Xavier van Leeuwe, director of marketing and data at NRC Media, shared his thoughts on how to put data to work to optimise acquisition and retention offers with delegates at the INMA European News Media Conference on Thursday.

Van Leeuwe also explained how data insights can be enriched by listening to real subscribers to release the power of empathy.

NRC Media has recorded a 32% decrease in marketing costs year over year. Its gross margin from readers in 2016 reached €43.1 million. This all started with the right key performance indicators (KPIs).

NRC had made bad decisions by focusing on circulation only. The company was selling whatever looked good in audit bureau standards, van Leeuwe said.

NRC changed its strategy, focusing on employees listening through data and empathising — standing in its customers’ shoes, van Leeuwe said.

Xavier van Leeuwe, co-author of "How to Succeed in The Relationship Economy," speaks about NRC Media's success in this area.
Xavier van Leeuwe, co-author of "How to Succeed in The Relationship Economy," speaks about NRC Media's success in this area.

NRC began to focus on core relationships with its readers by:

  • Counting every core relationship as one.
  • Re-figuring compensation for sales representatives.
  • Only counting campaigns that drive positive value.
  • Realising that trials with negative margins don’t count. (They stopped offers like trial subscriptions.) 

The length of subscriptions sold became more important than the number of subscriptions sold. Instead of trials, they began to sell only 1-, 2-, and 3-year contracts. Thirty-six percent of sales are from 3-year subscriptions.

Data showed that longer contracts build stronger relationships. With the same number of phone calls, the relationships grew:

  • Contract volume in 2016 in comparison to 2014 grew by 126%.
  • NRC saw a 48% decrease in stops.

Setting the right price is very important. Too high a price causes churn, and a too low price leaves money on the table. 

Van Leeuwe said he believes publishers need to understand their customers. Go to their homes, sit down at their kitchen tables, and learn from them. They will tell you what is wrong, what is to be improved. People love the fact that you’re clear and communicating with them. This costs money, but it builds relationships.