Adventures in Mobile Marketing

The Reminder Email: Does It Work?

Interesting post- worth the read- on MailChimp on how segmentation is helping, or hurting, the businesses that use their service for sending email. They did a broad study on the response rates of all of their customer’s campaigns that used segmentation, including logical filters using email readership behaviors, such as opens and reads. In the final paragraph, they reason most of the negative segmentation results are due to reminder emails:

Turns out the majority of users who had A.I.M. Reports [response filter] installed were not using it to send special emails to loyal subscribers (“segment based on those who opened my recent 3 campaigns”) but were using it to send follow-up campaigns to “those who did not open my last message.” This has been documented on email marketing sites as an extremely effective tactic to generate more bookings by hotels and event organizers (Marketingsherpa: Should You Re-Send Your Email Newsletter to Non-Openers?). But when you factor in how inherently inaccurate open rate tracking is, it’s understandable that some of these followup campaigns are perceived as pesky duplicates to some recipients.

Reminder emails are a common method of milking the most out of an offer. You didn’t buy it the first time around? We’ll send you three emails reminding you that the sale will end… OK it’s really going to end… You have one more day… OK we’re extending it another day… as you can see this becomes tiresome to the customer and, as MailChimp saw, despite having nice targeted segments of relevant customers, they end up unsubscribing.

What’s wrong with a reminder?
- Extensions undermine any future messaging or urgency, customer wise up to the fake deadlines
- Meaningless reminders end up being nagging- keep it to one or two
- No rationale as to why the customer is being targeted, they don’t know why, which leads them to conclude that it’s spam and untargeted, and they unsubscribe
- Over-re-cycled content sets a precedent for cheap, uninformative content

What can you do?
Write meaningful subject lines that inform the customer where they are in the series:
1) New Sale in X Days
2) Reminder: Sale ending
3) Final Reminder

Keep the reminders at a minimum- one or two, with a final check-in that is truly a final goodbye.

Let the customer know where they are in the series. Series can be very useful and have great results, but you have to let the customer know that you’re not mindlessly re-sending the list the same copy.

Make the segmentation transparent: You can say, “You didn’t open the last- here’s a reason to open this one,” use your segmentation logic in the subject line. eHarmony did this very well recently to me, with a note from the marketing director. It was a simple text email with a subject line, “You haven’t read our emails lately…”

Personally I’m not a fan of reminders, I think they’re lazy and increase unsubscriptions. I am a fan of series emails, albeit done well. It takes more work, but it’s very effective and improves the conversation between the customer and the marketer.

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Written on Wednesday, 10. September 2008 at 09:51 In the category campaigns, other_blogs, segmentation. Follow the comments via RSS here: RSS-Feed. Read the Comments. Trackbacks- Trackback on this post. Share on FriendFeed

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  1. Re: “I’m not a fan of reminders, I think they’re lazy and increase unsubscriptions” -

    I’m not a fan of the “blunt” reminder (saying “we know you didn’t open the last email…”).

    It’s too Big Brother-y, and makes too many poor assumptions (due to open rate limitations, plus the fact that not all emails must be clicked to be read/consumed/”engaged”/whatever your euphemism of choice may be). Plus, like you say, it just feels lazy.

    However, I think there’s room for reminders in a company’s email strategy. It just might help to not call them reminders per se since that evokes repetition of the same message over & over.

    Random example of how you might use reminders: email campaign promoting a conference.

    - First email gives an overview of the event, broad selling points. Positions itself as breaking news, early notice, advance registration opportunity, etc. Sender promises more details as they become available.

    - People who register (obviously) get put on a separate campaign

    - People who don’t take action get emails over time talking about individual speakers, firms, events, studies or other content related to the conference.

    - Once someone takes action on an email (say, opening/clicking on a link for a particular speaker) that subscriber no longer gets the reminders – s/he instead goes into a campaign dedicated to that speaker/firm/study/etc.

    To me, in this sense, each email is a “reminder” about the event, but with different content in each message (and the conference as a secondary focus) it has a far different feel to the subscriber than a “hey, why didn’t you open this last email about our conference?” type of reminder.

    What do you think – would you consider this to be a use of reminders? Or am I just talking about segmentation in general?

    Comment: Justin Premick – 10. September 2008 @ 10:45 am

  2. Justin, that’s just what MailChimp tested- those that didn’t act on the original email, getting a reminder. That’s when they saw a drop in the metrics. I think we both agree that a simple re-send to the unopened segment doesn’t do anything, and is actually detrimental. But re-sending with a new copy content, visibly different, and with a new message (not just a re-send) does do a lift and increases interactivity. To me, there’s a big difference between reminders and a well-thought out series email, a strategy of escalating engagement.

    Comment: banane – 10. September 2008 @ 11:07 am

  3. On a personal level, I hate reminders. It actually causes me to unsubscribe. I think a big culprit of this is vistaprint. I can’t explain how much email I delete from them (to shocked to unsubscribe, and I actually think they are getting BBB complaints from it). Interesting post.

    Comment: Justin Lavino – 11. September 2008 @ 5:16 pm

  4. [...] Reading: The Reminder Email Killing Off Inactive Subscribers Terminology: Transactional, Lifecycle, Event-Based, Trigger [...]

    Pingback: Adventures in Email Marketing » the Re-Send & Other Cost-Cutting Techniques | – 15. July 2009 @ 11:08 am

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