Clients often ask us how to reactivate inactive subscribers in their house file. In many cases, 30% to 40% of an email database can be considered inactive. Add to this the number of hard bounces that accumulate regularly as a result of normal list churn – approximately 30% per year – and you can see how difficult it is for your customer acquisition campaigns to keep pace. Furthermore, as ESPs and ISPs increasingly rely on recipient engagement levels to evaluate senders and determine inbox placement, having a high rate of inactives on your list could prove to be disastrous if left unchecked. So what’s an email marketer to do? We’ve got some tips…

Re-engaging Those Dormant Subscribers

While a portion of your dormant subscribers might be the result of hard bounces, many records become inactive simply as a result of subscribers changing email addresses or having a separate preferred email account. How do you determine the difference between an unengaged subscriber and a subscriber who has changed addresses?

There is no way to tell with 100% certainty, but without a doubt, a re-activation campaign is a good place to start. For great tips on reactivation, see past issues of FreshPerspectives, our webinar archive, and other industry resources.

While reengagement is always time well-spent, it’s critical to keep your expectations in check. Even the most effective campaigns often yield reactivation rates of less than 5%.

After a Re-engagement Campaign, What’s Next?

After your valiant re-engagement efforts have been exhausted, what should you do with the remaining 25% to 35% of your list that’s still inactive? Consider that many of these subscribers fall into the “changed address” category; the address they submitted 6 to 9 months ago is no longer their preferred address. These are people who previously requested to hear from you via email but have since changed their email address and didn’t notify you.

Let’s face it, how many times have you changed your email address or added a new address for specific messages? Did you then proactively contact your favorite retailers, non-profits, and membership organizations notifying them of your new email address? If you are like most of us, you occasionally access the old address with the intent of wading through the myriad of messages and notifying those preferred vendors of your new address, but once you open your old account the avalanche of unopened emails you encounter immediately strengthens your resolve to get it done at a later date.

Given this reality, an Email Change Of Address (ECOA) service is usually a wise investment. A successful ECOA project can allow you to re-engage with anywhere from 5% to 15% percent of your inactives as well as your hard bounces. Finding your subscribers’ new preferred addresses can serve as your first step toward re-establishing your relationship. These are clients that were engaged with you at one time, and chances are they will welcome the opportunity to hear from you again. In addition to helping you reconnect with lost customers and prospects, a successful ECOA campaign can help reduce marketing costs, maximize deliverability, and avoid ISP blacklists.

ECOA, Step By Step

The first step in any legitimate ECOA project should always include a robust hygiene scrub to clean and update hygiene errors as well as remove any suspicious or invalid emails. This is followed by matching your list against a comprehensive “change pair” database of fully opted-in records.

A branded “Permission Message” is then deployed to confirm deliverability and opt-in permission for future messaging at the updated address. Of course, all results should be 100% guaranteed deliverable.

Once you complete your first ECOA project, mark your calendar three months out. Given the ongoing nature of list churn and the constancy of change (e.g. jobs, schools, moves, marriages, etc.), quarterly processing yields the best results – and increases your chances of reaching your subscribers at their preferred and active address.

From Inactive to Thriving

A well-planned re-activation campaign followed by regular ECOA servicing will help revitalize lost relationships, deepen your customer engagement, and drive revenues (or donations in the case of a nonprofit). Add a solid customer acquisition strategy to the mix, and you can expect to keep your lists strong and thriving in the years ahead.

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