Every one of us has some inactive subscribers (who haven’t opened any of our emails in the last three months) depending on the quality of our lists. Your inactive subscribers might:

  1. Have lost interest in your products or services
  2. Have lost interest in your content
  3. Have abandoned their email addresses
  4. Have been added to your list without their consent (this is why you need a double opt-in process)
  5. Have given you an invalid email address (which increases your bounce rate)

Whatever the reason, you need to deal with your inactive subscribers, that is either bring them back to the cycle by re-engaging them or delete them from your list.

If you think having inactive contacts on your list is better than not having them (and you’re okay with the extra charges of a big list), you might wanna consider this:

Inactive subscribers hurt your deliverability

You read it, my friend.

Inactive subscribers lower your overall open rate. And a consistently low open rate will send a signal to mailbox providers like Google or Yahoo! that you’re spamming people.

The aftermath? You’ll end up in people’s spam/junk folder or your emails might get blocked in the gateway.

Return Path’s 2017 deliverability benchmark report

But wait? how much is a low open rate? The average open rate for different industries might differ but as a rule of thumb, there’s something wrong with the open rate of below 15%.

If you’re willing to re-engage your inactive subscribers and improve your open rate, you need to take advantage of these five re-engagement campaigns:

Tell them what they’ve already missed

People are naturally responsive to the fear of loss. It’s our primal motivator and has more impact in persuading people to take action than any other emotions. It’s what the legendary copywriter, Dan Kennedy calls the most reliable sales formula ever invented.

Now, one of the greatest ways to win back your unengaged subscribers is reminding them of what they’ve missed already and what they’re going to miss in the future if they don’t follow your emails.

You can send an email to your inactive subscribers and give them a taste of the best emails you’ve sent them already (check out your analytics section to find out your best performing campaigns). Or you can send them an email containing a case study of how your client could achieve great results with your help.

An impressive example of helping people get great results is Sam Ovens’s consultant training program which boasts to have trained 24 millionaires and 451 6-figures. These results would make anyone want to participate in their program.

Bonus tips:

  1. Use an attention-grabbing subject line such as “Here’s what you’ve missed already” or “Can’t let you lose anymore”.
  2. Explain who you are and why they’ve subscribed to your list in the first place.
  3. Include the subject lines of your best campaigns and briefly highlight the key points they could have learned.
  4. Include a preview (or tease) of what you’re going to send them in the future.
  5. Include a link or button at the end of your email and encourage people to click on them so that they won’t miss a thing in the future.

Remind them of the reason they signed up

In many cases, there’s no reason to blame people’s inactivity on yourself. According to Email Statistics Report, 2014-2018 by Radicati Group, an average business person receives 97 business emails and sends 43 of them per day.

A lot of inbox activity right?

So it’s natural if your emails are buried under a huge pile of 96 other emails people receive daily. This typically happens more often when people have subscribed to your list to win in a contest on social media or to get a giveaway.

Once people have forgotten why they have subscribed to your email list, they tend to neglect your emails. This is when you should remind them of why they have signed up to your list and what they should expect from you (in plain words). Remind them of the values you promised in the first place and explain that you’re still delivering them in your emails.


Bonus tip: One of the greatest persuasion techniques that most A-list copywriters use is envisioning the desired state. As Consulting explains people are extremely driven by their desired states and are willing to do anything to achieve them. For example, business owners might not find any value in a course on copywriting but will be interested in it if they knew that good copywriting alone could easily double or triple their income in the next six months (their desired state).

Ask them to update preferences

If you have multiple lists, then you know that sometimes people subscribe to the wrong list or the wrong segment of your list.

To make sure that people have subscribed to the right list, you need to ask them to specifically choose what list they want to stay in.

For example, Pat Flynn sent this email to subscribers to know their preference better:


Although this is not specifically a re-engagement email, you can merrily send it to your inactive subscribers and ask them to choose the right list or segment.

Alternatively, you can send your subscribers to the subscription management section and ask them to choose what lists they want to stay in.


Send them a survey

Surveys are not directly related to re-engaging your inactive contacts (although they would convey this feeling that you care about people’s opinion), but at least they can determine the reasons people are inactive.

For example, recently I noticed I’d been ignoring emails from ConnectWise when I saw this email in my inbox:

Sujectline: Be Honest — Was it Something We Said?

Once I clicked on the button, this survey page showed up:

The answers to each one of these questions could be help them plan their future email marketing strategy. Personally, the reason I did “disengage with ConnectWise email communications” was that I did not remember why I subscribed to their list. It was probably to receive one of their ebooks as they have many of them (well, this is one problem with free giveaways, once you have them you might not care for the rest.)

Ask them straight to stay or leave

This is always the last step.

You want your inactive subscribers to take an action and stay or do nothing and get deleted from your list. So you send them an email like Carol Tice, from the Freelance Writers Den, did with her list:

“I recently cut deadwood from my email list – about 500 names. I sent them an email first that said, “Do I bore you?” and asked if they wanted to stay subscribed. 20 people responded to us…and we deleted the rest of that list.

I loved cutting them…now I have better open rates. I give a lot of free stuff out to my list, so I didn’t want to give free stuff to people who don’t care.”


Bonus tips:

Cleansing your email list is an important part of maintaining a healthy list. It helps you:

  1. Improve your deliverability as it improves your open rate
  2. Avoid the high cost of a big list
  3. Have more reliable email marketing stats

But you should also be expecting a huge cut from your list. That’s because very few of your inactive subscribers turn into active ones. As for CNET, they could win back only 9% of their inactive subscribers after sending two re-engagement campaigns. The rest were simply deleted from the list.

The same goes for Pipedrive. From 92,000 inactive subscribers, they could only re-engage 9,000. That’s a little less than 10%.

In order to see better results from your re-engagement campaigns, it’s a good idea to send two or three of them before you actually delete your inactive contacts. This is while your regular campaigns are being sent to them at the same time.

For example, you can send them an email explaining what they have already missed from your newsletter and ask them to click on a link to get special kind of content (or a coupon if you may). The people who have clicked on the link are considered re-engaged.

Then you could wait for one week and send another email, remind them of why they signed up in the first place, tell them that their subscription will expire in a week if they don’t click on the link (to receive a special kind of content or update their preferences).

And finally, after another week, you can send them an email telling them to either click on a link or button to stay on your list or do nothing and be deleted from the list.


Finally, you need to cleanse your list every three months. So if you don’t want to manually go through the whole process again and again, make sure you set up a workflow including the re-engagement emails you want to be sent.

About the Author: Mostafa Dastras is one of those people who think talking about themselves in third person is weird (but he’s cool with it). What keeps him up at nights is how he can help his clients increase sales with no BS content marketing (or how people can grow an email list). Visit his blog, LiveaBusinessLife, or connect with him on LinkedIn to get him to write for you.