Use auto-pay to score with readers’ loyalty, win long-term customers


In last month’s blog space, we celebrated. Our new customers will say, “Cheers!” to the New Year as we grow audiences.

It’s important to move in the direction of profitable new circulation units. So we follow a strategy of “beginning with the end in mind.”

Last month we reviewed strategy and tactics to sell new subscribers into auto-pay. When you commit to growing auto-pay through your communication and response channels, acquisition work is just part of the picture. There is enormous power in leveraging retention channels, as well.

In the communication business, we have a daily “in” with our customers. Every customer receives at least one daily touchpoint. How well do you leverage that advantage?

Of course, messaging to encourage easy-pay behaviour is a great start. Keep reading, and we’ll discuss other tactics.

The benefits of a strong auto-pay audience are lower churn and great customer satisfaction. Sure, there are operational efficiencies, too. You save time and money on billing runs, postage, and labour.

But the big prize is audience development. Treat your best customers best!

Compare your internal retention rates. Do a quick analysis of churn among your pay-by-mail customers. Now do the same analysis against your auto-pay members.

In our markets, auto-pay retention is significantly stronger than its term billing counterpart. There are three distinct benefits for you and your customers.

  1. Auto-pay members enjoy a much lower “installment” rate compared to their historical annual investment. Older readers are on fixed incomes. A smaller commitment is enough to entice a very large number of readers into auto-pay. Even if you won’t offer a rate discount, 1/12th of the annual rate looks very attractive.

  2. Lower the financial pain, increase satisfaction. Depending on laws in your jurisdiction, auto-pay can become a fairly simple process. A few dollars are drafted monthly, based on a pre-authorised agreement.

    The subscription technically renews monthly, but without the “renewal” process, the customer is removed from the typical “I won’t renew unless it has value” conundrum. In other words, traditional billed renewals are always faced with that decision. Your customers are squirming with that choice.

    It gets worse among personalities that are steeped in procrastination. Lowering the financial pain drives satisfaction. It actually helps consumers forget about the price and rewards them for looking forward to each and every new edition.

  3. Auto-pay provides a more predictable path for future rate increases. After carefully understanding laws in your area, be sure to leverage your relationship with your easy-pay members.

    We have found, as part of rate hikes, a much stronger return on net revenue than pay-by-mail accounts. This is part of high customer satisfaction. A small installment amount gives way to a smaller dollar-change in rate.

    Again, in our markets, selling the rate increase is far more productive when the member holds an auto-pay account.

Growing your auto-pay penetration with active customers is hard work. Customers won’t typically call you to say, “Hey, sign me up! I love it when money is taken out of my accounts every month.” So you have to sell the benefits to your customers.

You’ll also need an aggressive plan against which to communicate auto-pay benefits. In our newspaper markets, we’ve had a lot of success investing in measurable and repeatable tactics. Here are a few:

  • Include auto-pay benefits on statements sent to pay-by-mail customers.

  • Tease the renewal statement with a bill stuffer. Highlight advantages and benefits. Provide two or three different ways to convert to auto-pay. It’s best to execute as a free-standing insert within the renewal mailing package.

  • Call your entire pay-by-mail file. It’s best to reach renewal customers two or three days after the anticipated in-home date. Create offer paths to persuade the customer to join auto-pay.

  • Integrate calls to action in your e-newsletter marketing to active subscribers.

  • If your newspaper engages in e-billing, consider adding strong conversion language.

  • Utilise more outbound calling to reach active auto-pay customers with a less-than-daily frequency. Create offer paths to upgrade delivery schedules across existing methods of payment.

  • Brand a loyalty concept. Mint the auto-pay membership with exclusive members’ only deals. Allow your members to receive your deals online. Consider executing membership cards, sampling a few of your best online deals.

  • Be aggressive in collecting customers’ email addresses. Communicate with your customers throughout the life cycle. Of course, remember to build attractive calls to action throughout all e-touchpoints.

  • Develop your staff. Soaring auto-pay numbers are accompanied by growing credit card declines, expired credit card numbers, banking non-sufficient fund issues, and closed credit card accounts.

Get your team excited about treating customers the right way with auto-pay. Lower installment payments, affordable terms, and selling your great product at the best price all stack up to building a more loyal, satisfied customer.

Treat your best customers best! Watch how they return the favour.

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