Each month in our continuing Partner Insights series, we ask several email industry experts to weigh in on a timely topic vexing email marketers today. This time, we’re delving into reactivation – specifically: how to reactivate subscribers that are not opening/clicking?
Our panelists this month are:
Tom Sather, Senior Director, Email Research –ReturnPath
Simms Jenkins, Founder & CEO – BrightWave Marketing
FP (FreshPerspectives): Tom, I’m sure this is a question you hear frequently from clients. What’s your advice to email marketers with a large percentage of inactives on their list?
Tom: First off, I would say that marketers should look at subscriber activity beyond opens and clicks. These metrics often only tell a small part of the story. Examine metrics like website traffic after an email was deployed and the “read” rate (i.e. how many subscribers read your email without enabling images).
If those metrics are unavailable, I suggest doing a RFM (recency, frequency, and monetary) analysis. Create buckets based on the last time a subscriber has engaged with your email or website, how often they engaged with your website, and the monetary worth of those subscribers. That will provide a clearer idea of your most valuable subscribers and how you can target them with a win-back campaign.
When crafting your win-back campaign, the goal is to pique interest again so the user will open and hopefully follow your call-to-action.
Consider the following approaches:
- Change Frequency: For your lapsed subscribers, consider either increasing or decreasing the frequency of your emails. If you have a steady and predictable cadence of emails, the change in frequency may be enough to wake the subscriber out of their lull.
- Test Catchy Subject Lines: Like a predictable cadence, a predictable subject line can also put your subcribers to sleep. Accordingly, a simple change in scenery may be enough to get them to open an email. Even acknowledging your subscribers’ lack of activity can generate high opens. Based on our data, using the words “come back” or “we miss you” generates an average open rate of 22% for lapsed subscribers.
- Offer Discounts or Rewards: This is probably the most common method to reel people back into your program, and that’s because it works. Average open rates for these messages exceed 20%. One marketer who used the subject line of “We miss you! Come back and get 40% off!” saw open rates of 37%.
FP: Simms, what’s your perspective on this?
Simms: Unengaged subscribers are an important and potentially confusing segment of an email marketer’s file. These are individuals who haven’t opened or clicked on a brand’s emails for quite some time. They gave you permission to email them but appear to be ignoring you and your message.
Winning them back and reengaging them is doable, but requires a coordinated effort. Here are my suggestions:
- Analyze the Data: In order to uncover the “right” data (beyond just response metrics), do a deep-dive examination of your list, including email domains (taking note of image suppression rates, which can depress open rates), tenure as a subscriber, and buying history (or B2B actual lead status). You won’t want to remove a profitable, active customer from your list simply because they haven’t “opened an email” recently. Perhaps they have images turned off and seeing your subject lines is sufficient inspiration to trigger browsing through a different channel. Be sure not to judge the value of you customers/subscribers based solely on “opens and clicks.” Engagement metrics can be deceiving without an understanding of the larger picture.
- Segment and Customize: Once you have an accurate understanding of true enegagement levels, you’ll want to create an “inactive subscribers” segment and develop custom content for this group. Customization tips include the following:
- Subject Lines: Varying the length and cadence of your subject lines can be a simple and effective way to catch the attention of this group.
- Creative: Many of my clients have found a refresh of creative often generates new clicks from subscribers who otherwise have not given you a click. Of course, deploying your emails in a mobile-friendly format is imperative these days and may explain a portion of your inactives.
- Incentives: Experiment with different calls to action and value propositions. Consider placing a complimentary research report in an email or providing other value-added content to win back this segment.
- Frequency: Ratcheting your sending frequency down might be the ticket to regaining this segment’s attention, but the opposite might be true as well. My clients have had success with both approaches, so testing is of paramount importance.
- Create an Automated Re-engagement Series: Take advantage of email automation based on business rules, and initiate evergreen re-engagement campaigns once a subscriber has been classified as “inactive.”
- Seek Feedback: Try going straight to the source and asking your disengaged subscribers what you can do to inspire them. Consider seeking confirmation of whether they are interested in changing their email frequency or even opting out.
FP: While opens and clicks don’t tell the whole story, they can be a good top-level indicator of your subscribers’ engagement levels. Take note of the valuable insights Simms and Tom offered above, and also keep in mind that a large percentage of your inactives are simply the result of not reaching your subscribers at their preferred email addresses. Given that the average churn rate for email addresses is 30% per year, what you might perceive as a lack of engagement might actually be the result of a change of email address due to a new job, school, ISP, etc. Of course, the best re-engagement campaign in the world won’t be successful if your emails are landing in accounts no one is reading anymore.
So once you have exhausted the efforts recommended above for your inactives, utilize an Email Change of Address (ECOA) service to help you reconnect with your lost subscribers at their current preferred email addresses. Performing quarterly ECOA updates coupled with the tips provided here can keep your activity level high and optimize the ROI of your email marketing program.
Tom and Simms, many thanks for your valuable advice!