So excited

Rethinking Subscriptions: Lessons Learned During the Email Overhaul of the Relevate Marketing Blog

I took on the challenge of analysing and revamping the Relevate Marketing Blog’s email subscription a few months ago.

It is not as if our email membership was inactive. Each month, we were adding an astonishing number of subscribers. We knew those subscribers were opening and clicking on our subscription emails because we had the traffic statistics to show it. However, such insights and data just scraped the surface of our subscription’s health.

A closer study indicated that we were losing customers at a pace roughly equal to our rate of acquisition— we had a churn issue. And in other situations, the reason for the drop-off was related to the frequency with which we sent these emails.

It was obvious that we were passing up a chance to increase subscription lifetime and engagement. And, maybe more crucially, it was past time to act.

Examining Our Current Email Subscription

Until recently, our email subscription process went as follows:

Step1: Someone subscribes to our Daily or Weekly email newsletter.

Step 2: Relevate sends an RSS email including our most recent material.

Step 3: The email is sent to the subscriber.

Due to the fact that we had never altered the previous email subscription model in the past, there were almost unlimited possibilities for how the new model may evolve. However, before I determined a new course of action, I wanted to dive into our present emails and subscriber expectations to see what was going on. This required crunching some data and polling our disengaged customers to ascertain precisely what was preventing them from discovering value.

Here is what I discovered…

Three Key Takeaways From Our Old Subscription Model Analysis

1) Our subscription list was expanding, yet subscribers were leaving.

We were rotating around 10% of our overall subscriber list size per month at the time of my first investigation. I’ll go into further depth below on why people were likely churning, but to summarise, our subscribers were abandoning ship because their demands weren’t being satisfied.

When we examined how long subscribers stayed engaged with our subscription emails, we discovered the following:

On average, 16% of new Marketing Blog subscribers cancel their subscriptions on their own before the six-month mark.

On average, 22% of new subscribers stay with The Marketing Blog for six months or longer.

What is the implication here? Given the high volume of new customers we get each month, keeping them engaged for an extended length of time entails the following:

2) Increased traffic generated by new subscribers

  • A more favourable subscriber experience
  • Enhancements to the list’s health and deliverability
  • Increased potential for converting subscribers to leads
  • At this moment, we have discovered everything we were lacking.
  • Subscribers were inundated with emails.

After crunching the attrition and engagement figures, we decided to conduct a poll of customers who were losing interest in our service. Which of the following was a recurring trend in their responses? Overwhelming email.

Indeed, 30% of survey respondents said that the volume of emails they got was the primary reason they disliked our blog experience.

3) Subscribers did not always perceive the information to be relevant to their interests.

The great thing about maintaining a blog for so long is that some of our readers have been with us from the start. They’ve risen to prominence via our content and developed into sophisticated inbound marketers. But then there are our new subscribers, each with a unique set of marketing skills and interests.

Was our current email subscription satisfying everyone’s needs? Not exactly. Mostly because we were delivering our subscribers the same identical blog entries regardless of their subject choices.

Introducing a New Subscription Wave

We set out to build a new subscription model using what we learnt from our previous model and all of the input we received from our current customers.

We have two objectives:
  • Reduce turnover among subscribers
  • Increase your clickthrough rate

And we intended to accomplish those objectives by resolving two issues:

Developing a method for delivering a more tailored content experience. This problem came up often in the comments we received from our current subscribers. To entice users to return for more, we wanted to develop a more personalised content experience.

Calculating an easier-to-manage email cadence. The populace was overwhelmed. They were unable to keep up with daily sends and requested that we pump the breaks.

With these two primary objectives in mind, we settled on a twice-weekly email series comprised of four objective-oriented editions:

Inspire yourself. Outstanding instances of marketing, design inspiration, and game-changing concepts will keep you on your toes.

Increase your growth. The inbound marketing tips, tactics, and practical advice you need to master inbound marketing and achieve your growth objectives.

Advance. The latest marketing and technology news to keep you informed and on top of your game.

Improve Your Situation. Expert career and professional development coaching to help you develop new skills, remain motivated, and work more efficiently.

Additionally, we offer a “Get All of Them” option, which includes a newsletter including the best of each issue.

The New Subscription Program’s Operation

Launched in early May, the new subscription model was initially available exclusively to new subscribers; current customers continued to get their daily or weekly mailings throughout the test period. The objective was to push out the new emails to our full subscriber list after doing some testing.

This is how it transpired…

1) Visitors opt-in using any of our subscription call-to-actions (CTAs) located across the website and blog.

2) After signing up, new subscribers get an email with a link to their subscription choices page.

3) Subscribers choose the email newsletter that is most relevant to their interests and requirements.

For instance, someone assigned with the responsibility of increasing their brand’s online presence may subscribe to the Get Growing email. This issue contains marketing strategies and guidance for developing and implementing a scalable inbound strategy.

Change Brings Complications…

I had a hypothesis about what would happen going into this experiment. I’d conducted some study and given some attention to the adjustments we were implementing.

However, after I launched the new membership, a handful of unexpected events occurred…

Individuals were not being added to mailing lists in a systematic manner.

Indeed, the edition-specific memberships grew quite slowly— so slowly, in fact, that we chose to delay providing material due to the small size of the lists.

