We Miss You! A Creative Re-Engagement Email Campaign

September 19, 2013

email re-engagement

Unemotionally Subscribed – People on your list who have not opened or clicked an email message from you in an extended (several months) period of time. They have not unsubscribed. They have not marked your message as spam. They either ignore it or take the time to actually delete it every time it lands in their inbox. 

Now, it depends on who you ask, but the percentage of your list that is considered “unemotionally subscribed” can be as high as 30%. Yup. Nearly one out of every three folks on your email list are not interacting with your emails … not at all.

As I mentioned in this WhatCounts guest post, once you figure out who fits this “inactive” criteria, you have a few options:

  1. Immediately unsubscribe or delete them. I call this the “DO NOT PASS GO, DO NOT COLLECT $200″ approach.
  2. Move to a new list and mail to less frequently. I call this the “I think I need to see you a bit less often” approach.
  3. Send a last ditch “We missed you” type email. If they don’t respond, then do #1. I call this the “I’m going to give you one more chance” approach.
  4. Set up a re-engagement email series. I call this the “I really don’t want to break up, but if you are not responding at all, well, it’s over” approach.

No one method is necessarily better than the other. I’ve seen all 4 executed before. As I often say, the best practice here is the one that’s best for your subscribers (and your business).

I recently came across a great – creative, human, funny – example of #3, the last ditch “we missed you” email. Thanks to Suzanne Oehler who forwarded me this email. Follow her on Twitter!

Check out this email from NTEN: The Nonprofit Technology Network

NTEN email

The subject line – We miss you! – was certainly one that would stand out in many inboxes. The intro paragraph was short and to the point, but nothing crazy.

But then it got fun … and creative.

The first call to action read: “If you’d like to continue receiving NTEN emails, click here by Friday, August 2nd. Yay! This makes us very happy.” Again, they get right to the point. They even add a bit of “human” (Yay! This makes us very happy.) But it gets better. The “click here” link leads to hilarious Happy Dog video. IF you are a dog owner, you’ll love this.

The second call to action read: “If you’d rather not receive NTEN emails, we’re sad to see you go. Simply delete this email and in a short time your account with NTEN will be removed from our systems.” Nothing crazy. Direct. Clear. Simple. However, the “sad” link again goes to a video – this one goes to a Sad Cat Diary video. Warning: some language in this video is NSFW. Then again, if you’ve ever owned a cat, you’ll appreciate the humor.

The third, and final, call to action read: “Of course, if you change your mind, you can always sign up again” with the “sign up” link taking clickers to their email subscription landing page, of course.

Now, fun and creative is one thing. If campaigns like these do not meet their intended goals (getting folks re-engaged), then, well, they are just “fun and creative.”

So … Did It WORK?

I contacted the team at NTEN to see how effective this campaign was. Below is what they shared with me.

They sent this email to a list of 24,000 subscribers who had not opened in email from them in the past year.

For this particular campaign, they reported the following metrics:

  • Open rate – 38.89% vs. 26.73% “average” over the previous few emails
  • Click-to-Open Rate* – 47.37% vs. 12.3% “average” over the previous few emails

*in other words, of the 38.89% who opened the email, nearly 50% clicked at least one link

Of those who clicked a link, the Top 4 most-clicked links were:

  • 41.14%: Click Here (Happy Dog … to stay subscribed)
  • 4.91%: Unsubscribe
  • 2.21%: Sign up
  • 2.14%: Sad (Sad Cat … to opt-out)

By all accounts, I’d say this “We Miss You” campaign was a HUGE success? What do you think? Have you tried a “reenagement campaign in the past? If so, how effective was it for you? Drop a note in the comments below!

P.S. The email marketing team at NTEN shared their “lessons learned” from this campaign in this blog post. I love their transparency.

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Photo via Flickr user woodleywonderworks
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Nick Westergaard
Email Brand Driven Digital

is a strategist, speaker, educator, and author of Brand Now: How to Stand Out in a Crowded, Distracted World and Get Scrappy: Smarter Digital Marketing for Businesses Big and Small. He is the Chief Brand Strategist at Brand Driven Digital, an educator at the University of Iowa, and host of the On Brand podcast. More about Nick.


Great post, DJ!  Glad NTEN gave you the stats - they're fascinating.  The thing I like most about their experiment is that it got people clicking and talking.  In a world full of vanilla messages, they added the hot fudge, whip cream and a handful of cherries on top!



Great post as always. I really like what they did here as they showed that they cared about who their emails were sent to. How many times have we been on an email list and after 5 or sometimes even 10 years of never opening the email we are still on their list? (I suppose unsubscribing probably is in order but then again that would constitute opening the email). 

This is similar to the casino marketing work I have done as the players clubs were constantly monitored and as soon as a player hits a certain amount of time that they had not visited, they were immediately sent some sort of free play/free buffet, etc offer to entice but also with the "we understand if you do not wish to be a member, blah blah and you will be removed, blah blah). For those under 6 months, the return rate ran around 83%  and for those 6 mo +, it averaged 25-35%.  It was always very interesting to get under the hood and look at the numbers and see what really would be the spark that would get people to react in the manner you wish they would. 

Thank you for sharing as the behaviors matter and while each industry is different, there are similarities. 



@djwaldow, thanks for taking the time to write about this! Not only was it a great way to find out who wanted to keep in touch with us, but it was a really great way to accidentally learn a few things we didn't know about our email communications. Thanks for including our post about what we learned! This is something that very easily could have turned into a crisis. Instead, we sat down, put our heads together, and figured out what we did right, what we did wrong, and how to fix what didn't work.

NickWestergaard moderator

@MichaelNealis @djwaldow Thank you both for sharing this story here. This is a such a unique campaign idea that I'm sure many haven't event thought of. Thanks again!!


@djwaldow Congrats on the new gig. Bet you're glad to be getting a break from talking about Ellen.


@djwaldow Think it might have been due to the slippery slope it would have highlighted for all celebs.