell them) over time, and third, you’re going to invite them to hang out with other people who share their interest or motivations. This works well for both B-to-B and B-to-C businesses.

An added benefit for you is that when you bring clients together, they only have one thing in common. You. Your best customers become your best salespeople. They talk about the work you do together or the product you sell them and rave about the results.

There’s no reason why the pending economic shift has to be a problem for you. Sure, it might be tougher to earn new business from new customers, but that’s not the only path to economic success. If you double down on the relationships that are already strong and can be enhanced, you will weather this blip on the radar screen well. And even if I’m wrong, there’s nothing but good that will come out of investing more in the clients you already have and love.

 

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Is there a human in there somewhere?

February 13, 2019

humanMy dad passed away almost a year ago and, as executor, I had to make a lot of official phone calls to everyone from the social security administration to Hyundai where his car lease was financed.  Sometimes I got a human and other times I did not.

In almost all cases, I started with someone in a call center and may or may not get transferred to someone within the organization. I was stunned at the robotic responses I got from most of the people on the other end of the line. With a noted exception, there was no expression of condolences or even an acknowledgment that my family has suffered a loss. They were clearly following a script, and nothing was going to get them to step away from the prescribed words.

I wasn’t expecting to have a five-minute conversation about how wonderful my dad was or how much we’ll miss him. But when someone says “I am calling to report the death of my father. He had a lease with your company, and as executor, I am calling to find out what documentation you need,” the next sentence uttered should not be, “VIN please.”

I have a friend who owns a large agency on the west coast, and she called to commiserate with me because they landed a huge client two months ago and on Friday the CEO called to tell her that they were canceling the contract and hiring someone else. When she asked why his answer was, “your process was too rigid. For big projects it makes sense, but when we needed something quick and simple, we spent days waiting for scopes of work for a job that should have taken an hour.”

Two very different examples but the problem is the same – employees who have been trained in processes but not trained to recognize when they should step out of the process and use their brains, hearts, or humanity. Part of your culture, training, and onboarding needs to be about the rules, but an equally important part needs to be about when the rules should be bent or broken.

I know that most people hate the seemingly endless phone prompts that make you listen to the menu and then choose the best option. We think a real human will be better. But it’s even more disheartening when the human is as robotic as the quagmire of a company’s automated operator.

I’m a big fan of processes. (Well, I am a big fan of businesses having processes but I have to admit, I might do an end run now and then!) I understand the importance of uniformity, efficiency and the ability to scale. But we have to help our employees recognize that there’s always an exception to the rule. We can’t surrender to the process to the point that we blindly follow it, even when it doesn’t make any sense or isn’t humane.

Our employees are our brand. They either represent the best or the worst of us. How they respond to your customers will make or break your business. When they sacrifice their relationship with your client because “it’s how we have to do it” there’s a price that will be paid. Have you hired people who robotically follow the defined path, or have you sought people with some emotional intelligence and the insight and courage to step away from the process when it’s called for?

This is a hiring and culture issue. This is a training issue. This is a customer retention issue. This is a brand issue. You want employees who follow the rules. But you need employees who know when they should sidestep the rules to truly take care of your client.

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We still aren’t wowing customers

February 6, 2019

wowing customersAccording to a study from the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council, brand managers and chief marketing officers admit they’re worried that their jobs are at risk because they aren’t knocking it out of the park when it comes to customer service – they’re not wowing customers. And I think they’re right. It’s just that important.

The CMO Council report, titled “The State of Engagement: Bridging the Customer Journey Across Every Last Mile,” discovered that among the businesses they surveyed, they will determine the success of customer experience initiatives on bottom-line improvements like overall revenue growth and increases in individual sales. But as you might guess, most of them aren’t able to tie customer experiences back to their company’s business goals in real time. (Only 10% said they could) In fact, most of the surveyed said they usually could not tie their efforts back to the bottom line at all, no matter how much time they have to connect the dots.

The respondents also didn’t give themselves high marks when it comes to delivering on the customer expectation of personalization and contextual engagements across the customer journey. They often get stymied by technology fails, disconnects between departments or siloed systems or the inability to influence the customer experience across all touchpoints.

In terms of the struggle to use technology to get insight into the sentiment of the customer at the moment of interaction, we see this with our clients as well. Technology doesn’t support information needs, especially in real time. But I think it’s dangerous to only point your finger at the lack of a streamlined system that captures everything in real time. With some ingenuity, you can still find a way to get the data you need. Handwrite key warranty card data if you have to. It’s too easy to say we can’t measure something when really what we’re saying is we can’t do it without effort or time. We may have to compromise on the real-time aspect, which is less than ideal, but saying we can’t find a way to measure the experiences we’re creating for customers is lazy. We just can’t afford to blame technology and disregard the challenge.

