05.17.20175 min read

5 Ways to Revive a Dead Email Marketing List

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word zombie? If it’s not "The Walking Dead," but the state of your email list, you’re not alone.

Many companies have placed a sign-up box on their website, written a compelling lead gen project, and collected email addresses. Yet life and business get in the way, and one day you realize you have a growing, but inactive, list. Or perhaps you’re regularly sending emails, but engagement—in the form of clicks, opens, and other actions—is low. Not a good ROI on your time.

Entrepreneur reported there is a potential return of $44 for every $1 invested in email marketing—you can’t afford not to invest in reviving your list. Here’s how to bring it back to life:

Are you still with me?

Your first step is to ensure that you’re working with a list of email subscribers who want your messages. It’s easier to drive conversions and engagement with customers who are excited to be in your ecosystem. Send a re-engagement email that takes one of the following approaches:

  • Asks people who have opened your email in the last six months to click a link and confirm they still want to be on your list
  • Gives list members different subscription options, such as receiving every email or signing up for a digest
  • Confirming that their email address is still current and that they don’t want to update their email preferences
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Evaluate cause of death

Your subscribers were probably not dead on arrival. As the list owner, it’s imperative that you evaluate what’s causing the drop-off in interest so it can be fixed. Some common causes include:

  • Silence: You left them hungry for content by not engaging
  • All sell but no value: You sent out nothing but promotional emails and didn’t create value for your audience
  • Missing the mark: Your content didn’t resonate with your audience
  • Overwhelm: Your subscribers get too many messages and yours didn’t stand out

Tell me what you want, what you really, really want

Whether you missed the mark during your Email Campaign 1.0 or you’re re-engaging after a long absence, it’s important to understand what your audience does want. Ask them. Send an email asking your subscribers why they signed up and what kinds of information, content, and insights you can offer that will make them stick around. If you want to test specific hypotheses, use a survey. Offer personalized consultations to 10 people for 15 minutes if they’ll let you interview them for five minutes. Conduct research on what your audience wants and what your competitors aren’t providing to find the sweet spot for your message and content. Take a data-driven approach to relaunching your list to ensure you’re on the right track.

Host a re-engagement event

If you’re going to reconnect with your list or relaunch the way you engage, make it an event. What can you do that delivers massive value and immediately reminds subscribers why it’s good to be in your orbit? A few options include:

  • Invite subscribers to a Facebook Live event or webinar where you provide exclusive training or answer questions. Send out the recording.
  • Develop a detailed giveaway, such as a white paper or e-book. Include really valuable material like interviews, templates, or original data that will get readers excited.
  • Create a multi-part course and use it to nurture your list over the course of a few weeks. Each part of the course can be an email that explores a different element of your business or expertise.

Go all out. Don’t hold back. Make your re-engagement offer so interesting and so exciting that it acts as an effective defibrillator to your entire list.

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Use the tailwind to drive a long-term campaign

Once you’ve set off a flashbang event that grabs people’s attention, it’s important not to let them down again. Decide what you can reasonably commit to, and then establish that as the basis of your newsletter. Will you send content daily, weekly, or monthly? Under commit and over deliver if possible. Use your intel on what subscribers really want, and come up with a schedule of content that’s laser targeted to your audience. Interview your most interesting connections.

Write long-form high-value content your readers will love. Experiment with video. Curate the best information in your industry. Offer subscribers exclusive discounts. Deliver value again and again on a regular schedule until your readers look forward to receiving your emails.

If your email list is currently without a pulse, don’t waste another minute. Assess what’s gone wrong, engage, find out how you can provide value, and then be relentless in your pursuit of building (or re-building) these critical customer relationships. Engaging smartly with your email list could develop into a highly profitable customer channel in the year ahead.

The Small Business Guide to Growing a Big Email List - Get Now

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