Will You Stay or Will You Go? How to Successfully Run a “Make Up or Break Up” Campaign


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.

Ideally, your company is doing an amazing job of keeping subscribers engaged using segmentation, personalization and other interactions beyond the basic promotion after promotion. And hopefully, you’re making a special effort to engage those who have somehow fallen quiet … perhaps through changing your sending cadence or offering opt-down opportunities. But it’s inevitable that some percentage of your list will not come back to life.

Over time, you’ll need to remove this dead weight from your list, especially as ISPs factor engagement more heavily when determining inbox placement. (P.S. You’ll also save some marketing dollars and get better visibility into your testing after cleaning your list.)

Before saying “Sayonara!” to these silent subscribers, try one last time to gain their attention and give them the option to stay on the list, if they’re interested. But don’t expect a big response on this campaign. These are the contacts who have been MIA, and their modus operandi is to do nothing. However, the effort isn’t that substantial, and you can always use the creative repeatedly in the future to target new inactives.

Here are my recommendations for successfully running a “make up or break up” campaign:

1. Create a Segment for Inactive Subscribers

Keeping seasonality and purchasing patterns for your business in mind, segment those contacts who have not opened or clicked on your messages in a significant period of time. If you want to be somewhat conservative (and buying cycles are typically shorter than this timeframe), you can isolate those who haven’t interacted with you in more than a year. You’ll likely want to compare this list with purchasers from this timeframe who could potentially be active in other channels and then exclude those buyers from this campaign.

2. Develop the Creative and Send a Two-Part Series

For the first email, include a bold, straightforward call-to-action in the subject line that will grab your subscribers’ attention. When you say goodbye, subscribers listen! Suggestions for subject lines include:

  • Want to keep hearing from COMPANYX? Take action now!
  • Please confirm your interest in COMPANYX special offers.
  • Is it time to say good-bye to COMPANYX?
  • Act now to keep hearing from COMPANYX

In the email body, be clear and concise. Tell them that you are cleaning your list and need them to click through a specific link to re-confirm their interest. You’ll need to set up a “thank you” landing page on your site.

Use a very clear, bold, colorful call-to-action button to stay on the list, but also offer the opportunity to unsubscribe within the body of the email. And be very clear that if they do not respond by a certain date, you will remove them from the list. But also tell them how to get back on the list if they happen to miss the deadline. It’s best to offer a direct link to the sign-up form.

Consider reiterating the benefits of staying on the list. Some companies even offer a special incentive once you’ve clicked through, though you run the risk of them re-engaging just for that offer and then falling back off the wagon.

Prepare a second email to send to non-responders a few days before the deadline that reminds them of their last chance to remain on the list.

Here is some sample text:

We’ve noticed that you haven’t opened any emails from us in the last few months, and we’d hate to think we’re cluttering up your inbox.

Please let us know how you’d like us to proceed:

YES, please continue sending me exclusive special promotions from COMPANYX. (Link to a “thank you” landing page.)

NO, remove me from your list. (Link with an unsubscribe special tag.)

If we do not hear from you by <insert date>, we will automatically remove you from our list. But you’re always welcome back anytime by signing up again. (Link “signing up again” to your sign-up page.)

Thank you!

3. Inactivate Your Non-Responders

Unsubscribe those recipients who didn’t click on the confirmation link. Remember, the end goal is a subscriber list made up of those who want to hear from you, engage with your messages and are likely to buy.

While it may feel great to have a large number of subscribers, it’s doing no good for you or for them to continue sending to a list that’s inflated with inactive contacts. Maintaining a clean list helps you improve the success of your campaigns, protect your sending reputation and determine what kind of content engages your true fans. So don’t be afraid to “break up” with those who’ve already lost interest so you can focus your attention on your loyal subscribers. Sometimes, saying goodbye is the best thing you can do.


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