5 Killer Examples of Retention Email Marketing

by 14 03/20/2013

Everyone sends newsletters these days and for good reason: they work.

But what emails are you sending to specifically ensure your customers come back and buy again?

None? Well, you’re not alone!

Customer retention is a complex beast and understanding ways you can use email to increase your customer retention will lead to a direct increase in the amount of money you make from your customers.

Here are five great examples of retention emails from online businesses that know their stuff. Use them for inspiration!

What IS retention?

Your business’ retention refers to the percentage of customers that purchase again. It’s directly related to terms like ‘churn’ – i.e. the percentage of customers that do not repeatedly buy from your business.

There are a number of key elements that influence retention and, in my experience, the top three are:

  1. Attracting the right customers. You want to attract as many of your ‘ideal customer’ as possible. An ideal customer will get maximum value from your product(s). They are loyal.  By their very nature these businesses will stick around for a long time.
  2. Activation. Just because a customer engages with your business doesn’t mean they’ll actually buy. This is particularly true in the world of online software: if someone puts their card down for a free trial it doesn’t mean they’re going to stick around. You have to make sure that every customer actually takes the key activity or activities that represent an active user. By ensuring customers activate in the first place you give yourself the best chance at increasing your retention rate.
  3. Follow up. Even if you’re acquiring the right sort of customers and activating them rapidly it’s super important to continue to monitor customers that go inactive and to prompt them to come back and use your software or purchase again. To maximize retention, spend a lot of time ensuring your customers don’t leave.

So, with those factors in mind how can you use email to increase retention?

1. Dropbox’s activation email

For Dropbox, no install = no business. You’re never going to become a paying customer year-in, year-out if you don’t install Dropbox in the first place so they spend time focusing on getting you to install.

Here’s an email Dropbox send a few days after a new customer signs up to Dropbox and hasn’t yet installed the email client:

dropbox

Cute, simple, on-brand. This is the sort of activation email you should send your customers if they haven’t taken your core activation action.

How to replicate this campaign’s success

  1. Find your core activation metric. For Twitter this was getting customers to Follow more than 30 accounts. For Vero (my business) it’s getting customers to send their first email and so on.
  2. Email customers who haven’t taken this action within three days of signing up for your business.
  3. Make the call to action direct and make it easy for customers to get in touch and seek help!

2. SocialWOD’s educational email series

Kareem, founder of SocialWOD, is a switched on guy.

SocialWOD helps CrossFit trainers keep track of their customers’ daily workouts. Kareem identified that customers needed to better understand the value of his product before feeling comfortable becoming a customer. Once they understood the need they often became loyal customers who would use his service for a long time.

socialwod

He decided that the trick would be getting prospective customers to understand what SocialWOD is all about.

Short of calling each and every customer for an hour, which isn’t ideal for a product business, Kareem got inspired by deconstructing WPEngine’s speed educational email course, as discussed by Patrick McKenzie in his Lifecycle Email Course, and wrote an educational email campaign.

Kareem’s campaign consists of 6 emails sent over 21 days designed to educate customers about SocialWOD and daily activity for FREE. He doesn’t sell the customers directly, instead he gives away the solutions to the challenges his customers face and, implicitly, brings his potential customers around to the idea of buying SocialWOD to make their lives easier!

Here are the titles of his six emails:

  1. Building your gym’s community will build your business
  2. Recognizing your athletes when they hit personal bests will keep them coming back
  3. Call your athletes when they don’t show up to keep churn low
  4. Using Facebook for word-of-mouth marketing is a powerful way to grow
  5. Help your athletes set and reach their fitness goals and they’ll love you
  6. More resources for your gym + close

How to replicate this campaign’s success

You know so much about your business’ area of expertise. You spend 24/7 thinking about it! Write 5-8 emails sharing useful, educational and free content about your business’ problem area and offer it to customers via email.

This really detailed post on using educational emails to build trust with potential customers will give you lots of ideas on how to replciate this campaign with success!

3. Amazon’s review email

Amazon are an email marketing powerhouse. They have some of the most sophistacted lifecycle marketing campaigns in the world, so it’s only natural we should look to them for inspiration!

