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Retention Emails — Why and How to do it.

Thoughts by Nuno Sancha • Freelancer Freelancer

We have this notion that just because our customers are paying us every month or have an annual plan, they are happy and will continue to be our customers forever. This notion is flawed, we need to cultivate a relationship with them, and the easiest way to do that is by email.

We already talked about onboarding — and this is when your retention should start — and now we are taking it one step forward; retention emails.

Let’s do a quick recap before we go any further:

  • Welcome email;
  • Give value;
  • Talk about your product;

Usually, companies have onboarding email sequences, but they go radio silent after that period. No more emails; their job is “done.”

After your onboarding sequence, it is time to continue conversations with your customers.

You might be tempted to ignore retention if you are not in SaaS, but remember that even if you are in the ecommerce business, you need recurring sales from your customers, especially if you have a subscription box.

Why retention emails though?

I can think of some reasons for businesses wanting to have retention emails going to their customers:

Approachable – assuming that you are not starting today, you already have an email list full of your customers, so you just have to start sending those emails.

Return on Investment – acquisition usually requires money, and acquiring customers just for a one-off sale is absurd unless you sell expensive things like cars, houses, and private jets. But, even if that is the case for you, you will need to maintain some type of relationship with them.

Increase Loyalty – I don't like this loyalty thing – this is a commercial relationship after all – but let's go with it for the lack of a better word. Well, let's put it this way, you will reduce your churn rate, at the very least you will delay it.

Referrals – a satisfied customer has more chance of recommending your services, or products, to another person. Word of mouth is more potent than a company shouting at people, "LOOK AT US, WE ARE THE BEST. WE PROMISE!"

But before we move on to the next section, there is this misconception that we need to clear out. A quick search on Google about retention – or even on business books – will tell you that it is cheaper to retain than acquire new customers.

Well, the empirical data says otherwise. In the book How Brands Grow, Byron Sharp presents a study by Binet & Field titled “The Long & the Short of It: balancing short and long term marketing strategies”; covering 30 years of marketing campaigns—996 in total—and this was the result:

across the board, campaigns targeting new customers outperform campaigns targeting existing customers. In terms of the average number of business effects reported, the former are three times as effective as those targeting existing customers.

But before you decide to only acquire new customers, the reasons for retaining a customer are still valid and meaningful. So I just wanted to set this record straight and let you know that you have to keep acquiring new customers.

A good rule of thumb created by Shopify goes like this:

Learn With Shopify - Customer Retention 101 via Learn With Shopify

Ok, what should be my Email Frequency?

Great question and I don't have ONE answer for that. Marketing is about testing and figuring it out with your customers’ base. You need to collect data, talk to your customers, segment them, and then test which frequency is better.

As I said in the onboarding article, you shouldn't be afraid of sending those emails. For a relationship to work, communication is essential.

But I will give you a head-start and present you with two known frameworks in the marketing world. The first one is mathematical – yeah, I am smart – and the other is about "nothing."

Fibonacci Sequence The Fibonacci Sequence

There isn't a mystery there. As you can see, this sequence is simple: one email today, another email tomorrow, then another after two days, then after three days you send another, after five days…

You get the picture.

Daily Seinfield Emails by Russell Brunson
This framework is a tricky one and a scary one as well. It goes out every single day. Usually, these emails have an entertaining story that ties to your offer.

Everyday? Yes, every single day.

In the words of Russell, when you do it every day, you will have the chance to test different subject lines, different stories; which will provoke responses from different segments of the market.

Maybe this is a good way to segment your email list. See what's working and to whom, and create segments for your list with time.

When to send those emails?

You should know your customers in your email list. Are they stay-at-home moms/dads? Are they corporate workers? Are they extreme sports fans?

Knowing your customer base will give you a feeling about when you should send those emails. One example:

  • If you have a lot of work email addresses on your list, you have people who probably work 9-5 jobs and are away from work during weekends, which means that you should send your emails inside the working time frame, in their local timezone, from Monday to Friday.

Test and see. There is no other way around this.

What to send to your list?

Another one of those Sun Tzu email marketing strategies: "if you know your customers and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred email campaigns."

Sorry, my teacher made me read Art Of War in college – Business Strategy class – and I am still trying to find a way to use that knowledge.

But you need a place to start while you conduct your customer research, you can go for the low hanging fruits:

  • teach them "secret tricks" about your product;
  • remind them to take any action related to your product;
  • use products updates to state the benefits for your customers, instead of just telling them how proud you are about the new feature;
  • credit card update reminders;
  • give your best customers a gift card;

and so on.

Since we talked about the Daily Seinfield Emails, Russell has three styles of emails that he usually sends:

Episode Style – he tells a story about what happened in his life that day, a story that ties back to his core offer, or he shares a controversial topic in the industry that he operates in.

Epiphany Style – he talks about different ideas. Ideas that lead to inspiration, or provoke the reader to have their opinions. Sometimes he challenges the existing beliefs of his customers. His goal is to help readers have an epiphany that ties back to his core offers.

Educational Style – he provides checklists, how-tos, Q&A's, FAQs that he answers to his readers. He does it to drive readers to his core offers.

You don't have to be like Russell and try to sell everyday, all day. Instead, you can take inspiration from what he already created and keep a relationship with your customers. But remember that you are running a business, and selling is part of it.

Final words

Sometimes we want people to tell us exactly how to do something. But I don't have access to your email list, and I don't know your customers. So this is why I decided to tell you what you can do.

There are no email examples this time, but there is a lot of inspiration on how many times and what you can put inside your emails to maintain a relationship.

If you need anything more specific, you can join Bento's Discord community, and if you are a member, just leave a question there, and we will try to answer it in the best way possible.

See you soon.