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How to Use Email in Your Customer Retention Strategies

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Email is an easy, cost-effective and personal channel that can help you improve your customer retention strategies. In fact, 59% of B2B marketers believe email marketing is still the most effective channel in generating revenue.


That’s easy – because it’s personal and trackable. Chris validates this idea with his post on five killer examples of companies using email to retain customers.

Most commonly, email is used by marketer’s as part of their customer acquisition arsenal but today I want to provide you with some other ideas of what you can use email for. Too many marketers are spending bucket loads of money acquiring new customers…only to let them slide away with poorly executed, or non-existent, customer retention strategies.

This post aims to prove to you how important it is to start using email as a channel to increase customer retention, using practical examples.

According to research conducted by Howard Feirertag and John Hogan, the most common reason why businesses lose customers is through lack of customer contact and relationship building (in fact, this accounts for 67% of lost customers).

That’s an insane percentage.

Unfortunately it’s true – businesses are not doing enough to keep in contact with their customers, and that’s leading to a decline in customer retention rates.

So, here are some good ideas on how to use email in your customer retention strategies:

1. Use email to stay in contact with customers

Mixpanel does a great job of staying in contact with their customers using email. I signed up for Mixpanel in May and since then I’ve received four emails from them. The first email was a helpful getting started checklist. The second was a personal invite to attend their latest webinar. The third email was another personal email from Will (the Solutions Architect at Mixpanel) and, most recently, they emailed me a quick feature update with some of their latest announcements.

Here’s an example of one of the emails I received.

mixpanel customer retention strategies example

It’s simple, engaging and adds value to my experience with their product. On top of having had a good experience with the Mixpanel product at our company Client Heartbeat, these emails have helped us feel as though we have a good relationship with the company, even though we have never reached out to them with any support questions.

This shows just how effective email can be at engaging your customers and staying in contact with them. Mixpanel uses email as a medium to push personal and informative messages, leading to an increase in their customers’ investment in their product. This goes a long way toward building a strong sense of customer loyalty.

2. Use email to send personalized messages to specific groups of customers

Are you sick of waking up to five completely impersonalized emails every morning?

I bet you are.

Here’s a typical scenario: you get a series of three emails from a company you just signed up to explain how to add contacts to their system despite the fact that you have already added contacts yesterday and have everything set up.

You can do better. It’s not difficult to track your customers’ actions and send more relevant emails (or no emails at all, if that provides a better user experience!)

Tools like Vero help this process by triggering emails only when a customer takes a specific action inside your app, on your website or when browsing your eCommerce store. This way, you can make sure the emails you are sending are personalized and relevant.

At Client Heartbeat, we have used marketing automation to help send personalized messages to specific groups of customers. Unfortunately, the tool we initially used didn’t give us enough flexibility and as a result, we experienced first hand how bad things can get when you send your customers’ irrelevant emails. I even received a couple of complaints from existing customers who, somehow, were getting my sales emails!

YUCK. There is no doubt that one of the fastest ways to lose a customer is to send them irrelevant sales emails.

ToutApp is another tool you should consider to help alleviate this pain point. It has some nifty automation tools for targeting leads pre-signup and one of it’s best features is the ability to segment and create “groups of customers.” At Client Heartbeat, we’re able to segment our customers by country and by other industry-specific segmentation criteria. ToutApp lets me send an email to each segment helping keep things super personalized but also making it quick and easy to send emails with this sort of relevance.

Want some ideas on how to segment customers, check out these examples of killer email marketing segmentation.

3. Use email to send friendly reminders

Jana Fung of MixRank recommends sending a reminder email whenever there is a major marketing event going on in your customer’s geographic location.

One company that does this well is InfusionSoft. They are hosting an “Infusioncon” event in Sydney later this year and, as a way to inform me (an existing customer), they popped up a promotional banner on the first page after logging in. This popup was also backed up by an email. Both were targeted to me, as an Australian.

In a world where lots of us build customer relationships via email and never actual meet face to face, it’s always refreshing to be invited to a live event.

The benefit of sending friendly reminders about events or other marketing activities is that it shows your customers that you really care about them. This is even truer if you use targeting: after all, you went out of your way to make sure they received an invite.

Other examples of situations when you could send friendly reminders include:

  • When a renewal is due
  • When an invoice is ready
  • When an upcoming webinar or blog post has been published (that’s relevant)
  • When special promotions are available to customers
  • When you are hosting a new webinar
  • When you put up a new resource

4. Use email to send special promotions to customers

Special promotions or discounts are a great way to encourage existing customers to make repeat purchases. Email is a common channel to use when sending out these promotions to customers. Remember to use an email marketing tool that lets you send promotions based on specific segmentation or actions your customers take (see point two above!)

ProFlowers uses email to send promotions to customers who can take advantage of events happening in the near future, like Valentine’s Day.

Here’s an email I got from ProFlowers – they’ve been really smart and included my girlfriend’s name! They knew I sent her flowers a couple of years ago.

proflowers customer retention strategies example

This is a great example of using targeted email to send special promotions. To explore this more take a look at the masters, Amazon, in this post on 6 lessons you can learn from Amazon’s Killer Email Remarketing.