It was obvious that the bucketing procedure had proven to be more difficult than expected. The welcome email – which includes a link to the subscription choices landing page – had a 40% open rate, leaving 60% of recipients ignorant of the existence of customised subscription options. Additionally, clickthrough statistics suggested that fewer than 5% of members had previously visited the subscription choices page.

The “Get Them All” list was the only one to increase significantly.

Surprisingly, subscribers were flocking to the all-inclusive email – the one that included information from all four specialist versions. This is the only list to which we have begun sending emails.

To be honest, this was a much simpler list to make for a variety of reasons. For starters, we opted to automatically enrol those who did not customise their membership to the Get All of Them option – these subscribers accounted for 36% of the whole list.

Additionally, we auto-subscribed individuals who entered their email addresses using the subscribe option on our lead generating forms to avoid sending them both a kickback and a welcome email at the same time –these subscribers accounted for around 60% of the total list.

This meant that just 4% of the overall Get All of Them list’s members willingly opted-in to receive that email through the subscription preferences landing page.

What Is the Case?

We inquired. They responded. We were attentive.

Nonetheless, it seemed as if our answer to the personalised content challenge fell short. Did customers really want tailored content to the extent that they went the additional mile? We weren’t so sure anymore – particularly after seeing the statistics for the emails we did sent.

The (Early) Figures

Despite the complications, we now have many weeks’ worth of Get All of Them mails and results. And, much to our surprise, the statistics have been somewhat uneven — and even a bit disappointing.

Rates of click-through and open

After seven sends, the Get All of Them newsletter’s average clickthrough rate drops to about 5.1 percent, whereas the current Daily and Weekly newsletters’ final seven sends had clickthrough rates of 5.3 percent and 6.7 percent, respectively.

The new subscription email had an average open rate of 34%, whereas the final seven deliveries of the prior Daily and Weekly emails received an average open rate of 40.37 percent and 24.84 percent, respectively.

Takeaway: The new email’s clickthrough rate was somewhat lower than that of its Daily and Weekly predecessors. This is most likely because this email is selected similarly to the last subscription in that readers get a mixed bag of articles on a number of subjects that may or may not be of interest to them. The open rate fell between the Daily and Weekly performance, indicating that twice weekly was a workable rhythm, but not ideal.

Churn Rate of Subscribers

What is the good news? Churn was decreased. The total churn rate for twice weekly customers was 4.2 percent in May, down more than 5% from the previous month’s churn rate.

Takeaway: This tells us that people find value in the twice-weekly updates – at least enough to remain around. If we can maintain this level of churn, we will be able to profit from greater traffic and enhanced list health.

Preparing for V2: What Changes Are Required?

Therefore, was this experiment a failure? Not really — and it is not yet finished. While there have been a few roadblocks, the important point is that we are learning something new by doing something new.

As we consider how to address the issues that arose with the V1 introduction of this new subscription model, there are many lessons we may take to ensure our success in V2.

1) The design should be validated.

I discovered that the new design was not connecting with everyone based on the comments I got through the feedback loop at the bottom of each email send. A few individuals recommended adding additional images, while others commented on how long it was.

We want to do some A/B testing here to discover the ideal format for generating the highest clickthrough rate.

(Do you have suggestions on how we might improve? Please leave a remark; we’d love to hear from you.)

2) The landing page for subscription choices is causing friction.

We understood going in that requiring subscribers to basically opt-in twice would be difficult. While asking recipients to take action in the welcome email was not ideal, the separate landing page gave us the time and space to thoroughly explain the editions.

In the future, we may delete that page entirely and instead provide an opportunity to personalise your subscription right inside the email body. This eliminates the requirement for subscribers to go to the subscriptions page, which should result in more involvement.

Another possibility? Renaming the newsletters to make them more self-explanatory and including them straight into the subscribe CTA. This would obviate the need for a welcome email and significantly decrease the entrance barrier.

(3) We need to increase our open rate.

The new email blasts outperformed our current Weekly subscription, but fell short of the Daily, demonstrating how difficult it is to remain top-of-mind when customers aren’t hearing from you daily.

To address this, we’re currently testing several days of the week to identify the optimal time to send these emails. Additionally, we’re experimenting with various subject line layouts in order to pique curiosity and increase open rates.

The results indicate that Variant A (with the emojis) fared better than Variant B.

We need to figure out a method to adapt subscriptions to checkbox subscribers.

An examination of our early statistics indicated that approximately 60% of our subscribers were acquired using the checkbox on our lead generation forms. Following consultation with our nurturing marketers, we decided to automatically enrol these individuals to the Get All of Them newsletter rather than bombarding them with two emails.

On a bigger scale, we’re investigating methods to produce intelligent, all-in-one follow-up emails that will be sent when a visitor completes an activity that would traditionally result in numerous follow-up emails— for example, downloading an offer while also subscribing to the blog. This internal initiative would allow us to present our subscription newsletters to all new subscribers, even those that convert through the subscriber checkbox.

As a more immediate solution, we’ve begun including a piece of text at the top of each email encouraging recipients to visit the subscription preferences page to opt in for more tailored material.

Repeat the Attempt

It’s reasonable to say that the path to a more customised email subscription has not been straightforward. There have been setbacks and curveballs, but the most important thing is that progress has been made. We look forwards to iterating on our new approach in order to produce an email subscription that customers look forwards to receiving.

Would you want to have a look at the new subscription for yourself? Subscriptions are available here. Let us know what you think.


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