I was talking with a client yesterday that had a common problem. They have a large database of email addresses that they have not used in more than a year (300,000) and were not sure how to use them now.
Their first thought was to simply blast out and see what happens. Obviously, we all know what would happen if they did this. Blacklists, Blocks, Spam Complaints, and who-knows-what damage to the reputation of the company.
A Better approach is to test (I mean TEST!) re-opting these people. This is simple and not too time consuming. It may cost a little more from your ESP, and you have to accept the inevitable that this list is going to shrink significantly anyway.
Just remember, the goal here is people who want to hear from you. The goal is never just how many emails you can send.
Saying that; there are three things to do to revive an old database.
1) Look for any other data you can get about these subscribers. Where did they come from? Did they ever actually opt-in? Are they customers? What did they buy? Anything that you can do to remind the subscriber of the past relationship will go a long way towards encouraging them to continue the relationship.
2) Make it very clear in the communication why you are emailing them now and what you would like them to do. “Dear Bob, I’m sending you this because you asked to receive our email offers when you ordered the GI Joe for Bobby last Christmas.” “We are finally getting our email program off the ground and it’s going to be fantastic….lost of great toy specials for Bobby and your other 5 kids.” Please indicate that you would still like to hear from us at Baggott-o-Toys.com by checking the appropriate box.”
3) Send tiny segments. Your ESP can help you here, but if you are following the rules of permission they can help you optimize the volume you send so that you can determine if you are triggering inordinate Spam complaints, bounces or any other deliverability problems before you have the wrath of the ISP’s down on you.
Bottom line is be smart. As I say till I’m blue in the face: this is not a one-time relationship. We are looking for those subscribers that are willing to last a lifetime.