How to Write 'Come Back' Letters

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Your subscriber didn't renew, and you're sad! But don't boohoo. Plan what you will do to get him back. Good customers are gold. We all know that. Winning them back can mean so much to your company's bottom line. So let's look at some renewal strategies.

The term "renewal" typically applies in direct marketing to magazines, but it can apply to anything: collectibles on a continuity program, a special series to lapsed customers of any kind, fundraisers and beyond. Here are some ideas on how to make your renewal program succeed:

Begin your renewal series before the customer quits. This can be three months for magazines. Some common teaser lines are "Renewal Notice" and "Time to Renew Your Subscription." Nothing to get stoked over, but don't neglect the obvious in your creative mix. And do mail repeatedly. A renewal series can range from four to 10 letters.

Have reasonable expectations - and try to beat them. 'Tis best to be both ambitious and realistic. According to testing maven Dick Benson in his book "Benson on Testing," few magazine renewal mailers get better than a 65 percent renewal rate.

Remind them of all the benefits. It's possible to wrongly assume that your customer recalls all of the benefits of doing business with you. Every renewal series, even those that are simply a letter in an envelope, should have at least a slip sheet that enumerates all of the advantages they receive as customers.

Test powerful teaser lines. This first example is a straightforward approach I wrote for Paul Fredrick's menswear catalog. We used it successfully on an outerwrap:

We were wondering why we haven't heard from you ...

... so we thought we'd give you an incentive to reply!

(Collect your FREE Tie!)

Cute: "You'll miss us when we're gone!"

"Don't you hate to lose a good thing?"

Guilt: "We hate to lose a good friend."

Fear of loss: "Don't miss out on ..."

Urgency: "Last chance."

Use teaser/Johnson Box combos. The way to build on your conceptual strength is to repeat the theme of your teaser, but vary it, or follow up with the next appealing thought. Example for a running magazine:

Teaser: "Don't miss out on 5 NEW Tips for Beating your Personal Best."

Johnson Box: "We tested these 5 New Tips, Albert, and you'll be amazed by the results. ..."

Try varied premiums. If your premium incentives consultant tells you that offering a free clock radio works with consumer magazines, try it! Don't worry that it might be unrelated to your selling message. If it catches mice, it's a good cat.

Use a deadline date for a premium. After the deadline passes, dangle a new carrot and a new deadline date.

Use personalization effectively. If your database contains customers' special interests, remind them of upcoming special-interest articles/products. Let readers know what they'll be missing. Know the editorial schedule and exciting baubles coming up.

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