How NOT to Execute a FREE Trial Offer

Recently I had an experience with a national newspaper that demonstrated to me the value or importance of having internal alignment in the value chain within an organization. So I thought I would share it with you. For the uninitiated, the value chain comprises the various internal departments and resources that come together to deliver or execute the value proposition of an organization.

In the case of a national newspaper like the G&M it involves journalists, writers, printing people and newspaper carriers. These functions all collaborate to produce and deliver a well developed and refined newspaper each and every day. We come to rely on it as our valued source of information on local, national and international events.

A few months ago (on or about Oct 29th 2012) I received a call at home offering a 90 Day trial subscription to the G&M free of charge.Needless to say I readily accepted with the assurance that my paper would be delivered within the next two weeks.

To my surprise, no paper showed up on the November 12th when I was told that delivery would start. So, I call customer service and reported the problem and was, once again, assured that a report was filed and the paper would be delivered the following day. Next day, no paper. Again I called the G&M customer service. My complaint was heard and assurances were given that I would receive a paper. Next day, no paper.

As you can imagine, after a week of this I gave up and was resigned to the fact that I wasn’t going to receive a paper. Much to my chagrin, I might add, because I was trying to switch our household from the Star to the Globe for various reasons.

You can imagine my surprise when I received a follow up letter in mid December from the G&M thanking me for my expressed interest in their paper and hoping that I might convert to a full fledged paying customer. I took the opportunity to contact the G&M and express my disappointment in not receiving a single copy of the paper despite my best attempts to get one. The customer service representative was quite apologetic and assured my that a paper would start the following morning. Next day, no paper! So I followed up and let them know. Again, I was assured a paper would be delivered. Finally it arrived!!

I was quite delighted to receive a free copy of the G&M and was expecting to enjoy it for the next 90 days. Despite a few interruptions due to weather and I’m sure the carriers lack of enthusiasm I received the paper for the next few weeks.

A few weeks ago, the paper stopped arriving. I took the opportunity to contact customer service and let them know. I was told the paper would be delivered the next morning. Next day, no paper! At this point I was ready to pack it in but I was truly frustrated at the carriers ambivalence towards service.

To make this long story a little shorter I was eventually told that my 90 day FREE trial ended on Feb 10th approximately four weeks after I received my first paper. I don’t know about you but four weeks is not 90 days!

Through this process it became painfully clear there was a major breakdown between the functional groups at this company. Marketing came up with the idea, advertising went out, customer service was on board supporting the calls, BUT one big piece was missing……EXECUTION by a key link in the VALUE CHAIN…the newspaper delivery people.

Think about all the wasted resources when a marketing program is poorly executed. For whatever reason, the carrier in my area was not going to deliver that paper to my home. And this is despite the error reports and poor service complaints that were filed against him/her. I suspect the problem was due to the fact that a) I was likely the only delivery in the area where I live b) the carrier/delivery person was not properly compensated for the extra travel time/cost c) the carrier/delivery person is generally poorly paid and therefore really didn’t care about any new customer he gets if it means extra cost and d) the marketing department didn’t think through the execution of the program to optimize delivery in key areas for the carriers.

The net result is that instead of generating a new customer the program turned a brand embassador in to a brand basher.

There will always be problems and glitches with marketing campaigns BUT the basic elements or your core value proposition (in this case home delivery) need to be bullet proof. Strong execution is a critical part of a successful marketing campaign and paramount to long-term brand building efforts.

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