Apr 26, 2007

Reclaim Old Customer Emails (example)

Update (6/5/14): In addition to the information below, we highly recommend you read this Knowledge Base article about reconfirming lists. We’re constantly refining our approach to compliance best practices, and the KB is regularly updated in that respect.

Q: "I have a list of 9,000 customer email addresses. I haven’t emailed them in a while, and now I’m ready to start sending them email newsletters. How can I do this without getting blacklisted, or angering my customers?"

A: Very carefully. If these recipients haven’t heard from you in a long time, chances are they already forgot opting in. Or, your emails just aren’t relevant to them anymore. And just because they bought something from you 5 years ago, it doesn’t mean they want to get email newsletters from you today. The chances are very high that they’ll click that nasty "this is spam" button in their email program. If only a handful of recipients click that button, some ISPs will start blocking all future emails from your company.

So you’ve got to be extremely careful. Here’s some advice we gave someone yesterday, who asked us this very question:

  1. Send a "Re-introduction" campaign. The tone of the email is the most important factor here. Think more "Letter from the president" than "Boy, have we got an offer for you!!!!"
  2. In that email, try to remind them how you got their contact information. If they’ve purchased something from your site, or if they’ve opted in, put that in your message. Got an order ID? Name of the product they bought? Mail-merge it in.
  3. Give an incentive to stay opted-in. If I did business with you years ago, why would i want to do business with you again?
  4. Send the re-introduction campaign to very small chunks of your list. Don’t just blast one message to 9,000 people. Break it into smaller lists of 1,000 or 2,000. And why not spread it out over several days? That way, you can watch for abuse complaints, and tweak content for maximum effectiveness.

So check this out.

This morning, I received an email (out of the blue) from Modern Postcard. I haven’t heard from them in years. How’d they do it?

Waaaaaay back when we started MailChimp in 2001, I made postcards (the paper
kind), and mailed them out (the snail-mail kind, not email) to a list of
creative directors and ad agencies that I purchased from D&B
Online. I did it all through ModernPostcard’s website. I think I sent 250 pieces or so,
and got about 3 customers out of it. One of those customers has been with us for
years, and has more than paid for that campaign, so I was pleased.

Overall, it was pretty nice using Modern Postcard. Well worth it.

But I haven’t printed anymore postcards, or heard anything else from them since then.

I think their "Re-introduction" email does a perfect job (click to zoom in):


reintroduction email example


Keep in mind it’s early morning, I’ve got my giant coffee mug in my left hand, and I’m using my right hand to click on emails in my inbox and mark them as spam. It’s like this every morning: spam, spam, spam, spam, save for later. spam, spam, spam, spam, save for later.

Here’s what convinced me to open Modern Postcard’s email:

The From ("Sender") field: They put their company name in it. I remember using them, so I know it’s not a stranger.

The Subject line: It’s not overly spammy, and it also has their company name in it.


Here’s what convinced me to sign up, and not just delete it forever:

It’s not bright and jazzy and slick (overly sales-y). And coming from a postcard printing company, you know it must have been hard for them to hold back on that. They knew that this should be more "letter from the president" than anything else. I have no idea if Blake Miller is actually their president, but this email sure looks like it. This is more polite, and it makes me feel like they know what they’re doing, and they’re not just going to send me tons of crap every other day (I hope).

Incentive to stay: I’ll get a free PDF if I sign up. Hey, I’m a sucker for PDFs.

Would love to hear from Modern Postcard on how much of their list they actually retained after this campaign. When we’ve done this for clients in the past, we’ve seen their lists get reduced by about 50%.

Just in case you’re curious, here’s a screenshot of the landing page (if you click the "sign up" link):


I think the checkboxes are a nice touch.

First of all, they’re not pre-checked. If they were, I would have left the page immediately out of disgust (or at least rolled my eyes in disdain). Second of all, checkboxes make people stop and read. And when I read what they were offering, I liked what I saw.