Lost the Spark? How to Cope and Move On With a Healthier Email List

Melanie Alfano, Marketing Strategist

Melanie Alfano, Marketing Strategist

One of the most heartbreaking topics for marketers is their unengaged audience. We’ve all been there. It’s painful to think about, but not every subscriber is going to stick with you for the long haul. While it can be more convenient to ignore the unengaged and focus on your “good list,” doing so won’t help your campaign performance – or your deliverability.

Return Path recently reported that ISPs are becoming more reliant on engagement data than IP scores when determining your overall reputation in the marketplace. I can’t stress enough the importance of user engagement for inbox placement. If your users don’t open a number of your marketing emails, domains are now much more likely to direct your future messages to the spam folder.

How can you avoid such a fate? Don’t ignore this unengaged part of your list. Give them the attention they deserve, and see if you can catch them before they pass the point of no return.

Identify the Unengaged

If you’ve spent time ignoring unengaged subscribers, now’s the time to bring them into the light. Create segments based on non-opens within a set period of time or number of emails sent. Consider your typical cadence for marketing emails to determine what time period makes the most sense for you. I would encourage you to create multiple segments with various time periods so you can gain some insight into when your non-engaged audiences are beginning to drop off.

Exclude Them From Bulk Campaigns

Once you’ve identified these segments, omit them from your traditional marketing sends.  They’re not opening anyway, so why not save your email allotment and improve the effectiveness and performance of your email campaign.

Send a Re-engagement Campaign

Reach out to this unengaged group to gauge their interest in your brand. For these campaigns, subject lines are critical. Remember: What they’ve seen from you so far hasn’t captured their attention. But content is key as well. Try leading with a brief acknowledgement, expressing how you miss them. Remind them of all the benefits they’re missing out on. Maybe encourage them to update their preferences. This message from Belk uses a few of these tactics to re-engage inactive subscribers.

Belk example

Including an offer in this message is also a good act of faith, but it should be something different from your typical promotional offers. Be unique! Staples offered subscribers a substantial discount and reminded them to check their messages regularly for other great deals.Staples Example

Use a “Make Up or Break Up” Campaign

This kind of campaign is a last resort, a proactive approach to let the unengaged contact know they can unsubscribe from your communications or your organization will take that action on their behalf. This is a strategy that most marketers struggle with, but think about it this way. If you had a rotten vegetable in your refrigerator, would you keep it for the sake of having a bountiful, fully-stocked refrigerator? Do you really want to risk the perishability of all the other produce in your fridge? Of course not. There’s no point trying to save something that’s already too far gone. And there’s not enough baking soda in the world to neutralize that kind of stench. Let go of your emotional attachment, and toss it away!

What Can You Expect?

When you go this route, you should be prepared for your number of subscribers to drop at least a bit. That’s why list growth is so paramount. As you constantly recycle your list, strive for ways to generate new traffic and gather new leads on your website.

I recommend the organic approach, such as a unique pop-up on your site, a mobile text-to-join program, a refer-a-friend campaign or social media opt-in. Leave the opt-in box at checkout unchecked, though. If customers want to hear from you, they’ll contact you. But be sure to include calls to action for sign-up within your transactional messages, such as order and shipping confirmations. You might also consider revamping your SEO and paid marketing strategies as part of your lead acquisition efforts.

No matter what strategy you choose, do the work to either re-engage lost subscribers or cut them loose. There’s nothing wrong with saying good-bye. In fact, your bottom line will probably thank you for it.