How to Re-Engage a Dormant Subscriber List

You spend a lot of time and money crafting emails that are engaging to the average subscriber, and when engagement levels (open rates, click rates, etc…) start to trend down for the average subscriber, it’s up to you to re-engage before you lose them altogether. Since investing in acquisition of new customers is six to seven times costlier than re-activating past customers, there is a huge value in investing in re-activation campaigns.

Re-Engagement Infographic

Slideshare.net reports that, on average, 60 percent of subscribers to a list are “dead.” According to data from MarketingSherpa and EmailLabs, you will see a drop of between 20 and 25 percent in subscribers’ open rates within the first two months after signing up for an email list, and a 35 to 45 percent decrease two years later. MailChimp also reports that engagement tends to bottom out around the 100th campaign.

Why Subscribers Stop Engaging
One of the main causes of lack of engagement is frequency. There is a definite negative correlation between the frequency with which emails are sent and the level of reader engagement. In fact, 69 percent of American email users report having unsubscribed altogether from an email list because emails were sent too frequently.

Another culprit is the junk folder, or sending delays. Even small delays between sending and delivery can cause problems, especially if emails contain time-sensitive offers, like a flash sale. This can be caused by a number of things, like lower engagement than similar competitors whose communications the ISP may route through first. Problems can mount because of this; if open and clickthrough rates drop too low because of delays, ISPs may begin to route your emails directly to the junk folder. If you aren’t periodically checking on and cleansing your email lists of dead emails, you may even wind up blacklisted. ISPs monitor dead email addresses for sending, and often mark email senders to those addresses as spam, another way to get your email sent to the spam folder without your knowledge.

Subscribers also will stop reading if the content is bad or not useful. Of CIO’s top seven reasons people unsubscribe from email lists, quality of content represents four. Typically, the larger an email list is, the lower its open rates tend to be. This could be a result of companies being less able to tailor custom content to individual customers and/or customers having less of a personal relationship with the company.

Chances are your subscribers are opening your email on mobile devices. In fact, as of Q1 2015, 53 percent were. This can lead to a sharp drop in open rates if your emails are not optimized for mobile viewing.

Focusing On Deliverability
Definitions of spam aren’t as content-focused as they used to be. As ISPs are focusing more on how subscribers are responding to your emails, re-engaging inactive subscribers can improve your inbox placement. If the balance is off between your active and inactive subscribers, ISPs might start to think you’re a low-quality sender and relegate you to the junk folder—or worse, block you altogether.

Gmail in particular wants to see evidence that your recipients love, or at the very least, want your messages as a determining factor for whether you land in the spam folder. Generally speaking, ISPs and email providers such as Google, Microsoft, AOL and Comcast handle sender reputation at the individual level. Of the 95 percent of emails that are blocked and/or automatically routed to spam folders, 85 percent have it done on the basis of sender reputation. The idea is to give the individual user what he or she will find most relevant by reacting to his or her opening and clickthrough habits. Signs that are considered positive by algorithms include: moving a message out of the spam folder/marking as not spam, replying, adding the sender to an address book, reading/viewing or moving to another folder or tagging.

On the negative side, signs considered bad by algorithms include: deleting a message without opening or reading, marking as spam or moving to the junk folder, or reporting the email as a phishing attempt. Clicks are not tracked as a metric for reputation, as tracking what a user does within an email generally is considered to be a violation of privacy.

Defining Inactives
Taking it a step further, the majority of marketers will gauge inactives as anyone who has not responded, opened, clicked or acted on any email in the past six to twelve months. Inactives may be best defined as people whose email addresses are still active and valid, but who are not engaging in any way with your emails. The average list’s inactive rate is around 60 percent. This means that a list of 10,000 has only 4,000 true subscribers reading its posts. Considering the huge amount of time online marketers spend building their lists, having a majority of the list not responding after signing up is a huge loss in terms of engagement and revenue.

How to Re-Engage
There are multiple Do’s and Don’ts in the re-engagement process. Simply asking customers to update their email information can have surprising engagement results, where re-permission emails—where the sender attempted to get long inactive recipients into receiving emails again—were found to be ineffective. Those only had a 1.8 percent average read rate.

