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How to Win Them Back

Getting the most from reengagement emails


Katelyn Belyus By Katelyn Belyus
08/04/2014 -11:38 AM






If you're like me, you're always wondering why people who want to hear from you aren't giving you money. You test copy, creative, asks, offers and demos until you're blue in the face (and hopefully with a bit more coin in your pocket).

But I've also been wondering why people who originally wanted to hear from us have fallen off the map? I'm not talking about unsubscribes and opt-outs. I'm talking about ‘just-hit-deleters': those people who can't be bothered to unsubscribe, but who would rather just delete you the minute your name pops up in their inbox.

How do we win back these people?

Subscriber inactivity is usually a symptom of email fatigue-you've sent too many emails, and the subscriber just doesn't feel special anymore when they see your email arrive. Your brand has a numbing effect on their emotional engagement. It's not only a problem for business emails; it pops up for editorial emails as well, which is arguably worse. It's important to keep a close eye on regular opt-out rates. Establish a baseline for your email stats, and watch it closely.

For all emails, someone should be coordinating traffic for the entire company and keeping an eye on the company email calendar. Your company must establish rules for its list usage, wheres/whens/hows, and someone needs to be tasked to police this. It's not a glamorous job, but it's necessary. Ideally, this someone will have no vested interest in the email content (business v. editorial, for instance) and will call balderdash when the guidelines are being abused.

Still, people have short attention spans. Every six months, I find myself unsubscribing from every email list imaginable, thinking I'm so over this. But inevitably I go back. What makes me go back? Sweet deals, simple content and nothing too wordy. I want my content emails to be quick and clean. WNYC has a great Morning Brief newsletter that I can't live without. It gives me everything but not too much: weather, cleverly-written headlines, breaking news and story highlights ("Does Anyone Really Want to See Sharknado 2?" Duh, YES!).

But I'm a rare breed: an ‘unsubscriber' rather than a ‘just-hit-deleter.' It seems that people stop opening our emails much more than they opt out-they just stop engaging with us and hope we get the passive-aggressive hint that reeks of "it's not you, it's me."

Enter: The Mighty Reengagement Email.

Like a lost love letter found tucked into a notebook, a reengagement email should reignite a subscriber's passion for your brand. It should simply remind them that they loved having you in their life, and they miss you enough to want you back. Excite them about your content, and you'll be well on your way to increasing your delivery statistics, reducing your opt-outs (which can jeopardize delivery with major ESPs) and optimize the value of your list.

By all accounts, there are 3 major steps in a proper reengagement strategy:

1. Identify the recipients. Establish a threshold to define "lack of engagement." Maybe it's low opens. Maybe it's low clicks. Maybe it's low orders. Set a timing threshold: 90 or 120 days or something else-think about what makes sense for your brand. Do you want to start reengaging people after they haven't clicked through to a story in the past 120 days? That's four months of inactivity. Remember: People's attention spans are short. If they haven't interacted with you in four months, they've probably forgotten you. Soon they're going to forget why they ever cared about you. Remind them.

2. Use completely new creative. These are people who don't open what you're already sending-so send something new. Do something gutsy and different. Don't be cluttered. Send Smarter had a great round-up of reengagement creative, but if you find yourself stuck, any Google or Pinterest search will do. Acknowledge that they've fallen off your radar, but don't whine about it. Instead, try to win them back: offer discounts, sneak-peeks or even freemiums. Show, don't tell, subscribers what they may have missed: new writers, content, art or design. Make the ask specific (perhaps you want them to confirm their email address-then build a landing page that allows for this).

3. Stop fooling yourself. Some people just won't respond. They're done with you (remember: four months). You should consider getting rid of these inactives permanently. By all accounts, keep them somewhere in your ESP, so they can reactivate with you via an old email, and if they do, you can keep their history. But moving them to a permanent inactive list and NOT mailing to them will help your delivery rates and CAN-SPAM compliance (I predict ESPs are going to be more vigilant in the future, much like Google took it upon itself to sift through spam).

Reengagement emails shouldn't take forever: you don't want to loop them into another round of endless communication. Send four emails, over the course of 4-6 weeks, and then tell them you're ending the relationship. Tell them that they're welcome back at any time, but that you get it: they don't want to hear from you.

Don't expect huge conversion rates. Good reactivation rates vary anywhere from 2-5%, based on a variety of email marketing references. And don't forget: Open rates are going to increase automatically. Don't consider a campaign successful based on higher open rates alone.

Once you have a reengagement campaign in place, consider automating it for the future. Test timing and creative. Don't let people fall off in the future. Keeping them involved and excited about your brand will help your email delivery and performance, your social media presence (people engaged with you on email are going to engage with you in other outlets) and, ideally, fatten your wallet.





Katelyn Belyus By Katelyn Belyus -- Katelyn Belyus is the audience development and digital marketing manager for The Nation Magazine, America’s oldest continuously published weekly magazine. She has been in circulation for eight years, works as a freelance editor and writer, and runs a supper club. She holds a Masters in Writing and Publishing from Emerson College and a BA from Penn State University.

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