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Many publishers invest considerable effort and money creating acquisition packages, yet they’re likely to ignore their renewal series. This is a critical mistake.
It costs less to renew a subscriber. Even a small jump in your renewal rate translates into an instant windfall.
Let’s say your publication renews for $18.95, has a circulation of 100,000 and your rate is 60 percent. You’d pocket an extra $94,750 if your rate rose just 5 percent. A 10 percent rise would equal $189,500 in added revenue.
Here are 12 proven strategies to pump up your profits in 2009.
1. Subscribers often hold out until the end in the hope of receiving a superior deal. So make your best offer first. State clearly and firmly that it won’t get any better than this.
2. Sell (or re-sell) your publication hard at the start. Publishers make a grave error when they assume subscribers don’t require much selling in the beginning. On the contrary, your efforts should work for a renewal from the first effort.
3. Renewal series should repeat the arguments and tone used in the acquisition package. Prospects responded to the promises in the original promotion and they’re likely to react to renewals with a similar appeal.
4. Three common reasons for poor or declining renewal rates: (1) readers don’t need the information; (2) they want different information; or (3) they want information they hoped you might provide but don’t. If you face this problem, look at the acquisition piece that brought them in, particularly the promises you made. If your publication isn’t delivering on them, you must either (a) change the package or (b) change your editorial content.
5. Can you mail a successful advance renewal twice? Yes. Try this: About halfway to the deadline, re-mail it but add a heightened sense of urgency that the deadline is fast approaching. Another way: Send it with a simulated handwritten personal note, such as, “Maybe you missed this…here’s one more chance!” Don’t be surprised if your second mailing pulls as well as your first.
6. Sending a welcome letter or package before the first issue accomplishes many strategic objectives, because it (a) creates a “family” feeling between the magazine and the subscriber; (b) reinforces the subscriber’s good judgment in choosing your magazine; (c) previews benefits to come; (d) provides an opportunity to cross-sell other products.
7. Renewal letters that talk about future articles, developments or features are more seductive than rehashing past content. If possible, reveal specific upcoming pieces.
8. Renewals may be the only place in direct mail where humor is appropriate. Used carefully, humor can disarm the subscriber and turn a tough sell into something appealing. For an advance renewal, my headline read LAST CHANCE! and the first line said: “Renew in advance? Are you crazy?!” and continued in a slightly cockeyed vein. The letter beat the old control 2-to-1.
9. When your publication reaches a milestone, send a blanket renewal. Include a “remembrance” letter. I did this for a publication celebrating its 35th anniversary. I tied the concerns of subscribers in 1970 to those of subscribers in 2005 and positioned the newsletter as an on-going source of relevance. It produced an unusually high response.
10. The fear of loss is more powerful than the pleasure of gain. If the subscriber feels he’ll lose something genuinely valuable, it creates a strong motivation to renew.
11. In the last effort, divide the renewal letter into two columns. On one side, put “Have We Failed You?” with a short letter expressing puzzlement that they haven’t renewed. On the other, put “Your Reply” and leave blank space. The secret here is the psychology of obligation—asking for their reasons for not renewing. Sometimes they can’t think of any and they figure it’s easier to renew than to reply!
12. After expiration but before the series concludes, send the table of contents, an article extract or a torn issue—something of value that inflames their desire to possess the rest of the publication.
As head of Lerose Copywriting, a creative services company, Robert (email@example.com) creates renewal series, acquisition packages, ads, brochures and online promotions for Harper’s, Forbes, Meredith Corp., Institutional Investor and publishers across the country.
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