While the definition of an inactive subscriber will be unique to each company, ultimately you need to be able to define an inactive subscriber as someone who has not opened/clicked within a certain amount of time by analyzing your subscriber history. Use past data to determine the average amount of time between when subscribers sign up and when they stop engaging. Then strategize your re-engagement program around that window of time by having a strong call to action, removing non-responders and keeping subscribers engaged to prevent those inactive users.

You can also send a survey to current subscribers asking something as simple as what they think of your email campaigns and offering a small incentive can help to understand where things need to be shored up, but also to point out which customers have remained engaged over time, as they are your most likely responders. Don’t immediately, however, cull your list if you don’t see a good response to winback emails. Studies have found that 45 percent of people who receive a winback email will re-engage at some level with the brand, but only 24 percent of them actually read the winback email. The average time between receiving a winback email and re-engaging with a subsequent message from the sender was around 57 days.

Even in light of this information, the majority of inactive subscribers will stay that way. Having a clear idea of when you ought to disengage for good can save you problems in the future.

New Study offers what works in email marketing

A new study highlighted in DM News offers clear evidence that strong visuals and offers personalized by recipients past behaviors leads to the highest open and click-through rates.

Here’s a great example of great visuals in one email by VRBO – they have multiple eye-catching images that all have the same theme – plus spiced up with great offers.

SUBJECT: Plan your leaf peeping excursion

But more importantly than visuals is to make the email about THEM. Send something that they care about – and just maybe they’ll click-through. Check out how Amex catch’s the eye with just the subject line.

SUBJECT: JOHN MURPHY, You’ve Got ✉ : Some News About Your Card 

Benefits of Integrating Your Email and Social Media Strategies

When it comes to audience building, personalized communication and sharing information quickly and efficiently, not much beats email and social media. In fact, at the end of 2014, a survey of business leaders showed that social and email would be these two channels would be the most likely to see an increase in investment in 2015; social media is predicted to grow as a channel by around 37%, and email is expected to jump from 3% growth to nearly 10% in 2015, thanks in large part to improved personalization.

Why are these impressive jumps in growth occurring? One reason might be the high ROI of email. Although email’s response rates may not be ideal (around .12%), its inexpensive nature means that it still sees an ROI of around 28.5%- an impressive amount when compared with direct mail, which only has a 7% ROI. Email is also the most popular activity on smartphones and other mobile devices, with 78% of 18-44 year olds reporting that they use their mobile devices for email.

Meanwhile, there are currently 2.08 billion active social media accounts in the world, representing 23% of the world’s population, and the average social media user spends over two hours per day using social networks. A 2013 study also showed that on average a Facebook like equates to an extra $22 spent on the company (however, keep in mind that this is likely to vary greatly by industry).

With these two channels exploding, marketers are realizing that they might be able to harness the power of email to improve their social media reach, and vice versa. Traditionally, however, the crossover between email subscribers and social media followers isn’t usually very high. For example, a recent study found that out of one company’s social media followers, only around 50% were also subscribed to their newsletter. Similarly, crossover between social media sites is also limited; only 5% of that same company’s Facebook fans were following them on Twitter, while only 40% of the company’s Twitter followers were also Facebook fans.

On the surface, email and social media are very different channels with very different purposes; email is typically considered a mid-funnel channel, while social media often sits at the top of the funnel. But how can marketers leverage each channel to improve the other?

Using Social Media to Grow Email

While social media may seem like the best way to build your brand awareness and capture new fans, capturing your social media followers’ email addresses is still the best way to own your audience. Social media audiences are “leased” rather than owned, and nothing exemplifies this truth better than Facebook’s declining organic reach. In 2014, Facebook ended the free ride they had been giving businesses and brands in order to reach their audience for free, and marketers were left scrambling- and paying- to enjoy the reach they once enjoyed for free. You don’t own your Facebook audience- Facebook does. This makes capturing email addresses (a truly owned channel) more crucial than ever.

