July 22, 2010

Email Marketing Tips for Targeting Inactive Subscribers

I've been managing an email marketing campaign for one of my clients for the past few years. The database grows slow and steady but it seems it is the same people consistently opening and interacting with the email content.
How can I get the others to participate?
Well, the first critical step is complete, I've
identified those recipients of your email campaign who are inactive.
The point of identifying your inactive recipients is to treat them differently - not to delete them, ignore them or cry over their inactivity. Your goal after identifying and segmenting your "active" and "inactive" subscribers is to spend more productive time on actives and attempt to re-engage inactives.
Here are some things one can do to re-engage inactives:
  • Special Offers
    If you are a retailer, for example, consider a special offer such as discounts or free shipping. If you are a B2B marketer you might offer a special white paper that will motivate the recipient to re-engage with your communications.
  • Survey Subscribers
    While you are not likely to get a significant response, consider surveying these recipients to help provide insight into their inactivity.
  • Update Profile
    Using incentives, drive subscribers to your profile update page where they can change email addresses, update format preferences, demographics and interests. This updated information may now enable you to send them targeted and relevant emails.
  • Understand Their Demographics/Profile
    Perhaps a large percentage of your inactives share a common trait. Perhaps they opted in as part of registering for a white paper or seminar or promotional offer. Or perhaps a majority are women, while your content is oriented toward men.
  • Try Different Send Days/Times
    If you always mail on the same day or time of day, try some different distribution times (what do you have to lose?).
  • Modify Frequency
    Now that you've segmented your list by actives and inactives, consider adjusting the frequency of your sends. If you normally send twice per month, you may want to test sending three times to active subscribers, but only once to inactives.
  • Create Different Content
    If your analysis has been able to uncover some common threads among inactives, consider packaging the content differently for this group. For example, a newsletter from a job search-oriented business might logically find many subscribers becoming inactive after completing their job search. For these recipients, the company might want to focus its newsletter content on managing people, careers and the hiring process. Uncovering this type of trend should lead to providing different newsletters or dynamic versions based on a person's profile or stated preferences.
  • Try Different Formats
    Test using a text version, for example, that is very simple but with specific links and messaging intended to drive action.
  • Test Different Styles of Subject Lines
    If you've used a particular style of subject line, try a different approach with the inactives. Creative subject lines could be one of your most effective strategies in getting recipients to re-engage.
  • Monitor Seed/Proof Lists
    Send your messages to proof and seed lists for key domains. Monitor if content or images are causing your messages to be filtered or treated differently with specific ISPs and companies. If problems are detected, consider developing different versions of the messages that may not trip filters.
  • Send a Postcard
    If you have your subscribers' mailing addresses, consider sending them a postcard that offers an incentive if they'll update their email preferences and profile.
  • Re-engaged to Active Status
    After each email message sent to the inactives, change the demographic status of those recipients that clicked a link to "active." This helps keep your focus on converting the inactives and tracking your success in those efforts.

Here is an extremely useful blog post from Seth Godin where he discusses the efficiencies and inefficiencies of two different email marketing campaign case studies.

What are you doing to re-engage inactives?