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How CleverTap Built an Effective Email B2B Win-Back Campaign

Subharun Mukherjee 18+ years of experience leading product strategy, Go-To-Market (GTM), new market entry, value-based sales, analyst relations, and customer experience programs. Expertise in Financial Services, eCommerce, on-demand services, and the SaaS industry.
How CleverTap Built an Effective Email B2B Win-Back Campaign

It costs 5x more to attract a new customer than it does to retain an existing one.01
Acquisition vs. retention is a constant battle. Obviously, it’s important to pursue new customers to grow your business. But if you neglect the needs and wants of your active users, they will quickly drop off.
When it comes to growth, retention always has the upper hand. Repeat customers are the lifeblood of your app. They’re more profitable, more responsive to campaigns, and more likely to bring in new users through word of mouth.
That’s where win-back campaigns come in.
According to Marketing Land, win-back campaigns have 12% open rates, and 75% of re-engaged subscribers read a follow-up message within 89 days. The other 25% were still opening messages up to 300 days after receiving the first win-back message.02
Win-backs are a winner for engaging your inactive users.
In this post, we’ll share the essentials of a successful win-back campaign, including a real-life example of how we re-engaged inactive customers.

What is a Win-Back Campaign?

Win-back campaigns are generally sent to users who have become dormant within an app. The goal of a win-back campaign is to rekindle their interest in your brand and products.
To different brands, this could translate into completely different goals:

  • For a travel brand, getting a user to book another trip
  • For a streaming platform, getting a user to start watching a series again
  • For a B2B company, engaging those who did not make a purchase

Most marketers run win-back campaigns through email since it’s less intrusive, more familiar and offers more space to create an attractive proposition than SMS or push notifications.

Why Do I Need a Win-Back Strategy?

Every day, new leads are added to your CRM tool. While only a few move down the conversion funnel, many of these contacts haven’t purchased or engaged with your brand after that first touch.
These leads may seem like dead ends, but they hold a lot of potential! They’ve likely already provided you with a lot of information about them — their names, contact details, certain preferences — even if they’ve only interacted with your app once.
Bottom line: You can generate a lot more revenue by nurturing these mid-level leads.
Win-back campaigns also help you conduct a health check on your CRM.
Lead data grows stale over time. Win-back campaigns help evaluate the health of your CRM by checking how many people respond to campaigns and nudge you to set a threshold of attempts before you let go of a particular contact.
For example, if you’ve tried to re-engage a user three times with no success, you may decide to push that user into a group of cold leads. That way, you’re not bombarding them with information they already have and can focus your resources on leads that are more likely to respond.
The purpose behind win-back campaigns is not to win 100% of your users back (as wonderful as that sounds). It’s to bring back those users who, at some point, saw value in your brand and have the potential to become champions.

Who Should My Win-Back Campaign Target?

Identifying which users to target with your win-back campaign is crucial to your success.
What qualifies a user as inactive will vary slightly depending on your app and your business. For a streaming platform, it could be someone who used to actively watch content but has not logged in, in the last two months. For an ecommerce app, it could be someone who used to make a purchase every 10 days but hasn’t made a purchase in the last month.
At CleverTap, we define an inactive user as someone who signed up for a demo in the last 6 months but has not engaged further.

Types of Win-Back Campaigns

What are you trying to achieve through your win-back campaign? Is it re-engagement or a purchase?
Here are the different types of win-back campaigns you can run:

  1. Incentivize them to use your service
    A lot of businesses incentivize their users in order to get them on a demo call. It could be as simple as giving them a Starbucks card or providing them with an additional month of usage. The offering needs to be something that delivers value to them. And if you can personalize it for them, even better.
  2. Gather feedback on your product
    You can create a win-back campaign to better understand the user’s experience with your brand. A lot of people won’t willingly fill out an automated feedback form, but if you are going to email them, let them know how important this feedback is and how much you trust their opinion.
  3. Find out if they want to stay in contact
    Your win-back campaign can solely revolve around understanding the intent of the user as well. Ask the user if they’d like to be contacted in future so you know who wants further interactions from you and who doesn’t.
  4. Offer upgrade/downgrade options
    You can also use this opportunity to provide flexibility to your user to upgrade or downgrade their services on the basis of their usage.
  5. Offer additional resources
    A great way to restart a conversation is by giving value to your users through your content. Everyone appreciates help and through this type of campaign, you can offer valuable resources.
  6. Revisit initial goals
    A gentle reminder about revisiting the goals that a user previously set up can also be a great conversation starter.

How Often Should I Run a Win-Back Campaign?

To determine the ideal timing for your win-back campaign, you must evaluate your buying cycles and user patterns. Ask yourself:

  • How much time has passed since the first contact with the user?
  • How long has the user been inactive?
  • Has there been any activity in the time equivalent to your average buying cycle?

We recommend adding the number of days from the point of first contact and the number of days they have been inactive. If this figure is less than the number of days in your typical buying cycle, wait to run the campaign.
If you have a longer buying cycle, your win-back campaigns should be spaced accordingly. One way to determine the ideal cadence is by multiplying it by 2.5x your buying cycle.

How CleverTap Created an Effective Win-Back Campaign

Our first step was to identify who we should target with our win-back campaign.
After delving deep into our own data, we found that six months of inactivity after signing up for a demo is the ideal amount of time for us to send a user win-back campaign.
We then crafted a 3 mailer threaded sequence. This way with every new email, the content of the previous one would stay in view and we could stick with one subject line. This definitely provides more value to the user because all the relevance is in one place and they don’t need to recall what you’ve sent them before.

