Five Keys to Improving Customer Retention and Renewals

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Jim Sinkinson of Fired Up! Marketing led a roundtable at the recent SIPA Annual 2017 Conference in Washington, D.C. focusing on Renewal and Retention Strategies. Here are his five major tips:

Improve Content Value. The most direct way to improve content value is to make your content specifically about reader needs—problems and opportunities. Make your content not just about things—news, industry analysis or data—but about helping readers solve problems and realize aspirations. Transform your service into a consultancy focused on customer needs. Your renewal rate is a function not of how much your customers learn from your content, but how much they use your content to become more successful.

Promote Customer Usage of Content. Even if your content is spot on—of sterling quality and obsessively focused on the right things—many (probably most) of your customers will not read every article or even every issue. What if more than half your customers don't read even half of your issues? This is the case for many publications. What can you do to increase the amount of your content that your customers consume? Your renewal rate is a function of how much time your customers spend with your content. [Time spent with content is becoming a much more important metric than open rate.]

Increase Reader Engagement. Customers renew because it feels right. They don't assess objectively how much money you made them, how many tips they received or how many times you broke the news. At renewal time, they are vague and subjective: You can make customers feel right about your service if you make it human and engage them as people. What is the personality of your publication? How much interaction do you invite? What kind of relationship do customers have with editors? Your renewal rate is a function of how much your customers like you.

(“I ask my editors to speak at industry events,” said Brian Cuthbert, group vice president for Diversified Communications. “They’ve got to get out of the office. It’s an incredible branding and business development opportunity [to have them speak and meet with customers]. You’ve got to get them out there. The firsthand knowledge that they’re going to get is incredible, and they can pass some of that knowledge to sales.”)

Improve Customer Nurturing. Customers are loyal to the degree they feel they belong—that they are part of a larger group or movement. They want to feel that you care about them, that they matter to you. What is your welcome series like? How often do you communicate with customers outside the context of your content—asking them questions (surveys?) about themselves and their work? How often do you give them ''love gifts"? How often do you call them to see how you're doing? Your renewal rate is a function of how attached they feel to you.

Improve Renewal Marketing. Most renewal series consist of perfunctory notices of expiration, focusing on features (e.g., 24 issues, online access, expert editors, news of the industry), rather than reminding customers of the compelling benefits—both emotional and material—they receive and will lose if they expire (e.g., helps you beat the competition, improve patient outcomes, increase profits, feel more secure). Your renewal rate is a function of how much value they feel they will lose if they expire. Remember, the fear of paying more often works better than the benefit of saving money. So instead of "Last chance to save $200," you might be better with, "Prices will go up $200 tomorrow."

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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…