Marketing Copywriting, Maslen on Marketing

Three tips for more profitable renewals

For many publishers, the cost per acquisition (CPA) for each new subscriber is enough to keep them awake at 3 am, palms sweating, heart racing. I’ve worked with publishers who are spending tens … hundreds of thousands of pounds (in a couple of cases, millions) a year to get new customers. Which is bad enough.

But look at the renewal rates (if you’re not in publishing, let’s just call that attrition or even simpler, the proportion you lose each year) and the picture, for many, darkens still further.

I’ve talked to dozens of publishers and the renewal rates range from 40% right up to 97%. At the top end of the scale it’s all about tweaking the renewal series – a series of timed communications to get subscribers to renew – to get uplift on poorer-performing efforts.

But for those languishing at the bottom, yikes! You spend £100,000 to win a year’s worth of new subscribers. Then, a year later, half of them jump ship. Er, pass the sick bag Alice, I don’t feel so good.

So, let’s look at the renewal series to try and figure out what’s going on/wrong.

First of all, we have to realise something important. Our publication is far, far less of a big deal in our readers’ lives than it is in ours. And any letters or emails we send them must compete for their attention with all the other direct mail and emails they’re getting every day.

Three problems: three solutions

So problem number one is, why do so many renewal series look like they were written and designed by the accounts department?

Look at the time, effort and money that goes into the mailpacks used to recruit NEW subscribers. This is the glamour end of the process. But it’s also where you are LOSING money.

Solution number one is to treat the renewal series with at least as much care and attention as you devote to new subscriber acquisitions. If you’re going to write it in-house, make sure it’s given to the most experienced copywriter, not the least.

Problem number two, no variation between efforts. If you’re sending someone five, six, seven, eight or more communications, and they all look identical, how much attention do you think your subscriber is going to pay them? Answer: none.

Solution number two: put some effort into making each effort, look, sound and feel different from every other effort.

Problem number three, only one approach tried throughout the series. I’ve lost count of the control series I’ve been asked to review where each effort is basically recapitulating the content of the previous one.

Usually this means a relentless emphasis on savings and a Uriah Heep-like tone of voice. You know, “Ever so ‘umble Mr Copperfield and if you could just see your way clear to renewing…”

Solution number three, vary the appeal. If they didn’t bite when you offered them a discount in effort 1, why not try something different in effort 2? Then go back to savings using different language in 3. And so on.

And I’m telling you this because

If you want to make profits from your subscribers, you have to retain them for as long as possible. That means crafting a renewal series that gives them virtually no option BUT to renew.

Be creative, invest, and don’t be afraid to hire a specialist if you think the ROI will justify it. (Which it will.)

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