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The 3 Re-Engagement Mistakes Most Marketers Make

If you have inactive subscribers on your email list, it’s generally a good practice to win them back with a re-engagement campaign.

However, customers receive over 10,000 brand messages a day. It’s hard to get your message to stand out from the crowd—especially if marketers are spamming customers with irrelevant offers.

How do I know? Because an e-commerce business sent me 49 re-engagement emails in the span of 30 days. Needless to say, the campaign didn’t work. I never made a purchase and unsubscribed from the list.

To be fair, I can’t be too hard on this e-commerce business, who sells a monthly wine subscription. Most marketers believe that the more email you send, the more sales you get, so according to that philosophy, they were only following best practices for driving revenue and customer loyalty. 

To make sure you avoid their fate, let’s break down exactly what they did wrong.

  1. They assumed it was about the money
  2. They used the same subject line idea over and over
  3. Their call-to-action wasn’t clear

I’ll go through each of these re-engagement mistakes, one by one.

1. They assumed it was about the money

I’m an avid wine drinker, so a monthly wine subscription service did appeal to me. The idea of getting wine delivered to my doorstep sounds fantastic.

So why did I ignore their emails, despite promises of bonus gifts, free wine, and discounts?

Answer: Because none of my questions about buying a wine subscription had anything to do with the price.

Nowhere does their email tell me…

  • The science behind why they chose the wines based on my quiz results
  • Where they source their wines to offer cheap discounts
  • Why their hand-curated selection of wines is better than pawing through the Two Buck Chuck section at the grocery store

In other words, they didn’t spend the time to educate me about the offer or tell me why their process is better than the one I already follow when purchasing wine.

This isn’t just my opinion. My questions could have been answered if the wine company utilized education-based marketing in their email sequence, which was a term coined by Chet Holmes.

He believes that:

“You will attract way more buyers if you are offering to teach them something of value to them than you will ever attract by simply trying to sell them your product or service.”

If they spent more time focusing on educating the prospect on how they choose their wine for my palette, maybe I’d be more inclined to purchase.

It’s obvious that a wine subscription business probably knows more about wine than the average consumer who’s taking a quiz on what suits their palate—that’s why they own a business.

If they focused on educating their prospect on the benefits of receiving wine hand-selected by their sommeliers, they wouldn’t have to focus on selling me a discount so much.

Key Takeaways

  • Incorporate the concept of education-based marketing into the emails of your re-engagement campaign.
  • Focus on providing the customer with valuable information first before you ask for the sale.

2. They used the same subject line concept over and over

Sending me 49 emails would have been fine if every subject line concept was different.

But each subject line was more or less the same—a discount, a freebie, a time-sensitive offer. And that might get your email opened once or twice, but it’s probably not going to work any better if you send it 49 times.

So here’s a 2-second trick to help you write better subject lines. When researchers at Carnegie Mellon set out to analyze what types of emails got opened the most, they settled on two categories: Utility & curiosity.

Utility is a subject line that is directly related to someone’s work. Curiosity creates uncertainty, piques people’s interest, and makes them curious about what’s inside.
—Dan Pink, To Sell is Human

As a general rule of thumb, people with massive amounts of email react better to utility-based subject lines.

If I were to write another subject line, I’d focus less on the discount and think about the benefit to the customer, which in this case is wine delivered to their doorstep. So a utility-based subject line might look like this:  “How we choose the best wines for your palette”

Key Takeaways

  • Vary the subject lines concepts in your re-engagement email campaign. Make sure to include both utility and curiosity-based subject lines.
  • Before you start brainstorming what subject line concepts to use, make sure to ask yourself: What will my prospective customer react to?

3. Their call-to-action wasn’t clear

A lot of email body copy isn’t clear about the next step is.

So once you’ve educated your prospect on something valuable to them, be clear about what exactly you want the prospect to do after receiving this information.

To figure out what’s valuable to the customer, try creating an if/when-then plan.

According to psychology of influence scholar Robert Cialdini:

“[If/when-then plans] are designed to help us achieve a goal by readying us (1) to register certain cues in settings where we can further our goal, and (2) to take an appropriate action spurred by the cues and consistent with the goal.” 

So if the wine subscription company was trying to convince a prospect to purchase wine in an email, you might write the following if/when-then plan:

IF I am looking for a new wine to drink…

THEN my wine subscription will deliver something personalized to my palate at my door—for a low monthly fee.” 

If you already did the work in providing value to your customer in your body text, you should have no problems telling them what the next step for purchase is.

Key Takeaways

  • Use an if/when-then plan to clarify what you want your customer to do as a result of reading your email.
  • In the case of re-engagement, it’s usually to get a customer to come back—and entice them with a deal to sweeten the pot. So don’t hedge—and rewrite your call-to-action links accordingly.

3 Tips for Writing Re-Engagement Emails

You can always increase the volume of email you send. But it may not net the result you want with your business.

So instead of sending more email, make sure your re-engagement emails resonate with on-the-fence shoppers. Do this by:

  1. Focusing your body text on educating your customer about your product
  2. Varying the subject lines concepts in your sequence, alternating between utility & curiosity
  3. Using an if/when-then plan to clarify the next steps you want the customer to take – and writing your call-to-action accordingly

Re-engagement campaigns are an opportunity to give customers a second chance to think about whether it’s in their interest to buy your product or service. After all, it’s the only chance you have to raise your conversion rate by reminding customers about your offer—so what do you have to lose?

Sophia Le

Sophia Le is a consultant who helps high-growth startups nurture leads & close sales with email. She loves teaching growth marketers how to apply the psychology of persuasion to email campaigns and has been featured on CopyHackers and Skillshare.

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