7 Ways to Win Back Email Subscribers

How to get former email subscribers to return to the fold

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People keep declaring email dead, but it just keeps getting back up again.

While both PC sales and television viewership have declined following the emergence of mobile, email has blossomed: the majority of email opens today happen on smartphones and tablets. Email hasn’t been swept away by the rise of mobile messaging channels—it’s BECOME a mobile messaging channel, and one of the most effective ones. And while the ways that brands use email and email subscriptions have shifted somewhat over the years, impacted by changing laws and customer expectations, it remains an important way to reach, engage, and retain customers.

But what about customers who have unsubscribed from your emails? Or those who opted out of your email subscription altogether? Are they just permanently beyond the reach of this channel? Not necessarily.

These members of your audience can’t be reached on email without risking enormous fines, limiting your outreach options and making it harder to carry out effective multichannel campaigns. But there are other ways to speak to them. By sending them a well-designed email re-subscription campaign through other messaging channels, you can show them the value of receiving emails from your brand and increase the chances that they re-subscribe.

What is an email re-subscription campaign?

To reach customers effectively via email, you need their permission and their participation, meaning they opt-in to your email subscription. Email re-permission campaigns allow marketers to reach out to customers who have declined to subscribe, unsubscribed, or ceased to engage with the emails they’re sent, with the goal of getting them to change their mind.

An email re-subscription campaign is a re-permission campaign that’s designed to encourage a customer who has left your email list to re-subscribe.

How do you create an effective email re-subscription campaign?

1) Make sure you’re targeting the right people

Re-subscription campaigns need to be carefully targeted in order to work effectively. If someone who has already opted in to receive email gets a message asking them to subscribe to your list, there’s no possible benefit to your brand—it’s not like they can subscribe again and get twice the emails. In fact, this sort of poor targeting can be counterproductive, giving recipients the impression that your brand doesn’t really understand them as individuals.

One good way to make sure that you’re reaching the right people is to make use of a marketing automation platform. This kind of tool makes it possible to create an audience segment exclusively made up of customers who unsubscribed from your email list and then target them for your email re-subscription campaign. If you’re looking to get more granular, it’s also possible to put together a segment that includes only the people who unsubscribed from your email list during a particular time period—for instance, customers who unsubscribed in the last six months, or between March 15 and May 15.

2) Decide what messaging channels you’re going to use

When you’re looking to win back former subscribers, email is off the table. That means only brands with multichannel messaging capabilities are going to be able to carry out a re-subscription campaign that will reach these users.

If you can, it makes sense to use multiple channels in your re-subscription campaigns—after all, multichannel outreach gets better results than campaigns sent using a single channel, and gives you more opportunities to reach the customers you’re looking to persuade. Consider using in-app messages and News Feed Cards to reach customers who are regularly engaging with your app or website, and push notifications (if recipients have opted in) to hit up people who are less consistent in their engagement.

3) Pick an incentive that fits your audience

Email Re-Subscription Campaign Example

When you’re sending an email re-subscription campaign, you’re always looking to alter the status quo. And because people tend to stick with what they’re currently doing, convincing them to re-subscribe will probably be difficult. A good incentive can help you make your case. Customers who wouldn’t give your message a second look can be swayed by access to special features in your app or a well-chosen discount.

While the possible incentives you can offer differ depending on your brand’s vertical and business model, there’s a smart way to identify what sort of things are worth including. Think seriously about what leads your customers to download your app or visit your website in the first place and then choose an incentive that deepens the value that you’re already giving them. This kind of incentive will make it possible to capture your audience’s attention, increase the odds that they re-subscribe, and serve as a demonstration of the kind of value that they could see from engaging with your emails going forward.

4) Use personalization to craft your best re-subscription pitch

It’s not enough to pick a great incentive and then fire off your message—you need to figure out a way to use that incentive to sell your audience on re-subscribing. And that means crafting messages that speak to your customers in compelling, engaging ways. One good way to do that is to use the customer data that your brand is collecting to add personalization to your email re-subscription campaigns. By using their names and referencing their interests and customer behavior, you can make this outreach more intimate and engaging, while also boosting the effectiveness of your outreach.

5) Find your messages’ best selves with multivariate testing

Putting together your first email re-subscription campaign can be a little scary. You’re reaching out to people who have already received your email outreach and found it wanting, and that means you need the campaign to be as strong as it can be for it to succeed.

How do you get there? Multivariate testing can help. Compare message variants with different copy, visual styles, incentives, and more, then see which version results in the most conversions. Once you’ve optimized your messages, you can send them with confidence, knowing that your target audience is getting the best version of your re-subscription outreach.

6) Use deep linking to send users where they want to go

Imagine that one of your customers receives an email re-subscription message via in-app message or push notification and wants to re-join your email list. They need a way to do that easily and quickly. By including deep links in your messaging, you can send interested recipients directly to a web landing page or in-app preference center, allowing them the ability to adjust their email subscription as they wish.

7) Analyze your results and make adjustments

Take a close look at the impact your campaign had on recipients and how it compares to the goals you had for your outreach. Did recipients subscribe to your email list? How many? Did people opt out of push notifications or uninstall your app? How many recipients engaged with the message you sent, as compared to the number who converted?

Sometimes an email re-subscription campaign will fall flat. Customers are individuals, and it’s possible to create strong, compelling campaigns that members of your audience just don’t respond to. But if that’s the case, looking into the specifics of how the campaign performed can help you understand whether your re-subscription efforts can be adjusted and improved, or whether it’s better to put these kinds of campaigns on hold and focus your marketing efforts somewhere more productive.

The gist

In an ideal world, your brand would never have to send an email re-subscription campaign. Your customers would line up to join your email subscription and stay subscribed forever because they get so much value from it. And the closer you can get to that ideal world—by being thoughtful about your messaging, focusing your efforts on maximizing customer value, and following through on your brand promises—the better. But used as part of your overall strategy, email re-subscription campaigns can help you boost the reach and power of your email messaging by encouraging former email subscribers to opt back in.

Email re-subscription campaigns are just one type of re-permissioning. To learn more, check out our overview of re-permission campaigns and discover the many ways they can benefit your brand.

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