Sleepers. They’re customers who have free accounts but haven’t used them in a while. They got far enough to sign up and start using your product. They just never made it over the hump.
We’ve been thinking about how to wake these sleepers. After all, it’s a lot easier to wake a sleeping customer than win a new one.
A one-time reminder email seems like a good nudge. Something that reminds these people they signed up, shows them what they’re missing, and offers a path for getting back in the saddle. And a discount or coupon never hurts.
For example, Jamis tried StumbleUpon once a while back. They recently sent him this email:
There’s also the option of offering sleepers a treat to wake up. David, who stopped using NetFlix, recently got a letter from the company saying “we miss you” and offering a 20% discount on the first few months.
The goal is to find a nice, positive way to poke inactive account holders. You could even frame it like this: “Hey, you have data with us you haven’t used. Would you like to delete your account? If not, here’s a deal…”
Of course, it’s best to keep pokes like this to a minimum (sometimes sleeping dogs just want to lie).
Also a good idea: Allow the recipient to cancel/unsubscribe. A lot of these sleepers are sleepers because they simply don’t want to use the service. It’s only fair to give them an easy to way get back to sleep.
shofron 27 Sep 07
stumbleupon’s ‘wake the sleeper’ email is too much fluff.
a more clever, personal email might do the trick. Like, “it’s been 4 months we’ve seen you, did you know that’s also the gestation period of a swedish caterpillar?” or offer a cliff hanger to encourage click thru.
of course, a ‘special offer’ would work as well.
the above sample would be promptly deleted from my mailbox, it’s predictable marketing speak and fairly boring. You don’t wake up a real life sleeping dog just to say “hey, you are still a dog”. You wake him up and say “lets go running in the park and then you get a bone to chew on!”
bradon 27 Sep 07
I would welcome a “wake up” email. There are a few things I’ve signed up for that I never really use anymore because they are incorporated in other 37signals products (such as ta-da lists and writeboards). I don’t use them as standalone tools anymore but really have no idea how to “cancel” those accounts.
Matt B.on 27 Sep 07
I bought a PC video game where you (detective) have to catch a serial killer. In a strange twist, he actually gets a hold of your contact information in the game. I was bored after a couple days and ended up stopping game play all together. About 3 or 4 DAYS later, I got an email that said something like, “Have you given up already? I’ve been watching you through the window…” — that kind of caught me off guard and was a little on the creepy side too. It took me about 30 seconds to realize that was from the game. laughs - I got a few more of those, each with a different email body and then they stopped. I never did go back and play the game but I was tempted.
I thought that was a unique way to “wake the sleeper”.
Jaanon 27 Sep 07
Not to sound too grumpy, but 9.5 times out of 10 these types of reminder emails annoy me. If I wanted to use a service I would have. Yet I appreciate the value in giving people a poke, just to make sure.
What works for me is if there’s an offer I can’t refuse. In my case, just as for David, it came from Netflix.
Offering an unsubscribe from future emails is great, but a “close my account” option right there in the email would be fabulous.
If a company gives me control over my own data, even if it’s “just” name and email, it might even make me consider giving the site/app a second chance.
Jameson 27 Sep 07
I glad you guys are taking the other point of view on this. I signed up for Freshbooks a while back and just received an email with the title:Needless to say this was not the most positive email I have received from a company wanting my business.
Henrik Liedon 27 Sep 07
Matt B: That’s brilliant! What was the name of the game?
ChrisFizikon 27 Sep 07
Yeah, this is an interesting fact of life that affects anyone running a community site, web 2.0 style project, or even something like a wiki. What intrigues me is how it relates to adoption patterns and encouraging use of a service/site. I have thought about trying to tackle my own ‘problem’ with this by doing the reminder email approach . but that’s just it—is it really a ‘problem’. An earlier commenter exclaims how he would really rather not get these emails and maybe only have some way to control his data on the site.
...not sure where to go with this …. but interesting anyways…
Simonon 27 Sep 07
Part of the problem with the Stumbleupon email is that it looks like typical marketing spam. A plain text mail (preferably one paragraph long) would likely yield better results.
Matt B.on 27 Sep 07
Henrik: “Evidence: The Last Ritual“
Kevin Merritton 27 Sep 07
A while back I wanted to experiment with Amazon Web Services – specifically S3 and EC2. Amazon was able to provision my S3 account right away, but there was a backlog in fulfilling EC2 requests, so I experimented with S3 exclusively. Then I finally received an invite for EC2, but by then I was busy with other projects and never got to it. Yesterday I received an email titled “Amazon Web Services Checking In” in which they observed “We noticed you recently signed up to use Amazon EC2, but have not yet made a request.” The email included a link to a survey, which I assume would help Amazon understand why I haven’t tried it. Finally, it had a few quick links to some resources to jump start my EC2 project. All in, it was a very professional, positive note. I’m still busy, but the email is positive enough it makes me want to take an afternoon and play with EC2.
