When One Email Isn't Enough

Although many email marketers are concerned about sending too much email, the simple truth is that one email message often isn't enough to persuade people to take the actions you want.

Sometimes, consumers just need to be reminded about the subscription that's expiring or the software they downloaded but haven't tested yet.

Besides reminders, a series of related emails can help you build engagement with a new customer, move a prospect onto the right track or nudge a good lead closer to a buying decision.

Below are four approaches that use automated messages to prompt your customers into acting:

1. Resend the original message. Emails get lost or overlooked all the time. Or, customers just aren't ready to act when your message arrives.

Try resending the original offer one to two days or a week later to recipients that didn't record an open. However, you must handle this practice carefully to minimize unsubscribes and abuse complaints:

  • Test this approach with a portion of your list first, if possible, to see what impact it has on increased response and ROI as well as list churn.
  • Try sending at a different time of day.
  • A variation is to use a different subject line that might catch the attention of previous non-openers.



This approach requires minimal effort, may annoy a segment of your subscribers -- and likely produces the lowest return of any reminder efforts.

2. Reminders with modified/different creative. A second reminder approach is to send a series of emails, often two or three, with modified copy and creative, but with the same goal as the first email. This might include a reminder-focused subject line and message copy that advises the recipient to act on your offer before it's too late.

This kind of reminder would work with just about any kind of deadline-based email such as a survey request, subscription renewal, event invitation and sale.

Birthday reminders are a great, but underutilized, opportunity for this approach. I recently received about 15 birthday email messages, many with excellent offers that expired within 30 days or similar timeframe. Surprisingly, not a single company sent me a reminder email before the offer deadline.

Another common example is the cart abandonment series. The marketer might deploy a three-part series over a week, with the first message taking a service focus, the second a free-shipping offer and final message with a “last chance and 20% off” offer.

In all cases, recipients are suppressed from successive messages when they take the desired action.

3. Scheduled email series. This is a group of email messages designed to drive one or more actions or improve engagement. Each succeeding email builds on the previous one with a different but related message.

Consider the "welcome" message. One "welcome" message is better than none, but a series of messages will give you more opportunities to introduce your company, brands, value proposition, acquire more customer information, and drive immediate sales through an offer.

A key goal in this scenario is to create a predetermined and controlled onboarding experience for the new subscriber.

4. Behavior-based tracks. Here, you create a sophisticated set of business rules that apportion customers into different tracks based on their actions or lack of action.

This approach requires a marketing automation platform that enables the marketer to map out a series of "if-then" statements, and deploy messages or other actions such as sending a direct mail piece or call from a sales or call center rep. The program automatically moves each individual subscriber into different tracks based on their ongoing behavior, such as:

  • Opening or clicking on an email, or not
  • Making a purchase or not
  • Visiting a Web page
  • Downloading a white paper
  • Logging into your account
  • Speaking with a call center rep

More is Better

The simple fact is that sending more emails to subscribers works. Better yet, of course, is to leverage individual recipient behavior and automation to nurture them down the conversion path.

But basic math also works here. One client sends a fairly simple three-part cart abandonment reminder series with only minor creative changes and a modest gift offer in the final email. Conversion rates for the emails are 22%, 15% and 24%. If the client only sent a single cart reminder, they would be leaving millions of dollars in revenue on the table each year.

Until next time, take it up a notch!

5 comments about "When One Email Isn't Enough".
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  1. Chuck Lantz from, network, April 19, 2012 at 3:12 p.m.

    Speaking as a consumer rather than a marketer, I have to say that I totally agree with the concept that "one email isn't enough." ... With my mail boxes stuffed with the usual junk, I often miss the good stuff the first time around. A second or third reminder, with a different, politely worded, subject line usually gets me attention.

  2. Chuck Lantz from, network, April 19, 2012 at 3:13 p.m.

    oops... make that "my" attention.

  3. Loren McDonald from IBM Marketing Cloud, April 19, 2012 at 5:36 p.m.

    Thanks Chuck - and definitely agree. As I mentioned, I received some really great birthday offers last month on March 1 - but then not a single company sent me a reminder. Like everyone, I'm busy and forgot about them. By the time I remember it will be too late - missed opportunity.

  4. Rita from FreshAddress, Inc., April 20, 2012 at 1:57 p.m.

    With the rise of reminder emails, the risk is that we all come to expect them and therefore block them out. If reminders aren’t productive, the underlying cause might be that the recipient has changed their email address. Running an Email Change of Address project (similar to NCOA but for email) can provide updated email addresses for your inactive and bouncing records. Ensure your messaging the most current email address before you remove any subscribers from your file.

  5. Laura Ashley from TailoredMail, April 23, 2012 at 6:47 p.m.

    Completely agree. Just make sure the content is thoughtfully mapped:

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