Amazon spends a massive amount of time optimizing user flows and driving customers back to Amazon.com. Getting your customers back on your site is a golden opportunity to get them to interact with new features or buy products.

Everytime you buy a book on your Kindle Amazon sends you an email like this:

amazon

Why is this super slick?

  1. It drives customers back to Amazon’s website even though the customer initially they initially interacted on the Kindle which exposes the customer to a full range of purchases: not just more digital books. You can bet this is good for Amazon’s bottom line.
  2. It’s not sales-y at all. It’s a clear, simple email that really encourages you to take the key call to action: rate the book.

How to replicate this campaign’s success

Target customers who have bought from your business before and ask them for a review or recommendation.

Not only is this best practice but, for an eCommerce store, it is a genuine means of bringing customers back to your website to purchase again.

Implement a campaign like this in just a few hours and you’ll increase your customer retention permanantely.

4. Flightfox’s come back email

Flightfox are a crowdsourced flight search provider. They’re a data-driven team and email means a lot to their business.

Having previously written about how lifecycle emails helped them increase their sales by 10% Flightfox are now sending an email to some customers who have previously completed a flight contest and taken a trip.

flightfox

This email converts repeat customers at a rate of around 3%. That’s impressive and it’s fantastic that they are increasing their permanent repeat business using a single email.

How to replicate this campaign’s success

Where in your funnel can you bring customers back to purchase again?

Find this point and automate an email that reminds customers you exist and gives them an incentive to come back.

Pro tip: Experiment with your offers and copy. It might be well worth it to offer first time repeat customers a little bonus to get them over the line but it might be enough to simply email loyal customers (who have purchased three or more times) with a simple reminder.

5. HelpJuice’s weekly webinar

Emil is the founder of HelpJuice, a tool that helps businesses automate their support by making their Knowledge Base super awesome.

helpjuice

Emil sends a number of emails to free trial users of his product but the number one most effective email is this one:

Subject: You HAVE to attend this webinar: PROVEN tactics used to save 1m+ support emails and happier customers

Hey Chris,

I’m sending you this message since you signed up for Helpjuice recently.

I wanted to share with you something dead simple that EVERY single Helpjuice customer has used to save 1,000,000+ support emails (that’s a lot of time saved) and happier customers.

It’s pretty interesting actually. Companies like Amazon, Coastal.com, Microsoft, Indeed really focus on automating their support..and not too many people know about how they do it.

I WANT you to join us in the largest webinar we’re going to host (it’ll be free and limited to 50 people this time — this number is much of participants easier to handle than 200). We won’t do these things as often, so you should really jump on board and learn. It’ll only be 30-45m long (includes questions + bonus material)

You need to take action right now and click on the link to join the webinar for this Tuesday/Friday: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/rt/6322637510083341824

Not convinced to join? Mario from PetRelocation loved it so much that he wrote us a note immediately after the ‘show':

“Emil thank you so much. It was the best webinar I’ve ever been to.. Most of the time I feel I am wasting my time but not this time. I like how you openly say how things are and not try to oversell it.” — Mario Hebert, PetRelocation.com

Join us right now. Register now and save your spot:

https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/rt/6322637510083341824

Look forward to seeing you there.

Your friend, Emil

This email, along with it’s follow-ups invites customers to attend a weekly webinar that teaches them how the big guys reduce customer support times.

The email is fantastic as it creates urgency, encourages customers to engage with HelpJuice and activates customers rapidly.

Emil has shared this this lifecycle email has doubled his customer lifetime value.

That’s a massive improvement and something we should all aim for.

How to replicate this campaign’s success

Every business has content they’re using for marketing. Re-purpose this content and offer it to new users as a value add.

Make the content practical and ensure it helps them start using your product(s). This could be a video, a webinar of your own, a slideshow, an eBook – just make it practical, to the point and relatively short.

This concept works because it gives you a chance to really educate your customer and also gives them a sense of ‘value': you’re providing exclusive content to help them solve their problems!

A customer who sees this value will become a loyal customer much faster than one how doesn’t and this leads to a direct increase in retention.

