It’s easier to keep a customer than earn a new one – a phrase most marketers have heard before.

And yet, statistics show we collectively still spend a majority of our time, creative energy, and budget on campaigns to acquire new customers. Why? It’s likely a combination of factors, but marketing’s historical sweet spot in the customer lifecycle tends to be front-loaded, with the North Star guiding us to broadcast our brand promise to anyone within earshot. And while ideas like growth, new revenue, and customer acquisition are all critical and worthy pursuits, in isolation they leave money on the table.,

If we pull our focus out of the department and up to the business level, it’s easier to see that the long tail of revenue is where the money is. Just like with SEO and organic brand footprint, the dividends paid from extending the customer lifecycle far outweigh the lift we get by simply acquiring new customers. This is why email subscriber reactivation must be a tier-one priority for brands to get right.

Making the most of every opportunity.

So how to get the most out of our customer base? Let’s start with making sure we don’t lose anyone. We call it a customer lifecycle because it has a beginning, middle, and unfortunately, an end. But these timeframes are fluid, and marketers have lots of control over how long they last. The beginning and middle portions are the happy paths. As long as your products, deals, and brand are in the customer sweet spot we’re good. Hate to break it to you, but this is the easy part. What about when customers start slipping away? It’s not always obvious, it’s typically a long, descending slope rather than a cliff, so the signs and signals are harder to detect. And is the disengagement just with your brand or is your customer slipping away from email across the board? Hard to know.

What we do know is every email marketing team has that list. A file of inactive subscribers who were once revenue-producing happy-pathers, but are now disengaged, unresponsive, and in the proverbial dust heap. According to Return Path, a marketer typically has as many as 25-50% of subscribers classified as “inactive”. That’s a lot of dust.

The remedy? Reactivation.

Sounds cool, but not so easy to do. The email subscriber reactivation space is also a dangerous road for email marketers. Do I run the risk of emailing addresses that might all bounce, report me as spam, tank my delivery rate and draw the gaze of the sender reputation police like some kind of email version of the evil eye guy from Lord of The Rings? It’s easy to close that box and look the other way.

Our advice? Don’t give up. There’s a healthy combination of best practices and tools like ListFit that can help rekindle those sleepy relationships and unlock lots of value and revenue.

Be smart about your approach.

  • Reactivation takes a minute – When engagement drops it will take more than a single “we miss you” email to win them back. A re-engagement series to gradually warm them back up is the correct approach here.
  • All inactives are not the same – A subscriber who is starting to slip needs a different nudge than someone you haven’t seen for weeks. Don’t assume everyone on your inactive list is in the same boat. Be sensitive to timing and adjust your offers accordingly.
  • Know when to call it a day – At some point, it’s better to let a subscriber go. There is reputation risk here, so be prepared to cull your list of those folks who are just simply gone for good.
  • Use a reliable set of tools – Often times it can feel like the data analysis work required to understand the nuances of your inactive file aren’t worth the effort. Plus, most brands only have access to their own first-party data, which doesn’t tell the whole story. ListFit can automatically sort your list into engagement cohorts, so you know who to target and who to set free without trial and error or unnecessary risk.

New Beginnings.

Don’t forget that reactivating a subscriber is essentially a new beginning and your work as a marketer is not done. In fact, integrating more direct forms of feedback across all campaigns is a good practice, especially for your reactivated cohorts. Tactics like asking for updated content optimization preferences, directly asking for feedback on why they became inactive or offers geared to encourage repeat behaviors demonstrate that your brand is interested in providing personalized value – a nice insurance policy for the work you’ve done to re-engage them.

Inactive lists and email subscriber reactivation can be a gold mine of opportunity if your approach is smart and thoughtful. We built ListFit to help brands see their list in new ways, and one of the most powerful tools in our arsenal is the engagement score. Get an instant, automatic upgrade on your level of sophistication around inactive subscribers and unlock needle-moving revenue opportunities with a combination of smart tools and smart sending.

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