How to Reactivate Your Email List in 5 Steps

According to Marketing Sherpa, “A company that maintains a clean list of quality subscribers, to which it only sends relevant content, will outperform a rival that does not maintain list hygiene and sends batch-and-blast communications.” Considering that the average email marketing list depreciates by 25 percent every year, how can you be sure that the people on your list really want to be there? With a reactivation campaign, of course!

A reactivation campaign gives you the opportunity to win back and increase engagement with inactive subscribers. It’s the best way to ensure a healthy email list, which is the foundation to your email marketing success. And hey, it’s never too early for spring cleaning.

Getting Started

First, you’ll want to identify your inactive subscribers.

Inactive subscribers are people who are subscribed to your email list with a valid email address, but haven’t opened any of your emails in a long time. There are a lot of reasons why people go inactive – their interests may have changed, they may have signed up just for an incentive offer, or they simply don’t have time to open your emails.

To identify these people, just look at your subscriber stats over the last few months to see who is opening emails and who isn’t. Don’t forget click rates. Even if people aren’t clicking the links in your emails, they are showing some level of interest since they’re opening your emails. You may want to segment them from the totally inactive subscribers.

It’s up to you to define what “inactive” means for your list. If you send weekly newsletters and you have subscribers who have opened less than 10 emails over the last six months, you’ll probably consider those people inactive.

Reactivate Your Inactive Subscribers With These 5 Steps

1. Take a closer look at your inactive subscribers

How did they sign up? If, for instance, they subscribed after signing up for a free eBook or webinar, their interest may have waned after they received their freebie. Look at the content you covered in the incentive you offered – can you send them similar content again?

2. Segment your list based on activity

Now it’s time to separate the active from the inactive. As mentioned earlier, you may want to take one extra step by segmenting the totally inactive from the semi-active, or those who have opened your emails but haven’t clicked your links.

3. Reach out to your inactive subscribers

There are a few ways you can do this:

  • Send a survey asking what they’d like to see from you in the future.
  • If you already have an idea of what kind of content they want, send them related content.
  • You can try sending them a freebie – an eBook, checklist or another electronic download – to remind them of your value.
  • For those who have opened your emails but haven’t made a purchase from you, a coupon might be the nudge they need.

For any reactivation message, keep these things in mind:

  • Your message should be super compelling and remind your subscribers why they signed up in the first place.
  • Your value proposition should align with the “What’s in it for me?” rule.
  • Make your subject line pops – remember, these are people who haven’t opened an email from you in a while.
  • Let readers know how they can reach you on other social sites. If a reader checks Facebook more than email, it makes more sense for them to stay in touch with you there.

4. If the inactive subscribers still aren’t biting, it’s time for a cut-off email

Send a message to those who were unresponsive to your reactivation email asking them to reconfirm their interest in your mailing list. Remind them about all the valuable content they’ll miss out on from you.

5. Remove those inactive subscribers

At this point, you’ve given your inactive subscribers plenty of chances to reconfirm their interest in your list. It’s time to say goodbye! It might hurt at first, but inactive subscribers can only hurt your email marketing. Here’s why:

  • They skew your email analytics in terms of opens rates and click throughs, hurting your deliverability and preventing you from getting an accurate picture of your emails’ success – and that negatively impacts your entire campaign.
  • You’re better off having a small list of active subscribers than a large list of dead email addresses.
  • It’s the best way to ensure the overall health of your email list.

Reactivating your inactive subscribers is one of the best ways to reinvigorate your email marketing performance.

Already an AWeber customer? Learn how to start re-engaging your inactive subscribers here.

Looking for ways to grow your email list after removing inactives? Learn essential list building techniques when you download our free case study, How One Blogger Grew Her Email List to 50,000 and Counting!

Download the Free Case Study


  1. Melissa Danielle

    1/17/2015 3:32 pm

    Funny, I feel as though several people I’m subscribed to read this post, because I’ve seen at least 3 emails in the past week with subject lines asking if I’m OK, where I’ve been, or what’s it going to take for me to open the email. 🙂

  2. Step

    1/18/2015 4:17 pm

    Thank you for your valuable article

  3. Megan

    1/27/2015 5:03 am

    True, what’s the purpose of sending out emails to:

    1. The email addresses that are no longer active
    2. Irrelevant people

    Due to these reasons, it always makes sense to update our existing email lists to either add new ones or remove the ones that are no longer useful. Also, we may use one more tactic for this, e.g. sometimes you send an email to a person, system returns a delivery error, if you see such errors more than twice, it’ll be a good approach to remove that email adderess from the list (make sure to confirm if the corresponding user ever made a purchase or visited the landing page).