Un-Relationship Marketing – The Art of the Break-Up

by | Oct 27, 2016 | Email Marketing

Re-Engaging Your Email List Breaking up is hard to do. This is as true in business and marketing as it is in personal relationships. But today we’re talking about your customers. You’ve planned and strategized, used your supersonic marketing prowess, brought in thousands of names precisely at your budgeted cost. But still they’re not buying. Heck, they’re not even clicking. So what do you do? When do you call it quits?

If you’ve spent any time around the AIM team, there’s no doubt you’ve heard one of us talk about gauntlets. Grant Perry often speaks about entry gauntlets, how to woo your new prospects, put your best business foot forward and score that first sale.

Will You Re-Marry Me?

The flip side is re-engaging your email list through a re-engagement gauntlet. The idea behind the re-engagement gauntlet is simple – trim the excess ‘fat’ off of your free e-letter file. There are a couple good reasons to do this. First, you want your e-letter file to be as engaged and responsive as possible. An engaged list means better data and testing.  The results are cleaner, and lead to better downstream decisions in testing. Eliminating those non-clickers or non-purchasers keeps the file lean, mean and top-performing. Second, ditching the unengaged addresses will decrease your chances of running into spam, spam traps, and other similar issues.

As marketers and business builders, this can be a difficult, somewhat counterintuitive process. You’ve worked your marketing fingers to the bone and invested a lot of time and money to acquire those names. How can you just get rid of them?! But as I mentioned earlier, it’s better for everyone to just walk away from the unengaged names. They don’t want to be there, and they’re not doing your business any good.

Our Brazilian partners presented a very clear picture of the value of engaged names. Take a look at this chart:

Subscriber engagement stats - How to Reengage Your Email List

This shows the breakdown of their free e-letter file from brand new leads to highly engaged names. As you can see, the majority of their file is not engaged at all. Yep, that’s right. 52% of the names on the file have done nothing at all. Depressing, huh?

And this chart is even more telling:

paid subscriber engagement stats

The percentage of the file that’s highly engaged results in 76% of their conversions to paid subscribers. I’ll say that again – 76% of their paid file comes from only 17% of their free e-letter file. This clearly demonstrates the value of segmentation and engagement. And the importance of moving your focus away from the unengaged segment of your file, as large as that segment may be.

Wait, Will You Un-Marry Me?

clean your email listSo what’s the best exit strategy? The first step is to determine your engagement ‘threshold,’ that is the point of time on the file beyond which you’ll remove names if they don’t click or purchase. There’s not one correct answer; every business needs to determine their individual threshold.

The next step is to design your re-engagement gauntlet. Let’s say your exit threshold is 180 days with no clicks or purchases. You’ll want to plan some efforts to try to engage these folks one last time before removing them. You might send them a notice at 175 days offering them a free report or a discount coupon. You could do another at 179 days with a very frank message, asking them point blank if they no longer want to be in the e-letter list: Click to stay on, otherwise we’ll remove you from our list. You can be as creative as you’d like and send multiple efforts with varying messages. The idea is to get them to do something – anything – before you remove them.

Next you’ll set up a re-engagement IP. This is where you’ll put the names that are removed after the exit gauntlet. This is separate from your main IP, and will help maintain the integrity of your engaged file. The unengaged addresses go on the RE-IP, where they won’t affect your main list. And you can do as much – or as little – with the RE-IP names as you’d like. You can bombard them, or do nothing. It’s up to you.

We latestly implemented a re-engagement strategy in one of the health businesses I work with. We determined our engagement threshold was 270 days. We send 2 efforts, one at 264 days and another at 267 days. Those who don’t click or buy are moved to the RE-IP.

Once on the RE-IP, if the person clicks or purchases, they are then moved back to the main IP, as they’ve now become engaged again.

Getting rid of dead weight on your email list

Dead Weight

We started out sending the RE-IP the same editorial and marketing schedule as the main IP, and watched it for a few weeks. There were a significant amount of clicks on the RE-IP, which resulted in those names moving back to the main IP. But what happened when they moved back? Did they do anything or just become dead weight again?

We set up a study to answer this question. We wanted to know if we should continue sending the RE-IP the same schedule as the main IP, which was a lot of extra work. Was it worth it to re-engage those people?

We collected data over a 4-week period, watching the buying behavior of the re-engaged people. Once they moved back to the main IP, a very small percentage actually purchased. And of those that did, the vast majority did so within the first couple days. After that, they dropped off the radar again.

Based on these findings, we determined to pull way back on the RE-IP marketing schedule, and free up our marketers’ valuable time to focus on more lucrative tasks. Our new strategy is to market heavily during the first week on the RE-IP. After that, we’ll send them a regular weekly solo, and possibly extra solos when we have a new product launch. Otherwise, we’ll leave them alone to fade away into the sunset.

It can be hard to walk away from people you’ve worked so hard to acquire. After all, your email list is your number one asset. But smart marketers know when to say enough is enough, scrub your email list, and move on. For help breaking up with your customers, or other marketing tough love, please contact me or any AIMer. We’ll take care of the dirty work for you.


Signature Catherine
Catherine Flannery, AIM