We all love our engaged customers; they read our emails, click our links, and buy our products. With customers like this, clearly you’re doing something right, so pat yourself on the back! Now, what about the customers who don’t open your emails or click on anything – have they fallen out of love with us or are they just disengaged? Simply put, we want to know why the magic has gone and whether we should remove these particular customers from your list?

Identify your inactive subscribers

Firstly, start by identifying your inactive subscribers. We consider an email address “active” if the account has opened or clicked on a campaign in the past 6 months. Don’t prune these inactive customers from your list, though! Believe it or not, there’s more to the story than just opens and clicks. Your inactive subscribers might not be actively engaging with your emails, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they haven’t noticed your message or skimmed through your subject lines. If you sell things for a living, it’s important to look beyond the open rate and pay closer attention to the purchase behaviour of your customers before you consider drastic actions like unsubscribing that valuable customer.

Email theory

We are no mathematicians but…if you send an email to a list of 100,000 subscribers with 30,000 opens, that’s a 30% open rate, right!? This is a respectable figure but it also means that 70% of your list didn’t even open the email. The fact is some percentage of those who didn’t open this email will never open an email from you again so they are negatively affecting your rates and their position on your database should be reconsidered.

To increase the positive engagement rates and decrease the negative (including potential complaints) you must be proactive and perform list hygiene on a regular basis, but rather than delete them, we’d suggest creating these customers their own list, and contact them only when you have a big promotion so their apathy towards your regular emails won’t affect your day-to-day statistics.

Create a re-engagement strategy

Open your email program and create a list segment of every subscriber who hasn’t opened or clicked an email in the last 6 months. Then, write up an email series with the goal of re-engaging subscribers that have become disinterested, stopped checking that email address (or whatever other reason they have for ignoring your emails!) Your re-engagement strategy could then include simple subject lines like ‘We miss you’ and tell them what they have missed, or you could simply ask subscribers to edit their preferences, so they can choose when and how many times they hear from you. Here are where your re-engagement tools come in…

Choose your re-engagements tools

Polls, competitions, promotions and discounts, this is where you can get creative. Include a list of links to content and resources they’ve been missing and really hit them over the head with the benefits they receive from being part of your email database! Don’t forgot to move the engaged customers off this campaign list when they do open or click through an email. You can then continue with your re-engagement campaign targeting those stubborn ones!

Try asking them ‘What’s the best email to contact you on? ‘What would you like to hear from us about?’, or even simply offer them a gift to entice them back. If this still doesn’t work, let them know that you will have to remove them from the list if they don’t respond by clicking on a link.

Use a subject line like “Should I unsubscribe you?” or lead with ‘I don’t want to keep bothering you, but I don’t want to completely cut you off, either’… Sadly, cutting them off is exactly what you’ll need to do if they do not engage. Don’t delete them, just simply remove them from your main list. If you have a new and particularly hot offer or piece of content you can try sending it to this disengaged list but for the most part, you should consider this list temporarily lost.

Final thoughts

Just remember, by taking action to remove these lost subscribers from an active campaign list you’ve increased your ability to deliver email to those who eagerly await your content and offers. Not only that, you’ll improve your opens and click statistics, reduce the percentage of bounces, unsubscribes and potential spam complaints. Win, win! Don’t forget to test your campaigns using both multivariate testing and A/B testing.