Passive Recipients: rescue emails

As we all should be doing now, there is a sign-up form on pretty much every page of our sites to collect just the email address and maybe the first name. We did this to make subscribing as easily as possible. Then down the line we might ask for more details in order to better profile our subscribers.
Over time some people just stop interacting with our emails, they stay on the list, we send them the emails they requested but we get nothing from them. You don’t want to just remove them from the list because they still might have money to spend.

Firstly we have to think about why they are not doing anything with our emails but have not opted out, there are a few reasons:

  • They marked an email as spam but their provider did not have a feedback loop so all future emails from our address go to junk but the there was no way for us to know to unsubscribe them.
  • They got a new really sensitive filter and/or safelister which is causing a false positive and we are not on their safelist/addressbook.
  • They did not give us their primary email address so we go to their second or third email address which they don’t ever really check but they need it in case they don’t trust a web-site or they need it as an login, eg: primary Gmail users will still have Yahoo so they can access places like Flickr etc.
  • They moved primary email address and did not see fit to tell us – eg: moved from Hotmail to Gmail

So we need to know if they are still interested but we need to get in front of them to find out without spamming! what do you do?
Personally if you can do it, get a second email address with a different domain to send from, take the passive recipients and send them one email asking them to confirm their subscription. We use a different domain because there is a chance that their inbox’s self learning filter will use your email address and sending domain to block emails.
The email’s call to action confirm subscription should be a link to click, which sends them a welcome message – preferably with reporting on opens and clicks, anyone who does not take action, remove them from the list, you are just wasting bandwidth and harming deliverability if you are going to junk.
Anyone who hits opt-out on this, ‘rescue campaign’ should be opted-out from everything so they do not get any other emails, apart from transactional emails, until they manually opt back in again from a sign-up form of clicking that link in the rescue email.

Also, the welcome message we send people when they sign-up should come from the same email address as the emails they are signing up for. This should make it as easy as possible for them to add you to their safelist straight away, that is assuming we are all asking people to do so!!
If you are uber permission and use double-opt-in (love your work) it is not always possible to send that email from the same address as the campaign emails, in this situation you should make sure that email address is in the content and you can ask them from there.

As long as the rescue email is brand compliant and you are up front and honest with why you are sending them the email and what you want to them to do, you should maintain the trust enough to get an honest answer and then have a clean list.

Part of this idea has come from common sense, empathy and experience.
Some of it came from the Spamhaus permission pass
I was triggered to blog this idea by an article from Cakemail on 27/08/2009 called Blacklists and Spam Reporting Services are our Friends.

I have considered this approach carefully from a spammy point of view and I know this is easily abused if only part of the process is followed, but please let me know if I have missed something and it is more spammy than I thought!- Cap.