Work colleagues gather around to discuss re-engagement email strategies.

How to Write a Winning Re-Engagement Email: 10 Tactics to Get Results

Writing an effective re-engagement email campaign can be time-consuming. What’s more, without the right tactics, you may find yourself feeling like win-back campaigns aren’t worth the trouble. Our guest Jeremy Noronha is here to prove you different – and his tips will help you entice, compel and re-engage your subscribers.

Picture this. Your business is growing, and your marketing team is killing it. Customers are being reeled in a dime a dozen. It’s exciting to see the graph of users tilt upwards. 

Also, your email list is growing – the numbers are only getting bigger. All seems right in the world… 

Until you zoom in and look at the details. 

There’s Trouble in Paradise. 

Even though your subscriber number is high, engagement is low. 

People don’t seem to open your emails or get past the “add-to-cart” stage to the “take-my-money-i-love-this-product” stage. 

Previously active customers are now disinterested. They haven’t visited your website in ages. They’re tuning you out. 

These are inactive, “sleepy” subscribers. This decrease in user engagement and subscriptions is part of email list decay.

Email list decay is a widespread phenomenon, and is inevitable. So, what’s the solution? How do you get your dormant subscribers to opt back in? 

Enter the re-engagement email. 

It’s been called “The Divine Jackfruit” (I don’t know how it got this name, but I’m rolling with it). The re-engagement email is a potential cure for the disease of the disinterested customer. Done right, it can the answer to your email engagement problems. 

What is a re-engagement email?

A re-engagement email encourages your customers to engage with your company again. It allows you to target inactive customers and aims to redirect their attention to your product. Moreover, it helps you identify uninterested and inactive email addresses that you need to purge from your mailing list. 

An effective re-engagement email will capture attention and win back your customers. Making it convincing and persuasive is your number one goal. 

Get activity data on your email list

Why do readers stop engaging with emails?

To get any insecurity out of the way, and to prevent anyone from getting fired, let’s start with some reassurance. Having your subscribers dwindle over time is inevitable. It’s human nature. People lose interest in things because fascination fades, and the familiar becomes invisible. 

Here are a few reasons for subscribers disengaging with your services:

  • The content is no longer relevant to them.
  • They switched to an alternate solution. Or they needed help understanding the product/service.
  • Your emails start feeling spammy. They’re too frequent and need to provide more value.
  • Your emails are going to spam.
  • Deceptive subject lines. Anything that feels clickbaity can turn people off.
  • Your email design is not optimized for mobile.
  • The email address you’re trying to reach is inactive. 
  • Your emails are getting lost in the infinite sea of other emails by other brands.

Some of the above is under your control, and others aren’t. So, change what you can from your side of things and relinquish worrying about factors you have no control over. 

Why bother running an re-engagement email campaign?

You may think that, even though they don’t engage with your content, having many subscribers is okay. That’s wrong. This isn’t a neutral issue but actively harms your business.

Subscribed – yet inactive – members hurt your engagement rates. Your emails are rated based on clicks and open rates. Less engagement equals less importance in your customer inbox, which results in emails being classified as spam. Even worse, once your email is classified as spam, the algorithms train the virtual spam police to recognize similar emails as spam.

Spammy emails leave a bad taste in everyone’s mouth. They’re an annoyance and a waste of time. Your emails should stand out from the clutter of spam. The Divine Jackfruit. Seemingly spiny yet exciting on the outside and nothing but sweet, sweet goodness on the inside. 

A successful email re-engagement campaign will help you bring old customers back to life and encourage them to engage with your product again. 

Also, it will help classify inactive accounts bringing your ratings down. Those unengaged accounts require purging. Purging indifferent customers gives you a cleaner, more active list of subscribers. A clean list helps with more accurate analytics and reduces sending costs. 

You’re re-engaging customers, or you’re purging unnecessary dead weight. It’s a win-win situation and an essential part of your sales funnel, especially if you’re running an online business. 

Before you send a re-engagement email campaign

By now, you know why it’s worth sending a re-engagement email campaign. However, before you invest time and effort into creating one, make sure that your lack of engagement isn’t due to poor email hygiene. 

An average 25% of your email list degrades every year. And if you’re getting bounces and spam complaints, that can cause your emails to go to spam instead of the inbox. 

So, first, verify your email list to ensure that all your data is valid and that your sender reputation isn’t suffering. 

Start a ZeroBounce account and validate 100 emails for free – every month

Types of re-engagement emails

There are multiple ways to re-engage your audience. 

First, you have to capture their attention. And then deliver on it! If your audience is giving you their time, avoid squandering their attention with clickbaity nonsense that turns them off. Instead, show them your value and remind them what they’re missing. 

A good email marketing practice is to prime your subscribers early on so that they anticipate the emails you’ll send. 

For example, American mattress company Zoma likes to start their relationship by informing readers why they’re signing up for emails in the first place – in this case, sales and events. Also, the company informs readers of what to expect with a re-engagement email later on because they know why they signed up in the first place. 

Here are a few types of re-engagement emails you can use to breathe life back into your “dead” email subscribers.

