Properly conducting an email reengagement campaign, and following reengagement campaign best practices, is critical to your email deliverability. One misstep and all of your email can start going to the spam folder, if not being outright blocked as “spam”. In our knowledge article about How to Revive, Warm Up, and Re-Engage an Old Mailing List without Getting Into Trouble we highlight six points that are key to conducting an effective reengagement campaign: remove non-opening email addresses, make sure your authentication is set up correctly, minimal formatting, compelling subject line, brief content, and ask people to unsubscribe. (What?? Yes.) Then, once you have conducted your successful reengagement campaign, it’s important to consistently email those re-engaged subscribers! Below is a real-life reengagement email campaign example, showing how doing this carefully, correctly, and following these points, can lead to success.
On the other hand, incorrectly attempting to reengage subscribers who have not opened your email in a long time, or maybe haven’t even heard from you in a long time, can cause a lot of email deliverability pain and heartache. Spam filters and email blacklists have long institutional memories, and once you get on their wrong side, it may take you a long time to convince them that you aren’t a spammer. In some cases you may never convince them.
The 6 Steps to a Successful Reengagement Campaign
Many businesses who attempt to conduct a reengagement campaign do some of the six steps required for a successful reengagement campaign, but not all of them. Unfortunately, if you skip even one of the steps you may find yourself in a world of deliverability hurt. Here are the steps. Below the steps we include our real-life example of a successful reengagement campaign, including the content of the email sent in that successful reengagement campaign.
1. Make sure that your authentication is set up correctly
Before you send out a reengagement campaign (or, really, any email) it’s important to make sure that your email authentication is set up correctly. If you’re not sure what that is, please see our plain English guide to email authentication. Of these, it is most important that your SPF be set up correctly (see our plain English guide to SPF records), but the others are important to have set up correctly as well.
2. Move non-opening email addresses to their own separate list or segment
Time for serious list maintenance. Remove all email addresses from your primary list that have not opened the last 4 emails that you have sent them, and put them on a new list. Or, if your Email Service Provider (ESP) gives you the ability to save them as a segment, you can do that instead, although you risk still emailing them when you send to your main list, which means that your mail list reputation will be taking a hit because of those non-openers.
3. Draft your reengagement campaign email with minimal formatting
The ideal reengagement campaign email format is plain text. This is for several reasons, not the least of which is deliverability: you want to give this email every best chance to get to your subscribers’ inboxes, and not end up in the spam folder, which may well be where it has been going for some time. In fact, this reengagement email may be the first email from you in months that some of your subscribers will actually see.
4. Give it a compelling subject line
Make sure that your subject line really compels people to open and read your email. What that means for your email will depend entirely on your audience, but don’t try to sell them anything, don’t try to trick or hook them, just make it straight-forward and compelling.
5. Keep the content brief and to the point
The entire purpose of your reengagement campaign is to reengage dormant subscribers, period. Not to sell them anything, not to give them any information, just to reengage them. So keep your content casual, brief, and to the point.
6. Ask people to unsubscribe
“What??” you may be thinking, “Are you crazy?? I don’t want people to unsubscribe!” Actually, yes, you do want them to unsubscribe, if the alternative is them just not opening your email, which hurts your deliverability and will cause more and more of your email to go to the spam folder. And that’s if all they do is simply not open it. If they delete it without opening it, that’s worse. And, they may just mark it as spam, which is worst of all. In the face of all of those alternative actions or non-actions they could take, you want them to unsubscribe. Of course, ideally you want them to re-engage, but if they don’t want to then you need to let them know that it’s ok to unsubscribe.
The unlisted 7th step
Once you have conducted your reengagement campaign, it’s critical that you consistently send email to these newly re-engaged subscribers. Make sure that you are sending them the content that they expect you to send them, at an acceptable frequency. Violating one of these core principles is usually the reason that people stopped opening your email in the first place (read about the Top 3 Things that Will Cause Failure-to-Opens for a Mailing List here).
A Real-Life Example of a Successful Email Reengagement Campaign
Here is a real-life example of a successful reengagement campaign using the six steps above. This reengagment campaign was conducted by the fathers’ and children’s rights advocacy site, DadsRights.org. At the time that they conducted their reengagement campaign they had not emailed their list in over a year! And yet, they got a 26% open rate for their reengagement campaign, where the open rates for their previous several sends were below 15%.
Last send prior to reengagement campaign was over a year ago
After making sure that their authentication was set up properly, they sent out their reengagement email. The subject line was, as you can see from the screenshot above, straight-forward and to the point: A Message from Dads Rights Info. This subject worked well for them because of their audience; again, your subject for your own reengagement campaign will depend on your own audience.
Here is the full content of the message that they sent:
At some point in the past few years you joined our Dads Rights email community. Then we dropped the ball on sending email (although we of course still have the website and Facebook group!), and we are sorry about dropping the email ball.
We’re ready to start bouncing that email ball again (how far can we stretch this metaphor?) and this email is to ask you whether you would still like to receive our email. If so, please reply to this email so we know that you’re there. And if for any reason you would not like to still receive our email, please unsubscribe at the link below, we promise that we won’t take it personally.
Either way, best wishes for your journey.
Dads Rights Info
There are a few things here of which to take note: the content is casual, straight-forward, and has just a single call to action, namely either reply or unsubscribe. The request for the reply is particularly clever, as the inbox providers will see that not only did their subscriber open the email, but they engaged with it by replying to it.
Relatedly, note that there are no links in the email other than the unsubscribe link. In fact, this is a plain text email, helping to ensure the best possible inbox penetration and response.
So how did this reengagement campaign do? Consider that these subscribers had not only not opened an email in over a year, they hadn’t even received an email in over a year. By all metrics this was a dead list. Prior to its death, the best open rate they had was around 15% (which isn’t good), and their engagement rate (such as CTR) averaged around 1.5%.
Faced with that daunting background, Dads Rights was thrilled with the results of their reengagement campaign. Once sent, and after 1% of the emails bounced, of the remaining 99% of emails that were delivered, only .6% unsubscribed (remember they had been asked to unsubscribe).
It’s much better when people unsubscribe rather than leaving your email unopened or reporting it as spam
On the other hand, 26% had opened the email (nearly double their average open rate) and 3% had actually taken the time to reply (more than double their average engagement rate), and all of those replies were some version of “please keep me on your mailing list”, even after a year of not having heard from them! In fact, some people had never heard from them at all after the ‘Welcome’ email!
Following the 6 steps to a successful reengagement campaign works, try it and see!