What is one thing that makes a marketer’s heart sink perhaps more than any other?
Seeing your emails, with their specially crafted copy and hand-picked subject lines, lying unopened in your subscribers’ inboxes.
Falling open rates and rising to unsubscribe rates are disheartening and worry-inducing and can occur for many different reasons, from subscribers being unimpressed with your product range or prices to emails simply not standing out enough from the inbox crowd.
But all is not lost. In fact, they are signs that it’s time to use your secret weapon: win-back emails. Win-back emails are designed specially to re-engage inactive subscribers in a number of ways. And they work: 45 percent of subscribers who receive a win-back email will go on to open future emails from you.
Why not simply invest in new customers instead? Surely they’ll be easier to convince? Well, it turns out that the probability that an existing customer will make a purchase from you is around 60–70 percent, while the likelihood of selling to a new prospect is only around 5–20 percent. You do the math.
There are so many ways to approach a win back email, so here are seven examples of emails from brands winning back their subscribers left, right and center. I’ve taken the liberty of pointing out exactly what each one did right, so you can build a successful win back campaign for your brand.
Table of Contents
1. The Refresher Email
Before you start jumping to conclusions about all the negative opinions your subscribers might hold about your brand, consider that perhaps they just don’t know you well enough.
It’s completely possible that your brand or products seemed interesting enough in the beginning to sign up to your email list, but over time other things got in the way. Or maybe your product range didn’t catch their eye back then, and they haven’t had a chance to see all of your new and exciting additions.
Here’s where a little refresher can be helpful.
It’s an opportunity to remind your subscribers of exactly what your brand is all about, and what you have to offer right now. That could mean your USPs and brand message, or perhaps a showcase of your latest products and content, just like LastObject:
Right away, they get to the heart of the matter: you’ve been an inactive subscriber and you probably haven’t seen all the new things they’ve been up to.
To start off with, there are two articles from their blog on how to lead a zero-waste, sustainable lifestyle. These immediately engage you with their core brand values of eco-friendliness, sustainability and activism, making it about more than just sales.
Next, they give you a taste of their expanding product range. LastObject is probably most well-known for it’s reusable LastSwab, which went viral on social media a while back, and so it’s likely that many of their subscribers are unaware of their new innovations. This email hopes to change that, with quick descriptions and CTAs to learn more.
Refresher emails are a way to remind your subscribers why they joined your mailing list in the first place and keep your brand fresh in their mind, without the need for a discount or coupon.
What they aren’t being overly salesy or aggressive. Like LastObject, it’s important that your email nudges rather than demands, with low-friction CTAs and engaging copy. It’s also important that you keep these kinds of emails up-to-date, so you can keep showcasing your latest ideas and improvements.
2. The Product Recommendation Email
One possible pain point for inactive subscribers is that your product catalog is simply too much to look through and there is just not enough time in the day. We’re all busy people, after all.
You can smooth out this wrinkle by going a step beyond and providing them with product recommendations, sorting through your product range to find things that will really appeal.
There is a myriad of ways to go about recommending products to subscribers, including seasonal gift guides or more personalized recommendations based on their recent browsing- or click-history. Alternatively, you can think a little outside the box, as Asics does in this email:
Finding which shoes are best for which activities can be difficult and a little overwhelming. That’s why Asics have developed a quiz that customers can use to find out exactly which shoes suit their needs best.
This way, they’re not overloading the email with shoes for different possible scenarios but putting the power into the hands of the subscriber.
By including this in their win-back email, they’re acknowledging their subscribers’ problems and providing an easy solution, one that clears the road to make their journey to purchase easier and more efficient.
3. The Social Proof Email
Another potential reason that is stopping your subscribers from engaging with you is that hearing everything from you directly just isn’t enough. Of course, you know your brand better than anyone, but hearing good things from others is often the push people need to make a purchase.
Social proof is the idea that we have more faith in things that have been tried out and enjoyed by others, and it can be communicated in several ways. Think reviews, ratings, testimonials, endorsements, you name it.
Warby Parker, the online prescription glasses store, fill their email with tweets from satisfied customers:
Competing against well-established high street brands comes with many challenges, and Warby Parker use these Twitter testimonials as social proof of their high-quality products and services that rival any competitors.
It would be one thing to list off these benefits themselves, but having their customers say it for them packs a much bigger punch. For a subscriber, learning that other customers think highly enough of a brand to write a tweet or leave a review may just tip the scales enough for them to open your emails and see what you’re all about.
4. The Incentive Email
Ah yes, the incentive email – the win back email that every brand thinks of and yet is reluctant to send out.
Why? Well, while discounts and coupons can be highly effective at re-engaging subscribers and customers, there are also times where they can do more harm than good. The trick is to know when to use them, and exactly what to offer.
