With any subscription-based business, your renewal rate is the key to your success. It's also the key ingredient to your attrition rate. With each issue that you deliver, each subscriber that you keep is one less new subscriber you will have to find to grow your circulation.
The first step in improving your renewal rates is understanding them. You need to look at your subscription data and benchmark your current rates. In general you calculate your renewal rate by looking at how many people renewed given that they were set to expire with a particular issue. For example, if 100 subscribers will expire with your July/August issue, what percent renew? We usually calculate this number after all renewal efforts have been sent and received. If you do that for a few issues you will have a good understanding of what your current rate is.
Now, how do you get your renewal rates as a high as possible? Let's start with what we consider the "holy grail" of renewal rates ... AUTO RENEWALS! Auto renewing your subscribers has many advantages. First and foremost, the renewal rates we see with auto renew are much higher than trying to renew subscribers with email and letter efforts. On average, publishers with auto renew see almost a 3x improvement on their renewal rates. Additionally, every subscriber who auto renews costs you nothing in marketing and overhead. No emails to send. No letters to mail. If the renewal does fail because their credit card has expired or changed, then you can just move them into your normal renewal process and get them back on board for auto renew in the next cycle. (and payment gateways like Stripe, Authorize, and PayPal have gotten much better at keeping cards up to date)
If you are not auto renewing subscribers, or when you need to clean up those auto renews that fail, the next most important tactic is consistency! You would be amazed how many publishers don't send out renewal notices consistently. We've even seen publishers go many issues with out sending a single renewal email or letter. And we get it, publishers are extremly busy and sometimes renewals slip through the cracks. That's is why we highly recommend you automate your renewal notices. With automated renewal emails and automated renewal letters, you never have to worry again about remembering or finding the time to send out your notices. You just set up your renewal series once and then let it run automatically as each issue comes out and your subscribers near expiration. Just being consistent and sending out your notices every time, on time, will go a long way towards improving your renewal rates.
OK, so your sending your renewals out consistently, now what? Well if it isn't super simple for your subscribers to renew their subscription, guess what ... it won't happen. You need to make renewing as easy as possible. Really it should be one-click easy to renew a subscription. When your subscriber clicks that "Renew Now" button in your email it should take them right to your renewal form with all of their info filled in so they can just enter their credit card number or click the PayPal button and be done with it. They should not have to log into their account or type in their address again if they are renewing a subscription. Or, if you are sending a letter in the mail, don't make them type in a URL to your renewal form. Use a QR code, so they can simply scan the letter with their phone (every phone's camera app does this now automatically) and immediately arrive at the renewal form with all of their info pre-populated! Again, the simpler it is, the more it will happen.
If you're doing all of the things mentioned above you are going to see MUCH better renewal rates. For the handful of people who still don't renew we have one final suggestion, try a global renewal notification. Once a year (or maybe twice) send emails and letters to everyone in your list who has expired recently. We generally do people who expired in the last year or two. Send all of these people a special offer and remind them that they once enjoyed getting your publication. Perhaps even offer something special, a discount, free access to digital back issues, or some merchandise, if they renew. You'll be surprised how many people take you up on the offer.
I said that was the last tip for improving your renewal rates, but here is a bonus! If you have gift subscriptions, send a special renewal notice (or two) around the holidays and remind your gift givers how much the recipient loves getting your publication. We've found that gift givers love renewing a gift subscription year after year. I mean what gift is easier to give than that? But, sometimes they need a little reminder to renew!
In conclusion, we highly recommend that you start auto renewing subscribers if you haven't already. Beyond that, you need to be CONSISTENT, you need to make renewals SUPER SIMPLE (like one-click simple), and you need to reach out annually to the people you miss either through a global renewal or a reminder to renew gift subscriptions. Do all of this and we're sure you will see the renewal rates that your publication deserves.
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