Wake Up Your Sleepy Subscribers with Reactivation Campaigns

You know that one friend that can sleep anywhere? On a cramped airplane, in the car, on a stool, on the floor, or even standing up? Once they knock out, it seems almost impossible to wake them up.

If I had to bet, it’s likely that there are some email subscribers in your database that are out cold just like your sleepy friend. And that’s a problem, because you spent time and money getting people to subscribe. Luckily, you can use reactivation campaigns to wake them up and get them to re-engage with you—ultimately improving your ROI. A reactivation campaign is an email campaign or multiple campaigns specifically targeted towards “sleeping subscribers,” or subscribers that haven’t engaged with your emails in a long period of time.

According to Return Path, a marketer typically has a list of customers or subscribers with as many as 25-50% of these people classified as “inactive”. These subscribers have raised their hands in the past—showing intent, engagement, or making a prior purchase—but have since gone cold for a variety of different reasons:

  • Changed interests – I’d rather watch cat videos, not dog videos.
  • Expectations not set appropriately – I thought you were going to send me coupons not newsletters.
  • Too many emails! – I’m feeling overwhelmed.
  • Job change – I guess it’s time to update my work wardrobe.
  • Irrelevant content – Do you even know me? DO YOU?
  • Too busy – I would open your emails, but I’ve been pretty jammed lately.
  • Changed email address – It was time I parted with my high school email address.

But you spent valuable time and money on grabbing their attention in the first place, so why not make the most of your efforts and re-engage these folks? Reactivation campaigns are a cost-effective way to determine who still wants to hear from you, who doesn’t want to hear from you (for email deliverability, an unsubscribe is better than being marked as spam), and clean out your email lists. In fact, thoughtfully planned reactivation campaigns deliver up to 14 times more email revenue, according to Experian.

The BIG idea here is that the campaigns you are currently running to engage these inactive subscribers aren’t working. The language or the offers just isn’t enough to keep them engaged. Rather than let those valuable contacts go, you should proactively work to re-engage them through reactivation emails.

Here are four steps to get started with your reactivation campaigns:

1. Isolate Your Sleepy Subscribers

First, identify the folks who haven’t engaged with your emails, website, or any other content in a long time. The specific inactivity window will depend on your email cadence. If you regularly email your database 2-3 times a week, the inactivity timeframe might be 90 days. For those who only send out emails on monthly or quarterly basis, the inactivity timeframe could be 6 to 12 months.

In the example below, a new email address comes into your database on Jan 1st and on Feb 15th that new email address made their first purchase! You celebrated and continued to market to them to the best of your ability. And boy oh boy, did they love what you sent them. They filled out web forms, clicked on emails, engaged with your mobile app, and frequently visited your website. And then, just like that, they went cold without even saying goodbye.

Isolate Your Sleepy Subscribers

This happens far too often and in the bustle to acquire new contacts for their database companies forget about subscribers that once loved to engage with their brands and then fell asleep. But with a marketing automation solution, you can set up triggers that automatically listen for inactivity windows and then send reactivation emails. This process allows you to easily and proactively address your sleepy subscribers without having to constantly worry about creating new campaigns.

2. Test Different Content, Offers and Language

Reactivation campaigns aren’t like your everyday campaigns. You’re essentially trying to jolt your audience to life, so the more the message or offer catches the eye, the better. And that usually means using language or an offer that your subscribers are not accustomed to seeing from your company.

The variations here include:

  • Tone and voice of your writing, and the subject line style
  • Special offers
  • Access to exclusive content, an exclusive subscriber group, or incentives
  • New content, videos, cheat sheets, or products
  • Links and big buttons that make it easy for them to re-engage with your emails
  • Segmentation for increased effectiveness

On the point of segmentation, remember that you can segment your subscribers based on personas, purchase habits, demographics, email domain, last forms of engagement, or their preferred channels. Email domain is a really important segmentation because each individual email client has unique email filtering options. For example, Gmail has the three tabs: primary, social, and promotions. You can use reactivation emails like these to not only get your subscribers to re-engage, but also to drag your email from the promotions tab to the primary tab, which whitelists your email domain in Gmail.

When it comes to writing the perfect reactivation campaign subject lines, here are a few best practices to follow:

  • Be different and unexpected
  • Be personal – The rule here is the same for any direct marketing: don’t just send a mass “we miss you and want you back” email. Instead, use whatever information you have on your subscribers in order to create a personalized, one-on-one message.
  • Use $ off and % off
  • Include “We Miss You”
  • Get emotional
  • Write like a human being, not a robot

Here’s an example of one of the recent reactivation emails we sent. Notice the straightforward, human language that asks for re-engagement.

Reactivation Email

3. Think Beyond a One-and-Done Campaign

Running a reactivation campaign once doesn’t really do it for you. Picture this…every day, better yet, every hour, an email in your database becomes inactive. The moment that email becomes inactive, they should run through a reactivation series and be an ongoing part of your marketing campaigns. Return Path found that even though subscribers may not read a brand’s reactivation campaign, about 45% of them read subsequent messages.

Think about different ways you can be proactive, too. The moment you let an email slip into an inactive state, it becomes dangerous to your email health and reputation. Repeatedly sending emails to subscribers who no longer engage with your emails will have a negative impact on your email open and
click-to-open rates, not to mention the possibility of your email hard bouncing or hitting a spam trap. If you start your reactivation campaigns sooner rather than later, you can catch many of these business risks before they occur. With marketing automation, you can listen for an inactivity window to be met, automatically flag that email to remove them from normal marketing campaigns, and then drip them into the very top of a reactivation series.

4. Give Subscribers a Way Out

Remember, one reason to run reactivation campaigns is to determine who doesn’t want to hear from you anymore. You can identify subscribers who aren’t interested with a message like “We’d love to keep sending emails to you, but we’re afraid you don’t love us anymore. And we’d hate to keep bothering you. Re-subscribe today or miss out forever.”

Allowing someone to opt-out and unsubscribe from your emails is far better than having them mark you as spam. To that end, include a prominent unsubscribe button in your campaign message and don’t be afraid to make it big and bold. The most important thing is that your subscribers can find it. If they can’t, they might just mark you as spam.

And that’s it! Four simple steps that make all the difference. To learn more about how you can build your own personalized, targeted reactivation campaigns, download our ebook, Awaken Sleepy Email Subscribers with Reactivation Campaigns.

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