5 Tips to Rekindle Your Unengaged Relationships
They call it a honeymoon phase for a reason: It's only temporary. The key — and challenge — to developing a top email program is transitioning users from the honeymoon phase into an ongoing, engaging relationship.
This is not such an easy thing to do; it takes work. Over time subscribers' interests will change. They will move, change jobs, and develop new hobbies. Their tastes for certain content will shift away from content they were previously interested in, or even brands they once loved.
Despite their fading interest, your inactive subscribers have yet to take the fateful step of unsubscribing from your email program, putting an end to the relationship. They are still maintaining a connection to your brand; so before they sever all ties, why not fight to keep them?
Standing passively by and making little effort to re-engage subscribers — by reminding them who you are and how much value your program offers — isn't very different from cutting them from your list entirely. Before giving up these users as a lost cause, or resolving to do nothing and let your relationship run its course, invest in winning back your subscribers. Showcase the value of your email program and remind subscribers why they signed up in the first place.
When the most successful email marketers see their subscribers interaction starting cool off, they fight back to rekindle that initial spark with a win-back program. Follow these tips to give your subscriber relationships a chance to endure.
1. Segment by Account Type
First, segment your list of disengaging subscribers. Consider these three categories based on how actively they check their accounts: Primary, secondary and dead. Remember these categories aren't based on how often they read your messages — they're based on how often these subscribers read any messages, and they probably correlate to types of mailboxes.
Primary accounts are checked at least daily, and are likely to be thought of as people's main mailboxes. Disengagement from these accounts indicates an issue with your program. It's not them, it's you. On the other hand, disengagement from a secondary account that's checked only occasionally — perhaps used mainly for marketing email — may not be a comment on your particular program. It may be them, not you. And dead accounts may be the lost causes - they're not being checked at all, so nothing you say may help.
2. Segment by Length of Disengagement
Another way to segment is by the amount of time passed since subscribers last engaged regularly. Through this you can identify when subscribers began to disengage and possibly what kind of content they were getting when they fell off, so you can tailor your win-back content accordingly.
And of course, those who have recently disengaged will be easier to win back by reminding them of the value of your content. Those who have been away for a long time may require more persistent reminders of who you are in addition to what makes you valuable.
3. Send Multiple Campaigns
Don't send only one email. Winning back your disengaged subscribers will not be easy. Make multiple attempts, or even better, create a win-back series to re-engage your subscribers over time. Just as in any campaign, for each email in your series make sure to test a variety of subject lines, offers, and calls to action.
4. Don't Be Hasty
Not all your inactives will come running back. It will take time for some to warm up to your programs, but that wait will be worth it. Make sure you are giving your win-back campaigns enough time to run. A study by Return Path found it can take subscribers 57 days between receiving a win-back email and reading a subsequent message.
5. Don't Be Clingy
Know when to say goodbye. Once you pass the two-month mark (or whatever your testing reveals the optimal window to be), let them go. After enough time passes, the minute chance that inactive subscribers will one day re-engage is outweighed by the potential damage to your inbox placement done by sending too much mail to people who don't appear to want it.
Tom Sather is Return Path’s senior director of email research. Tom uses his knowledge of ISPs, spam filters and deliverability rules to advise marketers on how to get their email delivered to the inbox. He began his Return Path career as an email deliverability consultant working with top-brand clients like eBay, MySpace, IBM and Twitter. Tom’s previous experience includes roles with email service provider Experian and on the abuse desks for AOL, Bellsouth, AT&T and GTE.