How To Reengage Inactive Subscribers

Your subscribers are busy people. It’s completely normal for a percentage of your messages to go unopened each time you broadcast – that is just the nature of email marketing.

But for all of the busy people on your list, there are also email addresses that belong to genuinely disinterested subscribers and it is difficult to separate them from the busy ones.

A reengagement campaign can help you identify those subscribers that still want to hear from you and part ways with the ones who don’t.

Inactivity and Why It Matters to Your Campaign

Inactive subscribers include all contacts who haven’t opened or clicked through your messages over an extended period of time.

With all of the emails that your subscribers receive on a daily basis, it is easy for them to lose interest in your campaign for a variety of reasons – from bland subject lines and irrelevant message content to a change in their lifestyle or financial situation.

It’s a reality that you must accept: if subscribers no longer fit your target audience, they will quickly become inactive and take up space on your list.

According to a study by Merkle Interactive Services (PDF), subscribers who receive permission-based, promotional messages delete 55% of those emails without ever opening them.

That is over half of all requested email!

You want your subscribers to open your mail no matter what when they request it, but if you don’t address the truth that subscribers interests change over the course of your campaign, you run the risk of losing subscriber attention and damaging your deliverability and reputation.

As the late Stefan Pollard points out in an article about engagement and deliverability for, the “top metrics generated from activity that make up a sender’s reputation include bounce rates, spam complaints, and recipient interaction.”

Many ISPs now look at what recipients have been doing with your emails when deciding whether your messages belong in the inbox. All interactions (both positive and negative) are noted so that the ISPs can get a better idea of your individual reputation as a sender.

You always want your subscribers to interact positively with your messages so that they are delivered consistently. A bloated list full of inactive addresses will not perform well and could negatively impact your sender reputation.

How to Handle Inactive Subscribers

Assess the Situation

How often are you sending emails? Is the information about your product or service something that a subscriber would value? The frequency and relevancy of your messages go into a subscriber’s decision to stop interacting with you.

There are lots of ways to investigate the activity on your list, but segmenting and sending surveys is a good place to start.

Identify the Inactives

On the Search Subscribers page in your account, you can find out exactly who hasn’t opened your messages in a certain amount of time.

Perform a search for “No Opens” since a previous date. Most marketers find that 90 days without opening is an appropriate time-frame, however you can always adjust the length to suit the needs of your campaign.

Search for No Opens

To make sure that you’re not including people who may have just signed up and not gotten a chance to read any messages yet, add “Date Added” “date is before” and then choose the same date as the “No Opens” line above. This will allow your newer subscribers a chance to get involved.

Date Added

Finally, save the segment so that you can send emails only to those subscribers.

Save Inactive Subscribers Segment

Send a Series of Reengagement Messages

Even back when your inactive subscribers were engaged, they didn’t open or click on every single message from you. And they won’t all open/click on your first try at reengaging them.

To find the people who are really still interested in your campaign, set up a series of three broadcast messages that make it easy for them to take action.

Send the second message to people who didn’t respond to the first one by creating a new segment after you send the first message, and then send the third message to people who didn’t respond to the second.

Note: with Broadcast QuickStats, targeting non-responsive subscribers is a simple process.

For example, to email non-openers, click the “Unopened” button:

Did not open button

Then scroll down and click the “Send Directly to These Subscribers” button:

Send to non-openers

Make it very clear starting with the second message that if they do not take action you will remove them from your email list. If they still haven’t responded by the third and final message, use urgency tactics to let subscribers know that they will never, ever hear from you again unless they take immediate action.

Not sure what kind of information to include in your emails?

  • Send a survey, asking them to provide feedback and offer suggestions for content that they would like to see.
  • Create a whitepaper or a download about your particular service or specialty.
  • Reward subscribers for (hopefully) taking action: include exclusive coupons or discounts for products.

Know When to Say Goodbye

Going into this task, you must accept that there will be people who don’t respond to your reengagement messages. Although it’s hard to let go of those subscribers, you want the most responsive and interested list in the long run.

Stay firm with the decision to remove inactive subscribers. Run one final search for people who haven’t opened your messages and delete them from your list for good.

Ever Run a Reengagement Campaign?

What was your experience? Was it hard to let go of subscribers in that final moment?

We’d love to hear all about it, please share with us below!