In February of 2016, PBS partnered with a dozen member stations for a targeted campaign designed around Roku® Streaming Sticks™ and PBS Anywhere. Offering these streaming media players to new online sustainers, these stations raised $163,000 during the four-week campaign. Twelve months later, they have seen 80 percent sustainer retention.
Those numbers are impressive in themselves, but what truly caught our attention were the statistics released by TPT. Twin Cities PBS acquired 205 new online sustainers last February. As of February 2017, they had retained 200 of them—for an amazing 98 percent retention rate. How did they do it?
According to Cindy Papenheim, Senior Manager of Online Member Services, the station first got the new sustainers with a hard-hitting email campaign during the four-week window. “We feel that urgency is the best motivator on email,” she says. “In the last week of the campaign, we sent out four emails, including three in the campaign’s last three days.” That final email reminded recipients that they only had a few hours to become a monthly sustaining member and take advantage of the offer.
The value of the Roku device, combined with the ease of watching PBS programs on a viewer’s own timetable, attracted 205 new sustainers in 2016. But what kept them around for 2017? Papenheim says TPT has been excellent at sustainer retention overall, regardless of where the sustainers came from. She walked us through their approach.
Credit Card Policing
“A lot of it has to do with how aggressive we are at recovering bad credit cards,” she says. The majority of sustainer drop-offs occur not because sustainers fail to renew, but because their credit cards expire. “You have to chase them down. We have a daily email campaign [dedicated] to cards that have failed, with a special form people can use to give us their new information,” she says. That form highlights electronic funds transfer (EFT) as a better alternative to credit cards. “Once you get that bank account, they’re much more likely to stay. That bank account isn’t going to go bad.”
Publicizing Passport is another key, because the Roku devices have become TPT’s most frequent way to access Passport content. “We have dynamic content we insert into our emails for people we know use Roku,” Papenheim says. “We point out that Roku is a great way to watch Passport videos and it benefits your membership.” Being able to speak specifically about that device, rather than a list of available digital devices, gives the campaign greater impact.
When Victoria premiered, sustainers received an email specifically about using their Roku devices to binge-watch the entire season through Passport—a tangible benefit (see sample email below). “The response was really good. We were driving awareness of people who had already signed up. We were also using it as an acquisition campaign and a deep-lapse campaign. It’s the most successful acquisition we’ve ever had,” says Papenheim.
“Shorter is better,” Papenheim says. “As we went through the campaign, our click-through rates got better as we shortened the emails more. We get better responses.” She says two paragraphs or less is ideal. “People aren’t going to read through a whole page.” Attention-getting images are also crucial, especially those that showed Passport or the Roku device being used—like one collage that showed a family watching PBS programming next to a close-up of the Roku itself.
TPT is planning to build another new campaign using Roku to acquire new members and to reunite with deeply lapsed members. Regardless of the focus, she believes the Roku Streaming Sticks are a great benefit to attract new sustainers and lapsed members alike. “With the Roku devices, they’re getting a tangible benefit that’s different from what the membership model usually is,” she says. “It’s not just a thank-you gift. It’s something they can use every day. That feels like a bigger benefit they haven’t had before.”
The value of TPT’s successful campaigns—and others during this trial run—has convinced us to implement a new Roku Purchasing Program, which enables stations to purchase discounted players for use in digital fundraising campaigns and other promotions. By using the turnkey messaging included with the program alongside the best practices highlighted here, member stations may be able to open up vital new revenue opportunities.
Questions? Contact Natasha Hilton, Senior Associate, Development Services, Digital.