In 2019: Best practices for landing in inboxes and staying out of spam included not blasting your entire list and excluding subscribers who’ve stopped engaging. Instead, email strategies raved about sending to smaller targeted segments and re-engaging those inactive subscribers through a dedicated winback email automation to boost clicks, opens, and revenue.
In 2020: Well... we don’t need to go over what happened here.
In 2021: Events slowly started returning. But now you’re stuck with an email list that hasn’t received anything from you in over a year. If everyone is inactive, how do you follow 2019’s email strategies and stay out of spam? Short answer: there is no short answer. But instead there are multiple answers - let’s get into it!
My entire subscriber list is inactive, help!
When you come out of your email hiatus and send that first big blast, this looks like a spam spike to ISPs (Gmail, Outlook, etc.). These ISPs are more likely to flag your email as spam. So how do you solve this? Split your list into smaller segments and send more frequent emails over a period of time. As you start to send more consistent and frequent emails, ISPs will start sending your emails to the inbox, making it more likely for subscribers to re-engage.
If you're with Hive - Our automated IP warm-up process helps mitigate this process when you start sending large blasts again. But in general it's better to split up non-time sensitive emails over a longer period of time. Sending consistent frequent emails signals to ISPs that you’re a reliable sender and should be trusted and improves your deliverability over time.
I’m starting to see my emails go to spam!
Sending consistently and frequently to all subscribers in the beginning of ramping back up iis great. But if you’re not personalizing your emails, you will see drop off!. Continue sending consistently and frequently to subscribers who are engaging, but don’t send to those who’ve unengaged since that will hurt your deliverability.
Following this best practice is especially important with your Gmail recipients, because of their strict email filtering rules but this also applies to other ISPs. Gmail primarily looks for two things to determine if your email is going to spam or inbox: are subscribers opening and/or clicking your emails? If you continue to send to your inactive subscribers, an ISP like Gmail will give you a negative sender reputation score (an arbitrary grade) because they aren’t engaging. With a negative score, Gmail will start to send all your emails to spam over time, and even your most engaged subscribers will stop receiving your email in their inboxes. Gmail is often in the top 3 most used email clients, meaning it’s safe to assume that a large portion of your list is using Gmail.
But I’m still generating revenue when sending to inactive subscribers!
This can happen. But in the long term even your active subscribers will stop seeing your emails in their inbox (emails will start going to spam) which is where the bulk of your revenue comes from, and your overall revenue will decrease. Lets say your active subscribers contribute 45% of your overall revenue and inactive subscribers contribute 10%. If you continue to send to inactives, you’re risking 45% of revenue to attempt to capture ~10% more. Down the road, you’ll lose out on more revenue than you’d gain by sending to inactives.
But what if people are still reading the subject lines?
You might be thinking “well, maybe they’ll eventually see a subject line they like and then they’ll click!” Well no one can read your subject lines if your email’s in the spam folder and they can’t see it. Gmail and other mail providers only look at engagement (opens & clicks) to determine deliverability, and there’s no way to capture if subscribers are looking at your subject lines. If you’re counting on the fact that the majority of your subscribers are reading your subject lines and might engage one day, you’ll find yourself on your ISP's bad side and in the spam folder.
Instead of sending to people who aren’t engaging with your emails, filter your list into smaller hyper-targeted segments by using your ESP’s filters (users who haven’t made a purchase since x months ago, users who purchase tickets to x specific event, etc.). Make sure you’re collecting information about your customers’ interests from the beginning of their journey with your brand and start leveraging your customer data so you can send personalized emails they actually care about.
So when can I send to my inactive subscribers?
Create a winback email series that’s optimized to re-engage your inactives at exactly the right time, with exactly the right messaging. These inactive subscribers were interested in your brand once upon a time, so there’s a high chance you can pique their interest again with the right email content. Plus, it costs 5x more to attract a new customer than to keep an existing one, making this a smart money move for your business.
If you’re going to take anything away from this blog, this is what I hope stays with you: the “customers might be reading subject lines” mindset will land all your emails in spam over time. Split your large blasts into smaller groups when you start sending emails again, and segment, segment, and segment again! It’s 2021, there’s no excuse to blast your entire list anymore if your ESP (like Hive) lets you filter your contact list by purchasing behaviour, demographics, and interests so you can build and easily send to targeted segments.