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Win Back Campaigns and Why They Work: A Client Success Story with SMG Richmond

Client Spotlight SMG Richmond

We treat email subscribers as the “online” front row audience to your shows. That’s why the Rockhouse Partners team constantly helps you to create engaging content that will ultimately help you sell more tickets. But what happens when a large chunk of your list stops reading your emails? SMG Richmond faced this exact situation and we came up with a strategy to get their subscribers re-engaged – implement a Win Back Campaign.

Offer an incentive.

Our first task was to  determine a perfect incentive for opening the email – SMG Richmond decided to offer a chance to win one pair of tickets to an upcoming performance at either Altria Theater or the Dominion Arts Center (and threw in some concessions cash, for good measure). The contest was the main focus in the subject line, as well as in the body of the email.


Find your inactive subscribers.

There are a million ways to target your inactive subscribers, but we chose to segment the list by “any subscriber who had not opened ALL of the last 50 campaigns.” This rule gave us a pretty large segment to work with, considering  SMG Richmond sends several emails a week.


Subject Line: We Want You Back! Win Tickets!

The first email in our Win Back campaign  was sent to 61,247 recipients. We made sure to highlight the offer of 2 free tickets, and asked our inactive subscribers to update their preferences. There are many reasons why a subscriber might become inactive – irrelevant content is one of them.

To re-engage SMG’s subscribers, we asked them what they want to hear about and what they hope to see. Maybe they only care about Broadway performances, and don’t want to open emails about rock shows or kid’s performances. This allows the subscriber to stay involved, but control the messaging they receive. This first email in the series had an overall open rate of 2.1%. We know, it sounds very low, but we considered it a win, since this was the first email these subscribers had opened in a long time.

We Want You Back Case Study


Subject Line: We want you back, [First Name]!

After a week, we sent out a second email in the Win Back series – this time, the recipients included subscribers who were sent the last one but did not open it. For this email, we tested MailChimp’s  first name merge tag in the subject line. Including the first name adds a personal touch to an email and a subscriber might be more willing to open it.. We highlighted the incentive and the option to manage your profile again. This email had an overall open rate of 2.2%

Win Back Campaigns Case Study
Win Back Campaigns Case Study


Subject Line: We hope this isn’t goodbye!

After two Win Back emails, we decided to send one more to subscribers that did not open Win Back email #1 or Win Back email #2. This email clearly outlined our intention to unsubscribe those who do not update their preferences. This is a good move because it creates a sense of finality – and it worked. More subscribers updated their preferences after receiving this one than any of the previous emails. This email had an overall open rate of 2%.


Cleansing Time

After sending and evaluating our Win Back campaign, we randomly selected a winner from the list of subscribers that had opened any of the emails in the Win Back series. Then, we started the list clean.

The first step was to create a segment of completely inactive subscribers – ours included anyone who did not open any of the three emails, AND was added to the list (or had updated their profile) more than a year ago. This filter ruled out anyone who bought tickets this year, but wasn’t necessarily interested in other performances in the season. We ended up unsubscribing 39,000 subscribers, which SMG thought was a healthy amount to unsubscribe to help increase increase open rates significantly.

The Results

  • Re-engaged approximately 4,000 subscribers – a little over 6% of the original list of inactive subscribers
  • Removed 64% of the original list of inactive subscribers, keeping those who had been added or had their profile updated in the last year
  • Open rates increased, and continue to increase, after the list clean
  • Awarded one lucky re-engaged subscriber with two tickets to an upcoming performance and concessions cash!

To learn more about implementing partner id’s, check out this Etix Knowledge Base article.

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