For this post, Caitlin, a Client Success Manager for Selligent Marketing Cloud, offers best practices on how to (a) identify inactive subscribers, (b) revive dormant customers, and (c) create a database full of subscribers who love you. 

Every good email marketer is committed to keeping customers engaged. But even with a great marketing campaign, there’s always a segment of your targeted audience that you just can’t seem to wake up. 

And is it any surprise? With so many competing brands, the average consumer’s inbox is swamped with unwanted messages. Defense mechanisms are more watchful than ever, as up to 80 percent of the world’s email traffic in 2017 is considered spam messaging. 

As a Client Success Manager at Selligent Marketing Cloud, I’ve had the privilege of working with clients large and small across all major industries. Based on these experiences, here are my favorite best practices you should use in your next re-engagement campaign:

  1. Do Your Research

    • Validate & Keep Validating

      Start by using an email validation tool like BriteVerify on your inactive email list to ensure you’re analyzing an accurate data pool. The service will identify invalid email addresses that are likely contributing to problems such as  unnecessary database storage costs, low  inbox deliverability, and poor sender reputation.

      With a regular validation practice, you can be reducing bounce rates up to 98%.  

    • Analyze

      Now that you’ve validated your emails, you can now analyze segments of inactive and dormant subscribers based on whether someone has opened or clicked over certain time periods. In particular, consider holidays and seasonal cycles. This is important to note because with retailers customers may only engage and purchase during the holidays whereas with resorts customers may only visit on average once a year. 

    • Define

      Selligent Marketing Cloud’s Consumer Intelligence and Site modules are designed to help marketers easily identify and automatically create different customer segments by engagement level and other key attributes. Here's what we recommend to create a clear definition of active, inactive, and dormant subscribers:

      Active: “Engaged with an email i.e. opened/clicked 0-6 months”
      Inactive: “Last email opened/clicked between 6-12 months”
      Dormant: “Last email opened/clicked 12+ months”

  2. Segment Your Inactive Subscribers

    • Segmenting Inactive Emails 

      Once you’ve defined your subscribers, it’s time to consider what you’ll do with your inactive and dormant subscribers. In the past, marketers would “prune” inactive subscribers from their lists in order to save deliverability metrics. But consider this: studies show that it can cost as much as 5x as much to acquire a new customer than to keep an existing one. Whatever you decide to do, we’ll help you take a nuanced and actionable view of inactive subscribers so you can consider converting them into active customers once again.

      • Distill inactive population into smaller, more intricate segments by attributes i.e. gender, age, preferred category, item(s) purchased, etc. 
      • Note how the inactive subscriber came on file (i.e. preference center, etc.)
      • Understand what subscriber signed up for originally
      • Segment based on “recent” click activity, where they clicked on email or on the web site
      • Note past purchase history and key attributes on which you can target
      • Understand if your email inactives are active in other channels, this is easy if you have Selligent Marketing Cloud’s Universal Customer Profile
    • Dormant Emails

      Do not email dormant emails, find alternate sources to opt them back in (Facebook, mobile app, online/call-in reservation process) ideally via omnichannel execution. 

  3. Focus in on Your Content

    Now that you’ve defined and segmented your inactive subscribers, now is the time to craft a series of win-back messages. And remember: be concise with your word count and focus on clear calls to action. Inactive subscribers already have less patience so focus on being useful and personal, or risk being annoying.

    • Be empathic and use human language - make your interaction more personal.
    • Utilize a simple, brief template and a short subject line, for example: “We miss you” or “Come back?”
    • Consider context to show you’re listening. Can you add personalized images, scratch off features, or a countdown clock? Use data based on most recent past activity as the basis for your personalized communications. 
    • Remind them of the benefits of being a subscriber/customer (discounts, email only offers)
    • Solicit feedback. Interactive elements such as surveys or polls both drive engagement as well as enhance customer profiles without requiring a click to an email preference center. These will also enrich your understanding of what key attributes they care about the most. Incentivize with discount
    • Make enticing offers; $ off incentives can be as much as twice as effective compared with % off incentives
    • Show them other ways to connect with your brand- recognize that email may not be their medium but other channels could be, be sure to provide links to your other channels.
    • Tell them how and why you will stop sending emails
    • For all inactives, let a re-permission email be the last email you send. 
  4. When to Let Go

    Okay, so you did your best. When should you prune an email from your list for good? If all efforts fail, be explicit about next steps. When can they expect emails to cease? Give them a little buffer time with an opportunity to re-engage two months after your last activation email. Otherwise, you can remove emails when:

    • Subscribers have complained, or two months after unsubscribing 
    • You’re hitting spam traps or deliverability rates decrease
    • Verification processes and email loops prove the email no longer exists, are invalid
    • Emails housed in your system aren’t converting and are costly to maintain
    • If Dormants remain inactive even after a few attempts to regain opt-in via other channels
    • If Inactives remain inactive after a re-engagement series is sent, and two subsequent months have passed
  5. Other Considerations

    If you can, try to test a variety of different content and calls to action to try and re-engage subscribers, and only set up an automatic campaign once you can identify a winning re-engagement campaign. Besides that, here are other strategies to experiment with:

    • Review content and metrics regularly for positive performance
    • Create a throttling schedule, deploy in small quantities, monitor complaints and unsubscribes
    • If emails have not been mailed to for an extended period of time, send from a different IP than from what is used for active subscribers
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