8 Key Ways to Keep Subscribers Engaged

Kristen Morales, Senior Director of Client Services

Author Bio

As senior director of client services at Bronto Software, Kristen Morales oversees an organization that encompasses professional services, technical support and deliverability. She is responsible for the planning and growth of the services organization, including all service offerings, operations, delivery and sales training. Morales has a multi-channel marketing and consulting background and over 12 years of email marketing experience. In her past Bronto life as a marketing strategist, she spoke regularly at industry conferences and has been featured in industry publications such as Chief Marketer and MarketingProfs.

You’ve worked hard to get people onto your email marketing list, but that’s only part of the battle. What are the things you need to do to make sure people not only stay ON the list, but stay engaged and interact with your messages? Here are 8 key ways to keep subscribers engaged through their lifecycle:

1. Set Expectations from the Start

Kyarns.com email sign-up

You want people to be excited to join your list in order to receive certain communications from you.  In the case of Kaleidoscope Yarns – that’s knitting tips and tricks, free patterns, special offers, and more. Subscribers also understand that they are going to get one email a week.

By making it clear WHAT they are signing up for and, roughly, how often they can expect to hear from you, you’ll start your relationship off on the right foot with everyone on the same page.

Setting proper expectations is key to a good email relationship. It helps establish trust.

2. Keep it Relevant – Segment & Target

Carolina Biological sign-up w/data for segmentation

Another key to creating great relationships with subscribers and maintaining engagement is keeping content RELEVANT. We do this by leveraging data we have on our subscribers.

We can take advantage of the following types of behavioral data:

  • Email behavior: What are they opening and click on? That is a demonstration of interest you can pursue.
  • Web site behavior: What categories of product are they browsing? According to recent studies, we know that messages that leverage clickstream data, like abandoned cart and browsing recommendation messages, produce 9 times the revenue and 32 times the net profit of standard broadcast messages.
  • Purchase behavior:  What have customers purchased from you? How much money do they spend? How many times have they purchased from you? When did they last purchase from you? You can do some really smart marketing if you have this data flowing into your email platform regularly.

We can also leverage demographic information gathered via:

  • Sign-up: What are you asking for up-front? Highly consider name, location, birthday and interest areas for future segmentation.
  • Manage preference center: You can run an ”Update Your Information” campaign to get data from existing customers and motivate response using a drawing or sweepstakes.

3. Automate: Set up Triggered Lifecycle Messages

Triggered Lifecycle Messaging

You can’t get more targeted, relevant and timely than setting up automated lifecycle triggers. Lining up touches like welcome series and birthday triggers can make a huge difference in your interaction with subscribers (and absolutely help your deliverability). It’s not uncommon for these kinds of messages to see anywhere from 30-80% open rates. Beyond helping your business stand out from the competition, these messages often create brand new revenue streams for your marketing program.

4. Leverage Real-time News & Events

CompanyKids snow day offer

Be on top of what’s going on in the world to really gain attention. “Trendjacking” is the idea of taking everyday topics people are already discussing and creating content that taps into them.  This CompanyStore email was sent out in the midst of the major snowstorms that were hitting the East coast last winter – highlighting an issue that was already top of mind.

Personally, I had a client who leveraged the American Idol chatter a couple years back regarding the “Pants on the Ground” contestant in a subject line the following day and got RIDICULOUS open rates (they were selling jeans, by they way). This works!

5. Get a Personality & Interact

Saddleback Leather sample message

Humanizing your business can go a long way to driving better relationships with your customers and prospects….so go ahead, get a personality.

Even if you don’t have or can’t develop a distinct individual to represent your brand,"getting a personality" can also just mean speaking in a conversational, friendly tone and creating dialogue.

The advent of social media platforms has also made it easier than ever to drive conversation and interaction with your email subscribers. We want to peak their interest, make them laugh or get their thoughts – even if they aren’t ready to buy from us today. That way, they’ll hopefully want to continue interacting with us over time.

Engage and speak with (NOT AT) your subscribers. Here are 4 ways to drive conversation in your messages.

6. Inspire and Inform

Uncommon good informational approach

People are not generally going to buy from you with every email you send them. In order to keep them engaged, we occasionally have to take a break from pushing just BUY, BUY, BUY messaging and instead try different, more informational approaches.

How can you be seen as helpful, as an advisor, as a thought-leader?

Try to incorporate some straight informational messaging in your welcome series or in a post-purchase series or have a more informational slanted newsletter that you send once a month. Here are 6 ideas to make your messages more beneficial, educational and inspirational to those receiving them.

7. Consider Giveaways, Customer Spotlighting

Speigel highlighting teachers

Think about doing gift-card giveaways to a certain number of people every month to keep people interested in STAYING on the list.  Mention this explicitly at sign-up and in welcome messages or series to keep people hooked.

Additionally, feature those winners in your emails to keep people excited about potentially winning and to drive opens to see if they won.

Also, consider highlighting customers in general. We are a voyeuristic generation – just think about all the Facebook spying we do! Interview and spotlight your customers. People will see that you care about your customers and those who are highlighted will share these emails with friends.

This is a great opportunity to get creative. Think about having people submit photos of themselves wearing your clothes or with the project they just knitted with the yarn they bought from you or the car they restored with your tools, etc.

8. Recognize, Reward and Inspire via a Loyalty Program


Sephora VIB program

Another way to keep subscribers engaged (and encourage repeat purchases) is to develop a loyalty program, leveraging a lifetimevalue field or # of purchases field. We can use this data to trigger rewards when people reach certain spending levels or have them reach VIP status with various perks (like Sephora does). We can even trigger messages to people monthly with their balances. 

All of these tactics combined can lead to very powerful engagement with your email subscribers, enabling you to maintain a relationship and hopefully inspire multiple purchases over a longer period of time.

What have you seen drive the best engagement? What other ideas would you recommend?

Kristen Gregory
Manager of Strategic Services

  • These are some great ways to subscribers engaged. I have actually unsubscribed from many companies because I haven’t received the content I subscribed for.