Reactivating Dormant Prospects Through Re-engagement Strategies

Like the rest of us, you’ve probably been managing a massive amount of change over the past year. Your best customers are most likely up-to-date on your company’s advancements, but what about that cohort of prospects who are still carrying around a circa 2019 impression of your product or service offering. Isn’t it time to bring them up to date? Statistics show that it’s certainly worth the effort. After all, for any given online enterprise 40% of all revenue comes from repeat purchasers. So, even if a marginal number of contacts are re-activated, the odds are favourable that your efforts will pay off.

You may ask – what is the best way to reanimate leads and contacts who have grown out of touch with your organization? In answer to that, I would like to introduce the re-engagement campaign, a marketing initiative that is specifically designed to breathe new life into inactive sectors of your database.

To set up a re-engagement campaign it is first necessary to look at the length of your company’s sales cycle. It is important to establish the right time perspective here as a prospect can only be considered disengaged if they have drifted past the length of the cycle. If your sales cycle spans five months, then a disengaged prospect may be defined as one that has not responded to your communications in half a year or more. Conversely if you are working in a fast paced market where leads can go cold within days, then a period just in excess of two weeks may encompass suitable candidates.

As a technology, marketing automation can greatly simplify the task of identifying disengaged contacts. All the popular platforms such as, Marketo, Pardot or Hubspot, enable mechanisms that can monitor customer behaviour and flag formerly active, but currently quiet contacts. A wide variety of characteristics can be used to filter and segment relevant prospects. Some of of the more popular points to key in on are as follows:

  • Score – can be cited as an indicator or a formerly engaged prospect
  • Opportunity Status – (assuming connectivity with a CRM), can signal a standing customer or one who requested a quote
  • Cart abandonment
  • Days since last email open or link click
  • Days since last Opportunity Won


Once a profile has been established, contacts can be directed to a list that in turn feeds an email deployment nurture sequence.

And while mining a database can be a good way to reanimate old leads, it naturally gives rise to the question of how far back a marketer should reach. As a rule of thumb, it can be assumed that a database of email addresses will experience an attrition rate of about 20% over the course of a year. Marketing automation platforms have a low tolerance for high bounce rates and many set a threshold of as low as 10%, beyond which they start to make pointy inquiries about opt in compliance. A balance, therefore, has to be struck between the historic range of the reach-back date and list quality of the cohort. If you are uncertain about how to approach this, you can start with a comparatively fresh segment and work your way back until the bounce rate reaches the cut-off point set by your platform provided.

The second problem that presents itself when revitalizing a dormant database segment is… what to say. If prospects have tuned-out to your current messaging, then you are freer to try novel approaches. Since the stakes are inherently lower, you now enjoy a wider degree of creative latitude in how you approach them. If you’ve been holding back on some ideas that are too adventurous for your primary contacts, then this might be just the opportunity to test them out. Throw some emojis in a subject line, reference that odd news story that everyone is chatting about, or add a little drama to the copy. Not only could a novel creative direction be just the thing needed to get their attention, it might serve as a useful way to test out concepts for your main audience.

Although it’s great to be a bit daring creatively, don’t forget to convey at least one compelling piece of new information. The overall goal is to keep people up-to-date with your product offering. In general, people don’t like to feel out-of-step with the times, so you can use that to your advantage as you direct people to take note of your company’s new developments.

If you are wondering how long the nurture program should be, best practices dictate that it should be kept comparatively short. In general, three to four emails, should suffice to re-activate a lead that still sees relevance in the relationship, yet has cooled. Prospects that have been completely unresponsive throughout the process may well be converted to do-not email status. Taking this action will keep your list in good shape and help you maintain a low bounce rate.

For those that do respond then the time might be right to let them know that you value them as a customer or prospect. This could take the form of a special offer or a request to participate in a survey. You might want to ask them how often they would like to hear from you, so that you can set up an email cadence that reflects their wishes.

If correctly implemented, a re-engagement program can re-establish rapport, and let your customer or prospect know that they were on the right track when they made initial contact, one that led them to a company that valued their business. The fact that marketing automation technology was used to achieve this end is secondary. Regardless of the means, you’ve demonstrated commitment to winning their business on terms that speak to their interests, and when that happens, it’s a win for both.


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Jeff Stiles

Jeff Stiles is a marketing automation specialist, and digital marketing enthusiast. His favourite colour is #00a3e0, formerly Pantone 299 C.