2 weeks ago I gave you advice on generating a list, so I assume you already have a list to work with 😉 1 week ago I gave you advice on how to take care of your list. Granted, most of it was about removing contacts and I know you don’t really want to do that. I fully agree, you shouldn’t have to do that.To be clear, I’m not saying that you should just skip the hygiene part. On the contrary, I still think it’s one of the most important things you can do for your list. Then again the amount of email addresses you remove should be as small as possible. How do you do that? You keep your subscribers engaged, and that is what we are going to focus on here.
1. Identify yourself and the content
I stressed previously, how being recognizable can help you gain your subscribers’ trust during the subscription process. This also goes a long way when you are sending your messages.
Most people nowadays screen their emails based on subjects and they only read the ones they think will be interesting. Looking over the results of many of our customers I found that often a simple informative subject gives much better result than a flashy cryptic one, which basically does not tell anything and is designed to get people intrigued about the content – therefore opening the message. You can describe it as buying a specific product you need or a mystery box that may or may not have what you need. Most people will go for a sure deal.
Using a cryptic subject line can also easily backfire, if people do not find what they needed in a few tries they will simply give up on trying (feeling like they are wasting their time). They may also miss out on a promotion they are waiting for. Whereas informative subject lines will give all the info someone might need right then and there, and even if some emails will not meet their needs and stay unopened, people will still engage when they see something they need or want.
I don’t think I even have to explain why intentional misleading subject lines are one of the worst things you can do. I’ll just sum it up in once sentence: this trick will work to get an open only once, after that the tricked subscriber will never trust your message again.
Of course hiding yourself with a generic from address has a similar effect, especially with so many spammers out there using it A LOT. People just don’t trust these kind of senders anymore, that’s why it’s so important to always identify yourself in the from address to the point that your subscribers will not have ANY doubt that this message is from you. And if you decide on a from address, stick to it as long as you can (after all. most private whitelists rely on the senders’ from address).
I know that there are situations where you have to change your from address, and sometimes that change can in fact help you, but the mistake I see people often make is simply doing that without any heads-up to their customers.
If you do find yourself in that kind of situation make a little campaign around it, warn your subscribers beforehand that you are changing your from field, so they will recognize you after the change.
2. Send regularly
Habits are a big part of human nature. We like things to be organized and predictable (except if you are The Joker, he’s an agent of chaos 😉 ) and usually we have our weekly routines that we go through for years. Regular send outs should make it easy for you to become a part of that routine, making sure your subscribers will notice your messages. For those that are already hooked, it’s also easier to keep track of the messages you send. They already know when to expect them.
The biggest thing here, however, is that anti-spam algorithms love predictive senders as well, so once they recognize your pattern it should be a lot easier to get you message across. This is a Deliverability and ex-Compliance Specialist talking, who saw it on ohh so many occasions, once the algorithms of ISPs adjust to your sending pattern (usually no longer than 2-3 weeks) keeping your deliverability up becomes much easier.
3. Pull your subscribers in
Now here is something I see very rarely, but it’s always with a great effect. People love to see that their actions actually matter and becoming part of a conversation instead of being an idle listener can hook them on your emails for a long time.
This may be in form of a small gesture, like asking for an answer or feedback. Then, changing and diverting your emails based on user actions (ie. based on links they followed), you can make it possible for people to create the message they want to receive.
The idea behind it is to get subscribers involved, make it fun, make some kind of a game of it. This does take some work to setup and handle, but let’s face it: nothing in this world is for free. You invest your time, but the results you can get from it are fully worth it.
As for specific ideas this would make for a completely separate article. Maybe I can do it after this series is over, let me know in the comments below! Still it’s a great area to put your creativity to work 😉
4. Keep on improving your content
Sometimes engagement issues come straight out of uninteresting and/or unengaging content, that is why it’s so important to always look for new solutions to improve your messages. Even if you think that your engagement rates are already quite high, they’re never so good that it can’t get better.
Most of you should be familiar with the idea of A/B testing, and the way I see it, it should be used with your every single send out – just remember to keep the changes small, and of course golden rule of testing: change only one thing at a time. To be clear I’m not talking about a big revolution in your content each time you send, but small simple things and steady improvement over time. Small steps are always easier to make, and they too will get you to where you are going.
Big changes may also confuse your subscribers, so it’s better to get them there steadily with small improvement in each message. It just makes it easier for them to adjust.
Once in a while, no matter what you do, some of your subscribers simply do not want to engage. You can’t really tell if it’s because they abandoned their email, if they don’t find your messages interesting, or they’re waiting for that one promotion to hook them up. Still keeping those addresses on your list reduces your overall engagement and as such decreasing the value of your list, so something has to be done about them.
Reengagement campaigns should be treated as a hail Mary pass, the last attempt to get them back, and if it fails – they are gone. Kind of like a reconfirmation campaign, however, you are a lot less limited with what can you send to your customers.
There are 3 key factors that you need to take into account here:
Timing dependents mostly on your sending schedule. Basically, the more often you send, the shorter you should wait with your reengagement. For example, if you send once a week you should not wait longer than 3 months, if you send once a month you can wait as long as one year.
The ideal option here is a triggered personal message. Working on the first example, the day your inactive content reaches 3 months, without any action he automatically gets a reengagement email. If you are not able to set that up, then you should go for a reengagement campaign every 3 moths on all inactive contacts at once. Of course if they still fail to engage, you should remove them from your list.
As for the form there is a number of different approaches. One thing I would advise here is: make a big change in the content. This is the one message that should stand out from the rest. It should be unique to the point that your subscriber automatically sees they received something different than your usual send out. Just to give you a few examples and ideas:
- Go with different color sheet asking “were you waiting for a change?”, and then adapt your regular template to that
- Contact them in a personalized manner as someone from the company staff, concerned about a customer and asking if everything is ok
- Play it as a goodbye message with a hopeful plead to change your subscribers’ mind
I also noticed one more thing when helping our customers with their reengagement campaign, inactive contacts usually need some kind of an incentive that will help them decide to stay. A discount, a freebie, a gift basket. Something that shows that you appreciate them as your customers and are willing to fight for them, so if they still decide not to engage you can sincerely say to yourself “I tried my best”.
This will conclude my tips on how to create and take care of your list. Next week we will start the content part of the series, talking more about what you should avoid in your content, thanks to my job title, I have quite an insight into what works and what doesn’t, so stay tuned!
… And if you want to catch up on our series:
- Part One: Achieving the Best Deliverability Possible
- Part Two: Lists, Dos and Don’ts of the List Generation Process
- Part Three: Taking Care of Your List Over Time
- Part Four: Maintaining A Good Relationship With Your List
- Part Five: Don’t Be Mistaken For A Spammer
- Part Six: What Do ISPs Really Look For In Content
- Part Seven: Words And Phrases That Can Get You In Trouble