How to Re-Engage Past Email Unsubscribers Without Violating the Law

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How to Re-Engage Past Email Unsubscribers Without Violating the Law

November 30, 2018 by

As marketers, we all rely heavily on email. It remains a key channel for communicating with prospects and customers. Given its importance, most marketers view each email address they acquire as quite valuable. But what do you do with unsubscribed and bounced email addresses? Once someone has unsubscribed or their email address fails to deliver, you are limited in your options of how to to continue to communicate with the person.

Typically, there isn’t much you can or should do with unsubscribed email addresses outside of tracking them in order to honor their wishes. Someone who has unsubscribed from your emails has indicated that she no longer wants to hear from you, and CAN-SPAM and GDPR regulations forbid you from further outbound email communications with that individual. However, it’s possible that someone who wasn’t interested in your company’s emails in the past may become interested again in the future. But since she has already unsubscribed, you can’t email her...quite a quandary, huh?

So what can you do? First, you need to be able to identify when someone is on your site who 1) signed up to receive your emails at some point in the past but has since unsubscribed (or whose email address is no longer valid) and 2) is potentially interested in receiving your communications again. Only when you can correctly identify site visitors that match these criteria can you deliver appropriate and relevant email signup calls-to-action (CTAs) when they’re back on your site. I’ll explain what that looks like in this blog post.  

Identifying Unsubscribed or Bounced but Interested Visitors

Identifying a person with an unsubscribed or bounced email address that may be interested in your emails again can be accomplished by bringing your personalization solution and email service provider or marketing automation platform (ESP/MAP) together. First, you want to make sure your personalization solution is tracking form submissions on your website. That way you’ll have a record of those individuals who have given you their email addresses in the past. Each of these records should be tied to a cookie enabling you to identify those people whenever they return to your website.

Meanwhile, your ESP/MAP contains a record of which of your visitors have unsubscribed or have provided email addresses that bounce. If you pass data from your ESP/MAP to your personalization solution, you’ll have the ability to identify when unsubscribers are on your site.

Next, you want to use your personalization solution to identify when a person’s behavior indicates a renewed interest in your company. For example, a B2B marketer may have researched your technology solution in the past and subscribed to your emails, but when circumstances within her company changed, she was no longer interested in hearing from you so she unsubscribed. In the future, though, she might demonstrate that she is interested in hearing from you again if she visits your website several times and spends considerable time researching certain topics.

Or, a consumer may have unsubscribed from a retailer’s communications several years ago, but over time he might begin to shop at that retailer again. At this point, he could benefit from the retailer’s emails again. (Flash sale retailer Rue La La explained how it recaptured unsubscribers in this on-demand webinar).

Delivering Appropriately Timed Calls-to-Action

Once you have used the data from your personalization solution and ESP/MAP to identify potentially interested unsubscribers, you can deliver a relevant message on your site – in the moment – asking if they’re interested in signing up again to receive email communications. It’s important to make sure that the message doesn’t come across as spammy — that it’s accurately timed when a person would likely be interested in re-subscribing. It would also be a good idea to outline a few of the details or benefits of subscribing to your emails (such as the type of content they can expect and the cadence of the emails) to entice them.

Final Thoughts

You cannot email someone who’s opted out of your email communications or whose email address is no longer valid. But when an unsubscribed or bounced email recipient has returned to your site and is showing renewed interest, you have a unique opportunity to re-engage that individual with appropriately timed and targeted messaging to prompt a re-subscription. Take advantage of this chance to communicate with those that have been lost and are now showing interest again!

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