What you should do today

These five examples come from companies of all sizes but they all have two things in common: they’re successful and they’re growing AND they use email marketing to increase their customer lifetime value.

Increasing your retention rate means you see a better ROI from each and every customer you sign up. This gives you a better business, optimizes your cash flow and gives you a ‘better machine’ to work with!

Spend as much time optimizing for customer retention and lifetime value as you do on customer acquisition and you will be amazed at the growth.

Pick one of the campaigns above that is relevant to your business and set it up today. A few hours investment will pay off forever!

What do you think of these campaigns? What other retention emails have you seen and responded to? Let me know in the comments!

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About 

Chris Hexton is one of the founders of Vero. He lives and breathes email marketing 24/7 for his customers and you can follow him on Twitter or connect on LinkedIn.

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14 COMMENTS

Sourav Saha @ Blogaholic

Thanks Chris for an great post!

I think I might add Hubspot as the 6th examples. Their emails definately educate people to better understand the value of their product before feeling comfortable becoming a customer. Their targeted emails on a release of new free eBooks surely educates people and gets a traction for being a paying customer. (I personally don’t link where subscribers again have to go through a lead capturing form to download a free ebook)

Often sending video links of using your products easily might generate interest round your product & often can be used as a fun stuff. Just like Hubspot CMO Mike Volpe did to improve email clickthrough rate by 583%.

March 20, 2013 Reply

    Chris Hexton

    @Sourav – HubSpot are the experts when it comes to inbound marketing so that’s a great example. Do you happen to have a link to the case study re: video increasing clicks by 538%? That sounds super!

    Video as a content channel can be really powerful. I’m doing a blog post on that right now over at blog.getvero.com so keep your eyes peeled ;).

    @Dan – Also a great example. KISSmetrics know what they’re doing! I have received these emails myself and am a big fan.

    March 24, 2013 Reply

Dan Norris

Awesome Chris, Kiss Metrics also do a great job of emails, mainly the pre-sales emails which I think are included in the examples above. They provide a lot of valuable information about improving conversions with specific examples of how they improved by x% by doing x things. And it’s all re-enforced by the fact that they knew about it because they were tracking the right things (with Kiss Metrics).

March 20, 2013 Reply

Dave Wedge

Nice post Chris,

Some great examples but also a reminder of the need to focus on existing customers. I know I am guilty of this, most of my marketing effort is about gaining new business. I shall be putting some effort in to this.

April 3, 2013 Reply

Dmitry

Interesting article Chris.

It would be interesting to see the convesrion rates for all the companies not just FlightFox. I say this because I didn’t notice anything innovative about approaches Social Wod and Help Juice take.

Dropbox is eye-candy and very simple. FlightFox offers a discount. Amazon asks what YOU thought about the product – feels very personalized.

Social Wod and Help Juice don’t stand out. I find that long winded emails alienate readers even if they are well worded.

May 6, 2013 Reply

    Chris Hexton

    Thanks for the comment Dmitry. Always good to try and share stats and, although I can’t get stats on every third party example (HelpJuice, Dropbox, etc.) I do what I can!

    I should see if I can find the conversion rate on those welcome campaigns as they are certainly different to the other examples. We have seen lots of customers have success though, particularly if you come from *nothing* prior (which is where this article was pitched).

    It definitely depends on the audience too. What sort of scenario were you using longer emails in? Would love to learn more about your success / improvements and why these may not have worked!

    May 6, 2013 Reply

mia

how can i write an email to market a liquor store to companys. To let them know of the what we have to offere. Sorry very new at this

January 6, 2014 Reply

    Kathryn Aragon

    Hey, Mia. Always start with the basics. You need to know why those companies would be interested in your store, then come up with the benefits they’ll enjoy if they buy from you. Keep it “you” focused and you’ll be surprised at how well you can do.

    January 6, 2014 Reply

Dave

Super helpful post Chris! In the process of developing a retention strategy with McClure’s AARRR process, and these are exactly the kind of examples I needed. Any suggestions on other examples or resources that would be helpful?

April 3, 2014 Reply


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