How to Re-Engage Inactive Email Subscribers

Have your email subscribers fallen asleep? If so, you shouldn’t feel alone. Studies indicate that most people lose about 25 percent of their email subscriber list annually. While it may be fairly common, that does not mean that you have to simply accept it. A certain amount of loss may be inevitable due to the nature of life as people change email addresses, move, etc. Even so, there are steps that you can take to re-engage some of your subscribers who still have an interest in your company.


Implementing a re-engagement campaign can be surprisingly easier than you might think. The following steps can help you to get started.

Why Do Subscribers Become Inactive?

Before you can begin a re-engagement campaign, you first need to identify the various reasons why subscribers may become inactive. There can be a variety of reasons why the people on your subscriber list may no longer be responding to your emails, including the following:

• Your emails are being sent to their SPAM folders
• They have lost interest but simply haven’t unsubscribed yet
• They are receiving so many emails from you that your name has lost effectiveness
• They aren’t receiving enough email from you, so they no longer remember you
• They only subscribed to receive a one-time perk
• Your emails are not providing any value
• Your emails are not what they thought they were getting when they initially subscribed

Of course, there can be a multitude of other reasons why your subscribers may be inactive. The key is that while you may not be able to rectify all of those reasons, some of them can be remedied, providing untapped revenue opportunity in your email list.

Along with tapping into the potential revenue pool, there is also one more incredibly important reason for instituting a re-engagement campaign among inactive email subscribers. By retaining inactive email subscribers on your list, your email deliverability is placed at risk. Each email that you send out to an inactive subscriber offers the opportunity for emails to be marked as SPAM.

How Long Is Too Long?

Now that we have taken a look at why it is so important to implement a re-engagement campaign, let’s look at what must be done before you can actually get started. First, you need to sort through active and inactive subscribers. In other words, you need to define what an inactive subscriber actually is. In determining how long is too long between responses from a subscriber, it is important to note that everyone is different. Begin by considering the length of your particular buying cycle. The parameters for your list’s inactivity could be completely different from that of another company based on your relevant buying cycle.

As a general rule of thumb, inactivity is considered somewhere between three and six months, but keep in mind that this guideline is highly flexible based on your business model. There is one caveat to this. When reviewing your email subscriber list to identify inactive users to target in your re-engagement campaign, do not include those who have not been active for years. There are very few industries in which the normal buying cycle is years long. When you have subscribers who have not responded in years, remove them from your list and do not target them for re-engagement, as they are prime suspects for increasing your SPAM complaints.

Strategies for Re-engagement

Once you have a solid idea of the typical time-frame in which your subscribers should be responding, it is time to begin planning your re-engagement campaign. What is the best way to re-engage your subscriber list and get them excited about hearing from you again? One approach that some companies take is to send out an email that requires their subscribers to make a decision. In other words, they issue an ultimatum that requires subscribers to either respond or be removed from the list. While this approach might net some subscribers and bring them back into the fold, it is a bit high-handed. After all, your goal is to encourage your subscribers to become active again, not scare or irritate them.

A re-engagement campaign should be precisely that, a campaign. Campaigns are not typically comprised of a one-time communication. Instead include a series of emails that are sent out over a period of time as part of an effort to encourage subscribers to become active once again. In many instances, subscribers become inactive in the first place due to some type of breakdown in the communication process. As a result, it may well take more than one email in order to convince your subscribers of the value proposition offered by your emails. The following types of emails can be used as part of such a re-engagement campaign:

• Request to update email preferences-Send an email offering to change the frequency of your emails or even to customize the subject matter of your email to your subscriber’s preferences. This can be beneficial for subscribers who have become inactive due to inbox overload.

• Incentives-Send an email offering coupons, freebies, or other incentives for subscribers who re-opt in to your email list. The key with this strategy is to ensure that it is based on the subscriber’s past download history or purchases.

• Feedback Survey-Send an email asking your subscriber to provide feedback regarding anything you can do that will improve the content of your emails.

• Let Them Know You Miss Them-In today’s information age, it can be quite refreshing to hear from a company that acknowledges the importance of your business and lets you know they miss you.

Keep in mind that while a re-engagement campaign may not prove to be 100% successful in terms of bringing back inactive users, it can certainly be worth the time in bringing back some of your subscribers.

Along with implementing a re-engagement campaign, it is also important to look at steps you can take to prevent such problems in the future. The following steps can help:

• Establish clear expectations regarding the opt-in process, including subject matter, frequency of emails, and the type of content that subscribers will receive. This will help to prevent misunderstandings later.

• Send out your first email immediately and ensure that the content is of the highest quality. This is your first opportunity to truly impress new subscribers. If you fail here, it could also be your last opportunity.

• Refine your content based on the behavior that you observe from your subscriber list. This will allow you to provide a customized experience for your subscribers that will result in more subscribers that are more engaged.