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Building a Re-Engagement Campaign with Pardot

As email marketers, we’re constantly competing for the attention of our customers in their inboxes. We want all of our creative copywriting, beautiful design, and well-executed development to be appreciated—and we ultimately want it to drive engagement. What we don’t want is to be a part of the inevitable mass-deleting of emails that comes next (or worse: marked as spam).

But, what do you do when, time after time, your prospect or customer leaves you on “unread”? It can be hard to say “goodbye” when you’re responsible for growing your email lists and trying to drive conversions. But, on the flip side, if you’re truly focused on engagement, ensuring that you’re emailing people who want to receive your emails will likely lead to higher open and clickthrough rates.  

Sending unwanted emails can also potentially have some major implications. Low engagement can lead to ISPs flagging you as a low-quality sender, hurting your IP reputation, and getting your emails sent straight to spam, or get you blocklisted. 

At Lev, we use Pardot for our email marketing and marketing automation. One of our most important marketing emails is our monthly newsletter, PlusSide. This newsletter is a compilation of our content from the last month, and includes monthly industry spotlights. 

To ensure we continue to remain relevant to our subscribers, drive engagement, and maintain list cleanliness, we have a few re-engagement campaigns in place so we’re always emailing people who want to get our emails, and have valid email addresses.

Below is the step-by-step process to how we identify our unengaged PlusSide subscribers and how we set up a re-engagement program in Engagement Studio.

1. First, we built a Dynamic List to identify unengaged subscribers.

Pardot defines Dynamic Lists as “smart” lists that automatically add or remove prospects based on the criteria you set up, and are one of a handful of list types you can create in Pardot. For our re-engagement campaign, we used the following criteria to create our list:

  • Prospect list - The Prospect belongs to the PlusSide subscriber list. 
  • Prospect email opens - Prospect has not opened an email in the past 180 days. Since PlusSide is a monthly newsletter, we determined six months to be an appropriate amount of time to deem a subscriber as unengaged.
  • Prospect has been emailed - Prospect has been emailed at least five times in the past 180 days. This ensures that people on the list haven’t recently joined the subscriber list.  On the flip side, if a subscriber is also enrolled in additional campaigns or subscribed to additional lists and not engaging, we decided it’s okay to put them into the re-engagement campaign potentially before six months of no engagement.
  • Prospect email status - Prospect’s email status isn’t “Opted Out.” Luckily, Pardot already suppresses opted-out people from receiving emails, but we decided that having an additional safeguard in place didn’t hurt, especially since the whole point of the campaign is to ensure we’re only emailing people who want to receive our emails.

2. Next, we set up our Email Templates.

In Pardot, each email that’s used in an Engagement Studio program must be built as separate email templates. 

Lev’s brand voice is fun and playful, so we opted for an attention-grabbing subject line: “Are we falling out of Lev? 💔”                                                           

We want to ensure the subject line is written to capture the attention of subscribers, and then we continue to engage them with creative copy that follows the 

theme of falling out of ‘Lev.’ To ensure the email recipient takes action to show us that they want to stay subscribed, we include a fun, brightly-colored CTA in the middle of the email. Of course, all of these elements can and should be tested to ensure they’re optimized for performance.

For our re-engagement campaign, we opted for a 2-email series so we get a chance to follow-up, but don’t risk coming off as spammy for a subscriber who has already been un-engaged.

Our follow-up email uses similar creative, with the subject line, “So we guess this is goodbye 💔” to let them know we will no longer be emailing them if they don’t re-engage.

While punny copy and emojis might not work for your brand, it’s important to ensure your subject line is giving the recipients a reason to open the email, and you’re clearly communicating why they’re receiving this email. This is a critical time to re-state your value proposition and give the recipient a solid “why” behind why they should stay engaged with you.

3. Finally, we set up the Engagement Studio program.

This is the fun part where all of your building comes together! Engagement Studio is Pardot’s powerful nurturing tool that enables you to build, test, and report on the success of your campaigns, and automates how prospects move through the campaign based on their engagement. In Engagement Studio, there are three main functions: Actions, Rules, and Triggers.

All Engagement Studio programs start with a list. For this campaign, we used the list of unengaged subscribers as our entry point.

From there, we set up an Action to “Send Email,” where we selected the first Email Template we built to enter them into the campaign as the first step.

How they interact with that email determines what happens next. Since the ultimate goal of our email is to get them to click the button to stay subscribed, we set up a Trigger to listen if the recipient clicks the “Stay In ‘Lev’” button. 

When setting up the Trigger, we set the Engagement Studio program up to wait 10 days before taking additional action based on their previous behaviors. If the recipient does not engage with the email after 10 days, we set up another Action to send the follow-up email. Just like the first email, we set it to wait 10 days for the Trigger to watch for the link click.

The final step is an Action to remove the recipients from the PlusSide subscriber list if they are not engaging with our emails.

We’ve seen great results from this program, and while it’s unrealistic to re-engage everyone, we are able to see engagement rates 3-4x above industry benchmarks for our newsletter, knowing that all of our subscribers are people who want to be receiving it.