Email to ‘Inspire Subscribers to Act’; Customer Onboarding Starts Day One

You’ve recruited a new member or signed up a new subscriber. It’s time to celebrate, right? Maybe for a day or two. Then it’s time to think how to keep that member/subscriber in tow for years to come. Two common denominators from experts: Check in early and often, and make sure they know the breadth of information and resources that you offer.

In an article in INMA recently, Anjali Iyer, head of lifecycle marketing for The Washington Post, wrote that, “based on internal research, subscribers who have zero to two visits [early on] have a 15% lower retention rate compared to subscribers with more than 15 visits. Also, subscribers who use the app and visit more than 14 times have a higher NPS than others.”

Their current subscriber journey begins with multiple email messages “designed to educate, engage, and inspire subscribers to act.” First step: encourage subscribers to select their interests, best time of day and newsletter recommendations, and to download the app. Post authors personally welcome them and share the Post’s mission. Each subscriber then receives tailored messages based on their individual actions.

“Our goal is to ensure that subscribers only receive information that is most relevant to their personal interaction with us thus far,” Iyer writes. Emails are then sent highlighting content ranging from “exclusive investigations and opinions to educating subscribers on WP Live events, gifting articles, and exploring The Post via other platforms like a podcast or TikTok.”

Their primary metrics are: Article pageviews, total visits and days visited in 30 days, habit adoption (newsletter engagement, app downloads, interests, and author follows) and retention over 90 days. Since its launch, their onboarding journey has seen a 2% lift in retention and an increase in three-year customer lifetime value (CLV) after 12 weeks.

Here are more 6 more customer onboarding tips:

Monitor early. “If a subscriber doesn’t have at least 10 page views a month, we run campaigns to engage with them, send them letters from the editor and the CEO, try to understand what they are looking for, and make relevant changes,” said Vaibhav Khanna, senior manager, subscription growth, for The Indian Express and formerly Bloomberg Quint. In a retention study last year from the American Press Institute, the biggest gap between what publishers deem valuable and what they aren’t doing well are: identifying at-risk subscribers; using metrics to evaluate churn; and tracking what subscribers read.

Check in often and survey. Hebba Youssef, chief people officer at Workweek, believes that the first 30, 60 and 90 days should conclude with a survey. If something is not going well at one of those marks, you still have the opportunity to make some improvements. (She was writing about employee onboarding, but the advice rings true for customers as well.)

Come up with clear questions to ask. Similarly, Youssef’s advice to her new employees works for customers as well:
I know what is expected of the programs you offer;
I have the resources I need to succeed with you;
I understand your company culture;
My goals in this relationship are clearly defined.

Perfect your welcome letters. I recall one open-rate survey that had welcome letters far ahead of any other type of communication. We like to be welcomed and made to feel special. The more value you can throw in, the better. And the more people you can welcome will also help you come renewal time. Almost everyone (90%) encourages new subscribers to sign up for their newsletters. However, only some publishers send educational information about how to use their products (46%) or send personal notes from a person in the newsroom (43%).

Dedicate specific space on your site. The Health Industry Distributors Association (HIDA) created a new member guide and a special page on their website with practical tips for new members. During the pandemic, HIDA went away from sending out physical packets but then heard from members who preferred receiving something tangible in the mail. Perhaps you could get a sponsor for that.

Provide the breadth of what you do. “If you are one of the almost a million people who subscribed to our COVID-19 email newsletter, what are the other newsletters that may be valuable to you?” asked Jeremy Gilbert, then of The Washington Post, now of Medill, early on in the pandemic. “What kinds of coverage did you click through from the email newsletter and how can we use those interactions with our site or native apps to get you to stay?” The Atlantic does the same thing with their range of newsletters. “You signed on for this but we also have this.”


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