Re-engagement campaigns: how to win back lost subscribers

    Last updated: May 15, 2024

    Are you worried that nobody’s reading your emails? Well, those fears might be justified: According to our research, only 33 percent of any list’s total known audience engaged in the last 12 months.

    There are a few reasons for this: Subscribers might switch companies and, in turn, their professional email addresses. People get busy. Or, they might just not be that into you.

    Whatever the reason, churn doesn’t just hurt your reporting stats, but also your deliverability. Inactive subscribers can skew your email marketing metrics and have an undue influence on decision-making.

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    Worse, if too many of your subscribers are ignoring your emails, ISPs could divert them to your readers’ spam folders. So unless your readers are checking their spam boxes (unlikely), even your engaged readers won’t be reading your emails anymore.

    It’s the stuff of nightmares – but by cleaning your list, you can protect your list’s deliverability and accuracy.

    But before you remove them from your list, it’s worth trying to win them back with a re-engagement campaign.

    What is a re-engagement campaign?

    A re-engagement campaign is an email (or more commonly, a sequence of emails) meant to activate subscribers that have stopped engaging with your emails, as measured by open, click and click-through rates.

    How to create a compelling re-engagement campaign

    1. Figure out why they’re losing interest

    Some churn is normal, but mass drop-offs could signal a broader trend toward worse engagement (in our research, an ideal opt-out rate for a newsletter email is 0.2-0.3%).

    Start by investigating your subscriber list and recent email reports. Look out for new changes that could be causing people to lose interest en masse. This way, you can root out any broader issues before they start to harm your email marketing metrics or worse, your deliverability.

    Maybe you imported a group of recent event invitees to your email list, but none of them are engaging with your company’s broader content. Or you recently began testing twice-weekly emails instead of weekly sends, etc.

    Some common reasons to consider:

    • You’re sending too many emails
    • Your email list isn’t targeted or segmented
    • Your email subject lines don’t match the content inside
    • Your design is confusing or off-putting
    • Your emails aren’t optimized for mobile
    • Your subscribers signed up to get a one-time discount for new subscribers, not because of any interest in your content (Note: People may use HideMyMail or fake addresses to earn the offer, so the account is deleted as soon as the offer is received.)
    • Your email’s deliverability has decreased

    It’s also worth comparing your email numbers against the benchmarks to see how your deliverability and click rates stack up against industry averages (try it for yourself with Omeda’s benchmark calculator) .

    2. Define and identify unengaged subscribers 

    What counts as an “unengaged” subscriber, anyway?

    Because MPP has inflated open rates, we recommend using clicks as your primary engagement metric moving forward. If someone hasn’t clicked in three months, consider adding them to a re-engagement campaign.

    Also look at click rates for your whole list:

    • If your click rate is over 5%, you’re in really good shape (consider launching a referral program rather than a re-engagement campaign)
    • A click rate between 2-4% is still good.
    • If your click rate is under 2%, consider launching a re-engagement campaign to increase activity.

    However, clicking an email is only one way to engage with an organization: So as you think about engagement, you can go deeper than that: If you’re using Omeda’s CDP to track your website traffic, you can combine email analytics with known website visits, subscriptions and other behaviors tracked on your site.

    3. Segment unengaged subscribers 

    People have different reasons for skipping an email: Some may not enjoy your content, some may not be getting the offers they want, while others might have just had their emails diverted to spam. And each of these people will need different messaging to be drawn back to your active email list.

    Once you’ve settled on a definition of “unengaged,” dig through your website and email analytics to learn more about your unengaged subscribers and create different segments within that group. (On Omeda, you can use Audience Search to filter and create groups based on demographic and behavior-based queries, then export them to your email marketing platform.) You could segment by:

    • Content type: You might notice that some people only engage when they receive content on a particular topic. Instead of a standard re-engagement campaign, send them an ebook or white paper about that content topic (and afterward, consider creating a separate email segment related to that part of your business)
    • Purchase history: If you sell products or subscriptions, use your audience’s purchase history to determine what coupons/offers you should include in re-engagement campaigns.
    • Path to subscription: Did your lapsed subscribers sign up via a landing page or a lead form? Did they sign up to redeem a subscribers-only discount? These entry points speak volumes as to why they’re on your list to begin with, as well as their likelihood to re-engage.
    • General metrics: In addition to this more detailed targeting, use standard segmentation metrics to learn more about your audience and engagement patterns. Split your audience by age, location, etc.

