How Not to Write (or, dwell Loses a Customer)

Kristina Halvorson

My husband John is addicted to dwell magazine. Like, seriously addicted. When an issue arrives in the mail, he disappears for hours. I imagine him locked in the bathroom, lovingly caressing each glossy page. I call it his "house porn."

So imagine my surprise when John recently announced that he was thinking about possibly not renewing.

"I'm just THINKING about it," he said. (Because, you know. He can quit whenever he wants.)

John's subscription is about to expire on its own. We've had the renewal letters stacking up while he "thinks" about it.

But today, we got a letter that helped him make the decision.

At the top of the letter is the usual dire warning:

    YOUR NEXT ISSUE IS YOUR LAST. HURRY! DON'T MISS AN ISSUE!

But then, the real letter begins. It's from Sam Grawe, editor-in-chief of dwell.

It reads:

Dear Preferred Subscriber,

Frankly, I'm surprised things have come this far. Your subscription is about to expire, and I can't understand why.

You live by your own rules. You're passionate about good design. And you've got a lively, modern eye and the courage to live differently in a nation of ranchburgers, neo-colonials, and McMansions.

Which means you're one of us. So why haven't you renewed?

Let's break this down, shall we?

First, Sam chastises and shames my husband, his "preferred subscriber."

Next, he reminds us that we are way, way better than the unimaginative, frightened people who cower in their ranchburgers and McMansions. (A little name-calling always helps to drive the point home.)

Finally, he announces that we have apparently (and unknowingly) signed up for his secret club of "us" . . . which obviously requires renewal if ,and only if, we wish to remain members.

Seriously?

This is dwell's best and final attempt at customer retention?

Whether you are reaching out to me via email, your web content, social media, mobile, a direct mail piece, a phone call, or carrier pigeon, I expect—no, demand—your respect.

Never, ever attempt to frighten or shame your customer into action. It's manipulative, it's dishonest, and it's downright tacky.

Whether or not the coming year actually would "thrill, inspire, and dazzle" us as Sam guarantees, we'll never know.

That letter was the little push my husband needed to kick his dwell habit.