It’s hard to make new friends, isn’t it?
Whether you’re moving to a new town or starting a new job, making friends as an adult means breaking into an existing friend group and getting caught up to speed.
It’s uncomfortable, awkward, and overwhelming, especially compared to the comfort of talking to a childhood BFF.
It’s just like going out and finding a new customer compared to keeping an existing one.
Customer retention - getting customers to repurchase and renew - isn’t talked about as much as acquisition in marketing convos and on conference stages. But don’t let that fool you into thinking it doesn’t matter! It can cost five times more to go out and find a new customer than it does to keep an existing one.
For most of us, that means working five times harder (and consuming 10 times as much coffee).
So when it comes to your email marketing strategy, customer retention should be a top priority, especially if you already drink too much caffeine. Why does retention work so well?
Because existing customers have already been won over. They’re already wearing the other half of your “best friends forever” charm. You have inside jokes and a history with each other. In other words, they’re way easier to sell to.
Plus, email is one of the best channels to keep in touch with them through. Compared to other marketing channels like advertising or social media, email feels more personal and one-on-one. It’s the perfect combination to keep your current customers as close as the friends in your busiest group text.
But customer retention stumps a lot of small businesses - what do you even email someone when you’re not selling to them?
Here are a few retention email ideas to get your strategy started. They’re perfect for taking a customer at the end of one sales cycle and keeping in touch until they’re ready to buy again!
1. Feedback Emails - "How Did You Sleep?"
First of all, let’s talk about feedback emails. I know, asking for feedback is awkward too, but stay with me.
They’re one of the first emails you should be sending your customers after a sale, after all. And as nerve-inducing as it is to ask, “how did we do?” it tells you whether their purchase was successful or not. It’s easy enough to hook your sales system up to your marketing automation tools. For example, our Shopify integration lets you tag and segment your customers automatically so the experience on their side is totally seamless.
And there are a few different ways to get feedback from customers, so you can choose the most natural option for the situation. You can ask your customer to leave a product review, tag you on social media, or answer a short NPS survey. It doesn’t need to be a whole big thing!
Now, let’s talk timing. Perfecting the timing of your feedback email will depend on your product or service, but a great check-in period is usually the week or two after your customer’s purchase.
That way, you’ve given them time to try everything out but the first impressions are still fresh in their memory. For example, take the below email from Casper asking to review their sheets:
Asking how we slept?! So friendly, so considerate! However...You wouldn’t want to ask for feedback on sheets the day after your customer’s package arrives, since they’d need to be washed first, and who doesn’t procrastinate laundry? So they probably wait up to a week for laundry day to roll around, then ask for a review.
For bonus points, you can even segment customers into different groups based on their satisfaction after they share their feedback.
Happy customers might get referral requests and other emails from the list below, while not-so-happy shoppers might get a quick “need some help?” email from support.
2. Referral Requests - "Spread the Love (And Get Paid)"
Along with feedback emails, referral requests are another great retention idea. Plus, they’re both secretly double agents serving both your customer retention and word-of-mouth. They don’t just keep your current friends close, they help you make new ones! After all, recommendations from friends are the most credible form of advertising for customers these days. So since people still trust friends more than strangers on the internet, you can use customer referrals in your online marketing to increase your trustworthiness and their street cred.
People love being the cool one in their friend group, who introduces everyone else to the latest and greatest brands and products. If you can help your customer become that person, both they and their friends will only love you more for it.
And if you can incentivize referrals so that one or both customers get a small reward in the process? Consider yourself golden.
For example, it’s a popular growth tactic for apparel company MeUndies:
These emails are great to send shortly after a feedback email.
Because it’s not pushing a customer towards another purchase yet, it’s a way to keep customers engaged before moving onto some of the emails here more focused on renewal.
3. Motivation Emails - "[First Name] We're Ready to Wow You Again"
Let’s think longer term now. Say a customer first tried your product a month ago.
The initial excitement is starting to wear off, but it’s not time to start hyping up their next purchase yet. What can you do to keep the love alive?
There are lots of ways to “drop in” on a customer to keep them motivated to use your product.
For example, look at this amazing and motivating weekly digest from expedited airport security program, CLEAR:
Think about what behaviors your customers link your products with and go from there.
For example, if you sell athletic wear, try sending an email about how many gym visits your customer’s latest yoga pants will last for.
What you want is to keep them excited until it’s time to start their next sales cycle, which is where these last two email ideas come in.
Think of them each as super-short sales funnels, since so much of the work has already been done.
4. Related Recommendation Emails - " Check out our late summer picks –– see what's new at Good Eggs"
Now say it’s been a few weeks or months since your customer made a purchase.
You’ve been strategic about keeping them engaged, so you know they’re still thinking of you.It’s time to start planting the seed for a repurchase or renewal.
You don’t need to send hard promotions, just a little nudge.
A great way to do that is by emailing them about what goes well with the products they already have.
For example, look at how Good Eggs emails users about their newest products:
The email doesn’t have a single “hard pitch” or call-to-action button, no “shop now” prompts.
It’s just like a nice friend sending suggestions for your next purchase.
It’s giving them ideas to make more of their existing purchase, in a sneaky and strategic way that encourages future purchases.
Recommendation emails can help conversions even when a customer doesn’t buy one of the recommendations, since it’s a small mental cue that moves customers back into “buying” mode.
5. Cross-Sell And Re-Sell Emails - " Confirming Your Executive Razors"
Once you’ve carefully nurtured a new customer a bit, it’s time to talk about taking your relationship to the next level: their next purchase. That’s when you truly become BFFs. Finally!
Their next purchase might be buying the same product again, buying a complementary product to use with it, or branching out into another category you offer. The best option to go with will depend on your customer and whether or not your products “run out.”
Take shaving, for example, Dollar Shave Club has a huge collection of products. Figuring out which products a new customer needs to buy next would take a ton of guessing.
However, if they liked the razor they just bought, they might like to add something to their next subscription box that complements it.
That’s why they send emails like this work amazingly well:
Dollar Shave Club may not know what other products their new customer likes yet, but they will need more of what they’ve already used up.
Emails focused on repurchasing should be more focused than related recommendation emails, for example with harder calls-to-action, and synced up with the length of your customer’s average sales cycle.
Turn The Funnel Into A Cycle
With strategic “keep in touch” emails like these, you’ll be able to stay close and friendly with all your customers.
They close the loop between the end of one sales funnel and the start of another, building up your relationships with your customers along the way.With each retention email you send, you also get to learn more about your customers.
Combine that with Sendlane’s advanced marketing automation tools, and you'll open up even more personalization opportunities that can increase sales later!