The “Please-Don’t-Leave-Me” Discount

Today’s blog post is written by Katie Campbell, Data Migration Specialist, PatronManager.

This month, as I skimmed my credit card bill, I decided to ax a few recurring subscriptions that were putting me over my budget. The first offender was a gym membership I decided to replace with outdoor running in the cool fall weather. I logged into my member portal and found I was required to cancel via an online chat with a salesperson. I opened up the chat window and begrudgingly explained why I wanted to cancel. After a 30 second exchange, the salesperson shocked me by offering my exact same membership at half the price!

On the one hand, you could read this as a success story for the gym because I caved and they kept me as a customer. I’m sure I will use the gym enough to justify 50% of the original membership price, and I did get to cut down my next credit card bill. On the other hand, this interaction really soured me towards the gym. Why was this 50% discount handed out with almost no provocation on my part? Had I paid full price the month before only because I hadn’t thought to ask for a lower price? It left me feeling foolish and convinced that the membership was not worth the full amount that I had been paying previously.

Second on my list was a newspaper subscription. Deciding I could make do with the free allotment of online articles a month, I logged in to cancel and found that yet again, I had to talk to a salesperson to cancel. I braced myself for the pitch. Imagine my surprise when they offered me the same subscription level at over 50% off! 

I was not a long-time, loyal subscriber to either of these services. When I spoke to the salespeople, I did not describe some terrible circumstance where I deserved a better rate than someone else. I simply told them that I was trying to cut costs, and was offered a lower rate.

In an era where it is so difficult to earn and keep your customers’ trust, this seems like a risky retention strategy. Thousands of marketing dollars and hours go into convincing customers of the value of these memberships and subscriptions. Why undercut all of that work to hold onto a few dollars from a customer who now devalues the service you are providing?

Being offered a discount in response to a cancellation request feels about as good as a whiny boyfriend or girlfriend pleading with you to not break up with them because they’ll simply die without you. It may elicit momentary sympathy, but it’s not going to save the relationship. 

In romance and subscriptions, it’s better to address troubles early. Begin your retention process with on-the-fence members before they ever call to cancel. At my gym, for example, an email describing the new fall pilates and boot camp classes may have piqued my interest.

For your organization, your disengaged subscribers might respond well to a phone call inviting them to an upcoming event or a survey asking for their input on future programming. Something as small as a free drink ticket that expires in a month might spur them to make time to visit your organization. This kind of freebie doesn’t cheapen the value of their membership, and attending your exhibition or production will remind them how the arts enrich their life. For further ideas on reigniting patron relationships, check out our blog posts on how to get patrons off their phones and into your art space, using technology to connect artists and audiences, and re-thinking your cultivation processes.

It is well worth your time and effort to identify your disengaged patrons and come up with a strategy for re-engaging them. Rather than cutting your prices, remind them about all the “bang” they’re getting for their buck, and why they joined in the first place. Make them fall in love all over again.

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