Database Helps Subscription Renewal Management at BusinessWeek

BusinessWeek's subscription marketing profits have risen more than 30 percent in the past year with the help of a marketing database that went live last year.

BusinessWeek decided in March 2001 to build the marketing database because it was outsourcing its fulfillment operation and wanted to tie the two systems together.

“These two initiatives dovetailed,” said Philice LeBow, director of retention marketing for BusinessWeek. “We were always going to build a marketing database, and the fact that we were outsourcing the subscription/fulfillment operation accelerated the initiative in order to preserve and consolidate our rich legacy data.”

BusinessWeek, published by McGraw-Hill Companies Inc., has 5.2 million readers worldwide.

Though BusinessWeek had housed its data in McGraw-Hill's in-house subscription/fulfillment operation for years, LeBow said, “it was never in a true data warehouse — one that was easily accessible, with strong reporting capabilities.”

For example, she said, few reports were available online using the old system. Most were printed out on paper.

To create the database, BusinessWeek selected Integrated Marketing Technology Inc., San Francisco, a direct marketing database solutions company with a background in publishing.

IMT gathered current and historical data from BusinessWeek's major touch points — including subscriptions, the Web and conferences — into its Global Enterprise Marketing System, which lets BusinessWeek view all of its data in a Web-based system. The system contains all types of data, including transactions, promotions and use data. BusinessWeek's database contains millions of records updated weekly.

“The system aggregates all of our customer touch points, allowing us to get a singular customer view for each subscriber,” LeBow said.

The system also has let BusinessWeek improve its renewal analysis.

“Doing detailed analyses before we implemented our new marketing database system used to be extremely cumbersome, with weeks and weeks of data collection and number crunching,” LeBow said. “Now, all of this data is available with the click of a button.”

In addition, “the data is now far more detailed and clear in terms of marketing by channel, by campaign, by effort,” she said. “We can easily do strategic analyses such as tracking revenue by subscription, and expense tracking.”

The analysis helps BusinessWeek cut unprofitable mailing efforts.

“The system streamlined our renewal series to target people based on their responses,” she said.

The first BusinessWeek to go into the mail with its first test since was in April 2002.

Here, BusinessWeek identified “subscribers interested in our three-year term offers, and early results indicate that when we sent these subscribers a special three-year offer, our renewal percentages rose over 5 percent based on the control,” she said.

LeBow said BusinessWeek would expand use of the system this year. It plans to target subscribers by current and predictive lifetime value optimization factors, including quantity of mail pieces sent to a prospect, prior offers received and how much customers paid and customer renewal patterns. It will model the effect of those attributes and mail offers based on those results.

“This goes beyond the traditional source and marketing channel approach that is very typical of publishing,” she said.

By targeting its subscriber file this way, BusinessWeek expects a 3 percent to 28 percent rise in profit.

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