8 Email Lessons in the Art of the Winback Campaign

Here are eight pointers to make sure you never have to say goodbye to a good customer.

Every marketer knows that it’s easier to sell to an existing customer than it is to acquire a new one. Winback campaigns can re-activate dormant subscribers, reminding them why they want to hear from, and interact with, your brand. In addition to the conversion possibilities, there are other good reasons why you should work to keep your subscribers engaged with your brand. Use winback campaigns to keep your email list healthy and improve deliverability by eliminating those you can’t win back.

In our experience, more than 50 percent of anyone’s email list is composed of inactive subscribers. You can easily reactivate between 10 and 20 percent of those with a smart winback series:

1. Segment Your List

Begin by segmenting the inactive subscribers on your list, analyzing their performance over time. You want to understand the relative value of these inactives, so you can focus on those who were formerly high-value customers.

2. Pick Your Metric

You need a baseline in order to evaluate the success of your winback campaign. To do this, identify the metric on which you want to base the program. It could be opens over time, clicks over time, date of last purchase, or date of last login.

3. Determine Your “Dormant/Unengaged” Window

This will vary for each brand and can depend on factors such as geographic region, seasonality, and how often you typically email. For example, a holiday décor retailer might assume that customers will only purchase seasonally, so it would target those who haven’t engaged in more than a year. A news publisher might want to re-engage subscribers who haven’t opened an email in 30 days.

Brands like the hourly job-search site SnagaJob.com know their subscribers are highly engaged while they’re looking for employment; once they’re hired somewhere, engagement plummets. Yet, SnagaJob.com knows that most of its customers will be looking again within nine to 12 months. It determined that a 90-day window was the right amount of time to re-engage. A series of three winback messages won back 10 percent of inactives.

4. Plan Your Cadence

First, you should let the segment you’re trying to win back “rest.” Don’t send them any email for 21 to 30 days prior to your re-engagement campaign. This will give your winback message more punch. Also, keep this segment out of your other email campaigns while the re-engagement program runs. For the campaign itself, a two- to three-email series gives subscribers more opportunities to re-engage.

5. Change Up the Copy

Remember, these are people who have ignored your usual emails, so you need to grab their attention with a subject line that stands out, and then pay it off in the body of the message. If possible, include an aggressive offer – and put that in the subject line. Copy should be personal and make subscribers feel wanted and appreciated. Personalize with the customer’s first name or purchase history, so each person feels you know and value them. Finally, make it clear to subscribers that if they don’t take action, they may no longer receive communications from your brand.

Lydia’s Uniforms wanted to re-engage 32,000 subscribers who had not had any activity for 90 days, so the retailer went after them with its best offers ever. The subject line of the first said, “We’ve Missed You: 10% Off + FREE Shipping, 3 Days Only.” The second promised, “Miss You! Come Back and Save $10 on your Next Order.” The final email, sent to those who hadn’t opened the second within four days, trumpeted, “Biggest Offer Of The Season: Get 25% Off + Free Shipping!”

Lydia’s Uniforms recaptured 10 percent of their inactive subscribers while increasing monthly revenue by 25 percent.

6. Provide More Options

Your subscribers may be unenthusiastic because they’re getting the wrong content or the email frequency is wrong. Include the ability for them to customize their experience, either from within the email itself or via a link to a preference center where they can opt down, tailoring content and cadence to better suit them. If they really do want to opt out, provide a short exit survey – and pay attention to the responses.

7. Test, Test, Test

Test every element of the winback campaign to see what works best for your unique audience. Two emails may not be enough, while adding a third, “last-chance” email to the series may get them to click. Test the cadence, content, and subject line performance before you launch the full campaign; and test continually to optimize the series over time.

8. Never Say Goodbye

When your most charming winback tactics have failed to win someone back, don’t purge him or her from your list. Being inactive doesn’t mean they’re not valuable. However, you should avoid mailing to those who don’t re-engage. Instead, bank those inactive subscribers for some extra-special, future campaign. Tickle them again when you’ve got something major going on – at a time when not every other brand is also vying for attention.

There may or may not be a time when you put them back into service – but think of them as customers you may someday, when the time and offer are right, win back.

Download BlueHornet’s Campaign Automation Guide to setup your own successful win-back campaign today!

Chris Frasier @bluehornetemail

eec Member
Sr. Director Client Success | BlueHornet