Win-Back Campaigns: Inactive Is No Longer Neutral


GetResponse has always had a strict opt-in policy, as have many ESPs for as long as I can remember. Permission based email is the key to success in Email Marketing. However… this may not be enough for your friendly ISP. The new word on the street is ACTIVE.

We’re hearing it at industry events and on blogs, everywhere the experts are talking about trends.

What does this mean? Well, when it comes to deliverability we’ve always been concerned with hitting the inbox and reducing bounces. Anything after that was gravy. This is changing. Here’s the deal.

Repeated mailings to inactive mailboxes are frowned upon by many ISPs. They consider it bad email marketing practice at best, spamming at worst. Either way, it can affect your domain reputation. So I’m going to kick off a discussion, and our GetResponse Deliverability Experts will follow up with detailed tactics and advice.

The bottom line is emails now have to be active, which means opens, clicks and forwards, in order to avoid ISP scrutiny. If you’re sending to people that rarely do any of these things, your deliverability (and rep) will suffer.

So what can you do about it?

First, you have to assess an inactivity date. What’s the standard inactivity period  for your industry? If you’re a year round business, then I would recommend 90 days. If you’re seasonal, then maybe a little longer.

Ok, so what to do next. You have to set a cut-off date – the point of no return. I would recommend around 90 days after you class it as inactive.

Now what?

The key is what you do between these dates.

The Win-Back Stage.

This is where you need to do everything in your power to get these subscribers active again and here are a few quick tips to get you started.

Subject Line.

We’re talking unopened emails here, so maybe your subject line isn’t reaching this audience? Time to test – and consider this:

  • Subject lines that imply exclusivity have a 24% higher open rate. Words like “For Selected Customers”, “For Insiders” and “Private Event” etc.

  • Subject lines that include an end date have a 29% higher open rate. “Offer ends Friday” and “5 days left” are prime examples.

The Offer.

At some point you interested these subscribers… they wanted what you had to offer. Now they don’t, and you have to go the extra mile to get them back.

Limited time offers exclusive to the win-back segment work.

Your offer should be big and it should be short term, like “50% off your next in store purchase when you bring this email.”

Be bold and offer real value.

And if that doesn’t work?

Frequency is key to a successful win-back campaign. Not to push harder, but to offer more value when you do connect. Remember, you don’t want ISPs downgrading you because you’re sending a ton of emails to an unresponsive client of theirs.

So set a lower frequency and improve your offer… or offer them a different connection method. Let them know you’re on Facebook and Twitter, then track the click-throughs or spikes in new fans or followers.

Say Goodbye.

Even if you decide that a subscriber is a lost cause, be open and tell them that you’ll remove them from the mailing list; but also remind them what they signed up for, and how they can re-activate their subscription.

Ask them what you need to do to win them back. People (and preferences) change!

And if they become active right away?

This is a problem you want! Remember that your mainstream communication didn’t work for these people, so you need to create a new stream for “reactivated” subscribers using the methods that worked for the win-back campaign.  Then… watch for expert advice in upcoming blogs!

Ok, so you like my topic and realize it will help your email marketing.  Don’t worry. My colleague Maciek Ossowski will be following up with detailed posts about re-engagement campaigns this week, so stay tuned!

And if you have any insight to this type of campaign or experience with ISPs, please let us know.

Until next time,