For Renewal Success, Use Emotional Connections and Positive Outcomes

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When I think of the places I renew my subscriptions or memberships for—theaters, magazines, AAA (a SIPA member!), Baseball Digest, the DC Film Society—it's mostly either for the emotional connections, the advantages I get, or a good outcome from the past year.

For Baseball Digest, I have always done the quizzes with a close nephew for many years. I cherish that. Of course, AAA has come to my rescue on more than one occasion. The DC Film Society got me in free in April to a special showing of Echo in the Canyon—a film about music in the '60s and '70s—with a concert by Jakob Dylan.

Interestingly, the Kennedy Center apparently stopped doing a member event that I was quite enamored with—where they let us on stage and dined and wined us—so I really did have to think twice on that one. It's tricky to start taking away benefits.

Here are 8 renewal keys that might unlock some of those strategies:

1. Check each segment of your renewal efforts. "How does each renewal effort perform relative to where it is in the series?" Denise Elliott, president of Kiplinger, asked. "You should be looking at every single month" for any highs, lows or numbers that stand out. Then look at the why. Direct mail should convert better than internet orders, she said. So If you're not seeing that, you need to dive into something.  You have to look source by source. 

2. Offer gifts/bonuses. Kiplinger has had success with giving white papers or reports free with renewals, especially with a 2-to-3-year renewal or if they renew early. Mr. Kiplinger would sign our early "nice" renewal letters, she said, and then Elliott would "take the hit" for tougher communications later on.

3. Fill out as much of the renewal information as possible for subscribers. Elliott said this is not always easy but they still go to great lengths to do this. "Email renewals to any subscriber with an email address takes them to a pre-populated landing page that is easy to use." 

4. Take a personal route. Chris Moffa, marketing director at Kiplinger, pointed to a test where a personal letter from Mr. Kiplinger beat a graphically more enhanced one. Their audience appreciates that type of outreach and familiarity. But always test, he said. Similarly, Arno Langbehn of Behrs talked about the power of emotion in marketing, where "the product [should] give me a good feeling."

5. Pick up the phone. A MemberZone survey found that 68% of respondents use email to get members to renew. That's no surprise, of course. But many respondents reported that phone calls were nearly as effective: 66% picked up the phone to get a member to renew, and some of those calls came from company higher-ups. Just over 15% said they used calls from other members to spark renewals.

6. Involve members in your content creation. At SIPA, we do member profiles of our new members, and I will use them as experts for articles that I'm writing. It makes for strong content and gives them a good feeling from their name being out there—and makes introductions easier at events. "...Put out a content creation call for sources in your regular e-newsletter," writes Melanie Padgett Powers in her blog. "Plan ahead and regularly ask for contributions on specific topics for your [webinars, reports and publications]."

7. Start the renewal conversation casually—and early. When the time comes for renewal, the "ask" can start from a place of conversation and appreciation. Thank the subscriber/member for his or her loyalty and, if appropriate, participation. Highlight your accomplishments and what you are looking forward to in the year ahead. Ask open-ended questions that require more than a yes and no.

8. Take an outcomes-based benefits approach. People renew their subscriptions or memberships when you provide services they need along with emotional connections they crave. So instead of simply reminding them of a "basket of products and services," be more specific about the outcomes that you've seen.

Ronn Are you subscribed to the SIPAlert Daily?
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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…