When Your List Members Churn Away

However, reviewing your sending stats you may think of all that time and energy you wasted as the unsubscribe rate from this last mailing has increased; much more than you expected.  In fact, over the past 6 months, you’ve lost 10% of your subscriber base.  Is this a sign to create a win-back email campaign?

unsubscribe green buttonUnsubscribes are normal, and so is the occasional increase in subscriber churn.  Churn by definition (and there are several definitions), simply put is the percentage of customers lost during a period of time.  It’s an easy calculation: divide the number of customers lost during a given time, by the number of customers you had before that time.  In this case, it would be the number of list members you emailed, divided by the number of the remaining list members who didn’t unsubscribe after the mailing is complete.

Churn is also referred to as customer turnover or customer attrition.

Churn is not a set equation.  The calculation mentioned in the above paragraph can take place over periods of time.  For example a churn rate of 10% can be calculated over a year’s worth of mailings (10% annually) or one monthly mailing (10% monthly) which can translate into subscriber attrition of 200 lost list members a year versus 200 lost list members a month.

In either case churn is not something you want a lot of.

Every mailing should offer the subscriber an opportunity not to be one; and the top 3 reasons they unsubscribe:

  1. You send too many emails
  2. The content is no longer relevant to the recipient
  3. The FROM address is not consistent; the recipient does not recognize your brand and therefore does not remember signing up for your newsletter

Still churn is an alert to remind you of the opportunity you have to re-engage your inactive subscribers before they disappear off your list, with a win-back email campaign (a re-engagement campaign).

All email marketing lists contain a fair amount of inactive list subscribers to the point where inactive subscribers can make up the majority of an email marketing list.  Inactive subscribers are ones who seemly lost interest in your messages; taking no action on your emails as they have filtered your messages out of their virtual life.

Today’s digital email marketer has great tools to create a win-back email marketing campaign.  The key to making this work, identify those inactive subscribers before they leave altogether and become a churn statistic.

Inactive(s), can be identified by email addresses that:

  1. teenager lounging on chair while being yelled atIgnores your emails
  2. Open your email occasionally but never clicks on links, forwards to a friend, or reopens your message
  3. Is active on occasion, then unresponsive for a long time before they are active again

To re-engage your customers, it will take some work, but well worth it.  You can start by creating segments for inactive addresses and put them in different categories.  To do this properly realize that the cause of inactivity may never be known. 

Therefore when you create your segments you may have to take an educated guess as to why these addresses are inactive.  The ESP reports may help you with this exercise. Consider looking at the past:

  1. Subject lines
  2. Images and attachments
  3. Number of emails sent per month

And of course, how long have they been inactive:  Once you decide how to identify your viable inactive email addresses follow-up with a win-back email campaign.

Start your campaign in steps.  Mail to a portion of your inactive lists, one at a time, over a few weeks.  Study the response rates and activity in each mailing.  And when it’s over, send a final message emphasizing the value of staying on your mailing list, with the caveat that they will be removed from future mailings unless they take action now. (include a link to a great landing page and thank them for their membership).  The final step, remove those addressees you could not re-engage with. ☹

The biggest question before those win-back emails go out:

 What should you say?

Say it with a short Subject Line.  This has been found to be more effective in getting responses, in win-back email campaigns.  For example, try words like “Miss You” or “Please Come Back”

Use A/B testing  to find out which Subject Line elicits more opens before you actually start your campaign.

Of course, there are the basics besides a shorter Subject Line, including personalization, relevancy, timeliness, image placement, and content length.  You might include an incentive to stay, such as a discount, contest or free item.

Remind them of their importance to your product or service and thank them for being a list member.

social profilesInclude a link to their profile page so they can tell you when they want to hear from you,  i.e. they may only read your emails during certain times of the year.

Don’t forget to include an unsubscribe link, yes even in these campaigns.

To sum this up, a win-back email campaign is necessary to fight churn.  Once you decide the time frame an email subscriber is considered inactive you can place the address in one of your segments for future action.  When you send your campaign out, make it personalize, relevant, with an irresistible call to action.   And include a link to their profile page as they may only read your email at certain times of the year, and not interested the majority of the year.