Digital Subscription Services Are Hot: Here’s How Partner M…
Acquiring and retaining customers for subscriptions can be tough. And expensive. Charlie Calabrese, VP of Operations, Partnerize, gives four simple tips to make partnerships a powerful, cost-effective growth engine for your subscriptions business
Lately, it seems like a new subscription service launches every day. My email box is full of offers for music, movies, and TV, monthly clothing shipments, meal kits, you name it.
For budding entrepreneurs, subscriptions offer an appealing model. For established companies, subscriptions offer new lines of reliable revenue via repackaging existing goods and services.
But acquiring and retaining customers for subscriptions can be tough. And expensive. As costs for search and TV continue to climb, subscription brands are searching for new ways to drive quality users. Naturally, many subscription businesses are now becoming more active in the partnerships and affiliate space.
For subscription service marketers who are unfamiliar with partnerships and affiliate marketing, the arena can seem confusing. Fortunately, some of the most important ways to leverage partnerships on subscription businesses are quite straightforward. Here are four simple ways to make partnerships a powerful growth engine for your subscriptions business.
1. Start By Defining Your Perfect Partners
Partnerships connect businesses to one another based on both mutual interest and mutual relevance. Great partner programs often combine a variety of partner classes. For example, a program might focus primarily on some of the world’s loyalty and cash back communities. Or it might rely on content and editorial properties that enable brands to tell their stories. Or both. The key is to define the right set of partners for your brand.
Fender Musical Instruments Corporations (FMIC) offers a perfect example of how to get this right. In July 2017, Fender Digital – the brand’s digital arm – launched a subscription-based guitar learning app, which includes electric, acoustic and ukulele lessons, that’s attracting lots of nontraditional partners, including music retailers. After all, what could be better than a guitar store to help sell guitar lessons? While large affiliate communities can offer audience segments that can be relevant, Fender was well served by taking a unique approach to identifying and cultivating partner relationships that included both traditional and nontraditional partners.
2. Find Content Partners to Help Drive More Considered Purchases
The world of partnerships isn’t just about “buy now” messages. In many cases, people are hungry for information before they buy, and partners can be an ideal channel to deliver information that helps them buy smart.
Customers may use online comparison platforms to help them identify, consider, and narrow down their options before they are ready to buy. Here, partnering with content sites where people are likely to go in researching a given type of subscription product or considered purchase can be immensely valuable. Rich content sites like ConsumersAdvocate.org deliver high-quality ratings and review information, transparently working with partners whose products meet their standards. Content sites of this caliber, typically see higher Click Through Rates (CTRs) and higher than average Time on Site metrics when targeting consumers at the top of the funnel. Some brands are even looking to bonus partners that play a role earlier in the buying process, to ensure they are compensated for the value they drive.
3. Leverage Special Interest Messaging for Certain Audiences
Marketers know that the more relevant we can make our messages and offers, the more likely people are to respond to them. Travel brands have put this powerful insight to work across partner marketing, leveraging search metadata to help partners deliver more relevant creative. This could also work for subscriptions. In the instance of meal kit delivery subscriptions, for example, it could be very valuable to associate a brand with special dietary needs. In those cases, finding partners that attract lots of such consumers, and developing special messages for them, can mean big sales. Large communities like loyalty and cashback sites may also be great here. They tend to have rich user profiles that can help find the right people for tailored messages.
Another company that has a very specific audience for its partner programs is Unity. Unity, the creator of the world’s most widely-used real-time 3D development platform, powers more than half of all new mobile games and 60 percent of all VR and AR content. There are many important components of Unity solutions, from game development software to monetization tools, to analytics, and even VR/AR capabilities. The Unity program must reach and persuade very special and sophisticated audiences. For a program like that, a strategic plan is essential. Only a specific and defined set of potential partners can deliver for Unity. And given that their audience is so specific, Unity must work to ensure that individual messages deliver on the specialized interests of this niche target.
4. Plan to Harness Richer Data and Insights
Subscription businesses are among the most sophisticated users of customer data. Their businesses depend on understanding the motivations and behaviors of each user and adapting accordingly. Years ago, partnership marketers often took a minimalist approach when it came to collecting data. They tracked clicks and purchases, and that was about it.
But all that has changed as new tools make it possible to get real-time access to all events in the consumer journey. This plus the availability of APIs to port data into business intelligence and other platforms have radically increased the contribution that partner marketing can make on brand insights as well as revenue. Further, predictive modeling is helping to bring better forecasting and cost certainty to businesses that need every tool they can get to drive profitable growth as quickly as possible.
Ancestry is a great example of a sophisticated, data-driven subscription business that generates rich insights from its partner marketing program. This data helps Ancestry optimize the user experience at each stage in the customer journey to drive greater return.
Those are just four of the ways that partnerships can enhance and grow a subscriptions business. Such programs can drive great volume and revenue, and their ability to adapt to the evolving needs of a business make them an especially attractive option for this hot business model. By applying a strategic, goals-based goal-setting process, subscription brands can gain lots of profitable new customers and powerful insights for optimization.