According to Return Path, marketers send 20% of their emails to inactive subscribers - ouch! Some EPS's set their billing up by the number of subscribers or the number of emails sent, therefore you don't want to continue this practice of giving away your budget. Let's find out more about a re-engagement campaign.

When do you know you need a re-engagement campaign?

When analyzing your tracking reports, you'll see a trend where your open rate is slowly, but steadily going down. This means people are losing interest in your email and are no longer opening it. The other reason will be that you are holding onto email addresses from the 1990's. They know that Fabio is no longer gracing the covers of romance novels . . . . . do you?

Why do people lose interest in your emails?

Before you start your re-engagement campaign you will want to get the team together (even if it is just you) and brainstorm on why it is that you think people lost interest in your emails. Because according to the DMA 35% of consumers maintain separate addresses for marketing emails, and another 10% have a separate inbox just for spam reasons. You know your emails are probably falling under that 10% - right? (sorry!)

Now, the main reason I am asking you to do this exercise is because I need you to think about what you are doing to have people lose interest and stop doing it - really.

I did some research and found some big reasons as to why subscribers stop reading your emails:

  1. Bad content: It is really easy to write bad content and not even know it. People will unsubscribe for less.
  2. Too many emails: You know at work when your boss sends you too many emails? Yeah, it's like that but they get to unsubscribe or just ignore them.
  3. Promises not kept: When people sign up on your website for your newsletter, do you have anything on there to set expectations? If not you don't have to worry about delivering anything - you also are not building any trust.
  4. They weren't interested in the first place: If you use sweepstakes to gain subscribers we find those DMO's suffer from a lot of inactives, because these people were never interested in the first place. If you want to try and give your list a boost with a sweepstake, maybe keep those subscribers in a separate list and try and convert them into "real" subscribers later. 

The whole process can take a few months (you'll see why below), however there are definitely phases which we will cover below:

  1. Reports
  2. Triggers
  3. Email #1
  4. Send #1
  5. Analyze
  6. Pull New List
  7. Email #2
  8. Send #2
  9. Analyze
  10. Pull New List
  11. Email #3
  12. Send #3
  13. Analyze
  14. Unsubscribe
Let's run some reports

Finding the correct subscribers to use in your re-engagement campaign is very important - well to be honest it's everything! This is subjective based on the way your subscribers are acting, however a good rule of thumb is if you have not had a subscriber open anything from you for six or 12 months then they should be pulled into your re-engagement campaign.

Each of you has their own ESP which normally has a report that can segment your subscribers based on number of email opens over time. I am going to proceed to provide directions on how to pull that information from our Partner, Distribion.

Distribion: Client Engagement Report
  1. Go to Administration -> Reports -> Client Engagement
  2. Filters
    1. Search All
    2. Campaign Date
      1. Fill in for desired dates
    3. View %
      1. From 0% to 0%
    4. Mailing Types
      1. Select all that apply
    5. Contact Groups (optional)
      1. Select all that apply
  3. Click on Download Report CSV
  4. Open the CSV
  5. Sort by column F (unique_clicks)
    1. Delete these email addresses because they prove those people opened your emails and are engaged versus the people who did not open your email
  6. All done!
Your re-engagement message

Your emails should be sent out in a series and not just one, final email blast. This way you give your subscribers a chance to come back to you. Below provides more of an explanation:

  1. Email #1: Remind your subscribers why they signed up for your emails.
    1. Add in an ‘update my preferences' bulletproof button.
  2. Email #2: Let them know again why they signed up.
    1. Remove the ‘update my preferences' bulletproof button.
    2. Add in a ‘unsubscribe' bulletproof button.
  3. Email #3: This is a confirmation that they have been unsubscribed.
    1. Remove the ‘unsubscribe' bulletproof button.
    2. Add in a ‘sign-up for newsletter' bulletproof button that links to your website. 

Here is a link to example messages that other people have created for inspiration. Just have fun with it!

Setting up your triggers

Using triggers in any ESP will be helpful to keep track of what your subscribers do (and don't do) so you can pull the information later when you need it. 

  1. Click: Button: Update my preferences
    1. Sent to the preferences page
    2. THEN change the contact's "Notes" field to have the value "Opted to update preferences"
  2. Click: Button: Unsubscribe
    1. Sent to the unsubscribe page
    2. THEN change the contact's "Notes" field to have the value "Unsubscribed via Re-engagement Campaign Month Year."
  3. Click: Button: Sign-up
    1. Sent to the newsletter sign-up page
    2. THEN change the contact's "Notes" field to have the value "Said they wanted to continue receiving emails from the Re-engagement Campaign Month Year."
    3. AND add contact to the contact group "Reengagement - YES".
After the first send

Once you've tested your email and have sent it then it is time to analyze. But, that is only after about 2 weeks - I know - I'm sorry. Re-engagement campaigns are really slow. That's where the time comes in. Return Path did a study and it took most subscribers 2 months to just open the email - two months! So we all have to just sit back with some Netflix and wait for these subscribers to open the emails . . . . after the third send - did you think you were done? You're sweet.

So go to your tracking report, pull a report off all the people who (1) did not open and (2) did not click on anything BUT did not hard bounce or unsubscribe or report you as spam. Ok? Those are your new list to send email #2 to.

Sending the last email

Email #3 is a little different. You really have to have the stomach for it - you know what I mean? You pull the list like normal and send the email like normal. Then I would wait 30, 45, or 60 days and then unsubscribe everyone who did not open or click in your email. It can be really hard. I talked to Discover the Palm Beaches at Summit who had to unsubscribe 40% of their subscribers - just like that - bang! They were gone. But, their open rate went up so I'm going to say that's not half bad. 

Do I have to do this again?

This is something that should be done on a regular basis - maybe every 6 months. This is because you always want to make sure that your list is clean and your subscribers are engaged. However, you should look at your own tracking and analyze it to see if 6 months makes sense for you since everyone is different and special.