5. Use email to send customer feedback surveys

Customer feedback gives you actionable data to improve your product and marketing with customer retention strategies.

Without knowing how your customers feel about your service you can’t make informed decisions.

Email is an effective channel to get feedback from your customers. Here are three benefits of using email to send customer feedback surveys:

  • Email is trackable: You can see who opens the emails, who responds and who needs following up.
  • Email gets instant feedback: Email allows for quick feedback, so you can quickly act on any problems and implement processes to stop them from happening again.
  • Email can be automated: Manually doing customer surveys can take forever; email helps you automate the process so you can spend your time doing the things you do best.

Mimi Tan, Operations Managers at R&G Technologies, uses ClientHeartbeat to send out her customer feedback surveys every quarter. Since Client Heartbeat automates the process, she actually doesn’t have to do anything; it just sends the surveys out automatically from her personal email address, on her behalf.

It then intelligently sends notifications when customer feedback has been received and when the system flags unhappy customers as “at risk” of canceling or leaving.

If you want to get into the details on how to structure a good feedback survey over email, check out this guide on how to create a good customer feedback survey.

6. Use email to create personal, one-to-one relationships with customers

With the rise of marketing automation more and more companies are using email to automate their messages in bulk.

Many of these messages are poorly thought out, don’t use enough segmentation, are image-heavy and fall into the ‘same-old’ bucket. This is having a significant impact on people’s inboxes and making it harder and harder for us, as marketers, to get our messages across.

With Gmail recently releasing a new inbox that puts the recipient back in control I predict that, in the years to come, we’ll be living in a world where marketers return back to sending more meaningful one-to-one emails.

Think about it: How many marketing emails do you receive each day?

Keep thinking: How many do you actually open and read?

Now picture this, a personalized email from an actual human.


Like I mentioned before, ToutApp is a great way to send individual emails to your customers. You might also start by paring down the automated emails you’re already sending to use less HTML and automate a series of personalized touch-points.

Here’s why I think one-to-one emails increase customer retention:

  • Customers want to feel like they are a person, not a number inside your email list.
  • Customers have their “email guard” up all the time. Use personalized email to break through that guard.
  • Customers have filters in place now that forward all marketing automation/bulk emails to specific folders – don’t get stuck in a folder that never gets opened.

For more information on this approach, check out Email Auto-Filtering – What’s a Marketer to Do?

7. Use email to send customers gifts and messages on special occasions

This is probably the oldest trick in the book when it comes to customer retention strategies: remember customer-centric special occasions. Email is the easiest and most effective way to send messages on special occasions like birthdays.

It’s a small gesture, but it shows that you care; it shows that you are thinking of them. Remember to make it personalized. People know these sorts of emails are automated but this doesn’t mean they don’t work, nor does it mean you can’t think outside the box. If you can include a free gift in the email, that’s even better.

Redbox runs a great birthday email campaign. They send a simple email with an offer for a free one-day DVD rental. Check it out below and see more birthday email examples here.

redbox email

8. Educate and add value to customers using email

Email can be used to help educate your customers on your product or service. An educated customer is a generally a well-retained customer as they truly understand the value of your offering.

If you didn’t know how to work an oven, you’d probably throw it out – right?

The same goes for your product or service.

Email is the easiest way you can educate your customers. A great example of this is WP Engine’s e-course. As Kareem discusses in his blog post, WP Engine sends out eight education emails over a one-month period. Each email focuses on describing a benefit of hosting with WP Engine, then goes on to explain why it’s important to your business, and finishes with a call to action.

That is exactly how to use email in a way to educate customers on your product. For another idea, you should also educate your customers on specific issues within their industry.

Let’s take a look at an example.

At Client Heartbeat, we do a lot of consulting with our customers on how they can implement customer retention programs to help stop unhappy customers from leaving. We’ve done recently is combine all this information into a really intuitive PDF guide. So, all this super-useful information and case studies I’ve been working on is now in a tangible, sharable piece of content. Next week I have an email scheduled to send this PDF out to all our customers.

So now, instead of just a couple of customers benefiting from my knowledge on customer retention strategies, all our customers have this actionable advice. Now they can walk away with a step-by-step guide on how they can personally stop customers from leaving. This goes a long way toward increasing customer retention. In fact, this sort of stuff builds customer loyalty.

The goal here is to become an information-source so valuable that your customer depends on you for the latest industry trends or actionable how-to guides. They will no longer see you as another product or service they have to pay for but something that their business depends on for success!

Email is the most effective channel to increase customer retention

Over the past decade email has commonly been used by marketers to drive customer acquisition and new sales but, as times change and customers get more resistant to push marketing, you need to make sure you allocate time and resources to ensuring you retain your customers. Email is an important part of this.

Annie Miner has showed that customer retention programs can produce ROI of 10:1 – this is a statistic you cannot ignore.

Email provides the most effective marketing channel when it comes to increasing customer retention. Use these tips in your customer retention strategies, and you will see an increase in customer happiness – which will lead to more retained customers.

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