List fatigue is a very real thing. No matter how hard you try, a portion of your email subscribers, 25% annually according to HubSpot, will eventually lose interest and stop opening your emails. This could be for any number of reasons:
- You’re emailing them too frequently
- Your emails have started to feel stale and predictable
- They only joined your mailing list to download a piece of your content
- They no longer need what you offer
Many marketers don’t think twice about the unengaged subscribers on their mailing lists. They continue sending them email after email, ignoring the signs that these messages may be unwanted. This can have serious consequences for your business.
Superficially, sending emails to unengaged subscribers hurts your email success metrics. You will see higher open rates and click rates by excluding them from your email sends. Higher rates means happier bosses and you look like a marketing super hero.
A more significant consequence of sending to unengaged subscribers is the potential effect on your sender reputation with Email Providers. If you’re getting a large number of bounce backs, Email Providers will think you’re a spammer and penalize you for sending too many emails to inactive email addresses.
Unengaged subscribers are also more likely to report your emails as spam and Email Providers factor this into your sender reputation as well.
If your sender reputation with a given Email Provider falls below a certain threshold, they will start sending your emails to spam folders instead of the inbox or worse, stop delivering your emails all together. With only a handful of Email Providers owning the lion’s share of the market, this could have a disastrous effect on your business. Just one Email Provider blocking you from their customers could decimate your mailing list.
To avoid this monstrous headache, you will want to exclude unengaged email subscribers from receiving your outbound emails and attempt to re-engage them with what is called a re-engagement campaign.
How to Create a Re-engagement Campaign
Step 1: Write your re-engagement campaign emails
A single email won’t cut it. If you want a re-engagement campaign that converts, you need to think of this as a campaign. I recommend a series of three emails.
To engage the unengaged, you’re going to have to get creative. Choose a “from name” and “from email address” that will get people interested. Maybe these emails come from your company president. I’ve had a lot of success by choosing a person in the company we don’t send a lot of outbound emails from. If it is a name and email address they don’t recognize, it will get their attention.
Your subject lines and email copy must be creative, compelling, and different from your normal messages.
Email 1 should be a fun, light message explaining that you noticed they haven’t been opening your emails and informing them you’re thinking of removing them from your email list. Provide a CTA for them to click to stay on your list.
Email 2 should be a more direct approach. If they don’t click the CTA to stay on your email list, they will be removed. Keep it friendly and professional but clear about what will happen.
Email 3 should inform them they’ve been removed from your email list but they can get back on by clicking the CTA.
Step 2: Create your success landing page
Create a landing page thanking the subscriber for wanting to continue receiving your emails. This will be the page your CTAs link to in the emails you wrote in Step 1.
Step 3: Set up a goal list
Create a dynamic list in your marketing automation software of anyone who has clicked on any of the CTA’s in the three emails you wrote in Step 1. Call it “Re-engagement Success List”.
This will be your goal list to tell the workflow you are about to create that someone has successfully converted and remove them from the workflow.
Step 4: Set up a failure list
Create a static list in your marketing automation software and name it “Re-engagement Failure List”. You don’t need to add any contacts to this list yet, that will be done automatically by the automated workflow you’re about to create.
Step 5: Define your workflow criteria
Unengaged subscribers are defined as subscribers who would have not opened a single email you’ve sent over a specific time frame. Best practice suggests 6 months but this really depends on your audience. A marketer targeting millennials may be more aggressive and use 3 months. My organization operates internationally. Western Europe has a much more relaxed work culture with generous maternity leaves, study leaves, and extended holidays. I tend to be more conservative and prefer a 9-month timeframe.
Step 6: Create your automated workflow
In your marketing automation software, create an automated workflow. The criteria for a contact to be enrolled in the workflow will be anyone who has not opened an email from you in 6 months (or whatever timeframe you chose in Step 5) AND has not visited your website over the same time.
The reason we include web visits is that your marketing automation software only knows if someone has opened your email if they download the images or click something. Some people never download the images as a personal preference. It may look like they aren’t opening your emails when they really are. Including web visits as a criterion will weed some of those false positives out.
Add the three emails you created in Step 1 to your workflow. The time between each email should be 5-7 days. This gives them enough time to respond if they are away on vacation or too busy to get to the message.
After email 3, add a 7 day delay and then add any contacts to the “Re-engagement Failure List” you created in Step 4.
Add your goal list, which will remove contacts from the workflow when they successfully convert.
Step 7: Create your unengaged exclude list
Create a dynamic list in your marketing automation software with the criteria “Is a member of ‘Re-engagement Failure List’” OR “Is currently in workflow ‘Re-engagement Campaign’”. Call this new list “Unengaged List”.
Exclude this list from all of your outbound email sends and make sure all the marketers in your department do the same.
What the heck did I just create?
Email subscribers who don’t open your email after 6 months AND don’t visit your website over the same time period will be entered into the re-engagement workflow. They will receive a series of three emails every 5-7 days attempting to re-engage them.
If a subscriber clicks the CTA in any of the three emails indicating they want to continue receiving your emails, they will be added to the success list, removed from the workflow, and continue receiving your emails.
If a subscriber goes through the entire workflow and doesn’t take action, they will be added to the failure list. Any lead currently in the workflow or on the failure list will be added to the unengaged list which be excluded from all your outbound email sends.
What kind of results can I expect from a re-engagement campaign?
Don’t be discouraged if you don’t see crazy high conversions, that’s to be expected. Your success rate should be between 2% and 3%. Some marketers claim to get as high as 5%, which might be possible but sounds like a tall tale. My re-engagement campaigns tend to settle in the 2.5% range and I am happy with that.
Like anything in marketing, this process needs to be refined over time. Carefully analyze your results and make tweaks as necessary.
What are you doing to combat list fatigue? Let me know in the comment section below.