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How to Write an Effective Winback Email

Any business with an email marketing campaign should employ a winback email strategy.

Winback emails transform customers from passive readers into active customers, and fostering customer engagement is at the heart of any email campaign.

Also known as reactivation campaigns, winback emails are a common feature in direct marketing, particularly catalog marketing. However, the expensive nature of catalogs in the modern era means that sending communications through traditional mail isn’t as effective as it once was. Sending a customer a winback email is a more affordable and equally rewarding option. With their high levels of engagement, email winback campaigns have the power to overcome the potent spam filters of Yahoo, Outlook, and Gmail, which activate when successive emails from a particular sender aren’t read and are regularly deleted instead.

One of the added benefits of winback campaigns is that they allow businesses to remove emails from their marketing lists. While removing addresses from a valuable email list might sound counterintuitive, doing so may help a business remain on the good side of major email providers. Not only do winback emails help businesses re-engage customers, but they also help companies keep their email lists tidy.

Let’s explore everything you need to know about winback email campaigns to help you decide when and how to implement this valuable marketing tool.

What is a winback email?

A winback email is part of an automated program that sends emails to lapsed customers, subscribers, or contacts, encouraging those recipients to re-engage with the company. This can include recipients who have made a purchase in the past or engaged in some way with your brand. The winback email acts as a gentle nudge to remind customers who lost interest in your brand about your products or services.

Graphic with the headline "45% of subscribers who received winback emails read subsequent messages"

According to statistics on the matter, an impressive 45% of subscribers who get a winback message will also read subsequent emails (via Validity). A winback email is less expensive than attracting new customers, and it’s easier to sell to a lapsed customer than a new contact.

How to write a winback email campaign

Graphic with an illustrated pen and the headline "how to write a winback email campaign"

If you’re interested in creating a winback email campaign, here’s how to get started:

1. Identify inactive contacts

For the average business, there's no set number of days or months after which an email address and the customer who uses it are considered inactive. Labeling an email address active or inactive depends on how often the company expects customers to interact with their business.

For some businesses, inactivity may come as soon as a few weeks, but other companies may wait several months before engaging their customers with a winback email campaign. Business owners must examine their sales data and the interaction rate for their most loyal customers and add emails to their inactive list regularly.

2. Determine when to send emails

Email marketing best practices for winback campaigns suggest that emails should go out once every 3 months to email addresses that haven’t engaged with the company. As more time passes, it becomes increasingly difficult for a business to maintain a personal and trusting relationship with the customer.

Adding inactive customers to the automated message flow at three-month intervals should give the customer a gentle nudge at just the right time. It’s not too soon that the recipient might feel overwhelmed by the amount of communication, and it’s not too late that the customer might have trouble remembering why they signed up for emails in the first place.

3. Write compelling copy

Half the battle in communicating with customers is getting them to open an email. The other is ensuring you hold their attention and inspire some positive reaction when you write an email. Guidelines that may help you get the most out of your customer winback campaign include the following.

  • Use action verbs instead of passive language
  • Employ simple language over cleverness
  • Don’t use a spammy subject line
  • Make the communication short rather than verbose
  • You don’t need to write like Shakespeare to communicate an effective message to your customers. Don’t try to fight against the impatience of the average email recipient. Write brief and relevant copy, and you’ll likely succeed.

4. Include a CTA

Don’t just tell your customers about your company. Inspire them with a simple and clear call to action (CTA). Your CTA is the point at which you use direct and straightforward language to inspire someone to do more than read an email. Consider the following.

  • Employ strong declarative statements
  • Consider emotional and enthusiastic words
  • Make readers feel FOMO (fear of missing out)
  • Give your customer a solid reason to click

Remember: Don’t try a hard sales pitch with your call to action. You’re not trying to sell them using the CTA. Instead, you’re trying to get them to take action. It's best to avoid pressuring the reader with heavy sales tactics, so let them know what they might miss if they don’t click now to learn more.

