Is It Ever Time to Say Goodbye to Your Email Subscribers?

Brands are always fixated on growing. Growing their Facebook fan page, growing their Twitter followers, and growing their email list. However, growing your email list without paying attention to your email performance metrics is counterproductive and dangerous. On average, brands have 50 percent or more of their email list unengaged. But it’s important to understand that “unengaged” is a loaded term.

To many email marketers, the term means that the consumer is unengaged with your email communications over a period of time, but that is a limited view that only tells part of the story. Just because a consumer hasn’t opened or clicked an email doesn’t mean they are unengaged with your brand. Many an email marketer has attempted to suppress customers who haven’t opened or clicked on an email in a pre-determined period of time only to see a noticeable drop in revenue. That’s why I believe it’s best for email marketers to define “unengaged” as unengaged with your brand.

Expanding your definition of “unengaged” in this way opens you up to identifying unengaged consumers as not only those who have not opened or clicked on an email, but those also who have not browsed your website or made a purchase within a set period of time. You need to look at interaction across channels before making a judgment that could potentially affect revenue. It could be that your email subject line alone (without opening or clicking) reminds a subscriber to go into the store or go directly to your site from their browser. Once you’ve ruled out activity in other channels, then you know that the consumer is truly unengaged.

The good news is that email marketing is a great vehicle to engage the unengaged. Using enticing subject lines (e.g., “We miss you”) or timely promotions (e.g., “Limited-Time Free Shipping”) can be an effective way for email marketers to woo the unengaged. You’ve already proven that your traditional email campaigns aren’t causing any clicks with this audience, so this is the opportunity to try something different. A well-executed email marketing campaign should be able to recapture 5 to 10 percent of the unengaged population, which can easily recoup the cost of running the program. Furthermore, with current marketing automation tools, an effective winback program can be set up on a recurring basis and include multiple touch points to increase efficacy.

Of course, even this more expanded definition will still leave you with a large portion of names that truly aim to remain unengaged, no matter what incentive you put before them. Why don’t you mark them as “super lapsed” and stop communicating with them? You won’t see a revenue hit (you’ve already eliminated purchasers), but you’ll be able to repurpose some of your email marketing budget to creative assistance (is it time to mobilize your email template?) and you’ll potentially delight the email recipient (no more unwanted email). Who knows, they might even ask to come back by buying something without solicitation.

By taking a holistic view of your customers that includes data from all channels, you can better distinguish and message to both your best customers and those who need a little extra attention. And the little bit of extra effort required to accurately separate and target these individuals will result in better response rates for your email programs and more revenue coming into your business.

Time to Say Goodbye image on home page via Shutterstock.

This column was originally published on May 1, 2012.

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