Re-engagement campaigns: How to win back lost fans

It may be hard for some young ‘uns to believe, but marketing was a big thing even before Tim Berners-Lee fired up the internet. Big, but different – it was very much a one-way street, focusing on conversion through memorable, attention-grabbing campaigns rather than long-term engagement. Fast forward thirty years, and thanks to well-crafted email campaigns, great content marketing and the power of social media, it is engagement that is the marketing gold.

Yes, it’s still important that your marketing campaigns grab attention – that’ll get you a tranche of email subscribers, but then what? It’s not enough to lob an email over the fence to them every week if they’re not even opening it and engaging with the content. However, it is natural that, after an initial flurry of engagement with your brand, their interest could lapse.

Let’s take a look at how you can re-engage with these lapsed subscribers, and discover why encouraging some of them to unsubscribe may not be such a bad thing.

It starts with data

Step zero in any re-engagement exercise is to identify those subscribers whose interest has waned. Crack open your campaign reports and focus on those recipients who haven’t opened your emails in the last six months or so. These are the people who need a carefully crafted message to get them back on board. But what to say?

Right now, there is a trend for ‘what have we done wrong?’ emails that tug on the heart-strings, either by tapping into memories of bad break-ups or presenting images of sad-looking teddy bears. There is no doubt that this can be effective, connecting with the recipient on an emotional level – particularly with judicious use of subscribers’ first names. However, it is important to make sure that the reconnection message fits with the tone and style of your business – if your newsletter goes out to CFOs at blue chip professional services firms, a Love Hearts-themed tear-jerker may not be your best bet.

Emotionally charged content aside, make sure that your re-engagement emails link through to your contact preference centre. Let them pick the frequency of the emails they receive and let them tell you what topics they are interested in. If your customers are regularly deselecting certain types of email content or subjects, take the hint and focus your efforts elsewhere.

And yes, let your recipients unsubscribe…

It’s good to let go sometimes

As well as being the polite thing to do, offering an easy way for recipients to unsubscribe can have a positive effect on your email campaigns. Your stats for click-throughs and opens are being driven down by recipients who are genuinely not interested in your product or service. Beyond the stats, a dearth of click-throughs can affect your sender reputation, as an ongoing lack of engagement could see your emails routed to the spam folder. By removing the unengaged, your efforts can be focused more sharply on ensuring delivery to those subscribers who will engage when the message, the content or the time is right.

If you really want to keep them on-board, there's no denying that bribery is also a powerful weapon. Nothing re-engages quite like free stuff, be it a money off voucher, free delivery, or other goodies. However, don't fall into a cycle where the subscriber works out that if she ignores three emails, the fourth one will be a voucher - this will do nothing for your open rates.

Rather than be too profligate, also consider making the lapsed customer work for their freebies - a smartly crafted three-question survey that unlocks the voucher or discount code could give you some valuable insights as to why they had previously stopped engaging. Just be wary of offering 'more freebies' as an answer to the question 'what would you like to see in our emails?'.

Everybody wins

However you choose to draw people back in, you are very likely to see results. Why? Because the re-engagement email is a personalised message. It shows people that you have not forgotten them, even if they’ve forgotten you. It’s also a win/win situation – if they re-engage, that’s great, as you’re squeezing more value out of your mailing lists, but even if they unsubscribe, you are purging your list and may well see an increase in your click-throughs and opens overnight.

A successful re-engagement campaign is the big attention-grab all over again, but with little effort required. That’s something your marketing forefathers would have killed for in the 1980s.

Re-engagement efforts are part of our fully managed marketing campaign service – find out more here.