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Make the sale… again! Renewal Email Series Suggestions for Success


Maintaining current subscription numbers through email is a very important process that sometimes doesn’t receive the attention it should.   It is cheaper and much easier to track than conventional offline efforts.  It can also provide you with additional opportunities for subscription growth.  There are three important concepts to keep in mind when running successful email renewal campaigns.

1. Marketing Emails vs. Transactional Emails

It is extremely important to create relevant messaging.  When receiving a renewal message from any product or service, most customers will be turned off by a heavy marketing language with loud imagery.  Marketing type emails run the risk of removing urgency from such efforts, as it appears to be more of an up-sell approach (potentially turning off a customer) versus a renewal effort.  It is important to position the look and feel of the email as an official reminder that it is time to renew an excellent product or service. Remember, the customer you are reaching has already chosen to purchase once– most likely they will again.

Heavy imagery and catchy headlines miss the target for renewals, especially at expiration, and are perceived as typical direct marketing noise.  Leading up to and at expiration, it is important to stay a little more formal, establishing a transactional approach.  Subtly remind the customer why they selected the product in the first place through the core value proposition presented in a short, but sweet personalized note to the customer.

When trying to renew expired subscriptions, a more marketing-centric approach is helpful.  Premiums or “last chance” type messaging is recommended to produce a little more urgency to react to the call to action.  Post expiration is also a better time to focus on the more marketing heavy approaches, now that you are dealing with  an ex-customer.  You now are trying to get their attention… again.  It might take a little more design and messaging pizzazz – especially if you need your target to use their credit card.

Whether you use a transactional or marketing approach, be upfront about the actual price that will be applied to the credit card.  For example, don’t say “$19.95 a month” if you are going to bill their credit card $239 in one lump sum for the year.  This could cost you big time with customer service calls when trying to clear up the discrepancy.   Being upfront will limit conversion friction for your customers.

2. Frequency

Often getting the message out is a matter of timing.  You need to make sure that you are providing enough opportunities for someone to subscribe, while also sweetening the deal for earlier renewal.  Customers are inundated by email messages every day, and you have to break through the clutter with a consistent, straight-forward message to remind your customers about renewing.  So consider multiple efforts leading up to, at, and post expiration.

The earlier you can get the subscriber to renew, the better for reoccurring revenue purposes. Many renewal campaigns do not offer early bird specials that subscribers look for.  Consumer surveys show that most subscribers claim that they look for or would be more responsive to exclusive early bird offers when they know their subscription is soon up for renewal.  Including an earlier bird effort with an exclusive savings or premium is a great way to begin the renewal conversation.  Additional efforts include 1-2 week pre expire at renewal, and winback or post renewal.  Incentives should vary depending on the  timing of the communications.

Tracking the frequency of an email campaign will show you which deployment times are most effective. It will also provide good insight as to when your customers are most responsive.

3. Cost vs. Value

Which is better to promote through renewal email – cost or value?  It is a difficult balance. When you consider the lifetime value of a customer, it can be an easy decision to offer a lower price point now during economic down-turns as long as you retain the subscription and continue customer engagement with your company.  However, it can be difficult to sell subscribers on a price increase when times are better.  When establishing your price point, consider that a year from now, or even two years from now, prices may need to go up in order to keep the product profitable and flourishing.

If you want to avoid competing on price, focus on the main value proposition of your product or service, reminding the customer why they had originally selected your product.  The value proposition can be expressed through aspirational messaging, bulleted benefit lists, basic lifestyle imagery of your product in use, testimonials, etc.  Most importantly, it needs to be in the customer’s face upfront.  The recipient of the email should be able to decipher the value of the product within 3 seconds of opening the email.

Marketing vs. Transactional, Frequency, and Price vs. Value – consider these three concepts when developing your next email renewal campaign.  Use them as benchmarks to make sure you are creating a strong effort for successful renewal results. When you don’t focus on renewing customers that have already bought into your product, you are leaving profit on the table.