    4. Automate your re-engagement campaign 

    One re-engagement email might be enough to win back some subscribers, but it typically takes two or more contacts before someone is regularly engaging with your emails again.

    That’s why we recommend automating your re-engagement campaigns. This takes the guesswork and the manual labor out of the process – and can be especially effective. (Don’t take our word for it: Sending emails based on behavioral-based triggers is one of the most effective email engagement tactics, according to research from Marketing Sherpa.)

    But it’s one thing to build an automated campaign without breaking anything. It’s another to create a campaign with the right timing, messaging, and cadence for your audience.  Keep these questions in mind as you craft your campaign:

    • How many re-engagement campaign emails should I send before unsubscribing someone?: Most experts recommend sending about 3-4 emails as part of your sequence, but feel free to adjust this to your specific needs
    • How long should I wait before resending a re-engagement campaign email?: We recommend waiting at least 3-5 days between each email in the campaign (In Omeda and other marketing automation platforms, you can easily program the wait periods between each send).
    • What kind of subject lines should I use for my re-engagement campaign emails?: Some brands can be more tongue-in-cheek than others. But when in doubt, err on the side of being direct and to the point. Something like “(Name), we’ve missed you” or “(Name), do you want to keep hearing from us?” tells people what they can expect, making it more likely they’ll open if they truly are interested in maintaining a relationship.

    5. Write your re-engagement emails

    Now that you’ve built your re-engagement campaign, time to write the emails themselves. For maximum responses, use our best practices for re-engagement email campaigns:

    • Use clear, streamlined copy: Everything in the message should guide the reader toward – and only toward – the intended action: opting to re-engage with your emails. That means you need a clear subject line, straightforward but brand-aligned copy and an easy CTA.
    • Include whitelisting instructions: Sometimes that person you’re dating really didn’t get your last call, and sometimes your recipient’s emails really did get stuck in spam. So gently remind people that your emails could be going to their spam folders and tell them how to divert them back to the regular inbox. Also include prominent links to unsubscribe and to manage preferences, in case someone just wants to change their settings rather than unsubscribe entirely.
    • Remind recipients of your value: Depending on your business, you might tell readers about your exclusive content offerings or provide specific subscriber-only discount codes. To sweeten the pot, provide an incentive like access to exclusive content, a discount code, etc.
    • Be transparent about your send time and frequency: This reassures users that you will not spam them, making it more likely that they’ll stay on with you.
    • Use actionable/emotional words: You’re trying to inspire people to act – set that tone with your copy. For best results, sprinkle words like “inspire,” “motivate,” “enjoy,” “act now,” etc., into your message.
    • Shoot for a straight-forward but warm tone: Nobody wants to get berated for missing a few emails. This re-engagement email from Marketing Brew strikes that balance perfectly:

    Your re-engagement emails should lead back to a landing page where you can tell subscribers what to expect: what kind of content you’re sending and its value to the reader, as well as when they can expect to receive it. This way, recipients are less likely to lose track of your emails again.

    Not sure where to start? Check out this example from Morning Brew:

    Screen Shot 2022-11-09 at 10.06.10 AM

    Once you’ve reactivated your lapsed subscribers, think of ways to keep them in the fold for good. You could create new segments specifically for their content preferences, adjust your email send frequency or use A/B tests to experiment with subject lines and content.

    Finally, remove or suppress subscribers that did not open or click any of your campaign’s emails. This way, their lack of engagement won’t appear in your email reporting rates moving forward – and your emails will go to the people who want to hear from you most.

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