Content may be king, but what is a king without his subjects? He’s just a guy with a shiny hat, and nobody likes that guy.
For a king to be successful – respected – he must provide. Humour me on this analogy, by the way; I realise the Crown Estate doesn’t exactly give me my daily bread as such, much as I’ve probably got them a few rounds in. But yes, ostensibly, the king provides. In return, he is adored by legions of loyal subjects.
Regal content, the type that provides genuine value to its target audience, isn’t exactly news. We bang on about the importance of providing your audience with unique quality on any day with a ‘y’ in the name. But great content alone doesn’t necessarily win you the attention of more than a few half-interested passers-by, and not necessarily for more than a few minutes. You want to keep them.
The goal is to gain a population, not win fleeting popularity. This is the basis for your subscription strategy.
Content marketing +1
A subscription strategy is essentially a content marketing strategy that goes one better. It’s using your quality content intelligently, not just by addressing your customers’ needs, but also by continuing and deepening the conversation with the customer.
Customers might subscribe to your email newsletter, your blog, your YouTube channel, or simply for access (as with some news publishers, such as The Times). But the subscription economy is the way companies run these days; it’s a signifier that your audience wants to hear more from you. They’re pulling up a pew and saying, “I like the cut of your jib, buddy, let’s rap”. Or something to that effect.
As such, and with the data available to you, you can identify the traits of your core audience – you can actually see what your brand ambassadorship, i.e. your core of most engaged users, looks like and how they behave, what jobs they have, and the commonalities in the content they respond to.
Better still, from this you can figure out how to widen your loyal legions. You can take people from the periphery – the passers-by – and ask yourself how they behave differently to your subjects. What needs to be done or provided to turn a tourist into a fully-fledged resident who is more engaged with you?
The Netflix paradigm
An obvious example of how the subscription economy has formed is Netflix. Technically speaking, Netflix has no issue with providing quality content, the production companies do that. The Netflix subscription strategy therefore is based on competition – Netflix has a core of engaged users that are emotionally attached with the brand. They were probably there from the start when the options were limited for reliable subscription film services. At that time the strategy might have been to persuade people with a high street video shop membership to buy in to the idea of watching films online, which would rely on promoting the latest releases.
Now Netflix faces competition from services like Now TV (cheaper) and Amazon Prime (alternative content), and as such subscription strategies become part and parcel of gaining that competitive edge. The recent deal the former Top Gear presenters struck with Amazon Prime is part of Amazon’s subscription strategy to lure passers-by (those with only the budget for one subscription TV package per month) away from Netflix. Meanwhile Netflix is adding bigger and better value to its users by providing exclusive content – see ‘Orange is the New Black’ or ‘House of Cards’. It’s the sort of gritty, high-production-value stuff that can convert an interested observer into a subscriber, although securing subscribers can come down to something as simple as user experience.
Deepen the wow
One way to gather information on users on the periphery is by using social media. Of course, rudimentary conversations can be held on social media, but you could go one better – what about designing a separate social media channel for customer interactions, where you can see first hand the behaviour of your core audience and how that differs to your passers-by. Could some sort of free offering to social media subscribers grease any wheels?
A staple part of a subscription strategy is the upgrade button – look at LinkedIn versus LinkedIn Premium – so ask yourself what kind of value can the upgraded users expect over the normal users, and once you’ve upgraded a core of users, what is it about their behaviour that made them take the plunge? How do you apply that more extensively? What can you offer?
When your loyal subjects want to talk to you, you need to have something more to say. Starting your conversation is on thing, but how do you keep deepening the wow factor? Figure that out, and you’ll continue to reign supreme.