Email Marketing, List Management, Response and Conversion

What to do when subscribers are just not that into you

Does your database suffer from inactive subscribers? Do you know how many people in your database truly want to receive marketing emails from you? (Hint: It’s probably not as many as you think). Unfortunately you can’t just look at the size of your database to answer this question. Just because someone once gave permission to receive marketing emails from you, it doesn’t mean that they’re still wanted today.

Inactivity can be due to a number of reasons. Email addresses become abandoned. Content can become boring and repetitive which causes people to lose interest. Or maybe people aren’t really interested in the first place because they signed up only as part of a competition. In any case, the worst thing you can do with inactive subscribers is nothing at all.

Continuously sending emails to inactive subscribers can:

  • Waste your money by sending emails destined to be ignored.
  • Risk your emails being marked as spam. The risk grows with every email you send to someone who doesn’t want to receive it.
  • Muddy the assessment of your email campaign’s performance.
  • Hurt your deliverability. ISPs monitor inbox activity and the amount of email you send to abandoned email addresses and factor these into the equation for how to handle future emails you send.

But before you go and remove inactive subscribers from your list, there are a few things you should do first. Below is a four step process for how you can turn inactive subscribers around so they become re-engaged with your emails.

Step 1: Identify inactive subscribers

Begin by defining what you consider an inactive subscriber to be based on measurements such as open, click and purchase rates. Then apply these measurements to a specific time-frame of inactivity that factors in your business model and email frequency.

For example, if you’re a B2B email marketer sending monthly newsletters, an inactive subscriber might be someone who hasn’t opened an email for 6 months. Alternatively, if you’re a B2C email marketer sending weekly promotional emails, you might consider someone to be inactive after only 3 months.

Step 2: Segment inactive subscribers into groups

Letting go of inactive prospects is a lot easier than letting go of inactive customers. Therefore you should group inactive subscribers based on whether or not they’ve ever purchased something from you. Similarly, letting go of inactive customers who haven’t purchased in 3 years is easier than those who haven’t purchased in 3 months. So group customers based on when they last purchased from you.

When grouping inactive subscribers, look for other patterns like large groups of inactive subscribers on the same email domain. This potentially indicates delivery problems to that domain and should be addressed separately.

Step 3: Implement reactivation campaigns for each group

The key to re-engaging inactive subscribers is to do something different. The status quo clearly wasn’t working so you need to change your approach in order to capture their attention. Below are some tactics that help reactivation campaigns stand apart from your regular email campaigns.

  • Use catchy subject lines designed to catch attention and peak curiosity
  • Send your email with a different from name
  • Send your email as plain text instead of HTML
  • Include an incentivised survey designed to gain feedback on how you can improve your communications
  • Send your emails at a different time and day to what you normally do

Step 4: Remove inactive subscribers

If all of the above fails to gain a positive response from inactive subscribers then it might simply be time to let them go. Before doing so, consider sending one final email campaign as a last ditch effort. Here’s an example of how you might approach this email:

Hi Matthew,
We’ve noticed you haven’t opened an email from us in a while now. And that’s ok, but we don’t want to keep bugging you with messages you don’t want to receive.
So whilst we’ll be sorry to see you go, we’ll be removing you from our email list in 5 days time.
If however you’d like to continue receiving helpful tips and deals regarding our widgets, please re-confirm your email subscription by clicking here.
Kind regards,
Widget Co

It’s important that you follow through on this email and remove people that do not re-confirm their subscription (even if they opened the email).

Finally, with inactive subscribers it’s important to identify why people are becoming inactive in the first place. If you don’t address the underlying reason that people are losing interest in your emails, it’ll be a constant battle to re-capture their lost attention.

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