How to Make a Killer Re-engagement Email Series and Win Back Lost Subscribers

Are you an email marketer? Here’s some bad news, unless you have a good re-engagement email process, you’re losing a ton of money year after year.

But before we get to that, consider the following. If you send any emails at all, no matter how good they are – you lose subscribers. It doesn’t matter how valuable and amazing your emails are, with each email that you send, you lose subscribers.

And when I say “lose” I’m referring to one of two things. Subscribers lose interest, that is they start ignoring your emails and stop opening them, at all. Or alternatively, they go ahead and click the unsubscribe button so they don’t even receive any more of your emails.

The good news is that neither of the two is a “death sentence”, nor does it have to mean that you’ve lost these people “for good”. In fact, good email marketers can boost their yearly profits by simply knowing how to utilize “re-engagement campaigns” and “retargeting campaigns”.

Re-engagement is about reviving inactive subscribers, while retargeting can be used to get people to subscribe again. This guide will focus on the first option – re-engaging subscribers with re-engagement campaigns.

Having unengaged subscribers is actually dangerous

I think that everyone goes about teaching re-engagement strategies coming from the wrong mindset. They look at it as “a trick” that gets people “to buy stuff from you again”. And don’t get me wrong, that is a great benefit from a well-done re-engagement campaign.

However, you have to think of re-engagement campaigns from a broader perspective. They’re actually a part of your list-hygiene efforts.

What is list-hygiene I hear some readers ask? This is something that email marketers do in order to make sure they have a “clean list”. This is a list devoid of abandoned email accounts, no longer valid accounts, inactive accounts etc.

Why is this important?

When you send a bunch of emails to a list that has a lot of inactive accounts or people who always ignore your emails, this is a huge red flag for the mailbox providers. They immediately lower your reputation as a sender and start accepting less and less of your emails.

This means that even if you send an email to a perfectly valid email address, it never gets delivered or gets filtered out to the junk-mail folder.

And here’s the especially scary part. Your deliverability goes down in general. This means that less of your emails get delivered across the board. Let me repeat that in another way. It’s not just that those inactive unengaged subscribers get less of your emails. Even the people who are raving fans will be less likely to get your next email. Scary right?

This is why it’s important to get rid of unengaged subscribers

An unengaged subscriber is far worse than an unsubscribed one. They kill your reputation and decrease the quality of your list. Something you should always be vigilant against. And in fact, one of your main responsibilities as an email marketer is to always keep your lists clean (perform list-hygiene).

Re-engagement campaigns are a last-call before booting out the inactives

In essence, you have decided to clean your list, so you’ve gone ahead and segmented out the inactives. You know you should remove them from your list as soon as possible.

However, you also know that sometimes, with some inactives it is actually possible to re-engage them and win back their interest. This is where re-engagement (win back) campaigns come in.

They’re just something that you do as part of your process to remove inactives. If they re-engage, great, they’ve just won back a spot on your list. And if not, well, you proceed with removing them, as was your plan. That is actually the real reason you’re doing a re-engagement email campaign.

How to do a proper re-engagement email campaign

The re-engagement campaign has a singular goal – getting inactive and unengaged subscribers to engage with you. Now, as with any campaign, in order to know if you’re doing well, you have to actually define how you measure success and how you know that the goal has been reached.

Is it enough that they just open one of your re-engagement emails? Should they also click on at least one of the links in the re-engagement series? Perhaps the criteria is that they also have to open one of your emails after the re-engagement campaign is done?

I can’t give you any hard and fast-rules as it will depend on your exact business model and what you promote and say in the re-engagement campaign. Just realize that you need to have some measurable metric by which you decide when a person gets to keep their spot on the list. Remember, you’re doing this whole thing as a part of list-hygiene, and all of these people are being “tested” for their viability to remain on the list, otherwise you unsubscribe them.

And an extra hint, if you want more personalized suggestions, consider joining Emercury. When you’re on Emercury you get more than just an email-sending platform. You get personal access to a team of email-marketing experts that can help you with customized and personal guidance whenever you need it.

Who do you send this re-engagement email campaign to?

We said that we send this campaign to unengaged subscribers right before we remove them from a list. That is, we remove them once they reach a level of inactivity that qualifies them for removal. But what is this point? When does a person qualify as no longer worthy of being your list, and better unsubscribed?

Well, that depends on your specific list, business model and a lot of factors. If you’re an Emercury user feel free to contact me for personalized help. I would have to look at your actual metrics. However, for everyone else, I am going to go ahead and give some more general recommendations.

I’ve seen different email marketers use anything from a range as short as 15 days of inactivity, all the way up to 6 months of inactivity. Now, for the vast majority of email marketers, something like 15 days is way too short. And waiting 6 months to send a “hey remember me” email to someone, is too long.

For most businesses I’d go for something like a 2-3 month range. That is, you want to start out this process by defining out a segment of people who have been inactive for 2-3 months. That means they haven’t engaged with your emails in any way for 8-12 weeks.

How many emails should you send?

Again, this will be very personalized to your specific situation, and if you’re an Emercury user, feel free to chat with us and ask for more personalized tips. In this article I will go ahead and give some more generalized recommendations and numbers.

