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How To Plan and Manage An Email Re-engagement Campaign

We’ve covered a lot of topics related to email on the Firefly blog. From ways to welcome new subscribers to metrics that can help you improve your communication strategy. These are helpful when it comes to your active lists, but what do you do with the subscribers on your list who just aren’t opening your emails? That’s where re-engagement campaigns come in.

Re-engagement is the email marketing equivalent of reaching out to a bunch of old friends you’ve lost touch with and trying to reconnect. A few of them might respond, a few might not, and a handful could actually become deep important relationships again. Here’s how we suggest approaching a re-engagement campaign.

Prepare Yourself (And Your Team)

Before you begin the process of setting up and running a re-engagement campaign, you need to understand that you’re going to be dealing with a large portion of your email list that is inactive. According to the 2017 M+R Benchmarks Report, median email open rate among nonprofits was 16 percent. This means that for most nonprofits, the majority of your list is not opening or interacting with your messages. The desired end result of a re-engagement campaign is to get some subscribers back on that active list. But you’ll also end up identifying and suppressing a list of email addresses that you’re no longer going to send to. And this could be a big list. You may need to sell this to your organization’s leaders and board to get everyone comfortable with your list decreasing before you start.

To explain why a re-engagement campaign makes sense, you need to realize that quality does matter more than quantity. Suppressing inactive subscribers is important because it improves your list. Since you’ll be sending to people with a higher likelihood of engagement, you’ll probably see your open and click rates go up. And cleaner and more responsive lists help ensure that your email deliverability score is good, which means your messages aren’t going to end up in spam folders where no one will see them.

Define Inactivity

Before you can send a re-engagement campaign, your organization needs to determine exactly what ‘inactive’ means to you. For one nonprofit this could be anyone who has not opened an email in a year while another could view those who have never donated or participated in an action alert as inactive. The types of emails you send, how frequently you send them, and how you segment your lists all factor in to determining the group that you define as inactive.

Once you’ve all agreed on the characteristics that make up this group you can create the list for your reengagement campaign.

Plan Your Content

We think that the best email re-engagement campaigns feature a series of automated emails with different messages and different asks. As you send your emails, those who do not take action will continue to receive the rest of the messages in the series. Here is one series suggestion.

  • Re-introduction: Your first email should remind subscribers why they signed up in the first place and share some good news or a recent success story.
  • Unsubscribe: Your second email can offer them the option to unsubscribe on their own.
  • Other Connections: In a third email you can give them the option to connect with you in a different way, such as follow you on social media.

After each email in your campaign, those who do take an action will be removed from the series and put back on your active list. For these individuals it’s important to continue to rebuild the relationship through additional automations. You can asked them to:

  • Take Action: Asked lapsed advocates to complete an action alert.
  • Give Feedback: Send them to a survey where you ask for feedback about how your organization is doing, which could help guide your communication strategy moving forward.
  • Update Subscription Preferences: If your organization sends a variety of emails (event announcements, newsletters, action alerts, etc.) you could give people the option to choose which emails they’d like to receive and which they’d like to opt out of. The same goes for nonprofits that send emails centered around specific topics or programs.
  • Donate: If you’ve reconnected with former donors, you can ask them to renew their financial support.

While these are general best practices for re-engagement, it is important to understand that every reengagement campaign will be different and unique to the specific organization implementing it. You’ll want to weigh different options and approaches and have a clear goal in mind. Then you can craft content that helps you get there. In the end, while you may have to say goodbye to a large portion of your list, the end result should be dramatically improved data hygiene and a deeper understanding of what interests your most engaged subscribers.

If you have more questions or want to find out if your organization should take on a re-engagement campaign, reach out to our team of experts today.

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