A Strategy to Reactivate Inactive Subscribers on Your Email List

Last month, I discussed ten ways to lower spam complaint rates for your email campaigns. Today, I’m going to outline specific steps you can take to reactivate or suppress inactive subscribers.

At first blush, you might think housekeeping like this is a “nice-to –do.”  Everyone likes to keep their email subscriber lists tidy and up-to-date, right? But, as I explained in my earlier article, scrubbing your email subscriber lists is no longer just a “nice-to-do.” It’s a “must-do.” Regular deliverability audits are becoming increasingly important as spam traps become more and more sensitive and ISPs fine-tune their scrutiny of email traffic.

So, once you’ve completed a deliverability audit and identified all inactive subscribers on your list, you need to chart a strategy to reactivate them.  Here, in very general terms, is the course of action I suggest:

  • Create segments to isolate any subscriber who hasn’t clicked or opened in the last three months.
  • If you have other data indicating that these subscribers are active (purchase history, etc.), use that data to define “activity,” and then bucket active individuals into their own group.
  • Bucket subscribers by “opt-in source” and “opt-in date.”
  • Send a reactivation (win-back) message to inactive subscribers.
  • Create a win-back message that clearly communicates the value of your program to your subscribers and ensures they know they must confirm in order to continue receiving email from you. (You can consider sending two messages to this user base, but make sure this is clear in both messages.)
  • Consider including customization in the message related to the source of the opt-in. For example, “You subscribed to receive our newsletter when you completed a product purchase….”
  • In addition, consider a win-back message that’s very bold and punchy. Try a unique offer, a survey or something else that’s different from your normal messaging, but still within their permission grant.  I’ve seen Aprimo clients use language similar to “We hate junk mail, too….”
  • Be certain you do NOT send your win-back message to your “active subscriber” list, and don’t send it to more than 50,000 audience members in a 48-hour period.
  • Closely monitor opt-outs and spam complaints as you deploy the message.
  • If inactive subscribers do not respond to the win-back messages, remove them from your file.
  • Evaluate why they became inactive in the first place. Look at their source of opt-in. Is there a large # of inactives coming from a specific source? List purchase? Partnership? Event?
  • Review your message stream and determine at what point in the message stream did they become inactive? Fix it!

Why spend time on reactivating inactive subscribers, and determining why they became inactive? There’s a two-fold reason.

First, inactive subscribers may be more apt to view your messages as spam. Then, if they report you as a nuisance, your overall inbox placement with ISPs can be negatively impacted. Stay out of spam traps and stay on the good side of the ISPs by keeping your email subscriber list clean and up-to-date.

Second, remember this: Every inactive subscriber was once an active subscriber. At some point in the recent past, each inactive was so interested in your product/service that he/she took the time to join your email list. Determining the reasons they became inactive will help minimize inactives in the future. They’re already familiar with your brand and may need only a little nudge to become active once again, but if you can determine what makes them switch, you can use this to your advantage to curb inactivity in the future.