Some of the other findings from the report that are worth noting are:

  • Marketers believe they need systems that use real-time data to deliver relevant, contextual experiences and they ranked this as their top priority and a requirement for being able to deliver customer experience success.
  • Their second most vital requirement is an organization-wide single view of the customer to ensure uniform and consistent engagement.

I don’t disagree with either need, but I would add one and make it the first priority. If everyone in the organization isn’t focused and dedicated to creating remarkable experiences, technology isn’t going to bridge that gap. Then, technology is just a convenient scapegoat.

Absolutely it would be ideal to have a real-time, single view of your customer’s entire journey from the first moment of discovery through repeat purchase but the truth is, most small and mid-sized businesses may never have access to that level of insight. But every business, regardless of size or industry, can have the mindset that crafting an amazing customer experience is critical to long-term success.

We live in a business environment when our customers, through ratings, reviews, social media posts, and influencer marketing, can sink us. They can also catapult us to success. I don’t disagree at all with the CMOs take on the importance of really owning and perfecting the customer experience. It will ultimately make or break our businesses.

When you think about how vulnerable we are to the whims and whispers of our customers, it can be a little scary. But it’s also our reality.

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Who generates the leads — marketing or sales?

February 3, 2019

CSO Insights, the research division of Miller Heiman Group, the world leader in improving sales performance through research, training, and technology, today announced the official release of its “2018-2019 Sales Performance Report.”

The study, based on a global survey of nearly 900 global sales leaders, looks at the four primary objectives driving performance improvement efforts over the next 12 months: improving lead generation, securing new accounts, expanding penetration into existing customers, and increasing win rates. The purpose of the annual report is to assess how sales organizations are performing against these core objectives.

The study includes a year-over-year comparison of sales performance along with an overview of what companies are doing in each of these four areas to drive success. “Even though the objectives of sales leaders haven’t changed – most continue to be focused on making their number while being effective with resources – it’s a mistake to assume their sales organizations have a permanent set of customers or a permanent suite of sales technology and resources.

These types of changes can either advance their organizations forward or leave them behind,” said Seleste Lunsford, chief research officer, CSO Insights, the research division of Miller Heiman Group. “In an age of ceaseless change, sales performance improvements are a continual quest that should remain a constant priority for sales leaders. This is why it’s so critical to assess performance year-over-year to gauge opportunity for improvement.”

According to this year’s report, more companies are meeting revenue commitments, with the average revenue attainment rising to 93.9 percent to make this the third straight year of growth. However, the leading indicators of conversion rates – win rates and quota attainment – haven’t changed. Rather, 15 of 16 seller abilities included in the report show lower performance than they did five years ago.

Sales leaders managed to find a way to reach their goals, but it wasn’t necessarily through improving the performance of their salespeople. This presents a massive opportunity for global sales leaders, who can earn substantial gains by getting sales systems running more effectively. “Every year, we ask sales leaders for lessons learned. We want to understand what they would do differently to improve sales performance,” adds Lunsford. “To no one’s surprise, sales leaders aspire to transform the foundation of their sales systems. And yet, given the risks associated with making large-scale changes, many report a tendency towards incremental change.

This can be effective if such changes are implemented systemically. But often, we find this approach is too slow and limited in scope to help sales organization change fast enough to keep up with the markets.” The report provides actionable insight on how sales leaders can accelerate “sales transformation” through continuous improvements.

The overarching message is that sales transformation isn’t a project that will eventually reach completion — It’s a ceaseless evolution that feeds off data and uses technology as a driver, not an enabler. And, above all, it ensures every action an organization takes is in full alignment with the customer’s journey.

To download the study, click here.

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Should your brand be on Instagram?

January 30, 2019

instagramA while back, I wrote about some of the trends that I thought would be shaping marketing in 2019. Visuals and video were among the tactics I said we would all be wise to explore in the coming year. I still know that’s the case and I thought we should take a more detailed look at how some brands are using Instagram to connect with their community and introduce themselves to potential new customers.

According to the Instagram Marketing 2019 Trends and Benchmarks report, there are over 1 billion users on Instagram, and about 80% of those accounts are personal accounts. 51% of Instagram users access the platform at least once a day and the average user has over 600 followers and follows over 350 accounts.

Users can post photos, and videos on Instagram and photos still earn more engagement than the video content. There’s a huge opportunity for brands to create business accounts and interact with a highly engaged audience.

But what kind of content makes sense for the channel?