First, make it easy for your followers to sign up for your email newsletter. Many email clients provide an app that can be linked to Facebook, allowing Facebook fans to easily sign up for email newsletters. A seamless, simple process will encourage your social fans to follow through with the sign-up process.

Next, use your social media channels to offer followers previews of your premium email content (ReachMail has a social media sharing tool that allows you to easily post your messages to your company’s social media pages). Email newsletters are more suited to long-form, original content, while Facebook or Twitter posts are better for short, pithy updates. However, your Facebook and Twitter channels are great avenues for previewing your exclusive email content, and offering those previews can encourage your social media fans to sign up for your newsletter.

One impressive example of these two strategies succeeding comes from KFC and the launch of their Double Down sandwich. During this launch, KFC implemented an email sign-up widget on their Facebook page and sent an email to current subscribers encouraging them to share an email pre-announcing the Double Down. KFC found that the email was shared more than 12,000 times on Twitter and Facebook alone in just 24 hours, and thanks to the social media shares and the traffic to the email widget, opt-ins for email subscriptions rose 30%.

You may also choose to incentivize newsletter signups. Many e-commerce retailers provide incentives of 10-20% off a purchase in exchange for signing up for an email list; however, you can also offer other incentives, such as exclusive content, free samples, or sweepstakes entries. For example, online tea retailer Teapigs offered 10% off of a purchase via Facebook in exchange for an email sign-up, which led to a 30% increase in newsletter sign-ups.

Remember the statistics we mentioned earlier about how email is now the most popular activity on smartphones and other mobile devices? 45% of all email opens occurred on mobile platforms in 2014, while 30% of consumers report that they exclusively read their email on mobile devices. Even worse, 69% of mobile users report deleting emails that aren’t mobile optimized. Therefore, it’s imperative that your emails are optimized for mobile use.

Using Email Marketing to Grow Social Channels

Facebook and other social media sites are traditionally seen as top of funnel marketing channels best-suited for attracting new customers and increasing brand awareness. But in fact, Facebook has been proven to be less than ideal for creating new customers; around 84% of Facebook fans on company pages represent current customers, meaning that Facebook is best suited towards keeping existing customers.

Email, meanwhile, is seen as more of an ‘owned’ audience, managed and controlled by the brand for the purpose of moving leads down the sales funnel. However, with a twist on the tactics discussed above, you can still use email marketing to grow your social channels.

The most immediately successful way to use your email list to grow your social channels is simple: add buttons to the bottom of your emails directly linking to your social pages. This cross-channel promotion has been shown to lead to a 325% increase in new Facebook fans on the day of the newsletter (the reversal of this cross-channel promotion is also a smart strategy; a Facebook wall post encouraging subscription to the newsletter led to a 225% increase in new subscriptions compared to the average daily sign-up rate).

Don’t be shy about using these buttons in your email list. The more often a button linking to social media is available to an email subscriber, the more likely the user is to take advantage of it. Other places to put the button can include on the confirmation page after they sign up for the email list, in welcome emails, and in customer service emails.

Another ReachMail feature you can take advantage of here is our autoresponder. If you’re already sending a welcome series, consider adding one email specifically inviting your new subscribers to join you on each of your social media channels.

Incentives also work for increasing your social channels. Use your email list to send our notices for sweepstakes and other promotions, and you’ll see your social media likes and followers rise.

Koyal Wholesale, the world’s largest supplier of products for weddings, integrated their social media presence into email campaigns to great success. Their email list had over 200,000 subscribers, and by including their Facebook and YouTube content in these emails, Koyal Wholesale achieved a 12% lift in their emails’ open rates, a 10% lift in conversion rates, and ultimately a 16% lift in revenue.

Using your email marketing list to grow your social channels- and vice versa- is a win-win situation. However, a word of caution: marketers should be careful to remember what each channel’s specific purpose is. While keeping your channels’ goals set to their specific strengths and purposes is important for successful cross-channel promotion, the fact is that using one channel to fuel the success of the other is a smart marketing strategy. By integrating your email and social media strategies, you can increase your brand’s reach, adding to your leads and moving them down the sales funnel.