Reactivating Your Database – Key Steps to Getting Your Leads to Re-engage


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Marketers typically spend the largest chunk of their budgets on lead generation, in order to find potential customers. These names are often fast-tracked over to sales, and then tossed back to marketing if they are not yet ready to purchase. Marketing then continues the conversation with them via email marketing or lead nurturing– waiting for them to respond.

Unfortunately, these sends may become ordinary and expected. The recipient learns that these emails come daily/weekly/monthly and can be bypassed without penalty. It’s not that the content is necessarily boring or unneeded; it may simply be that the recipient is busy and believes this communication can be saved for later or that they can wait until the next one is received. Ultimately, this can lead to a recipient going cold.

First, I want to make sure it is clear that an unopened email is NOT the same as sending no email. Every week I get emails that I never open, but that I’m happy I receive because I do believe I will get to checking out the content at some point. Also, it reminds me of the company. There are dozens of times when I saw an email from a company that although I never opened the correspondence, it triggered me to go to their website or email their sales rep. I might be considered unengaged to the company, but being in their database is still creating return for the organization.

This is not to say that an engaged lead isn’t more likely to become a customer than one who isn’t. That’s why you want to ensure that you keep your database engaged. The key to re-engaging leads that have gone quiet in your database is to grab their attention, and then keep it. This may sound simple or obvious, but definitely takes some testing and skill to get right.

First, to awaken these leads you need to find an offer that will get their attention even though they may have already ‘mentally opted-out’ of your communications. You can try to do this a number of ways, but I suggest a combination of the following:

Timing – mix up when you send your communications. If you always send emails on Tuesday mornings, try sending on a Saturday afternoon or Wednesday night. Receiving the email at a different time may make the recipient realize something has changed or is different and may cause them to open.

  • Note- if doing lead nurturing your recipients may receive your communications at that same time each week and you may not even know it (because you’re not hitting the send button). If you’re not sure, just look at some of the leads in your database and check out when they are receiving communications from you.

Segmentation and Relevancy– Every week I receive an email from a travel site with the title of some far away destination in the subject line. Unless I’m going to that place (which is unlikely), I never open the email. Recently they sent an email with trips that were close to my location. This caused me to open and subsequently spend about 30 minutes on their website. They created this re-engagement by segmenting their database and sending something to me that was more relevant.

  • Tip: You can segment in lots of ways including location, size of company, and industry, but also consider segmenting by types of content they have read before, events they may have traveled to or even social networks they use.

Offer – When re-engaging, the offer probably shouldn’t be to drive them to purchase now, but instead something that will just get their attention and create an engagement. Some examples of offers for re-engagement are games, contests, sweepstakes, free gifts, quick polls/surveys, charity related offers (answer this question and we’ll donate $X).

Medium – Maybe you send your emails each week as part of a newsletter, or send out a monthly online magazine. Try switching this up to see if some readers prefer a different style of content.

Subject– This is probably the most important place to pay attention, since if they never open the email it’s hard for them to see what you’ve created for them inside. (Be careful though, you then must deliver on the subject line once they open.) Here are some different approaches you can take (though there are many ideas not listed here):

  • A subject line explaining something has changed. Examples:
    • If you open one email from us it should be this one because X
    • We’re trying a different approach about X
    • We haven’t heard from you so we’re saying goodbye
  • Unexpected Subjects – Subject lines that cause you to need to dig deeper to understand their context. Examples:
    • Can you help me?
    • What time can we meet?
    • Did you see the results we presented to your boss?
  • Using segmentation or relevance (as discussed above).
  • Naming someone else who is engaging with the content. Example: Did you know Jon from your company read X

Sender Name–You may also want to change the name of the sender in the email. For example, if your emails always comes from one sales rep, try switching the rep or sending from your company name. This will let the reader know something different is happening.

Now that you have created an email that has reengaged a portion of your database, a part of your work is done. Now you need to keep their attention. This is often done by keeping up with what you changed (like sending at the new time or continuing to send well segmented messages). This may also be done by having a strong lead nurturing program. Additionally, make sure you include limited time only, high value offers throughout your emails to ensure the reader stays engaged. This means sprinkling your thought leadership and promotional emails with offers like the ones I mentioned above (quizzes, contests, discounts, giveaways, and sweepstakes). This will ensure that the reader keeps opening to see if anything they find high value is mixed in with your content. At Marketo we do this by utilizing our social engagement functionality (polling, Groupon type offers, quizzes) in with our regular nurturing.

The final step is to get some credit for your hard work. When reporting, make sure to not only include results from leads you’ve sourced, but also about those you’ve reengaged. This will ensure the company knows the benefit of your efforts, and shows how you are increasing marketing ROI by making more out of previous investments.

Let me know if you have additional ideas for reengaging leads.

Happy Marketing!


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