Every email list has its fair share of inactive contacts, and once in a while, every email marketer will ask whether to hold on to or to let go of those inactive subscribers.
Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer to this, given there are a number of possible reasons those subscribers disengaged.
However, with the right re-engagement email campaign that also keeps privacy regulations like the GDPR in mind, marketers can manage inactive subscribers more effectively.
Kissmetrics has shown that on average, more than half of contacts – as much as 60% – in an email list will be inactive.
On the other hand, it’s estimated that highly engaged subscribers make up only around 24% of contacts on any given list, according to Return Path.
This big difference in numbers can cause deliverability issues, not to mention signal poor sender reputation. You don’t want either of those.
Apart from causing deliverability issues, inactive subscribers also waste marketing resources.
Most ESPs charge customers based on the volume of emails sent (which, in turn, largely depends on the size of your list).
When you’re paying for contacts that won’t convert into closed deals or even nurtured opportunities, you hurt your ROI.
There’s more to dealing with inactive contacts than simply deleting them from your list altogether, though.
It’s good practice to run a re-engagement email campaign to try and win back these disengaged subscribers.
The campaign’s results will help you determine which contacts to keep – and which ones to forget about.
So, how should you reach out to those contacts?
Here’s what the experts have to say.
Define what “inactive subscriber” means
MailChimp explains the term “inactive subscriber” can mean different things to different marketers.
In general, there are two areas marketers often use to define whether a contact is active or inactive:
- Activity, or lack thereof
- Time elapsed since last engaged with a campaign
Now, it’s up to you to determine at what point lack of activity or elapsed time – or both – points to that subscriber being inactive.
For instance, you may set it as at least six months since they last engaged in a campaign, and they opened or clicked on 10% or less of the emails sent in that time period.
One thing to note, however, is that a lack of interaction doesn’t always indicate inactivity, and that brings us to the next point.
Segment inactive contacts into 3 groups
Now that you’ve chosen a yardstick to measure inactivity, it’s time to figure out what to do with contacts that meet the criterion.
Campaign Monitor notes that inactive subscribers typically fall into 3 categories, each requiring a different re-engagement approach.
- Never-Actives – Subscribers who have never engaged.
These are most likely contacts who signed up for a one-time offer such as a free download.
Send a re-commitment email that will help you find out why they signed up in the first place, and will let them indicate their email preferences.
- Dormant – Subscribers who were once active but have now become unengaged.
Some open emails but nothing comes of these opened emails.
Send a series of nurturing emails that offer value (such as a relevant article or resource).
- Inactives – Once-active customers who no longer interact with any of your campaigns.
Gradually ramp down the number of emails you send them before asking if they no longer want you to retain their info, let alone send them content.
In all three cases, make sure you remind subscribers of what info they’ve given and what you use it for, and inform them of how you’re keeping such information secure.
Make sure to include the option for these subscribers to opt-out, too, in keeping with data regulations currently in place; if a subscriber doesn’t want you to keep storing their info, they have the right to ask you to delete it.
Re-Engagement: Crafting a Compelling Email
You already know that past emails didn’t resonate well with inactive subscribers – so your re-engagement emails need to look, feel, and sound different from your usual campaigns.
HubSpot suggests that subject lines, for example, be spiced up with a bit of personalization to include the recipient’s name, company, or industry.
You can also try subject lines that ask for “signs of life” with a relevant question.
As for the content, AWeber has several guidelines aimed toward help marketers write an effective re-engagement email:
- Find out why inactive subscribers signed up in the first place
- Check whether you’re continuing to meet these expectations
- Uncover any previous changes to your email strategy that may have affected engagement
- Determine what to offer to pique their interest again
Remember that you need to include a strong, clear, and specific call-to-action or CTA, for you to maximize the response rates of the re-engagement email campaign.
Whether you’re suggesting a helpful resource or asking if they want to remain on your list, you need to make it easy for the recipient to complete that action.
Automated re-engagement, humanized response
When dealing with relatively small email lists, keeping track of subscriber inactivity manually can work well.
When the contacts number into the thousands, though, the only way to run a re-engagement email campaign to scale is through automation.
SendGrid suggests a huge part of the campaign’s workflow be automated.
Scheduling send-outs and unsubscribing contacts are among those tasks best handled by machines.
That way, you can stay focused on the areas that require, say, creative thinking.
Not all activities in your re-engagement email campaign should be done on autopilot.
Responding to inquiries, for example, or replying to feedback is still best done by humans.
Having several disengaged subscribers doesn’t always mean you need to delete them from your contact list; there’s still value in trying to win them back – if you reach out the right way, that is.
So plan a robust re-engagement email campaign using the guidelines in this post, and you may yet be able to salvage some of those contacts.