Re-Engaging Inactive Email Subscribers

The Best Strategies To Restore Engagement

After all the work that goes into earning an email subscriber, seeing them fade into inactivity is heartbreaking.

More than just making money, you want to know that your content is valuable, that your words are making a difference in someone’s life – and when subscribers disengage, it may seem like an indicator or failure, even though there is a multitude of other explanations.

Losing active subscribers is inevitable, but that doesn’t mean you have to take it lying down. Inactive subscribers were once active subscribers, which means that you know your value proposition resonates with them, and you have some data on their preferences.

You can use that data to tailor personalized recovery campaigns that reengage old subscribers much more easily than you could generate new leads.

Re-Engaging Inactive Email Subscribers

An infographic showing a hypothetical newsletter’s active vs inactive subscribers

In this article, we’ll review some of the best strategies for winning back your MIA subscribers, and what to do when all else fails to maintain the quality of your list.

How Do I Re-engage Inactive Email Subscribers?

The first step to re-engaging inactive email subscribers is using the data you have to understand them better. See if there are any common threads linking inactive subscribers and segment them into more precise groups. If you need more data, you can run surveys to find out more about what customers like and dislike about your brand.

From there, the ways to start winning back inactive subscribers are as diverse as tugging at their heartstrings, inspiring fear of missing out (FOMO), or simply reminding them why they signed up in the first place.

Define Activity Levels With Customer Segmentation

Re-Engaging Inactive Email Subscribers

By itself, customer segmentation isn’t a strategy to re-engage inactive email subscribers. However, it’s an esseSubscriberss important to segment inactive subscribers because not all of them are created equally. Any time you run a promotion you’re going to get a certain number of people who only want the promotional material and never actually engaged with your brand.

You should identify these ghost subscriptions and factor them out altogether so that you can focus on customers who have a genuine history of engagement with your brand. This will improve the accuracy of your campaigns and help you focus your effort where it really counts.

An image dividing inactive subscribers into three groups – ghost subscribers, former active customers, and subscribers who engaged but didn’t convert before becoming active

Run a Survey With Prizes

Re-Engaging Inactive Email Subscribers

Surveys with rewards are clever ways to boost engagement and set the groundwork for other re-engagement strategies in one go. A chance at a modest cash prize or free goods can have people lining up to answer any important questions you want to ask them. They’ll also be more likely to pay attention to your emails while they’re waiting for you to announce the winner.

Provide Subscribers With Curation Options

If you send out fairly diverse types of content, you’re going to get some subscribers who are only interested in select categories of it. Even if they love what they see from one of your emails, they might have no interest in the next dozen and disengage to reduce the unwanted emails. Highly varied newsletters should incorporate curation options so that subscribers have the power to choose the content they receive. Once you implement such features, send out an email informing inactive subscribers to bring some of them back.

Remind Them Why They Signed Up

One important way to bring back subscribers is to reference their inactivity, and one of the most simple and effective versions of this strategy is to restate your value proposition. Remember, any email subscriber who used to be engaged with your brand, either as an active customer or an interested spectator, likes what you have to offer. Remind them of that, and emphasize new features, the places you’re going, and your desire to have them with you along the way.

An image depicting a person curious/interested in what a group of other people are doing


Re-Engaging Inactive Email Subscribers

The fear of missing out approach is similar to restating your value proposition, but it focuses less on your brand and more on what you’re helping customers do. Pointing to successful case studies, satisfied end-users, or the growing popularity of your newsletter makes people want to be included. The key is to provide examples where the inactive subscriber can put themselves in the shoes of your active subscribers, and end up wanting to wear those shoes themselves.

Tell Them How You Really Feel

Be honest, you have to be a bit sad when you see subscribers you’ve worked so hard to bring onboard drifting away. Lean into that and tell inactive subscribers you miss them. It’s important to be a bit ironic and not completely earnest about it so that it doesn’t seem like you’re overdoing it, but it’s a simple approach that can get results.

Offer a Tailored Promotion

Re-Engaging Inactive Email Subscribers

A personalized promotion is a great way to leverage your data on inactive subscribers to renew their interest. In general, sending out promotions or even just happy birthday emails on someone’s birthday can strengthen ties with active subscribers and help bring back inactive subscribers. When you’re specifically working to bring back inactive subscribers, you can look at their interaction history with your brand and offer a promotion that’s perfectly suited to what you know they like.

An image of an email inbox with personalized subject lines visible

How Do I Reengage Email Subscribers?

Many of the best strategies for re-engaging email subscribers start with personalization. This might look like a calculated, analytical appeal to what you know they like based on interaction history. Personalization will also help you resonate with subscribers emotionally if that’s the tac you want to take.

Besides personalization, you also need to leverage what’s good about your brand, how it’s improving, and why subscribers like it.

What Do I Do With Inactive Subscribers?

The best thing to do when you have inactive subscribers is to re-engage them if they were ever actually engaged in the first place. Subscribers who never engaged with your brand won’t be able to re-engage, and sometimes genuine former customers and interested subscribers can’t be recovered.

Maybe this is because they no longer use that email address, or maybe they no longer have an interest in what your brand has to offer. In any event, you can’t just leave them on your mailing list. Inactive email accounts can last for years, so they’ll be cluttering up your mailing list and hurting your metrics.

How Long Do Inactive Email Accounts Last?

Unused, inactive email accounts can last for years, depending on the email service provider. After two years of inactivity, Google will deactivate email accounts but won’t delete them. As long as you continue sending emails to inactive email accounts and inactive subscribers, it’s going to hurt your email deliverability. If re-engagement doesn’t work, then you’ll need to clean up your mailing list by deleting inactive subscribers.

Image of someone using a feather duster and cleaning their computer (cleaning their mailing list)

Should I Delete Inactive Email Subscribers?

Re-Engaging Inactive Email Subscribers

Knowing when to move on is just as important in customer relationships as it is in other kinds of relationships. While deleting shouldn’t be your first step when you see inactive email subscribers, it’s a best practice for maintaining email deliverability and good mailing list hygiene. Start out by contacting and attempting to re-engage inactive customers, and purge the list of those who are unresponsive to it.

Ultimately, an effective customer recovery effort needs good tools for managing data, segmenting customers, and running email campaigns. At beehiiv, we offer all of this and more.

If you want to recover inactive subscribers and grow your newsletter, we can help. Sign up today to start your newsletter–or grow your existing one–with our impressive suite of tools to track and manage engagement.

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