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How to promote strategic engagement in your email program

What is strategic email engagement, and how can you use it to your advantage? Read more...



The word “engagement” can mean a lot of things. It may be a fancy word you use to spice up various dental and doctor’s appointments. It may mean you’re about to get married (hey, congratulations! Time to celebrate). 💍When it comes to email, however, “engagement” generally means one thing: how your recipients are responding to your messages. And you hope they’re not responding like Ron Swanson.

Strategic email engagement is pretty important—It’s a given that the major ISPs use some form of engagement filtering to gauge email deliverability and decide which messages land in their users’ inboxes. While ISPs use many different engagement tools and ‘signal’ catchers to figure out where to send each message, one of the largest factors in their decision is how your recipients are responding to your emails. Do they want them? Are they responding at all? To maximize your deliverability, you’ll want to ensure your messages are getting a good response, and that you’re taking advantage of that response. This is where strategic engagement comes in. How do you utilize strategic engagement with your customers? Let's take a look.  

What is strategic engagement?

Strategic engagement basically means minimizing the impact of non-engagers by sending them less email (or not sending them email at all), and maximizing the recipients that are evangelizing your campaigns or brand. For example, this may mean using sunset policies on non-engaged users, or signal boosters on more engaged ones (more on those below).

Strategic engagement is a great way to take advantage of ISPs’ engagement filtering. Engagement filtering, put simply, means that the more recipients engage with your email, the more your messages will find their way to the inbox, not the spam folder. With this context, a savvy email marketer can look to both maximize and minimize how their recipients are, or are not, engaging with their email.

Maintaining consistent engagement rates in your email program

With the reality that ISPs are tracking engagement as a major factor in predictable inboxing, it will always be necessary to ensure you are maintaining consistent engagement rates relative to your email volume. Increasing email volume without ensuring your open rates stay the same or rise means that you will experience a downturn in inboxing. By pruning non-engagers with sunset policies and signal boosting to your promoters, you will ensure that engagement rate stays even (or even goes up!) as you increase volume. 💪

Both sunsetting and signal boosting depend on segmenting your list and tracking open rates, click-throughs, and more to see which subscribers are actively engaged. If you’re not keeping track of your email rates, start now!

Ideal email rates vary for everyone, and understanding what is an ideal open rate for you depends on a number of factors including your industry, type of email, and your frequency of send

Apply sunset policies to your low engagers

A sunset policy is a necessity when dealing with non-engagers. What does a non-engager look like to you? Is it someone who has not engaged with your email in 30 days, or 60, or 90? You could think of this in terms of time (as in, they haven’t engaged with you in 30 days) or number of sends (as in, they haven’t engaged with the last five emails you sent). Regardless of the timeline, you should consider one of two courses of action: sunset the recipient (remove them from your list) or send a last-call re-engagement campaign.

Any “win-back” campaign should be considered as double opt-in. That means, if the recipient does not click a call to action to renew their subscription, then they should be removed from all subsequent email sending. The process of sunsetting non-engagers is to cut the dead weight from your recipient list that is driving down the engagement rate on your mail stream. Too much of this “dead weight” can negatively impact your sender reputation and ability to consistently deliver emails to the inbox.

Use signal boosting with your high engagers

On the flip-side of sunsetting, signal boosting can be leveraged to send engaging content to recipients that are already engaging with your brand or campaign. On a basic level, you are simply sending more email to recipients that have already engaged with your previous emails.

Think of this in the form of a triggered send: a recipient engages with your marketing email at the start of the day, and you send a triggered follow-up that incentivizes the call to action from that initial email. Or, instead, maybe that follow-up contains content similar to the initial email as a point of interest for the recipient.

It all comes down to your email list health

The ability to maximize or minimize the rate of engagement of your emails rests solely at the feet of a healthy email list. Concepts such as signal boosting are pointless if you do not have permission to send email to recipients, such as those from bought or rented lists.

At all points of adding someone to your list, you should firmly communicate the email content and frequency they can expect from you. You are establishing a relationship that will hopefully last a long time and should take care that the recipient understands what they are asking for. 👍

Additionally, you can utilize email validations to ensure the accuracy and viability of your mailing list data. This can prevent ISPs from trying to send your emails to an address that is either inaccurate or doesn't exist; another metric that can negatively impact your sender reputation with the ISP.

Wrapping up

So, now you should have an idea of how you can use different methods of strategic engagement to keep your email program healthy. You can even do it with us—with Mailgun, you can use our list management tools to ensure that your email program is positioned to strategically engage your consumers and drive stronger email relationships. Understanding how your recipients are engaging with your email lets you know when to establish controls and initiatives like sunsetting and signal boosting. Once you understand that major ISPs are always inboxing the messages of their end users based on engagement, you can take advantage of opportunities to position your email to fit their methods and your success. And that’s worth a celebration. 🎉

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