Giving incentives to entice inactive subscribers back to the fold doesn’t have to be your first or only option, but adding the right kind to your win-back email sequence can tempt back a price-conscious shopper.
The beauty product subscription service Birchbox added a percentage discount offer in their end-of-year win-back email, which Seray recently received:
As well as using the new year as a way to persuade Seray to try out their service, they also offered her a coupon code for 50 percent off her first subscription box with a 6-month sign-up, which sounds a pretty big deal.
With its long but personal copy and the enclosed offer, this email may well have been an effective tactic for them. However, there are more ways to go about it.
The email itself is very minimalistic—just a product image and a straightforward CTA, which fits well with their brand image:
Product incentives have an advantage over traditional discounts in that they are more tangible. Receiving an extra item alongside your order can potentially build much more excitement than simply saving a little money.
Other enticing incentives could include ‘dollar-amount’ discounts, which tend to perform better than percentage discounts, free shipping, extra loyalty program points, and sweepstakes. You could also try out incorporating limited-time offers into your win-back emails, to add some urgency into the mix.
5. The Feedback Email
You can spend hours trying to work out why your subscribers aren’t engaging with your emails like you hoped, but doesn’t it make sense to ask them directly?
Feedback emails are commonplace for many other purposes, in marketing and beyond, and they are ideal for finding out exactly how to fine-tune your email strategy and re-engage your subscribers.
Take a look at this email from Proven for inspiration:
While this was sent as an abandoned cart email, it shares many qualities with what you think of as a win back email: a customer liked their brand, but something stopped them from fully engaging and completing a purchase.
This email comes across as totally sincere, giving a number of legitimate reasons that may have stopped you from checking out. It also gives you them directly in the email, rather than providing a link to a survey in another tab. This kind of email quickly makes subscribers feel heard and appreciated, especially when given the option to voice their questions or concerns directly to a human being. This feeling of being valued as a subscriber may be enough to start them engaging with your brand once more.
A win back email asking for feedback could also be easily combined with an incentive for filling out a form or survey, to encourage even the more disengaged subscriber to open the email and give their thoughts.
6. The Last Chance Email
Sometimes, the fear of losing something is a much more powerful motivator than the prospect of gaining something. In psychological terms, this is called loss aversion.
Here’s the scenario: your emails have been arriving in your subscriber’s inbox, only for them to look at them all and think ‘later’. This happens over and over again, until one day, an email arrives telling them that if they don’t click through, they’ll be unsubscribed in 30 days.
This is the last chance win back email, and its benefits are twofold. Firstly, those who are afraid of losing your presence in their inbox will click to remain subscribed, and you have another chance to engage them with a catchy campaign. Second, if they do really want to end the relationship, then you clean your email list of an inactive subscriber.
With a touch of humor and halloween spirit for the month of October, Tattly succinctly spells out the situation and what to do to fix it. It’s simple, easy to understand, and likeable enough to encourage their subscribers to click that big red button.
The most important aspect to get right in an email like this is to avoid guilt trips at all costs. Nothing makes a person switch off from a brand faster than being made to feel bad during their interactions. Keeping this message light leaves a door open for your subscribers to tune back in to your emails at a later, more convenient time.
Another way to leave the door open could be to include an option to receive fewer emails from you instead. Some of your subscribers may appreciate hearing about your new products every so often, but don’t want to be notified about every single sale you put on.
7. The Unsubscribe Email
So you’ve sent your inactive subscribers a well thought out sequence of win back emails, attempting to entice them with everything from gift guides to customer reviews, even your latest blog content. But still no opens or click-throughs…
At this point, the kindest thing to do may be to let go. After all, if you love something, right?
Proactively removing inactive subscribers from your email list has several benefits, including reducing the number of people marking your emails as spam and increasing your lead quality and conversion rate.
I like the way that LastObject goes about it:
This email doesn’t take up any more time than it needs to. It’s short and to-the-point, yet the copy isn’t harsh or dismissive. They let you know why you’re being unsubscribed and that there’s no hard feelings involved.
They also include that all-important CTA to resubscribe, just in case you get cold feet at the very last second, and mention that you can resubscribe later if that suits you better.
Showing a little empathy towards your subscribers and their overflowing inboxes can go a long way. It’s important to understand that they may not be in the place to read your emails or purchase from you right now, but that doesn’t mean the relationship is over forever. There may well come a time when your brand is perfect for them, and leaving on a positive note could make all the difference.
Winning back disengaged subscribers is not the easiest task. It requires a huge amount of creativity and perseverance, and even then, you can very rarely ever win over everyone. In fact, part of honing your marketing strategy is knowing when to double-down and when to let go.
Yet, with the right content, the right tactics and the right timing, you can save potential customers from moving on from your brand and even create more sales. And, in the end, doesn’t that make it all worth it?