Winback, re-engagement. In many conversations, these terms start to sound like the old “po-TAY-to, po-TAH-to” argument. Definitions and uses can vary, but at their essences, these two types of campaigns do differ.

Re-Engagement is, most often, a tactic used to improve email deliverability. When was the last time you removed addresses from your list that hadn’t opened or clicked in a period of time? Performing this kind of list hygiene on a regular basis ensures you stop sending to people who don’t want your email (thereby saving you money!), and it ensures your emails make it to the inboxes of the subscribers who DO want your messages.

Performing re-engagement can be a hard pill for marketers to swallow, because many are still using the simple list-size metric as a KPI. But think of it this way: would you leave dead branches on a tree just because it adds to the overall size of the tree? No, you’d trim it back and allow the tree’s energy to be directed toward supporting the living branches and growing new ones.

Instead of using overall list size as your metric, use engaged list size as an alternative. Look at what portion of your list is engaging with your messages, and focus on tending to and growing that segment.

Winback, on the other hand, primarily uses purchase data as its driver. A customer hasn’t purchased from you in a given period of time, so you send them an offer to try to entice them to purchase again. They may have been opening every email you’ve sent, but the goal of the winback campaign is to incite a purchase.

Use this table as a key for remembering the differences between each of these campaign types:

Want to learn more about re-engagement emails and get some ideas? Check out Mickey Chandler’s insight regarding the most important factor in re-engagement, and Kristina Huffman’s ideas for ways you can approach content for re-engagement and winback emails.You can also download The 2014 Best of the Email Swipe File below for more email inspiration and best practices.