One Simple Email Tweak Which Revived 16% of Inactive Members (and why this matters)

In my new book, Build Your Community, I write a lot about the advanced engagement skills we need in the new era of community building.

Here’s a story that didn’t make the cut, but illustrates why understanding psychology at a more advanced level is so important for this new era.

I had a client which was sending automated emails to members when they had been inactive for over a year. The emails, written by another consultant, read:

Subject: We’ve missed you in [community]!

Hello, this is [name], the community manager of [community]

It’s now been a year since your last visit and we’ve missed you.

Why not come back and see what you’ve been missing?

You can login to your profile, ask questions, get help, and share your expertise.

All you need to do is click here.

If you have any questions, email me”

Before you continue, take a second and think about this email. Is it good or bad? Would it entice you to visit a community again or not?

The open rate of this email averaged around 11% and the reactivation rate varied between 0.6% and 0.9%.

Which meant less than 1 in 100 people who received this email clicked on it. It was a classic example of a good idea which was poorly executed.

I came up with a very different message. This message read:

Subject: [topic] questions

Hi [name],

I’m hoping you can help.

Is there anyone else you believe should be a member of [community] that isn’t today?

I’m looking for a couple of recommendations of people doing interesting work which other members would find useful. Anyone with interesting perspectives to share would be great.

Is there anyone you can recommend?

A huge thanks,

[name]
Community manager
Community

When I proposed this email, it was greeted with disgust (especially by the marketing team). The complaints included:

“The subject line is too vague!”

“Why would they give advice for a community they haven’t visited in a year?”

“It’s too blunt – almost rude!”

“It doesn’t include an obvious link to the site!”

But thanks to an internal champion [you know who you are], I was allowed to run a test for 3 weeks. During this 3 week window, the email was sent to 225 newly ‘long-term inactive’ members.

You can see the comparison below:

Clearly the latter message worked a lot better, but that’s not the point here.

The point is why it worked better. Because if you understand why the second message was so much more effective you can craft your own.

I spend a lot of time in Build Your Community explaining the principles of psychology you can use to increase engagement.

Here’s a quick breakdown of why the second email was so much more effective (and this isn’t the only time we’ve created far more persuasive emails like this).

1) A vague subject line provokes curiosity. Look at your subject lines you get from real people. They’re not laden with benefits. The fierce competition for attention means we’ve developed a natural filter against typical marketing spiel.

2) The utility principle. Reminding people they haven’t visited a community in a while is a really terrible idea. It simply reminds them they weren’t getting any value. But asking people with a simple, specific, request to help makes them feel useful (there are limits to this).

3) The commitment principle. When we’ve helped someone (or a project) we become more committed to its success. When people have recommended a friend especially, they become a lot more committed.

4) The link was linked to a purpose. We linked the url to the member directory so people could check if the people they planned to invite were already there. This re-engaged the audience and we found most people were naturally browning to find what’s new.

There’s nothing particularly staggering or technologically advanced in the revised email we sent out.

All it needed was a deeper understanding of what really motivates members and how to apply those principles effectively.

These are the skills we need today and these are the skills I’m sharing in my new book; I really hope you will consider buying it.

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