30 Ways to Amp Up a Renewal Series
Renewal series add regular cash to your coffers and build loyal, long-term relationships. Yet many publishers ignore them or consider them an afterthought, lavishing money and creative capital on new acquisition packages instead. They leave easy money on the table, since it costs less to renew a subscriber than acquire one.
Here are 30 established ways to turn your series into an efficient revenue generator.
1. There's no ideal number of efforts in a renewal series. Each series is different, just as each publication is. Whether it takes seven or 17 efforts to achieve maximum profitability, you'll discover the right number for your publication over time.
2. Many publishers don't send enough efforts before expiration. This contradicts subscriber complaints, but testing seems to confirm it.
3. If the last letter in your series makes money, add another effort. If that letter makes money, add yet another effort. Continue to add efforts until you reach a break-even point.
4. Put the most favorable terms in the first effort, and emphasize it won't get better than this down the road. Subscribers are smart. They often postpone renewing in the hope of snagging a better deal toward the end. By sweetening the pot in a later effort, you reward them for procrastinating. Also, it increases your mailing costs, and it's unfair to early renewers.
5. Position a strong effort up front. If a later effort pulls well, move it up in the series.
6. Don't assume that subscribers are inclined to renew. Even loyal readers need to be courted and reminded of the benefits of your publication, early and vigorously. In addition to reselling the benefits, you can leverage the existing relationship between subscriber and publication.
7. Highlight any new, improved or updated content to demonstrate the indispensability of your publication in these changing times.
8. Try to duplicate or play off the tone of the acquisition package. Prospects reacted to it, so it's reasonable to assume that some reiteration will strike a similarly responsive chord.
9. The urgency of your tone should dramatically increase as you get closer to expiration. Fear, guilt and exclusivity work particularly well: Show what the subscriber will lose, how his world will change for the worse without your publication, that others have renewed and are enjoying benefits he's relinquishing, the pain of saying good-bye, etc.
10. Focus on things coming up in the publication. Talking about what's ahead-articles, interviews, stories, features, departments, solutions-exerts a powerful pull on readers. No one wants to be left behind. Turn this to your advantage by enticing readers with things they have not seen yet.
11. Alternate the look of each effort. Cheap but effective ways to distinguish renewal reminders include changing the envelope size, font, color and design. Omitting the name of your publication in the corner card on some efforts can be effective.
12. Instead of mailing all the efforts from the same person (such as the circulation director), vary the sender. A reminder signed and sent by the editor or publisher lets you talk to the subscriber from a new perspective. Further, it reinforces the bond between subscriber and publication by demonstrating that his renewal concerns everybody, not just the circulation department.
13. Human beings have an almost compulsive need for completion. Harness that psychic energy in the post-expire period by sending the table of contents, an article or something of genuine value from the publication-torn in half or blacked out selectively! The missing parts may drive them to renew to possess the whole piece.
14. Expires make the best prospects. Store them in your prospect file, and include them in a future campaign.
15. An advance renewal needs an offer that differs from the best offer in your regular renewal series. Why? To reward subscribers for renewing in advance; otherwise there's little incentive to act earlier rather than later.
16. Use a deadline in your advance renewal, for many simply need that deadline nudge to get them to respond.
17. By their very nature, advance renewals are one-time offers and can't be mailed again. Or can they? Happily, you can resend a successful effort more than once.
Here's the strategy: Midway before the deadline, mail it again with a note warning that this limited-time deal is about to expire and you must act now to take advantage. Or send it with an eyebrow in script that says you were concerned the subscriber missed this offer in the mail, and you felt responsible for alerting him to this extraordinary deal.
Or, perhaps most simple of all, send it in an outside carrier envelope that differs in size, shape or color from the original. It's not unusual for the repeat mailings to do exceptionally well.
18. Use "reason why" copy to explain and justify special offers. It's not enough to say something is special, urgent or important. Prove it.
19. Add extra value by sending an unexpected goodwill or love gift between issues. Strive to deliver more than you promise and you may win greater loyalty without much added expense.
20. Some publishers have found success with automatic or multiyear renewals. Offer a special discount or other free bonus as an incentive.
21. Use a mix of renewal efforts: issue wraps, telemarketing, online messages.
22. Before the first issue, send a welcome letter or package. This good will strengthens the bond between you and your new subscriber.
This effort also presents you with an opportunity to inform her of other publications or products that you produce. It gives her advance notice of the advantages she'll derive from your publication. Plus it affirms her sound judgment in subscribing in the first place.
23. A potent but underused tool in renewal strategy is humor. It's an unexpected, disarming way to build on your relationship, but it must be wielded carefully. I've found that light, self-deprecating humor works best.
I wrote an advance renewal where the editor poked gentle fun at himself for making an early appeal. It beat the control 2-to-1. Use humor early in the series. It would be out of place as the efforts progress and turn increasingly urgent.
24. Milestones or anniversaries in your publication's history give you an opportunities to send special, one-of-a-kind renewals to your entire list and prime the renewal pump. To give the effort added power, include a separate remembrance letter. You can put your publication into historical context by describing how it always has been there for readers in good times and bad. Or have the founding editor or publisher write sincere, heartfelt words that lift the veil between publication and reader. When I did this for a publication celebrating its 35th anniversary, response skyrocketed.
25. Once or twice a year, send a blanket renewal to your entire list. Offer a unique incentive or special premium not part of your regular series as a reward.
26. If your renewal rates are sinking, the answer could be traced to your acquisition package. Are you delivering what you promised? Does your editorial content have genuine value that your readers want or need? If you find a disconnect, change the package to accurately reflect what your publication provides or change the content of the publication. A brief survey of disgruntled subscribers may provide some insights.
27. Should you create a whole new series at one time or piecemeal? All other things being equal, developing a complete series at one time offers you strong advantages: It lets you think out the different appeals/action devices/order forms in totality, figure out where they fit most effectively in the series and do rough dummies to visualize the entire series in front of you to ensure that each effort maximizes
28. Showing a subscriber what he'll lose by not renewing can be more powerful than piling on the benefits. Paint a vivid picture of how vulnerable he'll be without your publication.
29. Be cautious about stating your guarantee, and even consider omitting it from the sales copy. Why? Because subscribers' attention should be focused on the experience your publication provides and future benefits, not on dissatisfaction and getting their money back.
30. Sometimes you can "guilt-trip" subscribers into renewing. At the end of the series, simply ask them why they didn't respond. Explain how you can't come up with a logical reason for their silence; then request their help. Put another way: Cause them to feel obligated to answer, and obligation is what finally can trigger a response. For those who can't think of sound reasons, they may find it easier to give in and renew.
Robert Lerose has studied and lectured on renewal series for 15 years. As a freelance copywriter, he uses that knowledge to write money-making efforts for magazine and newsletter publishers. He can be reached at (516) 486-0472 or at email@example.com.