Direct Mail Round-up - Renewals (626 words)
Pump Some Life Into Your Renewal Campaign
By Hallie Mummert
The explosion of interest in customer retention is probably a bit amusing to circulation professionals, who have always been aware of the need to continue selling to customers, whether recently acquired or long-term. Quite simply, a periodical doesn't have a business if it doesn't have customers who come back year after year.
Not all renewal packages work as hard to resell the product as the acquisition package, but I've dug up a few mailings this month that go a little further than the standard renewal effort. What can you do to give your renewal mailings—or other follow-up communications with customers—a kick in the pants?
The outer envelope of a renewal mailing looks more like a bill than an acquisition effort to encourage subscribers to put it in their "must-do" pile. However, this technique also can backfire, as the great hazard of direct mail is that people will set aside your offer for consideration, says copywriter Dick Jordan. Each mailing walks a fine line to get the desired response from prospects.
Time magazine chooses to add a little interest to a recent renewal effort by inserting a freemium, a refrigerator magnet featuring a Time cover, to thank loyal subscribers (see box below). The freebie propels customers to look inside the envelope, for two reasons: 1) People can feel the magnet through the paper envelope; 2) Time can, and does, promote the free gift on the outer envelope. By playing on people's natural curiosity, Time finds a new way to get attention for a renewal mailing.
There is one caveat, though. The magnet adds cost to the mailing, which is not the norm for renewal efforts. No doubt Time is testing the position of this effort in the series to see if the response is worth the boost in production and postage costs.
Can't Get No Interaction?
Response sticker tokens are a staple of acquisition efforts, so why not incorporate a proven involvement device into your renewals?
Rolling Stone goes a little cheaper with perforated, gum-backed stamps at the top of a renewal letter versus pressure-sensitive stickers (see above). While the whole "RS" and "VP" concept is a little hokey for this audience, it's always a good idea to get recipients involved in your mailing.
An interesting side note: Rolling Stone saves a spot on the order form for gathering subscribers' e-mail addresses. While presenting customers with another decision could deflect attention from the issue at hand—getting the order—it might also be a low-cost method of collecting e-mail addresses.
Travel Holiday also makes a point to request customer e-mail addresses in its renewal efforts, offering updates and special features in return.
Each effort in a renewal series tries a different tack to persuade customers to continue their subscription. At some point, a renewal mailing will address the fabulous editorial that customers will miss if they don't renew immediately.
Nutrition Action Health Letter gets right to the point on its order form by ink-jetting the exact feature that will be in the next issue of the newsletter—making sure that it's a hot topic customers won't want to miss (see p. 60).
Of course, this particular issue and label run is already at the printer, if not in the mail, but customers don't realize that. Even if their subscriptions don't expire for five more issues, the possibility of skipping an issue with similarly strong content has been raised.
Plus, since customers' names and addresses already are being ink-jetted on the forms, it costs nothing extra to personalize a message.
Hallie Mummert is editor of the newsletter Inside Direct Mail. Contact her at (215) 238-5437 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can order copies of the mailings shown here, and others, by calling Paul Bobnak, Direct Mail Archive director, at (215) 238-5225.