Participating at the Email Insider Summit, organized by Mediapost, during the past week was a great experience. We were invited to participate in a panel discussion about Inactive Subscribers, during the first day of the event, under the moderation of Kath Pay from Plan to Engage. Moosend represented the Email Service Provider’s side on the issue, while the other executives participating in the panel represented Return Path (inbox-reputation monitoring provider), Alchemy Worx (agency side) and IBM (client side).
There is a lot to be said about what you can do with the email subscribers that do not seem to engage at all with your newsletter, and remain inactive for a long time, so we will focus here on some useful tips, as exposed also during the panel discussion.
First let us agree on what an inactive subscriber is: Is he a subscriber that hasn’t opened an email newsletter for the past few months? For a year? That, of course, would depend of the frequency of your campaigns. Many marketers call those subscribers “emotionally unsubscribed”. One thing we are sure of: you as a company and as a marketer are the only one to decide what the inactive subscribers are, and most importantly, you have to realize that there might be a lot of them in your mailing list. They could represent a 25-40% of your mailing list. Scary? Perhaps, but it is sure that you have to treat them in a completely different manner that all the rest.
1) Identify them.
With Moosend’s powerful segmentation filtering, it is very easy to identify recipients that have not opened a newsletter for a specific period of time, so tracking the inactives is not the issue. The issues that remain a mystery are: if the recipient has at some point subscribed to receive news or offers, and does not open one single newsletter for a long time, did he have something else in his mind while subscribing? What source or motive brought this subscriber to us in the first place? Have we let him down with our newsletters? Is he bored? Is he fed-up? Has he changed lifestyle priorities in the meantime? Why doesn’t he unsubscribe? Is he there after all? Should we try something different? Why should we pay for this kind of recipients in our list?
2) Remove them from the basic database
After identifying them, the best thing would be to decide on a strategy that would engage the inactive subscribers back to your brand. Let us agree that first of all, those recipients should be removed for your basic database, and be treated differently. They should not be treated as massively as the rest, as they do not respond as massively either, so remaining in your basic list does not give a true size to your list, to your figures and to your statistics.
3) Try to reengage them
– First of all you have to identify what a reengagement is. Is it the fact that the subscriber opens an email? Is it that he updates some subscription preferences? He visits the offline store to purchase?
– As usual offers and messages do not work, you need to create some different messaging for those subscribers, and you have to address other kind of offers to them. And of course, do not forget to offer an incentive, one that would answer his question: “What’s in it for me?
– Do you have a top 10 list of most read articles or most preferred product purchases? This is the right time to use them, to address to those recipients and measure the results. If this doesn’t work, nothing will.
– You can use a set of intriguing subject lines, as this is what helps them decide whether to open the newsletter or not. “We miss you in …” is a well-known example with good results. Try to execute some A/B tests to try different subject lines and how they work.
– Send out newsletters less frequently than to the rest of your list, only with your top performing offers.
– Personalization in the subject line could make the difference: “Dear George, this offer is just for you!” Personalized subject lines offer better open rates, so try the best tools to have in your hands and see if they work.
To sum up, we would have to admit that the amount of time and effort you will put in reengaging your inactive email subscribers is relevant to the acquisition cost of those subscribers, to their lifetime value, and most importantly to the effort you put in your most active prospects and your actual buyers. It is wise to broaden your customers base, not forgetting those who are bringing you the actual revenues.
Until next year’s summit, good luck with your efforts!