Sometimes relationships end, and relationships between subscribers and senders is no different. 

So what do you do?  A “Win Back” campaign?  Sure, give it a try, but know when to say enough is enough lest you become an Email Relationship Stalker. 

A definition of stalking from Webster.com is “to pursue obsessively and to the point of harassment”.  According to End Stalking In America, Inc., “Almost all stalkers have some type of mental or emotional problem”.  Signs of Simple Obsession Stalkers include the victim attempting “to call off the relationship but the stalker simply refuses to accept it”, and while “reconciliation is the goal, this stalker believes they must have a specific person back”.

Let’s face it, you need to know when to let go. 

The last thing that you want to do is burn a bad memory of your organization into the mind of someone that you’ve harassed – they’ve seen your information and offers and are not interested.  Let them go and if they left satisfied they may be back the next time that they need or want what you offer. 

Or maybe they’ll tell a friend of the good experience that they had with you.  (Our friends, Jo and Dee should get a commission from the money that I’ve spent with Garhauer Marine).  And likewise, piss your subscribers off and you’ll chase them away, and they’ll be sure to tell their friends that, too.

Maybe the relationship between the sender and subscriber has gotten old and you notice that one or both of you have little time for the other.  It could be that you’re too busy creating your next big email program, or maybe sitting in a meeting trying to explain why re-trying hard bounces is a bad idea.  And maybe the subscriber has found something else that they’re interested in, or is maybe feeling neglected and tired of hearing what’s in it for you instead of what’s in it for them.

You must periodically evaluate the relationship to determine if you are fulfilling both you and your subscribers needs. If not, it may be time to take a temporary or permanent break from each other.

There is no set pattern for how much or little a “couple” should spend time together.  Every subscriber is different.  That’s why you have to measure and test and develop effective persona’s that repeat or maintain program success.  Learn from your past relationships.  Some inactive subscribers you might be able to dust off with a Win Back program, but if they don’t respond then let them go.

As I commented to “Are You OK With Breaking Up?” over on The Email Wars blog;

It’s okay to let go, even when it’s not your choice.

If you had 500,000 email records and 10% spurn your affections; when you can learn to let go of that 10% your 20% conversion rate magically increases to 22.5%

Do a little exercise. Trim some fat of spending time and money on dates that aren’t interested any more (and don’t be a stalker) while toning the muscle of your conversion rates, and you may end up in a good relationship with management….

See, breaking up isn’t always so bad.  It just depends on how you measure and what you measure. 

If you’re using an ESP you’re paying for each message sent.  Taking the example above on a $5 CPM, while that 10% of your list that ignores you only costs $250 to deploy, in addition to increasing your conversion rate from 20% to 22.5%, you also saved an additional $250 on that deployment by not emailing people that have turned you off. 

What kind of impact does your Win Back program have on spam complaints?  Is this a high-complaint yielding program?  What is the impact of adding spam complaints to your deliverability?  Let’s say that your subscriber base is 25% Yahoo and you average a 90% deliverability; what impact would a decrease in deliverability to 80% have on your overall conversion rates?

I’m obviously not getting into the “what you should say and how you should say it” aspect of a Win Back program; just some of the considerations that should be made before jumping in just because someone said, or “studies show”, or “I read that….”  Just because something performs for somebody else doesn’t mean that it will perform for you.

As an example, let’s take a dating site – it fits the theme….  What do you think that the Subscriber Relationship Cycle is for a dating site?  Match.com advertises that if you don’t find someone special in 6 months, they’ll give you an additional 6 months free.  The success of a dating site is matching couples within a reasonable amount of time. 

What kind of a Win Back program are you going to develop for someone that hasn’t responded to a message in, say, 6 to 9 months?  Are you gambling that your dating site wasn’t successful for them and that they should try it again, or are you possibly intruding on a budding relationship that began and might have been an example of your site’s success at matching couples?

What about a floral site?  Maybe I only buy flowers for Mother’s Day and my anniversary.  Let’s say that I even have reminders set up to let me know to start shopping in advance instead of same-day (which is really hard for me since my anniversary is Valentine’s Day).  I can go 9 months without ordering flowers, but will always be back for the same special occasions.  How are you going to win me back if I never left? 

“But John, you have to consider the ‘data’.”

Huh, ya think?  You mean that there isn’t just one-size-fits-all?

There’s a lot of room between trying too hard and not trying at all.  You have to determine what is going to work best for you through pilot and test programs.  Don’t just say, “let’s do this” and start mailing – fire, aim, ready – to all of your non-responders.  As you develop these programs, and make improvements to your existing programs, you might just find that you’re developing longer and better relationships with your subscribers. 

But when the time comes that the relationship is over accept it and try to part as friends.  Mention your good wishes for the subscriber, and your hope that they will think of you the next time they need something that you provide, and maybe even tell a friend.

So what is your Win Back program going to consist of, or will you even have one after all of the considerations?  What data will you be measuring, and how do you intend to act on that data?  And will you be able to let go of those subscribers that just aren’t interested any more, or will you become a stalker?