Gosh, I’ve Missed You!

Are you giving up on your subscribers too soon? A new study shows how win-back campaigns are re-engaging subscribers long after many of us have given up hope. Also known as re-engagement, lapsed-customer or reactivation campaigns, this staple of your automated drip campaign is designed to nudge dormant subscribers back into the buying funnel

Are you giving up on your subscribers too soon? A new study shows how win-back campaigns are re-engaging subscribers long after many of us have given up hope.

Return Path just released a new study on the effectiveness of win-back campaigns—well beyond the point where many marketers would typically relegate the subscriber’s name to the archive directory. Also known as re-engagement, lapsed-customer or reactivation campaigns, this staple of your automated drip campaign is designed to nudge dormant subscribers back into the buying funnel. While Spider Trainers believes you should Celebrate Unsubscribes (opens as a pdf), this new study shows we shouldn’t be too hasty.

In another study, Strong View found that 50 percent of marketers say they plan to include a win-back campaign in their marketing, and yet our informal surveys have found less than 5 percent of our clients have considered such a campaign.

One challenge marketers face is updating our understanding of the point at which we can consider a recipient disinterested, and it’s important to note marketers label inactive differently than email applications, mostly because we have different data points.

Email applications may define an inactive subscriber as a mailbox holder who has not logged in for a year, but depending upon your business model, you might not consider a recipient inactive unless they have not engaged with your brand for the past two years. Gmail now also cordons off marketing emails to the promotion tab, and thus, the time lapsed before the email is read has extended—according to some studies, by as much as seven days (or more). If your Yahoo!, Gmail or Outlook subscriber does not engage with your campaign, it’s more likely the email application will treat future messages as spam, and less likely your subscriber will see future messages, win-back or otherwise.

The disparity between what we consider inactive and what email applications consider inactive, and the extended time it is taking for our recipients to read and engage, both can contribute to a deteriorating sender reputation. With such high-stake risks, we must carefully balance the long-term negative effects of continuing to email to the disengaged against the potential gain of the small few who reactivate on their own.

A better solution is: Consider win-back campaigns as not just a message to throw at our list every now and again, but rather critical components (yes, we think you should send more than one) to each drip and nurture campaign we build and the type of messages we deploy before we celebrate unsubscribes.

Sidebar:
Win-back campaigns with subject lines such as, “Gosh, We’ve Missed You!” were found to have increased open rates.

According to Return Path, on average (across email applications) 12 percent of subscribers read a win-back campaign email and 45 percent of those read subsequent messages within the next 57 days. If you haven’t deployed a win-back campaign, perhaps it’s time you did—but, before you consider the success or failure of your campaign, remember to give it ample time. Like so many other things, re-engagement seems to improve with time.

Email Marketing: To Open or Not To Open …

For many of us, choosing the from name is a simple task. We send it from the person to whom we want the recipient to respond or connect, but hold on … did you test that?

For many of us, choosing the from name is a simple task. We send it from the person to whom we want the recipient to respond or connect, but hold on … did you test that?

One of our clients sends more than a million emails daily to their subscribers. They have built their list using a variety of resources, one of which was to purchase three million self-identified target recipients, but they also used co-registration with a daily newsletter offer to acquire another million names over a span of a few months. The co-registration names were a double-opt in so ideally should have produced stellar results and highly qualified names, but that didn’t actually turn out to be the case.

After sending to the purchased list, we tossed it completely due to the very high number of spam traps we managed to trigger in our first two sends. With those names eliminated, we focused on the co-registration list, which we segmented into large groups to receive the daily message they had been offered. This was done through more than a dozen different ESPs.

As we saw it, job one was to validate the email addresses were deliverable, not spam traps, and were—at best—being opened. As we suspected, a number of them were spam traps, so we dialed it back and a great deal of time to a deep-cleanse effort of sending in very small batches (about 200 per day per ESP) in order to more easily stop the cycle if we irritated more spam sensors. (It takes a long, damn time to send to millions of recipients at the rate of 200 per day.)

Using this process, once we reached 250,000 verified emails, we sent to those in larger groups through our three best-performing ESPs—those with whom we historically saw the best deliverability rates. We continued these two steps with the balance of the names and applied the deep-cleanse process for new names still coming in through the co-registration sites (about 500 names per day).

The combination of the deep cleanse and slow send improved our results drastically. All emails were deliverable, unsubscribes were low, but open rates were still lagging. Since this was a daily message to which the users had specifically subscribed, we were pretty sure there was room for improvement even though the list was growing faster than the combined attrition rate (unsubscribes + undeliverable + spam complaints), and traffic to this site was flourishing.

While our client does not sell anything on their site, they do sell ad space in the daily email, monthly newsletter and on their website. The number of views for these ads is critical to our client’s revenue. Emails going unopened, being marked as spam, or gaining an unsubscribe are not generating revenue in a click or impressions ad placement.

Regardless of which email application the subscriber uses, there are two things they see: from and subject line. Some email applications will also show the preheader text, a preview, or other snippets to give the recipient more clues about the content. We chose to tackle first the sender information, and then work on the subject line. After all, there’s only so many ways we could say, “Here’s the daily email to which you have subscribed.”

The target audience for this daily email is largely male—not all male, mind you, but nearing the 85 percent mark. I suspected males would rather receive emails from women, so we started there. We also used tried other sender names and email addresses:

  • Company name
  • Site owner’s name (she has some visibility in this space, so we tried to parlay that recognition into opens)
  • General email address
  • Mature-sounding woman’s name
  • Young-sounding, woman’s name
  • Sexy woman’s name
  • Mature-sounding male name (in line with the target audience age group)
  • Young-sounding male name

We didn’t just change the from name, we created a matching from address for continuity and credibility (rather than use a system address such as newsletter@companysite.com). For instance, if Brittni Jones was the from name, the address was brittni@companysite.com

What we found, and what I’m sure you already know, is sender matters—in a big, important way; at least for this client.

I was right on one front: This primarily male constituency did open far more emails from Brittni than Edith, but they also liked getting emails from Trevor, a very close second. They didn’t read nearly as many emails from Bob, though Bob was more popular than using the company name. The actual statistics for this campaign are not important; your company would experience completely different results. The takeaway here is about testing and being relevant—even at the sender name and address level.

If your opens are suffering, think first about whether or not John Smith is convincing enough to get me to open, then remember: test, track, tweak. Repeat.