When subscribers play possum

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  • Updated 3 years ago
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According to Wikipedia, thanatosis is "the process by which an animal feigns death in order to evade unwelcome attention." We usually call it "playing possum." Playing dead isn't just a trick of the animal kingdom, though. We humans have our own way of playing possum. In fact, when a sender overwhelms their subscribers via email, they can notice some pretty similar behavior.

When subscribers play possum in the world of email, we call those folks the "chronically unengaged." These folks, who never open or click email from a sender, do more than just take up space on a list -- they can actually make it harder for a sender to continue getting their email in front of those folks who are engaged and want their email. This is because inbox providers, like Gmail, are increasingly determining a sender's inbox placement based on more than just spam complaints. They are now looking at the open rates and clicks that a sender generates as a sign of wanted vs. unwanted email.

So, how does a sender prevent this from becoming an issue in the first place?

There are a few simple things that a sender can do to help them build an engaged list and prevent excessive amounts of chronically unengaged subscribers. Just like our friend the possum, subscribers tend to play dead when they are overwhelmed by email marketing. Often times, this stems from a sender inserting their subscribers into their marketing efforts without setting the proper expectations of the subscriber or without much context. If you are struggling with lower open rates than you expect, or simply want to know how you might improve your delivery results, here are some things I suggest:

  1. Create a welcome series that new subscribers will begin receiving soon after they sign up. In that series, reinforce why they signed up, what they can expect from you, and how often they should expect to hear from you. Setting proper expectations makes a world of difference in creating and maintaining engaged subscribers.
  2. Make sure that the collection point for the addresses is as clear as possible as to what folks are signing up to receive and from whom they are signing up to hear. 
  3. Collect data other than just the email address and name of subscribers. Then, use that data to send targeted messages to segments of your list. Sending folks more targeted appeals and information will go a long way toward keeping them opening and clicking. Send your subscribers what they want!
  4. Don't over send. Your subscribers' inboxes are full of offers of all types. Find a sending schedule that keeps your brand in front of subscribers but doesn't make them feel like they are being blasted over and over with the same offers. 
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Will Boyd, Official Rep

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Posted 3 years ago

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