Bring a List Back to Life without Killing Your Email Program

You’ve probably seen this happen in your own inbox…

You get an email from a company that hadn’t emailed you for years. You don’t remember unsubscribing, so one of five things happened:

  1. The company had moved your address to its inactive file and was trying to reactivate it.
  2. An ISP falsely reported the address as invalid; the sender removed from the active email list but didn’t trash it and now wants to see if it’s genuine.
  3. The company gave up on email but then hired someone to relaunch the program.
  4. Somebody bought the company or its email list and wanted to see how many addresses are still deliverable.
  5. The company had been sending to your address all along, but the emails got filtered out before they reached your inbox. Then, something changed – maybe sender cleaned up its act and got unblocked – and, bingo! Emails hit the inbox again!

The last time this happened to us, the email itself didn’t give us any clues, because it looked like business as usual. No “We’ve missed you!” or “We’re back in the email business again!”

It was confusing and a little bizarre – and too late, because we had already moved on to the competition. So, we unsubscribed. Connection lost!

You can relaunch your email program successfully if you follow these two strategies: avoid disaster, and re-introduce yourself slowly. (If you’ve been emailing all along and want to win back lapsed customers, follow these tips for reactivation.)

1.) Avoid the fast track to disaster.

There’s nothing wrong with trying to restart a defunct email program. Those email addresses probably cost you a good chunk of change to acquire. But, you can damage your email program permanently if you start sending again as if nothing had happened.

Leave invalids alone: The most dangerous scenario in restarting a list is resending messages to invalid addresses. These are hard-bouncing addresses that ISPs have reported as undeliverable, because the account was closed or didn’t exist.

  • False-positives – a valid address reported incorrectly as invalid – are rare, but they happen often enough to give senders hope that they can resurrect at least a few. The problem is that you might have one false-positive for every 1,000 invalid addresses.  Emailing 999 bad ones to find one good one could get you blacklisted or banned from the major ISPs.

Note: Don’t assume you can skip this step even if your list was 100% opt-in. Times change; people forget. Why risk your sender rep or deliverability?

Beware elderly addresses: Old addresses can be toxic to your list health and sender reputation, too. Some have gone invalid; others have been abandoned by subscribers.

Or, they could have been repurposed into “honeypots” designed to trap spammers. You’ll jeopardize your ability to deliver to most ISPs if you hit too many of those addresses, too.

2.) Relaunch right: Go slowly, and introduce yourself.

Remove all potentially troublesome addresses before you send: You knew this was coming, right? But we aren’t saying that just because FreshAddress is in the business of removing old, malformed, toxic and invalid addresses.

We’re in this business because we know that your email address database is one of your greatest business assets, and you must do everything you can to protect and nurture that asset.

Removing problem addresses with SafeToSend is not a long, complicated process, and it will save you time, money and frustration in the long run.

Re-introduce yourself: Nobody likes to be ghosted. The more sending cycles you skip, the more likely your brand will fall off the radar. Research shows consumers maintain contact with 12 to 16 brands in their inboxes. To keep your position in the magic circle, you need to email regularly.

The first message you send after you lift your email blackout will probably be the most important one, because it must re-engage your customers and explain why you’re popping up in the inbox again.

Choose everything – the sender name, the subject line and the message content – with utmost care.

  • Sender name: Feature your brand or newsletter name. No email addresses!
  • Subject line: Show that this email is not business as usual. Some possibilities that we’ve collected over the years:
    • “We’re back! Did you miss us?”
    • “Brand X is back in the email business!”
    • “We’re back and would love to reconnect.”
    • “Sorry for the long silence …”
  • Message content: Remind subscribers that they had previously opted in for your messages and that you are restarting the email connection. Restate your email benefits and value proposition. Include a prominent unsubscribe button or link. Yes, you want subscribers to stick around, but an easy opt-out is better than clicking the spam button.

Next, track activity closely on your relaunch message and the next series of emails to see who’s acting on them and who isn’t.

Finally, stick to your email cycle. If you don’t have the employee resources, hire a contractor to run it for you. Simplify your messages, and rethink your strategy to make it more manageable.

Regular messages build engagement, brand recognition and business. They also help keep your list healthy and productive, which is the best way to care for this essential business asset.

Hygiene CTA - May 2017

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