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3 Variations on Resending Emails to Non-Openers

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by: Stephen Guerra (@StephenGuerra)
31 August 2011

Should you resend a message to recipients who didn’t open it the first time? Doing so can be tempting for marketers looking to turbocharge results. After all, you spend a lot of time putting a message together. Why not give it more than a fleeting moment in the inbox to be seen?

On the other hand, will resending a message sour your recipients on your email program and have them unsubscribing or, even worse, clicking the dreaded “This is spam” button?

The best approach may lie in finding the right balance between short-term conversions and long-term list quality. To tackle the question of if and how you should use resends, let’s first define a resend and then consider the options.

Classically, the resend tactic has three steps:

  • First, send a message and record those who opened and those who didn’t.
  • Second, pull a list of those who didn’t open the email.
  • Third, send your non-openers an exact duplicate of your first message.

Sending automation can reduce the effort involved by setting up a campaign that automatically sends to non-openers after a certain number of days have elapsed. Generally, these resends are done within a few days to one week after the original send.

I’ve definitely seen this tactic be effective in generating additional revenue. It should be used very carefully, though, because it can easily offend recipients enough to damage your reputation and drive off subscribers.

There are many reasons why recipients may not have opened your first message, and these variables impact the potential success or failure of a resend initiative. If, for example, they didn’t open your email because they made a conscious decision that they didn’t want to open it, it’s unlikely they’ll change their mind if you send it again. In addition, there will be some recipients who actually opened your message but had images turned off, so the open did not register. These subscribers will likely be confused or annoyed by a resend.

However, perhaps some non-openers meant to open your message but forgot or didn’t see it before it was buried in their inbox. Or maybe they saw it but were in a bad mood and not conducive to your offer. In these situations, it might make sense to try them again.

Before instituting a resend campaign, consider your existing reputation, brand image and list quality. If you have problems in any of these areas, a resend campaign is likely to exacerbate them. If you don’t, then proceed carefully to avoid creating problems.

Variations that can help this tactic succeed include modifying the original message, adjusting the timing of the send, and refining the resend list—or any combination of the three. Let’s take a look at each variation:

Modifying the Original Email
Modifying the message body can be time-consuming and doesn’t take full advantage of the effort that went into creating the original message. However, modifying just the subject line takes much less effort and still leverages the original design. To make the resend more palatable to recipients, consider changing the subject line. Possible approaches here include:

  • Highlighting an alternative benefit from the first subject line
  • Adding personalization if it wasn’t used the first time.
  • Re-introducing the message and acknowledging it as a resend, e.g. “Just in Case You Missed Us the First Time”

Adjusting the Timing of the Send
Timing the resend can be tricky. First, review past mailings to determine how many days typically pass before most of the subscribers who will open a message have done so. Do NOT resend within that time span. Once that time period has elapsed, you might try timing variations such as:

  • Sending at a different time of day
  • Sending at a different day of week
  • Customizing the send time for individual predilections (if it wasn’t done with the first send)

Refining the Resend List
Refining the resend list can be an effective tactic for generating new opens while minimizing risk. This approach involves identifying recipients who didn’t open your message the first time but may be more likely to open the second.

One method for doing this is to set up a query that sends to recipients who have opened emails in the last six months, but haven’t yet opened your new message. This can help reduce risk by limiting the send to those who have recently shown an interest in what you have to say.

The Final Word
Resending to non-openers can be effective, but this strategy should be used cautiously. Take a close look at your current reputation before using it. As always before committing to any new tactic, run tests to measure both the success and risk. If your test shows significant increases in complaint rates or unsubscribes, then this may not be a good tactic for you.

Even if you find the tactic to be successful, use it sparingly. Consider applying it to only your best offers—and only on an occasional basis.

Until next time, keep learning and have fun.

I’m very interested in your feedback, article suggestions, and any comments or questions on resending tactics or others you may have on email marketing. For more information or to ask questions, email me at


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