#1. Reminder emails and the check-in

Dropbox shows a dilapidated brown box and a bright blue box with files in it.

Reminder emails are the first step in the email sequence of your re-engagement campaign. First, you check in with your customers and remind them of your product or service. Next, remind them why your company is worth it. Finally, make it easy to hop on board with your product.

#2. Reactivation emails

Screenshot of Morning Brew re-engagement email.

A reactivation email will initiate action to stay on board with your product. It induces FOMO (in a non-threatening way) and forces your subscribers to opt-in. Tell your audience that you will deactivate their account due to inactivity unless they engage. 

#3. Discounts, offers and incentives

Pottery Barn offering discount shows oceanside view.

Offer your audience lucrative incentives to stay. Make the feel that if they’re walking away from this, they’re missing out on a good deal. For instance, incentivize them to come back to you with discount offers, coupon codes, free shipping and exclusive deals.

Asking for customer opinion makes your audience feel included, like they are part of your process. It also makes them feel involved and important. You want your audience to feel like their opinions matter and have a say in creating a product that everyone can enjoy. 

#4. Ask for feedback

Re-engagement email from Netflix attempts to inspire recipients to begin using the service again.

Requesting feedback is a win-win situation because customer feedback is valuable data. It can help boost customer engagement while also retaining customers by making them feel involved. 

#5. “Here’s what you missed”

Website building service Webflow shows teal button on dark background attempting to entice re-engagement.

This email will update the customers on all the new features available. You re-inspire your customers with your always-improving attitude and boast of all the bug fixes. The exciting recent changes and optimizations will pique interest and fascination. Excitement drives engagement. 

Ten tactics to boost your email re-engagement performance

Before we dive into the tactics you can use to boost your email engagement, you need to define what an inactive subscriber means to you. Set your threshold. 

For example, if a customer… 

  • has not opened our emails in longer than three months, 
  • or if they’ve opened less than 10% of our emails in the last year

… they are inactive and it’s worth finding a way to re-engage them.

#1. The subject line makes a difference

Screenshot from Grammarly shows a generic email being sent with attention on the subject line.

The subject line is the first thing that you see in your inbox. It determines the click because it lets people know whether your email is worth their attention. It could be funny, catchy, cheeky, loud or playful. But it needs to be concise, informative and attention-grabbing. 

Here are some examples:

  1. “We Miss You!”
  2. “Don’t be a stranger :(“
  3. “We saw you checking us out ;D”
  4. “Uh-Oh, your subscription is expiring!”
  6. “Alert! Don’t Miss this Opportunity.”

Be very careful not to be flagged by the SPAM filters. 

  • Use good grammar, and don’t use too many exclamation points or too many emojis. 
  • Also, avoid high-risk words like ‘free’ or ‘$$$.’ 
  • Finally, don’t send emails containing only a URL or a picture. 

All these will increase the likelihood of your email going straight to the spam folder

Bonus tip: Please, don’t use clickbait in your subject line. Instead, do your best to entice and compel. If you make a promise, deliver on it.

#2. Personalize like your email depends on it – it does!

Personalization creates a relationship with your subscriber. It makes them feel special, like you care about them personally. A personalized email gets more open and moves your readers to take action.

Image shows how re-engagement emails can use personalization to get attention. One email says "Hello There!" while another one says "Hello John!"

Personalization includes using your customers’ names and addressing their problems specifically. Furthermore, strategic personalizing could mean sending them recommendations based on past use or a callback from previous interactions. Another possibility is customizing their content to match their preferences and purchase history. 

What’s more, you could send them birthday/anniversary emails and add a special incentive.

A Starbucks email with a black border and gold trim uses the recipient's birthday as a method of re-engagement.

Even better, you can let the subscriber customize their preferences. So they can engage with content they care about.

Screenshot of Preference specification allows users to choose the outdoor activities they most enjoy.

This is basic human psychology. We like to feel seen. So even though the users know the email is automated, it feels nice to be addressed individually. 

RELATED: 6 email marketing automation mistakes to watch out for

#3. Visuals! (If it’s not appealing, no one is reading)

Re-engagement email from Grammarly shows green box with a clock that appears as a ghost dripping.

Good visuals are a vital factor in keeping a customer engaged. Too many words are overwhelming, and no one wants to invest the time in reading through a wordy email. Using visuals that capture the essence of the email, engaging fonts that pack a punch, and using exciting buttons all make a difference. 

Email with purple background and astronaut says "We miss you."

Visuals are fun and interesting. Vibrant colors and minimal but powerful text bites focus attention and drive action. A simple visual that directs focus is the best way to go. Make it flashy. Make it pop. 

#4. Add a call-to-action (CTA)

Your re-engagement email should have an objective. It is persuading your customer to take action. Please don’t add more than one CTA because it gets confusing and distracts people from the CTA.

Email from Duolingo shows green owl with spectacles and graduation cap on a white background.

One central, visible button that directs you toward an objective drives action. It almost gives you no other choice. It’s simple yet effective. Design your email well so that it stands out.

