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How to resurrect a zombie list without getting killed in the process

zombie list

You can bring a zombie list back to life. But you’d better do it the smart way.

I’m a big believer in the “start where you are, use what you have, do what you can” motto. And if you’ve been an email marketer for any time, I can guarantee you’ve got a zombie list. You know, a “dead” file that just sits there taking up space in your contacts, but doesn’t actually do anything.

There’s a way to bring that dead list back to life. 

Even better, there’s a way to resurrect it without getting killed in the process.

In fact, we touched on it briefly when we talked about why you need to scrub your list

But now, I want to circle back and talk about the right way to do it that will help you avoid all of the potential fallout. 

Done right, a past “zombie” could become a future highly engaged reader who can’t wait to scoop up your next hot offer.

Identifying the Zombies

The beautiful thing about reanimating a dead list is that we’ve all got one. You don’t have to buy anything, do any lead gen, or anything else. You’ve got what you need right now. 

If anything, all you really need to do is to “tag” those contacts as part of your zombie list so you can set up a targeted re-engagement campaign to get the job done. 

You can safely assume that any contact that hasn’t opened or engaged with your content in the last 45 days is dead in the water. If you send emails out daily or multiple times a day, you could tighten that window up to 30 days. 

But if you’ve been in trouble with any major inboxes, you might want to tighten that up further and segment out anyone who hasn’t engaged with your sends in the last 15+ days. 

The point here is that you have options, and you get to call the shots. Once you decide on the cut-off that makes a contact dead, find them, tag them and go on to the next step. 

For more tips on segmenting based on engagement, check out Why Engagement Segmentation is Critical To Your Email Deliverability.

Create A Campaign To Bring Them Back To Life

It’s okay to let your unengaged contacts know that you know that they’ve tuned out from your sends. In fact, it’s encouraged. A re-engagement campaign will let you give them a little nudge, remind them why they signed up for your content in the first place, and then incentivize them to open and click and get back onto your engaged file. 

Zombies crave brains. Zombie list members crave something else – content that will grab their brain’s attention. Creating content for your zombie list is a chance to get creative and try things you wouldn’t typically feel brave enough to do in a “regular” send. 

A Delicious Subject Line

Your re-engagement campaign can’t really get to work if no one opens the first send in the drip. So, a sexy subject line is essential. If you have first names for your subscribers, this is a great time to add an element of personalization into the mix. Emojis can also up the curiosity factor and make opening a little more irresistible. 

This is also a great time to embrace a little controversy or something with a little more sizzle than your typical email blast would offer. 

Be sure to frequently test different subject lines for this campaign, always looking for another opportunity to beat your control. 

Set Your Engagement Bait

Depending on how you set up your segments, just opening the campaign may be enough to get a zombie list member back into the fold of engaged readers. But why settle for the bare minimum when you can go for the click?

Sure, we all want openers, but we really need is for people to click on our content and offers.

Foster the future behavior you want by encouraging clicks as soon as that zombie reader has come back to life. 

There are a number of ways to do this:

  • Use a poll to find out what kind of content they want and expect from you
  • Tease them with previews of some of your most recent hot content that your engaged readers couldn’t get enough of
  • Offer a discount or promotional code for your hottest offer
  • Give them no-cost access to a front end product (even if it’s just for a limited time)
  • Encourage them to enter a contest you’re running (or start one if there isn’t one already)
  • Incentivize them with a free download or report

If you put your thinking cap on, I’m sure you can come up with a few more all on your own. 

The one thing you’ll want to avoid is making your re-engagement campaign too offer-heavy. I’m not saying you can’t go for a sale or two. Just don’t make it “in your face” or your primary objective.

The primary objective here is to get dead contacts brought back to life.

Pull the Trigger

The easiest way to make a zombie list wake up and tear your face off is by sending your campaign out as a blast. 

Unless you want to wind up in even bigger trouble with the biggest email services, avoid doing that at all costs. 

Instead, you want to deploy your campaign using triggered sends. 

Triggered sends get graded on a curve, meaning that Gmail and other email services cut triggered sends more slack than they will a blast. 

It doesn’t hurt that triggered sends will result in 8 times more opens and greater earnings than typical bulk emails.

And while a triggered send is great, I know about something even better. 

You can deploy Inbox Mailers triggered sends to increase your ratio of highly engaged readers. First, ISPs score triggered workflows higher than they do large bulk blasts. But Inbox Mailers takes that a step further by triggering those sends not just from opens of your messages, but based on opens across a vast network of senders. That means your sends don’t just look for an open in your universe but can see when readers are in their inbox reading a message from other active mailers and deliver your send based on engagement you’d never see without Inbox Mailers. 

This is the single best way to rehab a low reputation and simultaneously build a good reputation with the ISPs that matter most. 

If you’re not already using Inbox Mailers, you can find out how that behind-the-scene magic works (and increase open rates to 50-70%) by getting your hands on this

Don’t Just Set It And Forget It

Just doing your own triggered send, open rates should be around the industry average of about 28%. If you’re doing your triggered send via Inbox Mailers, you should be upwards of 35% open rates. 

If you aren’t meeting either of those benchmarks, test out new subject lines (and be sure to test them out here) until you can raise the bar. 

While you’re at it, keep your eye on your unsubscribes and complaints, too. A higher-than-usual unsubscribe rate isn’t that big of a deal, especially since you’ll likely scrub a lot of the folks who don’t open and engage with this email drip anyhow. 

But if you see an astronomical increase in complaints, that can spell trouble for your email reputation. Make sure that you give your zombie readers the option to unsubscribe, not only in the tiny print at the beginning and/or end of your email, but right there in the body copy as well.

Giving readers a choice in the matter should keep your complaints under control. 

You won’t just use this re-engagement campaign once. You’ll use it over and over again. So make sure you get in there regularly and keep things fresh and up to date.

Otherwise, all of those zombies will never come back to life. 

The Knowledge Base

Facts & Stats

  • In 70% of cases if the message doesn’t display correctly, it’s likely to be deleted within 3 seconds
  • Two-thirds of surveyed people claim that they prefer emails consisting mostly of images.
  • Research shows that it’s best to keep the text-to-image ratio in emails at 4:1

Today’s Hack

Transparency Alert!!!

Last week, you might have missed your edition of Inbox Hacking. That’s because I got sidetracked in the proofing process and didn’t realize that the wrong “from” address had slipped into my template. As the cliche says, “Haste makes waste.” Today’s hack is to add just an extra five minutes to your typical proofing process. Don’t get distracted by Slack, your inbox, reading the news, or anything else that could make you make a similar mistake on your next send. 

It happens to all of us every once in a while, but make the extra effort to make sure that you’re putting your best foot forward before you send or schedule!