Winback email examples

Consider the following winback campaign examples to encourage more customers to interact with your company. You can try anything, from a discount code to a customer survey, to inspire disengaged customers to do more than read and delete.


So, how did we do? We know it’s been a few months, but we want to make sure you love your new cookware. Is there anything we can do to improve? What would you like to see with our future releases? Fill out this quick survey, and you’ll help us make great new cookware and even score a discount.

Last chance

This year, we’re introducing an amazing new line of swimwear, and now is your last chance to get the color and size you want from last year’s line with our excellent discounts. Help us celebrate the arrival of summer and our new suits with a look at our previous bestsellers. Don’t wait; the new line drops this month!


Did you forget? It’s our anniversary sale this month, and we’re offering valued customers like you the chance to save on our best-selling health and beauty products. Don’t miss out on our anniversary discounts. Visit our website today and help us celebrate 25 amazing years.


We haven’t seen you around in a while! We’d love for you to see what we’ve been working on, and we’re offering you 20% off any purchase when you come back. Use the code GET20NOW to receive your discount. Your code expires in 30 days, so don’t wait to check out our brand-new products.


We hope you love the yoga mat you purchased from us last season, but did you know we’ve already sold more than 100,000 yoga mats from our newly released line? Good things don’t last forever, and there’s a chance we’ll sell out soon. We want to help you upgrade your yoga experience. Come back, explore our new equipment, and take your yoga to the next level.


We don’t want to bother you, but we noticed you haven't visited us in a while, so this is just a quick note to make sure you’re still interested in receiving our emails. We want to share all of the amazing things our company is doing to improve the lives of our customers, but only if you want to hear all the details. Please let us know whether you’d like to continue receiving our emails or whether it’s time for us to part ways with an unsubscribe.

Best practices for winback emails

Customers don’t want to read a novel when they open your sales email. They want to get to the heart of the matter to decide whether to click, call, or stop by your business. With that in mind, consider these simple email marketing best practices to help you re-engage a lost customer.

Graphic with an illustrated medal and the headline "best practices for winback emails"
  • Emphasize value. Why should consumers choose to purchase from your company over all others? Make sure your customers know the value you offer them with every product or service they buy.
  • Send at the right time. Don’t send a winback email to your entire customer list. Make sure you use the winback strategy solely with past customers who haven’t interacted with your company in at least 3 months.
  • Personalize emails. Address the customer by their name in your winback emails. Addressing a customer by their name is a simple yet effective way to let the reader know you’re talking to them rather than a nameless, anonymous customer. The personal touch works to boost customer loyalty.
  • Optimize email subject lines. The subject line of your winback email offers a place to get creative, but it’s easy to stick with simple thoughts and emotions and get the point across. The classic “we miss you” and “we miss you already” instantly make an emotional connection with the reader.
  • Stick to the point. Don’t send your customers a novel. A winback email is designed to engage the customer. They don’t want a thousand-word story on why your company is awesome.
  • Perform A/B testing. A/B testing is a process where you send two different communications to your inactive subscribers. Doing so, especially when you’ve never sent a winback email before, can help you figure out what strategy is more effective at boosting customer engagement.
  • Offer incentives. There’s nothing quite like a sale, freebie, or coupon to inspire customers to act. You might offer a free eBook, create an email course, or publish a webinar. You don’t necessarily need to offer product or service discounts, but they may help lure lapsed customers back to your website.

Design and schedule winback emails with Mailchimp

Winback emails can help you re-engage inactive subscribers and ensure you don't lose them as customers. Writing an effective winback email should come naturally and easily when you focus on the reasons clients engage with your brand in the first place.

If you're ready to create your winback campaign, Mailchimp has the tools you need to get started. Effortlessly design a professional email with our easy-to-use platform and automate emails to ensure recipients receive winback messages at just the right time. With our marketing tools, you can boost customer retention and create valuable connections with your clients.

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