Famous Last Words: Going to the Advance Renewal National Bank
As a freelance copywriter, I cut my teeth in the magazine circulation world, creating direct mail packages as well as renewal and billing series. When my wife, Peggy, and I started the newsletter, WHO'S MAILING WHAT!, I did for myself what I did for clients.
The usual sequence for renewal efforts is as follows: 1) renewal at birth - add a renewal effort on the initial invoice suggesting that the new subscriber sign up for another year at some ridiculously low rate (which I can offer you because you will save me the cost of sending out a renewal and save yourself the nuisance of receiving unwanted mail); 2) send monthly renewals at expire (X) minus six months, X minus three months, X minus two months, X minus one month, X, X plus one month, X plus two months. You keep sending renewal efforts until they are unprofitable.
At a Newsletter Publishers Association conference in Washington, D.C., in the early years of our newsletter, financial whiz Howard Ruff did a session on renewals. "Never borrow money," he railed. "Instead, go to the Advance Renewal National Bank!" By that he meant, if you need money, send out an advance renewal, and you'll always get a certain number of subscribers that pay little attention to when their subscriptions are up for renewal and send in money. How do you know when your magazine or newsletter subscription is up for renewal? You can find the date on the mailing label.
Last June I received the form you see here from The Wall Street Journal. Normally I renew this publication without thinking about it. However, our delivery guy-who also brings me The Times and The Inquirer-persuaded his bosses to forego labels on The Wall Street Journal as being an unnecessary pain in the butt.
My renewal options in this effort were for either $349 (one year) or $499 (two years) - a fair pinch of change. Why part with that kind of money in advance? Nowhere on this form is the expiration date, and, of course, my WSJ copies have no labels.
I was expected to trust that Rupert Murdoch was being honest with me and that his renewal money was due him. In the immortal words of Miss Piggy, "Silly moi!" I checked the WSJ Web site and discovered my online subscription was not up until June 2009. I called customer service to discover that my subscription to the print edition did not expire until October 2008. I would rather have this money for four months than give it to Uncle Rupee. So I waited. But here are the takeaway points:
- If the expire date is not on the label, the publication is in violation of USPS' rules.
- If you put the expire date on the advance renewal form, response will be much lower than sans date.
- Never borrow money. Instead, always go to the Advance Renewal National Bank!yy
Denny Hatch is a freelance direct marketing consultant and copywriter. Visit him at www.dennyhatch.com, or contact him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org