Erikon 27 Sep 07
I’m sure I have free accounts, trial services, etc. all over the place that I’ve forgotten about. It would be nice to have the option to easily cancel/unsubscribe and have all my data deleted, as though I’d never signed up. (“We promise to lose your number!”) That’s a service I’d respect…though I guess making it so easy to lose me as a customer isn’t the best method of customer retention.
Bob Warfieldon 27 Sep 07
Waking the Sleepers is nice, but it’s tactical, and it may annoy them as others have pointed out. Chances are they are asleep for a good reason. They may be one of the most valuable customer segments you have, because they know why your service didnt’ work out for them. They know why your User Experience wasn’t right:
Donegardenon 27 Sep 07
Is there “wake up email” for ex girl friends too ? Cause it’s been 6 months since I received news from Barbara :)
AndrewHon 27 Sep 07
IMO they could be more like Yahoo mail, Hotmail & Gmail. 90 days of inactivity and your account gets deleted. Period.
I’ve signed up for far too many web 2.0 sounds great on TechCrunch, but when i get in there, well, it stinks.
Anyone reading, if I haven’t used your service in 90 days, go ahead and delete me. For my needs, you’re useless.
Bradon 27 Sep 07
I don’t know about this, guys.
One of the things I love about 37signals is how you respect the customers. If I want to end my account, you make it easy, and give me a way to get my data; if I send you an E-mail, I get a personal response. That stuff is great, and rare, and you should be commended for it.
Getting “wake up” E-mails violates this principle. Trust me—if I don’t log in, I don’t want to log in.
One of the cool things about the glut of new web apps these days is that it’s fun to try them out, see what works well and what doesn’t. It sucks when that experimental attitude results in email clutter. I realize you’re trying to make money - and you’re probably doing a good job at it! - but don’t do it like this. Take the higher ground.
MLon 27 Sep 07
Trust me—if I don’t log in, I don’t want to log in…Take the higher ground.
Brad, I know where you’re coming from…but are you sure that this is the case for everyone? Sending just one email seems like a not too pushy reminder that might be helpful for some. A constant stream of ‘em would certainly be annoying though.
mhon 27 Sep 07
so, how do you feel about reminders from services you’ve paid an annual subscription to?
Bradon 27 Sep 07
@ML: I guess that’s a good question for you guys to answer. Does 37signals have stats on this? How often do reminder E-mails to “sleeper” accounts cause an idle account to “wake up” within a relatively short period of time? Do you have that number? Will you share it?
That’s really the crux of it, I guess. If it’s reasonably high percentage, then 1) there’s probably a business case for it. But 2) you’ve got to weigh percentage of people it just annoys, because that’s very real.
It seems to me that spammers take point 1 into consideration without thinking about point 2, which leaves a lot of us frustrated. Yeah, it’s just one E-mail, but… I get a lot of those one E-mails from different companies (and a lot more monthly/regular “reminder” E-mails). And yeah, I can unsubscribe, but to me that feels like work I shouldn’t have to do.
Deanon 27 Sep 07
Have you considered the possibility that these people don’t use your service because they think it’s rubbish? Sending an email won’t change that.
paulaon 27 Sep 07
interesting topic. i’m all for waking up the sleepers. they found you, clicked around enough to join up for something. then vanished. those first actions meant something to them at the time. maybe, like me, they’re just too busy and hope that by subscribing, someone will keep them updated. maybe they are the wallflowers of the web…..want to be at the party, but not comfortable enough yet to start talking to anyone. nudges are good. but i agree, they need to be personal, friendly and funny works too.
Dr. Peteon 27 Sep 07
I think the emails can be effective, but you really have to have something new to say. I get Friendster updates all the time, and they drive me crazy, as it’s always something like “Sarah added a new word to her description”, or “You have 1 new classmate from the University of Iowa”. Hooray.
Tell me that you’ve legitimately got a new service or tool to offer, and I tend to pay attention. I may not rush back, but it keeps the site relevant to me. Sometimes, I sign up for a site but don’t use it because I either (1) don’t completely understand what it has to offer or (2) don’t have time to sort it out. If you can solve either problem, you’re on the right track.
Richardon 27 Sep 07
We seen it work both ways. Sending an e-mail can result in some “unsubscribe” e-mails, but it has also resulted in giving a nudge to some users who were just stuck and needed little help.
catherineon 28 Sep 07
I’m with Erik and Jaan – a wake-up email that lets me cancel the account is a good idea. I’ve signed up for loads of things to try them out, and usually I go back and delete the account but it’s really frustrating when I discover I can’t do that (how do I cancel my TaDa list, guys?)
If I’m not using the service and want to delete it you also get to ask me why, which could give you some interesting information.
Andrew Conardon 01 Oct 07
Matt – Thanks for the post and to all comment authors for great conversation. It has made me think about my own work setting – the local church – and how we seek to engage those who once were regular attenders and participants, but are not any longer. There is a fine balance between annoyance and truly caring for the life and situation of another.
This discussion is closed.