Would you ignore a potential customer if you already had permission to email them? Of course not! I’m talking about ignoring disengaged subscribers who frequently constitute more than half of all mailing lists. It’s high time to stop focusing ONLY on aggressive acquisition and look more closely at nurturing and re-engaging subscribers.Start by taking a cold hard look at your email response rates. If they’re great, congrats. If not, ask yourself this important question:
Why do so many recipients not even bother to open my emails?
Just as important, why do others regularly check out your messages? If you can’t get above a disappointing ratio, it’s time to find out…
Related: Email marketing best practices
Who are you, Mr/Ms. Disengaged?
If you can identify who’s giving your newsletters the cold shoulder, you can create target groups for Re-engagement Campaigns. Let’s look at some typical profiles:
- Ex-openers – subscribers that interacted with your emails in the past, but at some point just lost interest in your content.
- Random openers – you can’t seem to figure them out. Are they looking for something specific? Or maybe your emails don’t line up with their preferences?
- Absentees – their emails are on your list, but their owners are missing in action. They’ve never even bothered to open a single email (well, besides the confirmation email). Now, if they’re in the majority… Houston, we have a problem!
Why are you doing this to me?
Don’t take it personally, but you do have to ask a similar question to determine the criteria for your re-engagement campaign, e.g.:
Why aren’t these people interested in my newsletters?
There may be a few reasons for this. The key thing to remember is that subscribers rule and the fault for the disengagement is always on the sender’s end. Sorry.
Now, before we dive in, there’s an old issue we need to address.
Still into plain-text?
No, it’s not about which format gets the best response rates. However, if you’re sending plain-text emails only, planning your re-engagement campaign might get a bit complicated. First and foremost, it’s impossible to track opens in non HTML-based messages, so the only criteria by which you could define “engagement” would be clicks.
This is certainly a way more aggressive and skewed tracking method and could actually lead you to assume, say, 85% of your list is inactive. That’s a lot of missed opportunities!
The best solution for this quandary is to combine plain-text emails with at least one HTML newsletter per month. It’ll help you pin down those that are really disengaged and facilitate targeting this group in future reactivation campaigns. Plus, everybody loves to look at nice pictures and colorful fonts from time to time. Share these with your subscribers and you may grow to love HTML yet.
Now let’s get to the nitty gritty of why people are ignoring your messages and offers.
#1: It’s bigger than email
People go through different stages in their lives. For example, wedding preparations, parenting, buying a house, changing jobs, or taking up a new hobby. Once they move on, their lifestyles and needs change. It’s a natural thing. If you cater to consumers who need products and services for that phase of life, why would they want to hear about it? This applies to every marketing channel, whether it’s snail mail, text messages or email.
How to fix this?
You can’t. Just let go and accept things the way they are. Unless you know about inception and make them crave your emails again!
#2: The abandoned nation
When was the last time you asked your subscribers about their preferences? Do they receive the exact content they signed up for? Do they have a choice to opt-down (lessen the frequency) or opt-over (change the communication channel)? Most importantly: how do your emails stack up to their expectations?
How to fix this?
Stay tuned for Part II:”Executing the re-engagement campaign”.
#3: Let’em know who’s on the other end
Sometimes people simply do not remember you, let alone the value of your emails. Perhaps you failed to introduce yourself correctly. Or never reminded them of why they signed up in the first place. After all, with tons of spam, malware and phishing attempts out there, mailbox owners are wary of talking with strangers. And in email marketing, if you don’t make a good first impression, you don’t get a second chance. May as well file under “unopened”.
How to fix this?
Review the FROM field names and addresses you’ve been using over the past few months (years). How often do they change? Is there any consistency in this information? Does it actually reflect your company or product name, or do you stick to the erroneous “newsletter” or “support” in the FROM name?
That’s also the challenge 3rd party mailers often face. Having a vague name means drowning in inbox clutter. So make sure that you’re getting your name out there in a form that’s easily recognized. Use your FROM name and address to build your brand and make it a fixed element of your email campaigns.
After all, you don’t want to look like someone using tens of fake IDs. There’s a name for them…
#4: Get of out the junk folder!
Low engagement is often caused by deliverability issues, especially if you’re using dedicated IP space or if your messages have some content-related problems. Winding up in the junk folder is like hanging a billboard at the end of a dark, dead-end alley. No exposure. In email marketing, this equals ultra-low open ratio and CTRs (click-through rates) that are painful even to monitor.
How to fix this?
Improve your sending IPs and domain reputation. Verify them against any blacklists and work with your deliverability consultants to improve SenderScore and IPRs (inbox placement rates). Removing “zombie addresses” should also decrease the number of issues you’re experiencing.
I hope these tips help you get started mining your list for disengaged subscribers. Just think…they could be waiting with credit card in hand for that relevant newsletter or offer to come in.
Watch for our next installment titled: “Executing the re-engagement campaign.”