With a colleague, I've been working with a client who values its "net promoter score" (NPS), a measure of the relative likelihood that its customers will recommend them to someone else. Touted by its proponents as "the one number you need to grow", NPS is used by a range of consumer-facing companies to track and grow their base of committed customers.
A bit of an industry has grown up around NPS, and there are detractors. Given my penchant for rich and nuanced data, it's hard for me to believe that "one number" governs an assessment of success or failure. Still, NPS scores can be clarifying, expecially if they force a company and its staff to question what they are doing.
At Harvard Business Review's blog network, Bill Lee contends that true success with NPS comes not from creating promoters (which is what the score measures), but from engaging promoters in referral activities that grow a company's customer base. Lee offers three ideas to help companies make this happen:
- Be intentional about customer promotion (he cites a study in which only 10% of those who say they are "highly likely" to refer someone actually follow through);
- Look for customer value beyond promoting (references, testimonials and speaking opportunities are examples); and
- Move beyond promoters to defenders.
Although magazines have been cited for their "direct relationships" with customers, in my experience few periodical or book publishers are prepared to work with customers at this level. The limited number of publishers who are succeeding emulate the better practices of trade and professional associations.
That is, they build a clearly defined audience, surround it with services and products and communicate across a variety of channels. They make value evident in every interaction with a customer, who is a member. They don't treat social interactions as something that happens after a product is published.
Content dissemination is moving toward permissions-based subscription models, ones that periodical and book publishers struggle to understand. The new models are driven not by supply, but by demand.
If I asked a reader "How likely is it that you would recommend (name a publisher) to a friend?", how many people would score it a 9 or a 10? I think the answer is close to none, because perceived value comes first.