Behind the scenes peeks: One of the most popular uses of Instagram is to create a sense of intimacy and connection by giving your audience a sneak peek at the inner workings of your company. Factory tours, photo shoots, upcoming launches or on the go videos are all good uses of the medium.

Testimonials or customer spotlights: Instagram is an ideal vehicle for turning the camera towards your best customers. Help your audience envision what it looks like to be a part of your tribe by introducing them to other customers who are delighted by your work. Because you can use text in the photos or have sound with your video, it’s also a smart place to share testimonials.

Get a read: Think of Instagram as your informal focus group room. Ask your audience for their opinion on new options, helping you celebrate a local charity or deciding which product to feature in your new ad campaign. You can use Instagram stories to invite your audience to a landing page or poll as well.

Teach: Why not educate your audience while you entertain them? Adobe uses work that their clients have created to highlight some of the capabilities of their software. By inviting their best customers to share their work, they are guaranteed a stream of fresh content and fans who are willing to share that content.

Sell: You can craft special offers, create coupons, buy ads or highlight new products and services within your stream. Instagram is owned by Facebook so you can advertise on both channels at the same time.

Inspire: Visuals can create a deep emotional connection. You can use photos to form a bond with your audience and inspire them to make a difference. Many non-profits leverage the channel for this reason. Interestingly, one of the most inspiring accounts is Playdoh. They use stop animation content to draw in their audience and get them to re-connect with their inner child.

Make them laugh: There’s power in being entertaining and making people smile or laugh. It creates an endorphin rush that creates a sense of affection that the audience associates with your brand. Why not share a bit of your personality and invite your followers to do the same?

Instagram’s audience is growing every day. If you haven’t considered giving it some time and attention, so you can explore how you might use it to bring your brand to life – you may want to make the investment before your competitors do. Odds are, it’s not going to drive a ton of immediate sales, but when it comes to creating a relationship with your audience, it’s a smart option.

 

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Do you subscribe to the subscription trend?

January 23, 2019

subscribeYou can subscribe to just about anything today. I can remember, as a kid, that one of our neighbors got a fruit of the month shipment. We were fascinated by what kind of fruit he might get the next month and when the box arrived – we were all there for a peek and a taste. It wasn’t just that we didn’t see a lot of papaya in Minnesota, but it was the novelty of the monthly shipments.

Fast forward to 2019 and you can subscribe to pretty much anything from razors to dog toys to clothes, cosmetics, ingredients for a complete dinner or fine wines from a specific region of the world. On the B-to-B side, there’s Leadership in a Box, MentorBox and many more. In case you think it’s all consumable products, Porsche even has its own subscription offering.

There are quite a few websites dedicated to telling buyers about their subscription options. Those websites had over 37 million visitors in 2017 and the numbers are rapidly climbing. It’s a fascinating cultural shift and it’s worth thinking more about, in terms of how we go to market with our products and services.

Like most trends, this one snuck up on us a little. Technology made companies like Netflix and Spotify seem natural. Why wouldn’t we want hundreds of thousands of movies and other videos at our fingertips for a small monthly fee? Why buy CDs when you can mix and match your music on a whim for a few dollars a month?

The subscription market has grown by more than 100 percent a year over the past five years, according to McKinsey and many of the big brands like P&G, Under Armour and others are now jumping in. 46 percent of consumers subscribe to some sort of streaming media service and if we have one, we’re likely to have more. The McKinsey study found that the “median number of subscriptions an active subscriber holds is two, but nearly 35 percent have three or more.”

What are the elements that make a subscription model work?

Personalization is key: In many cases, it’s the ability to cherry pick the items or types of items that are appealing to the subscriber. The personalization might also be in frequency of delivery or the number of items in the shipment.

A specific why: Some subscription services like Dollar Shave Club are all about having a steady supply of the items. The fashion boxes are all about having someone else recommend the right look for you and then do all the work of putting together just the right pieces. Some are a blend of the two. The meal subscriptions are about having someone else figure out what’s best for you and serving it up right when you need it. The B-to-B boxes like MentorBox are about access to information and insights.

Creating a connection: All subscribers drift off eventually. The key is to maintain the subscription for as long as you can. The longer they subscribe, the more profitable it is for you. The tone of your communication, the access you offer to your CEO or leadership team and the secrets you let your subscribers in on can all deepen the relationship and extend the subscription.

Build a community: There’s incredible power in word of mouth, referrals, and reviews for subscription services. Find ways to connect your subscribers, whether it’s a Facebook group, a car window decal or exclusive events where they can meet in person.

What do you think? Could your business jump on the subscription bandwagon? Before you dismiss it out of hand, do a little legwork. I think you’ll be surprised about who is active in the space.

 

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