4 Ways to Engage Email Non-Responders

  |  December 29, 2011   |  Comments

Win back the non-responders by analyzing the true data, segmenting and customizing, automating a reengagement series, and just asking them.

We all know that many marketers view opens and clicks as the top two most important email metrics. I won't get into why this can be misleading or even irrelevant to your business goals, but we often consider unengaged subscribers as the ones that have not opened or clicked on a brand's emails for quite some time. This is an important and potentially confusing group of subscribers that have given you permission to email them but appear to be ignoring you and your message. Let's take a look at four ways to win them back and reengage them.

  1. Analyze the true data. Taking an honest look at your list and diving into email domains (which can often provide insight into image suppression, which deflates opens rates), tenure as a subscriber, and buying history (or B2B actual lead status) can arm you with the right data, well beyond just response metrics. After all, would you remove someone who buys regularly from you (or enough to be a profitable customer) based on the fact that they have not "opened an email" in six months? What if they have images turned off, only see your subject lines that trigger browsing through a different channel, or remember who you are and what you sell based on the emails they never read? These are the slippery slopes of making some decisions on who is truly unengaged and what determines this.
  2. Segment and customize. After you have thoroughly determined who is inactive, there are several tactics that potentially reengage this audience. The first thing is to segment these subscribers and suppress them from "normal emails" while they are in the inactive bucket.
    • Subject lines. While you wouldn't scream at the person who ignores you at every Christmas party, you may change your approach. Subject lines are a great way to mix up your cadence, length, and approach.
    • Creative. Maybe half of your list hasn't clicked on an email in the past six months because you send the same email with varying text or a boring template that never gets updated. 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, a mobilized version for many marketers is imperative these days and may be the reason a part of your database has not been active.
    • Offer. Whether you are a B2C company hawking holiday widgets or a B2B company trying to grab budget before year end, mix up the call to action and value proposition. If you have a free research report, don't be shy about its placement in the email (too many B2B companies place it below the fold at the bottom of the email, old-school direct mail style).
    • Frequency. While most thoughts would say decrease the number of sends during your quest for reengagement, my agency has taken the other approach for some clients and seen it work. Just like in person-to-person sales, sometimes staying in front of the prospect just works better.
  3. Automate a reengagement series. Leveraging email automation based on business rules can be a very efficient way to have evergreen reengagement campaigns running once a subscriber is classified as "inactive." Don't forget to update these, as I have seen plenty of automated campaigns with a cross-promotion expiration date that is expired.
  4. Ask them. I know it sounds shocking to ask these folks who have given you permission to email them, but seek further feedback or even confirmation of whether they are interested in staying a subscriber, pausing their subscription, opt down (change frequency), or opt out. The last one is the one that gives heartburn to most VP/CMO-level execs since the size of the list is often one of the key barometers of the state of their email program.

What has worked for your program when attempting to bring subscribers back into the fold? How about sharing some bold successes when it comes to removing inactives from your email database?

This column was originally published on Nov. 17, 2011 on ClickZ.



Simms Jenkins

Simms Jenkins is CEO of BrightWave Marketing, North America's leading email marketing-focused digital agency. The award-winning firm specializes in elevating email marketing and digital messaging programs that drive revenue, cut costs, and build relationships. Jenkins has led BrightWave Marketing in establishing a world-class client list including Affiliated Computer Service (A Xerox Company), Chick-fil-A, Cox Business, Phillips66, Porsche, and Southern Company. The agency was recently ranked among the fastest growing private companies by Inc. Magazine.

Jenkins was awarded the prestigious AMY 2010 Marketer of the Year from the American Marketing Association for being the top agency marketer and the Email Marketer of the Year at the Tech Marketing Awards held by the Technology Association of Georgia. Jenkins is regarded as one of the leading experts in the email marketing industry and is regularly cited by the media as such and called upon by the financial community to provide market insight and consulting.

Jenkins is the author of two definitive and highly regarded books on email marketing; The New Inbox (published in April 2013 by ClickZ/Incisive Media) and The Truth About Email Marketing (published by Pearson's Financial Times Press in 2008). Jenkins is currently the Email Marketing Best Practices Columnist for ClickZ, the largest resource of interactive marketing news and commentary in the world, online or off. His industry articles have been called one of the top 21 information sources for email marketers.

He has been featured in Fortune Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, Adweek, Bloomberg TV, Wired Magazine, and scores of other leading publications and media outlets. Jenkins is a regular speaker at major digital industry and general business conferences.

Additionally, Jenkins is the creator of EmailStatCenter.com and SocialStatCenter.com, the leading authorities on email and social media metrics. Prior to founding BrightWave Marketing, Jenkins headed the CRM group at Cox Interactive Media.

Jenkins serves on the eMarketing Association's Board of Advisors among other civic and professional boards. He is also a mentor at Flashpoint, a Georgia Tech-based startup accelerator program. Jenkins is a graduate of Denison University in Granville, Ohio and resides in Atlanta's Buckhead neighborhood with his wife and three children.

Follow and connect with Simms on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, The BrightWave Blog, and his book websites at NewInboxBook.com and SimmsJenkins.com.

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