I’ve seen re-engagement email campaigns that go from a singular reminder email, all the way to a series of 8-9 emails. As a safe bet, in most situations, you will probably want to go with a series of 2-3 emails.

There is almost never a reason to restrict yourself to a singular attempt (just one email), but in order to prevent going too far, 4-5 sounds about right. If you want to be extra careful, then you can restrict yourself to just 2-3 emails.

How long should you wait in-between the emails?

This will depend on the nature of re-engagement emails and what you offered in each one of them. However, to keep things simple I would say that a good “rule of thumb” is to say go for about 10-14 days in between the different emails in the re-engagement series. This gives them enough time to check out your previous incentivized “please engage again” email.

What you should send

Keeping up with the theme of a “generic re-engagement campaign” that does well for most businesses, I would suggest a classic sequence that ramps up in urgency and strictness as it goes.

1) First you want to send a nice email that gently nudges them to rekindle that interest

The fact is that there are many different reasons that a person might have lost interest in opening your emails. Perhaps they were only interested in the subject out of curiosity, and then moved onto other things in life. Maybe they are still interested in the subject, but are putting off your emails for a different stage in their journey (they’re not ready).

Whatever the case might be, you want to remind them why they even signed up for your newsletter. Segmentation really helps here because you can remind them about the exact sub-topic that they were most interested in. However, if you haven’t segmented them out yet, reminding them about the general topic or original lead-magnet will work decently well too.

While there a ton of examples about how you can write this email, I’ll give you a short and simple template so you don’t have to overthink it.

Subject line can be something like: [firstname], are we still friends?

And the body of the email can be something like: “Hey [firstname] I know you originally signed up for my emails because you were into [subject], but you haven’t been opening any of my emails in a while. Are you still interested in [the subject]?”

2) If that doesn’t do it, you can utilize an ethical bribe in the next re-engagement email

This is where you create (or reuse) a special offer that gives a ton of value. It can be one of your upsell or cross sell offers. It might be one of those offers you run on special events like black friday. Or it might even be one of your more popular lead magnets or whitepapers.

Anything that has a ton of value really. You will want to utilize the same kind of attention-grabbing subject lines as you would for a time-limited or holiday offer to make sure they open the email.

3) The next level of escalation is to give them a time-limited last-chance to get great value out of you

This is similar to the previous one, except the main focus is on the fact that this is their last-chance, and that you’re not playing around, there is a deadline and a time limit. You will make this clear in both the subject line and the email body itself.

last chance written on chalkboard - signifying using time limits in re-engagement email

In fact, you might even go ahead and use the actual phrase “last chance” somewhere in the subject line and the heading of the email body.

As for what the last chance is about? It can be about confirming their membership on the list. Or it can be a last-chance to take you up on the offer you made in the previous email. Be decisive, clear and make the deadline extremely prominent.

4) The final step: A courtesy email that lets them know they are being unsubscribed (unless they ask to remain subscribed)

If they failed to engage at all with the third email, you can go ahead and declare their address as “up for deletion”. Now there are multiple ways to go about doing this. But one of the most popular methods is to give them 30 days to re-engage before they’re “deleted for good”. And in that period they receive no emails.

But first, the technical aspects of getting this done

If a person fails to engage with the last-chance email, you will want to add them to the “up for deletion” list. This is a list of people that are to be deleted, and won’t get any of your emails until then. They’ve demonstrated that they won’t engage, so it’s a good idea not to include them in any of your other emails.

Now, if you have access to an automation builder (like you do with Emercury), you will want to make the following automation. When a person enters the “up for deletion” list, a countdown of 30 days begins.

So you have:
  1. the first step (list entry)
  2. a 30 day delay
  3. the check to make sure they’re still on this list
  4. and then the final step is the one that unsubscribes them for good

Note step 3, this one ties into the courtesy re-engagement email

In the courtesy email you inform them that they’ve been “scheduled for deletion” and they will be deleted for good unless (action to be taken). It can be clicking a link to confirm they stay on, or anything you decide to use as a metric.

You would have an automation whereby if they take this “redeeming action”, the automation removes them from the “up for removal” list. This will make sure that the removal automation doesn’t unsubscribe them. That’s what step 3 is for. It checks if they’re still on the list. If they’re not, it won’t unsubscribe them. And since you removed them from this list, they’ll just keep getting your emails as normal.

Bonus tip – get a mentor and partner that cares about your success

It’s easy to find an email-sending platform, in fact, there’s a ton of them. Finding one that focuses on things that matter however is a bit more difficult.

At Emercury we pride ourselves on focusing on the things that improve your results. Not fancy bells and whistles designed to sound good on paper and impress beginners. That might just be the reason why experienced veterans with huge lists keep moving to our platform.

However, you don’t have to be a veteran and waste 10 years doing things the wrong way before you realize what matters in email marketing. Emercury is also an amazing platform for beginners and intermediates as well. And the main reason is that we do something which nobody else does.

We actually care about and guide you to success. We’re not just a team of coders producing a software solution to automate sending emails. We’re actual entrepreneurs and marketers who actually help businesses get more out of email-marketing on a daily basis.

If you look at our reviews on any review platform, you’ll notice a trend. See all those five-star reviews? They all rave about the partner-like support you get when you use Emercury. To get a sense for the Emercury experience, consider booking a demo with our team.

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