Don’t Be Afraid to Run a Re-engagement Campaign

This morning I receive an email from the San Antonio Spurs that a lot of teams are probably afraid to send out to their email database. Take a look…

Spurs Re-Engagement Email

This is what’s known as a re-engagement email campaign. It’s designed to be sent to subscribers in your marketing database who haven’t taken any action in some period of time, usually a year. It makes sense that I got this email because I’m signed up to almost every team list but rarely click on them.

Teams may be resistant to sending this type of email for a couple of reasons:

  1. They are drawing attention to a fan’s lack of interest. That’s something you normally don’t want to highlight, but this example does a good job trying to draw the fan back in.
  2. Re-engagement campaigns should not have any form of solicitation to them, which this one does not (the link is to “Update Your Profile”). This makes some people feel like they are “wasting” an email. (Note: Updating a profile is actually the perfect call to action for this since it encourages fans to adjust personal preferences which in turn can lead to better engagement.)
  3. It can lead to a spike in opt-outs. You’ll see that this example follows best practice of both presenting a link to re-engage as well as a clear link to opt-out.
  4. In addition to an user-driven opt-outs, it’s also best practice to take all the completely unresponsive recipients and remove them from your marketing lists until they opt back in, so this effort can lead to a large one-time decrease in the size of your marketing database.

That last item is the most important here and can impact all of your email marketing efforts. Email addresses can become stale for many reasons – people changing jobs, switching from Hotmail to Gmail, cancelling an AOL subscription (finally!), updating their username, etc. – and when that happens, the actual mailbox for the now inactive email address may not be deleted. As such, the team sending the email never gets a bounce back that would trigger automatic removal and they just keep sending emails.

Email providers and other companies may end up using these abandoned email addresses as spam traps. Essentially if email services or ISPs know that a company is continuously sending email to inactive accounts, they will label you as a spammer and block all your email, which is a major problem for teams that do a lot of ticket sales and fan engagement via email.

All teams should really run a re-engagement campaign like this at least once a year. It’s fairly commonplace outside of sports, but I think there is one extra barrier that keeps teams from doing this – no one wants the size of the marketing database to drop because it’s still used as a selling point for corporate partnerships. Inevitably there is that slide in a sponsorship pitch deck that talks about the size of a team’s database to show that it’s a valuable digital asset for the partner, so anything that could drop that number is deemed bad.

However, that’s a very old-fashioned approach – the overall size of a DB to me should matter much less than the volume of ‘engaged’ fans. What’s better – a database of one million fans where 75% of those “fans” haven’t engaged with an email in 12+ months, or a database of 500,000 fans with less than 20% being disengaged? Remember that opens and clicks matter more than size alone, and in fact having that inflated recipient count of inactive subscribers will make your open and click rates look worse when your partner asks how a campaign performed!

Ultimately running re-engagement campaigns like this should always be viewed as a positive. It’s great to see the Spurs doing it (I’m going to go update my profile right now) and others should look to do the same if it’s not already part of your email marketing strategy.

Update: Thanks to Vassilis Dalakas for sharing this additional example sent by the Atlanta Hawks:

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