7 steps to win back unresponsive e-mail contacts

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By: Wise Marketer Staff |

Posted on November 1, 2007

7 steps to win back unresponsive e-mail contacts

Among e-mail marketers whose lists contain significant numbers of 'dead' addresses, there is a question that is often answered incorrectly because of the scale of the task: Should you try to revive consumer relationships that are failing because e-mail has become undeliverable or unresponsive for some reason, or should you simply drop them from future campaigns?

According to e-mail delivery experts at SubscriberMail, the most common answer is to drop unresponsive addresses without further investigation, mainly because it's considered too big a task without sufficient rewards to try to revive them.

Tough decisions But when once-active recipients have stopped opening your e-mails, or are no longer reading your messages or clicking on links, there may be ways of reviving them. So how can marketers decide which ones can be revived?

According to Jordan Ayan, president for SubscriberMail, "If you're seeing low activity from recipients, it's time to determine if the addresses can be saved or if they should be given the axe."

Seven steps for e-mail revival The company offers several pieces of sound advice to help marketers determine whether or not inactive e-mail recipients can actually be saved, or whether they should be dropped:

  1. Find out if they're really 'dead' Many recipients have images turned off by default, so some recipients who are in fact reading your emails may only appear dead because the opens are not registered (if you're using embedded tracking image URLs). To identify these recipients, start with a simple "reactivate yourself" message. Select a group that has not opened a message for six months and send an e-mail with a message like this: "To ensure you continue to receive our mailings, click here". That click (which, of course, you track) verifies both the address and more importantly the recipients' interest. The link should take them to a special offer or to a web page where you might try to gather more information if appropriate.  
  2. Build engagement with inactive recipients Try to revive the dead e-mail addresses that you identified in the step above. The first thing to do is identify the percentage of inactivity that is acceptable in terms of your marketing goals. Depending on your business model, someone who responds once a quarter may be considered a good prospect, while other marketers may consider three months without any action to be a lost cause. So you'll need to use existing active subscriber data to determine your average range of activity, and use that data to identify your lowest responders and non-responders.  
  3. Analyse your attrition factors Once you've identified the group of recipients that aren't responding as well as the average subscriber, analyse the data you have gathered about them to look for any similar characteristics. For example, were these subscribers collected a specific number of months or years ago, or did they come from a certain acquisition source, or perhaps most were acquired through a certain type of offer or campaign? Finding the similarities may help to explain their inactivity, and it will almost certainly give you insight into what kind of acquisition times, sources, and offers are least effective. But more importantly, your analysis may well help you to find out how to revive these contacts. For example, if someone opted in because of a 50%-off product offer, it is possible that that could be re-engaged with another similar offer.  
  4. Build a reactivation plan The key to reactivation is to start testing different approaches with small sub-sets of subscribers. Determine if you want to treat low responders differently from non-responders, and decide if you want to take a multi-message approach or a quick "single hit" approach. One option would be to send an e-mail asking these groups if they would like to continue receiving messages from you. If they still don't respond, you can comfortably call them dead and drop them from the list. Again, you might also consider offering them a particular benefit or special offer to take a more active interest in your messages again.  
  5. Look out for insincere reactivations Continue to watch your low- and non-responders carefully over time. Why? Well, one positive action alone may not mean that a subscriber has fully re-engaged with you, so you need to determine at what point you can safely consider them revived and add them back into your active marketing group. If you encounter a lot of short-lived reactivations, it may to time to plan a new win-back approach.  
  6. Be prepared to drop the worst of them At some point you will certainly have to accept the fact that some of those addresses are truly dead and cannot be revived or re-engaged. At that time, it is most cost effective to drop them from your list completely, and focus your energy and resources on the remaining active subscribers.  
  7. Learn from mistakes and misjudgements While nobody likes to see their e-mail list decrease in size, there is an opportunity to improve at the same time. This is the time to examine the reasons why people have left you, and take corrective action. If you find a particular acquisition source that proves unprofitable or provides insincere consumers, start to avoid that kind of source in your future acquisition campaigns. Or perhaps if you find that age plays key a role in subscriber interest and engagement, try to develop a strategy that helps you deal with customers differently as they age. The opportunities for improvement are as endless as the feedback you can garner from your customers.

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