#5. Optimize for mobile friendly emails

A re-engagement email from meditation app Headspace shows cartoon cloud character laying on a cloud.

Most people check their emails on the go, on their phones. If your email isn’t mobile-friendly and causes unnecessary discomfort to the user, the message is lost, and engagement almost immediately fades. Your subscribers are already inactive. So don’t give them another reason to be frustrated or tune out.

#6. Know thy audience – segment your readers

Knowing the demographic of your audience is essential. First, identify the segment of your audience that is unresponsive and inactive. You can then run a re-engagement campaign on just this audience segment. Also, you could go one step further and create more segments. Choose different criteria and run separate re-engagement campaigns with other strategic focus points on each segment. 

#7. A/B testing + analytics, analytics, analytics

A/B testing can give you useful data. First, segment your audience and test different product variations on them. This helps you better know your customer base and different target demographics with different strategies. Your audience is likely to be a diverse bunch with varying preferences. 

Data and analytics are everything. Testing the preferences of your market segments provides valuable insight. You can create multiple variations of your products. Furthermore, you can experiment with your emails’ tone, design, color palette and frequency. Learn what your audience likes and doesn’t, and set up shop in the Goldilocks zone. 

#8. Create FOMO and a sense of urgency

Show your audience what they’re missing. Where could they have been if they had stayed engaged? First, create the sense of a missed opportunity. Then generate a sense of urgency and allow them to opt back in just the nick of time. Countdown timers or lucrative coupons with an expiry date help in creating a feeling of urgency. 

airbnb shows earning potential as a FOMO in this re-engagement email.

You are selling them a dream of potential success, a better lifestyle, happiness, contentment, knowledge and growth. Something the consumer thinks will make their lives better. 

Leave your target audience feeling like they missed out on an opportunity and should get on board as soon as possible.

#9. Always send sequences, never stand-alone emails

Illustration shows line art for re-engagement email campaigns.

Set up your re-engagement campaign as a series of emails. With just one email, you risk being overlooked or ignored. So you cannot rely on a single email to regain an inactive subscriber’s attention. 

Once you tag the segment of inactive users, you can try re-engaging with a series of emails at regular intervals. In addition, you can try different subject lines and incentives to regain attention. 

Simple if-loops easily automate the series of emails. 

These will help with the filtering process as well. If a user needs to engage more times, you can eliminate them from your list. This will allow for a cleaner, more active subscriber list. 

RELATED: How to run a drip email campaign

#10. Pass the tissues – We’re making it emotional

Manufacturing an emotional reaction from your customer creates a relationship. So don’t bother with cold, dry, apathetic emails. Instead, build a good rapport with your audience, and inject humor and lightheartedness into your emails.

Remind them what your product has helped them achieve, the progress they made. Then, convince them to stay so they can take advantage of future opportunities. 

Brighten up their day, and add a smile to their face. Make it emotional, heartbreaking, to know that they’re leaving. It’s about adding a little drama. The drama is spicy, exciting and unforgettable. 

JetBlue shoes a white heart with a blue outline. Showing various stages of the relationship including hearts and a broken heart to signify where in the process the customer may be.

As long as you stay endearing, don’t be embarrassed to appear over-the-top and cringey. It doesn’t reflect poorly on your audience; it’s just amusing and different. Adorable puppies and sad little animations all help conjure up emotions and bring a bubbling sense of nostalgia to the surface. Leverage every emotional connection available. Why hold back?

Teespring welcomes readers to "Come back?" Pictured is a photograph of a yellow lab puppy.

#11. Let people opt out

Always off your subscriber an opt-out button. Make it noticeable. You want your audience to feel free of feeling obligated or trapped into staying subscribed. Give them a choice – but make the alternative to unsubscribing more appealing. 

Email from GoPro shows a snowboarder in a winter landscape. The text asks the subscriber if they are still on board?

Having inactive subscribers is detrimental to your business, so losing customers who genuinely aren’t interested in your products is not bad. You aren’t losing a customer; you are letting go of dead weight. Persistently nagging them isn’t going to get them interested. If anything, it will create a negative image of your brand. 

Before you hit send on your re-engagement email

Staying relevant and interesting to your audience matters so much. Let your audience catch a vibe. Focus on building a quality audience rather than chasing a vast, but unengaged and inactive email list. Remember you’re rebuilding a relationship with your customers, so deliver value.

You’ll only retain an audience if you make them love your story and the rapport you have created. A relationship based on trust and value is precious and irreplaceable and will gain people’s loyalty. 

You want an audience that sticks with you through the ups and downs of this rollercoaster. So, remember: quality over quantity. Build your audience instead of buying one, and never spam people to gain attention. 

A re-engagement campaign is your second shot at proving you are worth their time and attention. So make it worth their while. 

Image sources: Pinterest, Netflix, Grammarly

Author: Jeremy Noronha is a digital nomad who’s been traveling the world for the past six years. An SEO consultant and former Head of SEO at Foundr, he now enjoys writing about SEO, digital marketing and his thoughts in general on his site