Identify the Unengaged
When trying to improve engagement, it’s important to clean up these contacts. Most email service providers give you a way to identify those who haven’t opened your emails in X number of days/weeks/years or opened the past X number of messages. One year of un-engagement is a great starting point. Every business has a “busy season,” but these contacts were nowhere to be found during that time. They didn’t pass go or collect their $200. They are completely unengaged. Based on the Gmail example above, it’s likely they’re not even seeing your emails anymore. No need to waste send volume on them and kill your hard-earned reputation by adding mail to their spam folder.
Adopt a New Strategy or Cut Them Loose?
Easy enough, right? But once you have identified those contacts, what do you do with them? One option: Mark them as unsubscribed, or remove them from your email list altogether. Most marketers, however, are very uncomfortable doing this. They point out that these subscribers signed up at one point, so they do have the right to continue emailing them.
Here’s a suggestion: Add these contacts to a low engagement segment. This way, you can throttle them from your regular sends, but still market to them! You simply reduce the sends to only your absolute best offers. Email them once a month or 2-4 times per quarter. These sends will continue to have low open rates; however, your will see big improvements with your other sends in terms of engagement and a better overall open rate.
To Re-Engage or Not to Re-Engage?
You may be wondering, “Can’t I just add these unengaged contacts to a re-engagement series?” In my experience, this group is so unengaged that the effort to run a re-engagement campaign isn’t really going to pay off. It’s best to focus this type of campaign on subscribers who are just starting to fall into the deep, dark abyss of total un-engagement. My colleague Kellie Boggs suggests anyone who hasn’t opened in 3-6 months as an ideal target for a re-engagement campaign that culminates with a make-up or break-up ultimatum.
Maintaining a marketing calendar is a great way to determine which messages these unengaged subscribers should receive. Then, once they open, they should be removed from that segment and included in your regular email cadence.
This process is one of the easiest ways to boost your open rates. You should see positive results as soon as your first message, and if you pursue this path consistently, your open rates will start to soar and help you stay in the good graces of Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo, and yes, even AOL.
Just be sure you have a plan in place to replace those unengaged contacts. Your best bet: a tried-and-true list growth tool, such as a pop-up sign-up. And once on board, get those new contacts fully engaged with a personalized welcome series.