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Really Simple E-mail Segmentation: The Reactivation Campaign

  |  July 28, 2008   |  Comments

The second step in reengaging inactive e-mail recipients.

In an earlier column, I introduced a simple segmentation model that relies on observed behavior:

Segmentation Using e-mail Metrics

Any marketer tracking basic e-mail metrics can use this model to better target content and, hopefully, improve performance. This model isn't better than others that segment by interest, industry, or another differentiator; rather, this model relies on information that should be available from even the most basic e-mail marketing program.

Last time, we began digging into how to treat group two, your inactives who haven't opened or clicked in some time. We talked about defining the goals of your inactive campaign and phase one of a reactivation campaign. We'll continue that discussion today with phase two and some creative from real-life reactivation campaigns.

Phase Two

Phase two should start two to four weeks into phase one, adding standalone e-mail to the mix. It should encompass four or more standalone e-mail messages that further flesh out the promise of having an e-mail relationship with your organization. This is where you'll get the bulk of your responses. I see 80 percent to 90 percent of the "yes, keep me on the list" requests coming from phase two. My clients also usually get 90 percent or more of their unsubscribes this way.

You want to send these standalone e-mail messages until response falls off. I usually send them about a week apart, being sure to suppress anyone who has responded to a phase one or previous phase two effort. I rarely send less than four; eight is usually the absolute maximum before the response trickles to a minimum or stops entirely.

What you say in these standalone messages can make or break your reactivation campaign. I've seen some interesting standalone reactivation campaigns out there. Some are very basic, like this one:

basic reactivation e-mail

I'm not a fan of this type of reactivation campaign for a few reasons. First, there's a Big Brother feel to telling people you know they haven't opened or clicked on an e-mail in a while. You may also be incorrect on that point. In the age of blocked images, rendering issues, and smart phones, the e-mail may have been opened but not reported.

I'm also not crazy about the tone of these types of campaigns. This brief missive talks about "jeopardy," "hear back from you immediately," "cancel your subscription." The language is almost threatening. Take action or else.

Also, there's only one possible response to this campaign: an affirmative one. There's no link to unsubscribe. This is probably OK under CAN-SPAM because it could be considered a transactional message. But if someone wants off the list, don't you want to make it easy for them to unsubscribe?

Finally, I dislike these types of campaigns for what they don't include: a benefit-oriented case for why I should want to receive e-mail from the publisher in the future. What have I been missing out on? How will these e-mail messages help me in the future if I continue receiving them?

When I develop reactivation campaigns for clients, I always focus on the positive. Here's one example:

benefit-oriented reactivation e-mail

The tone here is friendly, not combative. There's no threatening language. This early effort doesn't even say that subscribers will be removed from the list if they don't respond (soft language expressing that message appears in later efforts).

There's also no mention of their behavior being tracked and nothing saying they haven't opened, clicked, or otherwise responded in a long time (even though that appears to be the case). By omitting this, the client avoids the Big Brother effect.

It also offers recipients three response options:

  • Confirm that they wish to continue to receive e-mail at the current e-mail address.

  • Confirm that they wish to continue to receive e-mail, but at a different e-mail address.

  • Unsubscribe from the list.

This will also help minimize the number of people who didn't respond to the reactivation campaign and give the client a clue when to decide what to do with the unresponsive e-mail addresses.

The e-mail makes the case for why someone should keep receiving e-mail. The bulleted list of benefits is key to reengaging these readers. It tells them what they've been missing and what they can look forward to if they open and read these missives in the future.

Finally, the e-mail comes from a person. It's not from a nameless entity. It's an organization, and the person who leads it is reaching out to have an e-mail relationship with readers. She's asking for that relationship, not threatening to cut these people off if they don't act.

Take a few minutes this week to think about how a reactivation series could enhance your e-mail marketing efforts. Then start brainstorming on the benefits you'll use to entice these lapsed readers. Let me know how it goes.

Next, phase three of a reactivation campaign, which involves using a different channel to sweep for any remaining interested e-mail subscribers.

Until next time,


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Jeanne Jennings

Jeanne Jennings is a 20 year veteran of the online/email marketing industry, having started her career with CompuServe in the late 1980s. As Vice President of Global Strategic Services for Alchemy Worx, Jennings helps organizations become more effective and more profitable online. Previously Jennings ran her own email marketing consultancy with a focus on strategy; clients included AARP, Hasbro, Scholastic, Verizon and Weight Watchers International. Want to learn more? Check out her blog.

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