Looking through your subcriber database, it’s easy to find those who are actively engaged with your messages and those who aren’t. Does continuing to send campaigns to that second group make sense? I’m going to show you that, yes, it definitely does!

We’re going to look at effective techniques for activating subscribers that have stopped opening your messages and how to convert them into more active recipients.

Reengaging subscribers that have lost interest in your messages can inject a lot of life back into your campaigns if you do it the right way.

Step by step, we’re going to look at:

  • How to identify and mark inactive subscribers in your database,
  • How to run an activation campaign and engage the biggest possible portion of them and, if that doesn’t work,
  • Saying goodbye to subscribers who don’t react to your activation campaign in order to reduce the costs of your email marketing.

Why activate inactive subscribers?

Leaving inactive subscribers alone means leaving sales opportunities alone. A little bit of effort gives you the chance to bring them back into a conversation with you and perhaps towards a conversion. At the same time, you optimise the costs of your email marketing and avoid the risk of your ignored messages becoming a signal for anti-spam filters.

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There are several reasons why subscribers might ignore your messages but don’t worry - only some of them are your fault. You should be aware of all of them so that you know what steps to take to fix the problem.

45% of subscribers that get your activation campaign will open next messages #emailmarketing Click to Tweet

Common reasons why subscribers ignore your communication

1. You send your campaigns too often

If you tell subscribers that you will send messages, for example, every two weeks but then you bombard their inboxes almost daily, you can’t be surprised if they start to ignore your name when they see it.

Our advice

Remember that sending too many messages is the main thing that drives subscribers to leave your mailing list. Sometimes they don’t know how to leave or don’t want to take the time to actually do it. Try decreasing the frequency of your campaigns and see if engagement rises.

Sending too many emails is the main thing that drives unsubscribes #emailmarketing Click to Tweet

2. Sending the same message to everyone

If you aren’t segmenting your subscriber database, you’re sending the same campaign to everyone. You don’t have to be the world’s best email marketer to recognise that not everyone will be interested in the same offer.

Our advice

Use dynamic content. Thanks to tags placed in the messages, certain content in them can be automatically downloaded depending on the preferences of the subscriber. You create one campaign but with different versions that change according to what recipients have shown an interest in.

3. Your campaigns are irregularly sent

Remember that sending your communication at random times reduces the chances that it will achieve success. This is because:

  • Subscribers can forget that they even joined your mailing list and stop reading your messages.
  • When you don’t send a campaign for an extended time to certain addresses (more than 2 years), those addresses can turn into spam traps. These are traps that use inactive addresses to help identify the sources of spam. Sending anything to them can negatively affect your reputation as a sender and can cause your future campaigns to be blocked instead of reaching inboxes.

Our advice

If you haven’t sent your campaigns at regular intervals, run an activation campaign for “sleeping” subscribers. This allows you to be sure that the addresses that you have in your database are still active and sending any campaigns to them makes sense.

4. You have low deliverability

You can have a low rate of deliverability due to several reasons including the email marketing system you use and the reaction of subscribers to messages you send (deleting your emails without opening them, for example). Sometimes subscribers simply don’t receive your messages and that’s the easy explanation for why they didn’t read them.

Our advice

Verfity the rate of deliverability of the campaigns you send:

  • Regularly analyse the statistics that your campaigns generate: the number of hard and soft bounces and the open rate (OR). A sudden turn for the worse in your stats is a warning sign that something is wrong.
  • Create accounts in the email service providers that your subscribers use and send your campaigns to them.
  • There are professional tools that let you see what your reputation as a sender is. All you need is your domain name and IP address that you send from. You will see what influence your reputation as a send has on the messages. If you have a poor reputation, anti-spam filters will label your messages as spam more often.

5. Some recipient really aren’t interested in your messages

A report from DMA tells us that 35% of newsletter subscribers use a separate inbox for them than the one they use day to day.

Many subscribers simply want to, for example, take advantage of a discount that you offer in exchange for signing up to your newsletter. Don’t forget that your competitors can sign up for your newsletter to see what you’re up to.

They may not open every message or any of them and they certainly don’t plan on buying from you.

Our advice

After running an activation campaign, you won’t have to waste time and money on campaigns for inactive subscribers.

How to find inactive subscribers in your database

Start by deciding the level of inactivity you want to target - kind of inactive, really inactive, etc. Create your segments accordingly using the steps below.

Option 1 : Activating only those subscribers who have never opened any of your messages

1. From the main menu, select the Subscribers tab and then choose the list or lists you want to run an activation campaign for.

2. After selecting the list, click Segmentation.

3. Then select Create segment. If there are already other segments on this list, you will see them at the top of the page.

4. Create a name for the segment and in the Create a rule field, select The subscriber did not open any campaigns.

Option 2 : Activating only those subscribers who did not open a particular campaign

1. Proceed as in option 1 above an in the Create a rule field, select Campaign was not opened.

2. Select the name of the campaign that subscribers did not open.

Option 3 : Activating subscribers who did not open a certain percentage of your campaigns (segmentation based on loyalty)

Segmenting your subscriber database based on loyalty lets you select groups of addresses that opened or did not open a percentage of your campaigns that you define.

