How to Take a Boring, Weak Renewal Email and Turn it Into a Powerful Renewal Campaign

Email Marketing


Hello [email protected],

We wanted to let you know that your Pro Account will expire in 14 days.

To renew for another year and see a list of all the latest Pro features check out this page: []

Thank you for your support!
[company name]
A few days ago, I received the above email. Note: I’ve removed the company name to protect the guilty.

If you’ve read more than a few Marketo blog posts, you likely can pick out a handful of aspects of this email that could, well, use some “improvement.”  Also, if you re(read) the title of this post, you can probably figure out what’s lacking in this renewal email.

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Renewal Emails: The Basics

Let’s first tackle what this company did well, shall we? My short answer is “not much” but there are actually a few positives here.

  1. Subject line: Pro account expires soon. Direct. To the point. Creates a sense of urgency.
  2. Email copy: They sure didn’t waste a lot of time (and words) getting to the main point of the email. My Pro Account is about to expire. Got it.
  3. Call to action: It was there. While it could have been stronger (more on that later), at least there was SOME action for me to take.

Overall, not a whole lot to be excited about.

However, I do need to give them some credit for at least sending the email. There are many companies who don’t even bother to nudge customers about upcoming account expirations. Not only did they send a renewal reminder, they got ahead of the game a bit (2 weeks). It will be interesting to see if I receive more emails from them as I get closer to my renewal date.

Now for the fun part.

How can we overhaul this renewal reminder email to be amazing?

Start earlier.

While this certainly depends on the product or service that is expiring – as well as it’s cost – the sooner you can send a reminder, the better. This is true for a few reasons. First, it’s a great excuse to get your brand in front of your customer. If there is an issue (or if they are happy/satisfied), they are more likely to let you know. Second, wouldn’t you rather have their money sooner rather than later? Lock ‘em in early! Finally, if you can get a customer to renew earlier, it means fewer nudges you have to send them!

Believe it or not, the California DMV does a really great job with this – via snail mail. My Volvo registration was set to renew on December 1st. At the end of August, I received a renewal letter in the mail! While I could have waited a few months to cough up my money, it was easier just to take care of it immediately – one less thing off my plate. The DMV is happy. I am happy. Everyone wins! And yes, I did just say something positive about the DMV.

While I don’t see this all that often, how great would it be if cell phone companies send account renewal reminders? They have the data to know exactly when your contract is about to expire, right? Why not start sending emails a few months before and lock customers into another contract? They also know what type of phone you have. Assuming you are due for a phone upgrade (every 2 years), how about an reminder to upgrade your phone AND renew your contract?

Consider offering an incentive.

If you send a renewal reminder too far from the deadline, it’s possible the customer will ignore it. I still have 3 months! Why should I give you my money now? This is where an incentive comes in.

I’m not suggesting you outright employ this tactic. Instead, try a simple A|B test to see if offering an incentive (one free month, %-off, etc.) moves more folks to renew early. From your perspective, you’d rather have the money now instead of chasing them down later – or worse yet, losing their business. It also makes financial sense to renew and collect the cash early. If an incentive moves a customer to renew early, everyone wins.

Build a smart campaign, not just a single email.

As mentioned above, I’m not sure yet if this company plans on sending more than one reminder email, but they should! Instead of one-off reminder, create an entire messaging program. Notice I wrote messaging. Although I’m an email marketing guy, it’s not just about email. Consider building a smart campaign – use the data you have to customize your messaging for each customer. When was the last time they logged in and/or used your service? Are they opening/clicking or otherwise engaging with your emails? Are they visiting your site?

A possible smart campaign could look like this:

  • Reminder Email #1: Sent 1 month before account expiration with a soft call to action nudge to renew now. This would be a good opportunity to test an incentive.
  • Reminder Email #2: Sent 2 weeks before account expiration with a much stronger call to action. Create that sense of urgency – in the subject line and the body copy. Tell the customer what happens if they do not renew (think: FUD).
  • Reminder Email #3: Sent a few days before account expiration. This is a critical email. If you don’t get them now, the account may be lost. Make the call to action big, bold, and awesome. Consider an incentive again.
  • Phone call: Depending on the size of the account, it may be worth your time to call the person. In today’s email-centric world, a personal phone call stands out as unique.
  • SMS message: If they have opted in to your SMS program, a few hours before their account expires would be a great time for a text nudge.
  • Post-expiration extension: I would not always recommend this, but as a last ditch effort, think about sending a “your account expired, but renew now to not lose any data” type email.

Note that this is just an example of what you could do. It does not have to include all of these components, nor do they have to be in this order or using this cadence. Be sure to test to see what works best for your audience. Not all renewal campaigns are created equal. Not all customers are the same. Use the data you have – email engagement, customer history, website visits, and so on, to put people in the proper smart campaign.

Don’t stop at email.

I mentioned personal phone calls and SMS campaigns in the above example, but there are many other channels you can use to remind customers about renewals. If they are on your website or using your app online (or on their smartphone), include reminders there! Leverage all opportunities to win that renewal!

However – and this is an important one – be sure your messaging is integrated across all channels. In other words, create smart campaigns that move people to different flows based on interactions they do or do not take. For example, if someone clicks on the renewal link on your website – but does not renew – the next email may be slightly different. Or, if you they click-through an email and renew, stop displaying the in-app messaging. The last thing you want to do is continue nagging a customer about renewing after they’ve already given you their money!

We live in a multi-channel world. While most of our customers spend a significant portion of their lives in their inboxes, they are also engaging with our content and using our services online and on their smartphones. They are visiting our websites, checking Facebook, sending tweets, and posting to LinkedIn.

As marketers, it can be overwhelming to know where your customers are at all times. By leveraging the right technology, we can more easily follow their digital footprint ensuring we send the right message to the right person at the right time.

The next time you think about renewals, scrap that single (boring) email. Instead, consider a multi-channel, multi-touch, personalized, targeted smart campaign. Sent it early. Send it often. Follow in-email and online behaviors. Get that renewal!

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