The new year means new season planning and budgeting is around the corner. One of the most important efforts in new season planning is engaging with your subscribers to retain them for another year of support. A well-crafted subscription campaign can help your organization stand out from others and enable your membership benefits to build deeper and long-lasting relationships with your patrons through your digital marketing efforts.
Why use digital advertising?
Traditionally, subscription renewals are driven primarily by box office outreach, direct mail pieces, and email campaigns. While these strategies are effective, it is known that it takes multiple touch points with a patron to drive an action. Telemarketing and direct mail can be expensive and/or be locked in at fixed rates, not leaving room for flexibility to pause or ramp up efforts. Folding in a digital marketing campaign to your subscriptions efforts can be a cost-efficient strategy to reach loyal patrons ripe for an upsell to a subscription or retain a longtime subscriber that doesn’t require as many touch points to renew.
Digital Marketing campaigns allow the ability to customize messages by different audiences or patron types, track and measure correlated ticket and subscription purchases directly to your ad spend, compliment your offline strategies with CRM remarketing, and efficiently optimize strategies that are working and dial back on strategies that are not.
Identify your Audience
Depending on where your organization is at in the subscriptions cycle, you’ll want to group your target audiences by Renewals and Acquisition.
Renewals audiences consist of only subscribers who are up for renewal from one year to the next. More specifically, a renewals campaign will target first-party audiences only, such as a CRM list of current subscribers and/or a suppression CRM list of those that have already renewed.
Acquisition consists of the open period in which subscriptions are available to new subscribers (and/or those who didn’t renew before the deadline). Something to consider is Acquisition is not only net-new patrons, but rather new subscribers within your organization’s database. A large portion of an acquisition campaign should focus on upselling existing patrons who have not yet subscribed or let their subscription lapse. This is also heavily driven by first-party targeting of a CRM list of lapsed subscribers, multi-ticket buyers from 3-5 seasons back, and/or members of the community who have engaged with your organization at events. In addition to CRM, your campaign should also target website visitors and/or social engagers.
A subscription is a commitment of time and money, and it is less likely to convert a patron who has never been to your institution ever before. So, it is important to focus your marketing efforts on converting and upselling your existing database. If your goal is to attract younger and new subscribers, focus on getting this audience in the door with a single ticket campaign first and then upsell to a subscription package.
One of the benefits of digital marketing is the ability to tailor unique messages to diverse audiences to create a customized conversation. We recommend creating different ad sets and messages to speak to renewing subscribers versus lapsed or first-time subscribers.
Lapsed audiences or first-time subscribers may need a reminder of the savings of subscribing, member benefits such as discounted parking or concessions, meet ‘n greets with talent, early access, and more. Create a carousel or animated ad that rotates through the various benefits of being a subscriber to effectively showcase a patron who may not be aware of these perks. If your value is primarily in programming, promote the show titles or talent included.
Renewing subscribers who are loyal to your organization and already know the benefits of being a member. Using digital ad campaigns is a way to cost-effectively reach these patrons to remind them renewals are on sale and/or programming has been announced and create a sense of urgency. These audiences don’t need a lot of touchpoints to encourage them to renew and can be pushed through the consideration funnel faster than a new-to-file patron. Try using a message with more urgency around retaining their benefits such as “Renew today to secure your seats!” or “Subscribe before May 1st for 30% savings!”
Goal Setting & Measurement
Before heading into the next subscriptions period, look back at years’ past and take note of changes or growth. Have you seen a drop off in a particular package? Do renewals depend heavily on programming? Do subscriptions typically sell more online or from patrons calling the box office? What may have impacted these changes in the past? (Lack of marketing budget or a pandemic, perhaps?) It is important to look at historical growth to set goals for the coming year with context or identify strategies that have worked in the past.
Even if you’re not dedicating a marketing campaign to subscriptions renewals, one thing that is inevitable is crossover. Subscriptions will likely go on sale while single tickets for the current season are still available. Many subscribers will head to your website to renew their packages and get caught in the remarketing efforts of any single ticket ad campaigns that are currently active, and those renewals can then be attributed to a single ticket campaign and inflate results. A quick fix to prevent this is to provide a CRM list of your current subscribers up for renewal as a suppression list to exclude this audience segment in any remarketing during the renewals period. By doing this you can exclude transactions for renewals that are not related to the single ticket efforts and save your remarketing dollars for those who need it.
Lastly, set clear goals to measure success both offline and online. Sales results is the ultimate measure of success (volume of sales or revenue), but consider secondary KPIs depending on your strategies in market:
- If you’ve introduced a season trailer, look at video engagement.
- If there is any in-market advertising, keep an eye on Google Analytics to see traffic trends and/or engagement rates
- If you’re advertising in a new channel such as Meta or TikTok, look at follower growth
Every organization’s subscription cycle and patron buying patterns are different, so measure your success against yourself and not peer organizations. As well as talk with your marketing agency or in-house department about what new ideas you can try in 2023.