1. To create a segment like this, select Loyalty factor lower than in the Create rule field.

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2. Select the percentage you want to set.

You can choose any measurement of engagement. FreshMail recommends targeting your activation campaign at subscribers who have opened less than 25% of the mails that you have previously sent.

Proven ways to activate subscribers

From what we’ve covered so far, you know that:

Let’s move on to activities that email that clever email marketers should take to get the attention of subscribers who haven’t really listened much to you so far.

It’s important that you not limit your activation campaign to just one message.

It’s more effective to organise comprehensive plans that consist of several campaigns to help you determine what the reason for the disengagement is. Let’s divide it into a few parts.

Step 1 : Set the length of your campaign

  • Remember what ReturnPath found in their survey - on average, it takes around 57 days to re-engage subscribers after starting an activation campaign.
  • Taking this into consideration, we recommend that you budget at least two months for any reactivation campaign you start.

Step 2 : Collect feedback from subscribers

If a particular group of subscribers doesn’t open your messages at all and you have checked to be sure that it’s not because of a problem with deliverability, you should try a few different things to get their attention.

After all, it makes no sense to continue sending them more campaigns if it’s highly unlikely they will be opened.

Start with an email that says that you’re starting an activity to win them over and get them interested. Inform them how long the campaign will last and emphasise that after that time has finished, if they still don’t engage with your campaigns, you will remove them from your mailing list if they don’t do it themselves.

Win-back campaign: Crocks

When your message lands in a subscriber’s inbox, how you use the sender name and the subject line is what can determine whether or not the message gets opened.

Here are some things to consider when trying to get the attention of subscribers:

  • Change the sender name in your messages - if you’ve been using a woman’s name up until now, change it to a man’s name and vice versa. Remember that it doesn’t make sense to try cheap tricks in the subject line to get attention - they don’t work and only serve to make your message look like spam. It’s enough to use a person’s name and the name of the company - Joanna from FreshMail, etc.
  • Get creative with your subject lines  - the research from ReturnPath that I mentioned earlier shows that the most effective subject lines are the ones that speak directly to emotions. Try things like “We’re sorry”, “We’d like to get back together”, “Will you come back to us?”, etc. Run A/B tests on your messages to see what works best.
  • Use surveys - attach a survey to  your messages in which recipients can tell you what they like and don’t like in your campaigns. Give them the chance to tell you if you’re sending messages too often or if your content is or isn’t so interesting for them.

Step 3 : Give incentives to open your messages

Apart from making changes to the sender name and subject line, use material incentives to win back subscribers.

Rebates, discounts or free delivery are the kinds of things that get attention. Your message is the most powerful argument that you can use to encourage subscribers to take action.

Remember that the number of people  that can be re-engaged with this kind offer is significant.

Obviously, you have be careful in your calculations of the discount you can afford to offer but getting it right means bringing customers back into the fold.

Step 4 : Analyse results and react

Further activities that you take should have two aims. First, analyse which subscribers still aren’t opening the messages in your activations campaign.

You also need to prepare different communication paths for subscribers who didn’t react to the activation campaign and for those who have started to open your messages again.

  • Use autoresponders - for recipients who still aren’t opening your messages, prepare a special cycle of autoresponders that will run an activation campaign for you,
  • Introduce changes - communication with activated subscribers should be the same as with everyone else. Use the potential of your communication and take advantage of information you have gained from previous campaigns.

How to delete inactive subscribers

If you’ve made it this far, you probably know which of your subscribers should probably be removed altogether from your database.

Recall that you informed them at the beginning of your reactivation campaign, you told them that you would remove them from your mailing list if they did not respond to the campaign.

Here’s how to change the status of subscribers so that you can store their history and you don’t have to manually remove them.

Remember - you don’t have to delete these subscribers from your mailing list in FreshMail, you can simply change their status so that you no longer send them anything.

To do this, you use additional options for importing subscriber lists.

Here’s how:

1. First, select the Subscribers tab and the list in which you created a segment with inactive subscribers.

2. Then, from the main menu, select the Export list option.

3. On the right hand side you will see the options for exporting your list - select Groups and click Off. This allows you to export only the chosen segment from the list. Select the one you want.

4. The system will tell you the export was successful. Click download in order to copy the list into your computer.

5. Next, follow the steps for importing data from a file into FreshMail until you reach Advanced OptionsClick On to expand additional options for importing data.

6. In the Set a status for your new subscribers field, select Removed and In case of non-unique subscribers field select change status only according to the one above.

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You don’t have to worry that you have imported the list with the same subscribers. They will not be counted as new subscribers. This operation only causes changes in the status of subscribers on the list.

Yes, the imported subscribers will still be visible on your list and you can change their status as you like. Your next campaign simply won’t be sent to those addresses.

Congratulations! You’ve optimised your email marketing - good luck in your next campaign!

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