Understanding The Subscriber Lifecycle
Has your relationship with some of your subscribers gotten a bit stale?
The beginning of the courtship was amazing – they opted in, opened many of your emails, hell – they even converted by making some purchases and shared your deals with some friends!
Now…they’re just not that into you.
Hey, it happens. Whatever the cause, you may try to send several emails to get the relationship back on track. But if you’re not using the right tactic, if the emails are not personalized or not relevant, your efforts might end up being perceived as, to put it nicely, annoying. The worst thing that can happen? They eventually break up with you.
That’s why it’s important to understand every stage of the Subscriber Lifecycle so that you can implement the right tactic at the right time, using measures to nurture, grow and reboot your relationship, or have a conscious “uncoupling,” of sorts.
The Customer Lifecycle and Subscriber Lifecycle are two different things and require different strategies. The former describes the steps a customer goes through from consideration to purchase to loyalty, while the latter takes into consideration the different needs and expectations of the email subscriber – from acquisition and onboarding, through various engagement and re-engagement tactics, to the end of an email relationship. Keep in mind, you can have a subscriber that is not a customer, and a customer that is not a subscriber.
According to Chad White, Research Director at Litmus and author of Email Marketing Rules, the Subscriber Lifecycle includes the six following stages:
1) Acquisition. The entire process by which you get a new subscriber to opt in to your email program. This includes acquisition tactics and signup forms.
Let’s say a potential new subscriber, Charles, saw your ad in Esquire. He’s a sharp dresser and shoe lover and your ad had some fabulous creative with a call to action asking him to subscribe for content on affordable designer shoes that go with every outfit for every season. He’s intrigued, so he signs up with his email address.
2) Onboarding. This stage includes the signup confirmation page along with a series of welcome emails (which comes before sending regular emails) or early stage nurture campaigns. It maximizes the “signup honeymoon effect” as Chad puts it and keeps the momentum to drive action.
At this stage, you’re giving Charles the opportunity, at the point of seeing the welcome page, to opt up to receive other emails in your program. These can include: special VIP shoe deal newsletters, blog newsletters, style alerts from the hottest celebrities, seasonal emails and more. Charles loves shoes so much and thinks your brand is fun after receiving a series of five informative welcome emails, so he opts into everything!
3) Engagement. These are your broadcast and seasonal emails that go to everyone – your baseline promotional mainstream emails.
Charles engages with these emails: he clicks through, he shares on his social channels, he forwards emails along to friends and makes a few online purchases for himself and for his brother.
4) Re Engagement. This is your opportunity to change messaging, or to change or test frequency to get people re engaged. These include win-back emails and other engagement tactics to address subscribers who are inactive or in danger of becoming inactive.
Life happens – Charles recently moved to a new apartment and is saving for an adventurous vacation in the Maldives. He decides to cut back on shoe-buying for 3 – 6 months. He still receives your emails, hasn’t opted out, but isn’t opening many of them or purchasing either. You switch up your messaging and send him a “We Miss You Email”, along with a big discount. He feels special, gives in and decides he needs a new pair of boat shoes after all, you know…for that trip to the Maldives and a pair of designer sneakers so that he can comfortably explore the islands in style.
5) Super-engagement. This stage allows for more opportunities with active and engaged subscribers and include segmented emails and triggered emails like birthday emails, browse and cart abandonment and post-purchase action emails. If people are engaging with your content, then you can draw them in even further by driving them to opt up into additional mail streams.
Charles loves receiving emails from your brand, is an active customer and is a super-engaged subscriber. He never misses a triggered email, is brand loyal and has recently opted in to your loyalty program email to become a VIP shoe platinum member. Your brand ads a new line of business which includes clothing and accessories, he opts into those emails as well.
6) Transition. The breakup stage. This is the final or transition stage: opt-out process, preference center and/or re-permission emails. Email marketers don’t often want to acknowledge this part of the lifecycle, but it’s important to embrace it. Use the transition stage to direct persons to other channels like direct mail or social. Be courteous and grateful for the good times and offer options to opt out or opt down, and try to address the reasons people unsubscribe. Just because someone is ending their email relationship with you, doesn’t mean they are ending their business relationship with you and it certainly doesn’t mean that they won’t restart an email relationship with you later on.
Charles feels like the two of you have grown apart. He’s bought so many pairs of shoes, but his priorities have shifted. He decides to opt-down instead of opting out – things were good between you two once, so he just wants to remain distant friends.
There is so much more to learn about the subscriber lifecycle. For an in-depth conversation on this, email attention spans and the virality of email with Chad White, listen to the Everything Email Podcast here and check out the third edition of his book, Email Marketing Rules.