Put on your party hat, grab the bubbly, and commit to solid change in the new year. Exercise and weight loss are timeless resolutions. But what is your professional resolution? Now it’s time to get your newspaper customers in shape.

People follow a path of least resistance. At The Gazette in Janesville, Wisconsin, we have a robust strategy that de-programmes consumers’ procrastination tendencies. We like to say we use procrastination to our favour. 

EASYPAY (pre-authorised monthly auto-payment) ensures publishers longer-term relationships. Even on acquisitions relying on promotional pressure. Start the relationship by putting your best foot forward. Sell new customers into EASYPAY.

This discussion focuses solely on The Gazette’s acquisition operations alignment with EASYPAY.

Let’s start with your start pressure.

Your sales plan tells you how many starts are needed to offset stops. That’s an important piece of data. It’s your roadmap. Your consumer sales manager has a finite budget for producing new customers. When executed properly, her or his efforts produce a yield of new customers.

Your advertisers are paying attention to your audience. If your goal is to sustain your net paid audience first, and secondly grow it, keep reading.

During this New Year’s period of annual renewal think about how your customers renew. Think about how they pay you. Map your renewal transactions in 2013. Understand how many paid a 52-week term, 26-week term, 13-week term, etc. You should also include the number of EASYPAY renewals secured in 2013.

The big question is, “What would happen if all your customers paid you (on time)?”

I ask this question not from a collections perspective. Just imagine the opportunity if you could reduce your subscriber churn in a significant way. This produces an elite class of subscribers.

In markets we serve, our fastest-growing segment is our EASYPAY method of payment. Today, Gazette EASYPAY penetration stands at more than 53%. That’s up from 27% in early 2011.

We achieved growth by getting serious about growing segment penetration. We answered a series of tough questions:

  • Do you make EASYPAY a management objective?

  • Do you know what percentage of your customers are EASYPAY members?

  • Do you have an EASYPAY audience penetration growth target?

You can’t manage what you don’t measure. Design your EASYPAY perks to create long-term customer satisfaction and growth. Treat your best customers best.

If you think of EASYPAY as you would a product, a very key operational piece ought to be marketing. The key components are brand, pricing, position, and promotion. Your EASYPAY strategy must revolve around careful marketing planning.

Back to your start pressure plan. If you incentivise behaviour of your new acquisition units, you should look at incentivising EASYPAY enrollment — on the spot!

It’s too easy to encourage purchase behaviour with alluring pre-payment options. By doing so, your customers’ first impressions — and next impressions — are to look for a deal. If you make “the deal” EASYPAY, you’re killing two birds with a single stone.

In other words, you win new customers and greatly grow your retention among new starts. Your gap analysis will dictate your promotional offers. For example, you could write an A/B test for US$10 per month (for the first three months) versus US$15 per month (for the first three months). Nothing is set in stone.

Continue testing until your sales volume offsets losses in other areas. Tweak promotional rate, length of promotional term, inducement, and frequency of delivery. You will find you have more attributes to test than traditional pre-pay offers allow.

All the while, you’re starting new customers on a payment method engineered to boost retention. Follow the mantra: “Start with the end in mind.”

Happy New Year’s! Let’s propose a toast to 2014 — the year of growing paid circulation volumes strategically and profitably.