Bringing Back Un-loyal Customers Through Email Marketing

emailFrom Karon: It’s a rare occasion when I allow a guest to post to the Marketing Words blog. Truthfully, most people who ask simply don’t have anything original to say. I am pleased, however, to say that marketing/user experience expert Holly Cordner is the exception. Pay attention folks. Holly can help you get your email subscribers active again. Take it away Holly!

We all have customers who’ve become “un-loyal” for one reason or another. Perhaps they used to subscribe to your service but have let their subscription lapse in recent months. Maybe they made several purchases from your website in the past but now need to be reminded about how great your products are. Or it could be that they signed up for a free or reduced-price trial and canceled soon after it ended.

The Problem of Non-Responders

Studies have found that as many as 60-70% of the subscribers on a company’s email list are not active. In addition to the obvious problem of lost revenue, “un-loyal” customers aren’t buying and, therefore, aren’t contributing anything to your business’s bottom line. There are a few more issues with having unresponsive people on your email list than you may have realized.

Consider the following:

1. Loss of focus – You may be wasting time and energy sending messages that customers aren’t interested in.

2. Lack of clear metrics – You can’t make intelligent decisions about how to improve your email campaigns when open rates and click-thru numbers are obscured by large numbers of non-responses. Think about it: when you have tens of thousands of email subscribers, a difference of a few hundred “opens” doesn’t seem like much, but when you recapture or trim the un-engaged from your list, that few hundred opens may be a huge difference in response percentage.

3. Diminished ROI – These two problems may lead to an ineffective and wasteful email campaign, and you may not even know it.

Cutting “un-loyal” customers from your list is one way to solve these issues, but it still doesn’t address the fact that these customers were once invested in your business. They knew and liked your products and services and may have been spending money with you.

Because of that, it’s a good idea to try to recapture as many of them as you can before cutting them loose. Many are not gone forever. They’re as good as gold—they just need a push to come back, and that’s where your reclamation email campaign should come in.

email marketing

Steps to Win Un-loyal Customers Back

1. Don’t send the same message to everyone – Use data to segment your customers. What did they purchase? Why and when did they stop responding? What’s your previous communication been like with them? Have they ever used discounts, and if so, which ones?

Use this data to segment your list—you can be as granular as you wish—and send the right recapture message to the right customer. Don’t send them newsletters if what they really need is a product primer, and don’t send them coupons when what they’ll respond to is a request to contribute.

2. Take advantage of the power of discounts and add-ons – Customers often leave because of price. Recapture their business by making it easier for them to open their wallets. Feature a discount or add-on prominently in your subject line, and make it clear that this is an exclusive offer.

An example of a company that does this well is Bed, Bath & Beyond. Take a look at this email that they sent to me recently:


The email does a good job of featuring the part I care about most: getting the coupon. The call to action (“Click to Get Offer”) stands out in a red font, with an accompanying arrow. The unambiguous subject line also makes clear what awaits me inside: “Your 20% in-store offer is here!”

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I understand that I will also receive weekly articles & videos plus periodic discounts, product notices & more. I can unsubscribe at any time.

3. Remind customers about what makes you stand out – Sometimes customers stray because life gets busy and they forget to purchase. Remind them about what they’re missing by listing all your best features—what makes you different from the competition, and what they’ll get if they come back to you. You may also want to highlight recent improvements in service or price drops. In other words, give them a reason to come back and check you out again. Take a look at this email from a local pizza chain:


They offer a free salad with a pizza purchase and describe its deliciousness: crispy lettuce, great dressing, etc. They also include my loyalty account balance directly in the email, which is a nice touch. This reminds customers how close they are to earning loyalty rewards and could encourage them to spend more.

4. Use past purchases – Suggest similar or complimentary items or suggest refills of a product they may be out of. You can also ask for product reviews, and consider throwing in an incentive if they follow through.

5. Ask for increased involvement – Asking for product reviews is one way to increase customer participation with your brand. Other ways include inviting them to follow you on social media, provide feedback on Yelp and other review sites, create content to be featured on your site, provide ideas for product improvements, and more. This is a good way to get customers re-invested in your brand if they’ve been away from it for a while and helps encourage positive word-of-mouth relationships. A company that does this well is Sephora. Check out this email:


In addition to asking for a review, they invite subscribe to use their internal “pinning” application to share and shop for similar products.

6. Send out an educational email – Think “infographic.” Teach your customers something that may or may not be directly related to your business or your products. An example may be a recipe, a look at winter’s upcoming fashions, or, tying in with the last point, an instructional video about how to get the most out of one of their previously-purchased products. Keep these emails visual and on the short side, but be sure to deliver on the promise of the subject line.

7. Ask customers to update their preferences – Ask them what they’re getting out of your emails. Maybe they’re coming too often or maybe you’re not sending them the right kind. Ask them what they want in emails from you, and yes, don’t be afraid to give them a chance to reduce the number of emails they receive or completely unsubscribe. Many customers will realize that they don’t want to lose access to the deals and information you provide, and, as a bonus, they may tell you more about what they’d like to see so that you can actually send them relevant information.

In addition, this tactic serves to help you cull your list, if needed. If there are any non-responders, consider cutting them from your email list.

8. Try, try again – Don’t give up if you don’t hear back from un-loyal customers on your first try. Reevaluate your strategy, if needed, and keep sending a variety of targeted emails.

Do your best to keep them engaged from here on out – Don’t let your customers wander off. Try to keep them engaged by learning what they like and sending them emails that fit them. In addition, you should automate messages to go out to customers at planned latency intervals. If you haven’t had any interaction from a customer in 90 days, for example, use one of the above tactics and try to get that person active again.

What reclamation tactics have you used successfully? Share below in the comments.

Holly Cordner is a marketing and user experience guru living in Salt Lake City. She works for CityGro, a leader in loyalty marketing solutions. Her first love is technology, with tofu coming in a close second.

Have questions about email marketing? Talk to me below!

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