Email 1: Understand Why They Dropped Off

We started the email by introducing ourselves since six months have passed since they asked for a demo and they probably have lost context on that.
The focus for this email was not about selling CleverTap, but understanding why they never went ahead with a demo in the first place. The email prompts the user to act by asking them to help others by sharing their experience. We believe in putting our user in the position of power and let them know that our intention is to make the brand better. And yes, we were looking for the actual drop points in our user journey post demo.
Most importantly, every email should offer something of value to the user. This is why we linked to the educational content on our blog in the postscript.

Email 2: Highlight the Benefits

In our second email, we highlight the benefits of our product and features, then ask them directly if they’d be interested in a quick call.
We end with peer validation, linking to a software review platform in the postscript. Here, users can read what other people have written about their experiences with CleverTap. This gives them good ground to evaluate CleverTap on the basis of real customers and not take just our word for it.

Email 3: Show Customer Successes

This is the final email, where we show how various brands have achieved success with us. Nothing speaks like numbers! And since this is our third attempt, we assure the user that we are not trying to bother them and also invite them to respond directly to us.

The Results

We sent this sequence to about 500 people in our CRM.
44% open rate for this sequence which means at least 220 people opened this sequence.
27% click-through rate which means at least 135 people have clicked on one or more links.
35% reply rate that is about 175 people actually responded to those emails.
After this campaign we had over 45 prospects re-engage with us to go ahead with a demo and over 70 users passed on their valuable feedback.
Through this campaign, we also gained insights into:

  • Why our product was not a good fit for some potential customers
  • Which competitors we lose the most potential customers to
  • What features and functionalities users are looking for
  • How can we optimize our sales team’s outreach

After this campaign, we were able to analyze what works (and what doesn’t) for a successful win-back campaign.

Takeaways: The Dos and Don’ts of Successful Win-Back Campaigns

  1. DO: Segment your users very carefully. Your win-back campaign shouldn’t come in too early or late.
    Your definition of inactive users may evolve over time. Make sure your segmentation criteria is relevant to the users, or else the entire win-back campaign can fall flat.
  2. DO: Ask users how you can improve.
    As users who have had first-hand experience with your brand, they are your best bet to understand the leaky points in your user journey. Take this opportunity to ask them what went wrong, whether your product was a fit, and if they have any suggestions for you to provide more value.
  3. DO: Let the user know what’s new since they became inactive.
    Spotlight new features, content additions, and updates to entice them to take another look at your app.
  4. DO: Instill a sense of urgency for the user to respond.
    Your user should know that they have a limited window to act — or risk missing out. A time-bound offer will elicit a faster response from your users.
  5. DO: Make unsubscribing easy.
    Be prepared to let users go. Not only do you risk annoying them with unnecessary and ineffective communications, they’ll only clutter your CRM.
  6. DON’T: Just sell your product.
    No one likes a straight sales pitch. Put your users ahead of your services — understand their pain points and focus on solving them.
  7. DON’T: Wait forever to launch a win-back campaign.
    Waiting too long can take you from “Oh I forgot about that app, it was pretty cool” to “Wait, who??” Timing is everything.
  8. DO: Build up the content of your emails, one email at a time to prevent information overload.
    Users don’t have time or attention for unnecessary or unhelpful communications. Keep your email copy crisp and effective and if necessary send a sequence of shorter emails to build your message. Do anything but send boring and lengthy messages.
  9. DON’T: Load up your email with CTAs.
    Each email should only have one clear CTA. Too many options often just confuses the user.
  10. DON’T: Personalize with every detail and data point you have on the user.
    Sometimes your level of personalization can seem borderline creepy. Know when and what to personalize. First Names, designations, company names and industry often give you a great idea of what the user might require and what would engage them. Steer clear from getting way too personalized by quoting the pages they were viewing or the exact date and time they were last on your website.

I Just Launched a Win-Back Campaign. Now What?

Once your win-back campaign is out, it’s time to analyze all the data you’ve collected.

1. Open and click-through rates

Open rates and CTRs are great indicators for you to understand who your engaged users are. Create a separate segment of these users and keep track of their activity. Just one campaign is not enough to completely re-engage your users. Keep engaging them with more relevant content.
For those who did not open your emails, create a separate list and send another win-back campaign at a later time.

2. Bounces

A lot of emails bounce because people change jobs and those emails become invalid. If you really want to go the extra mile, find other contacts who belong to the same company as the bounced email and use the ex-employee as a reference to start a conversation.

3. User feedback

A lot of users may have given you feedback, and while some of it might be already in your pipeline, there are likely some gems that will be worth passing onto other teams in your organization.

4. Unsubscribes

Bid them a sweet farewell. Just because you aren’t a fit right now doesn’t mean your paths won’t cross again. Acknowledge their decision and ensure no further communication.

Putting It All Into Practice

Win-back campaigns shouldn’t be a one-off, but a regular activity conducted every few months.

  • Win-back campaigns are proven effective to engage dormant users.
  • The key to a successful winback is identifying the right audience and ideal timing.
  • Win-back campaigns are not meant to win 100% of your users back (as wonderful as that sounds). It’s to bring back those users who, at some point, saw value in your brand and have the potential to become champions.

Are you running successful win-back campaigns? Share your strategies and tips with us in the comments below! Then read our guide: Getting Started with Data-Driven Email Marketing.


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Last updated on March 26, 2024