3 Steps To Re-engage Inactive Subscribers On Your List

re-engaged subscriber

Why are my open rates low?“, “How can I increase my open rates?” – if you can see yourself in either of these instances, read on.

Your subscribers are not opening your emails. They’ve suddenly become too busy to check them. They are gradually falling out of love with your brand. Or… they can’t sign in to their email accounts. Okay, there’s not much you can do about the last one, but stay with us.

If you can’t get your subscriber to single-tap your email open, then their engagement rate is dropping fast. And you need to act faster.

But first things first.

What is a good open rate?

While numbers may vary across countries, the average open rate fluctuates around 21-25%. In the United States, the average open rate stands at 21.5% while certain industries enjoy percentages greater than 25%. In the United Kingdom,  Beauty and Personal Care emails feature a 18.48% open rate while Non-Profit emails can boast a 24.98% open rate. At all times, we must bear in mind that segmented mailing lists have higher open rates compared with unsegmented lists (which are a no-no, to begin with): this is because segmented lists are more targeted, relevant, and personal than unsegmented ones.

If your open rates are lower than one quarter of your mailing lists, you must take action now.

Before they reach for the “Unsubscribe” button

You need to re-engage your subscribers ASAP.

To do that, you need to run a re-engagement campaign. But who do you run it for?

1. Define “inactive”

Sending the re-engagement campaign could get tricky, in terms of discovering all the right people to send it to. How does one qualify for the re-engagement campaign? For some companies it is someone who has not opened an email in 30 days, but for others, it could be someone who has not engaged with the brand in six months or even a year. It all comes down to the relationship you are building and striving for, and this is basically the first question you need to answer.

You can play around with different frequencies before you decide how many months of inactivity signify disengagement. In all cases, you should keep in mind that certain email clients won’t consider an email opened unless the “Click here to see images” has been clicked. This is why you will need to become more resourceful to get a more accurate estimate of your opens, such as sending an image-only email campaign, which will have them click that link, for example.

2. Choose incentives

Once you’ve selected your target audience, you need to come up with a pool of incentives that will get them to re-engage with your page. You could choose among a discount or free shipping, or a “buy 1 get 2” offer, but you could also think outside the “box” and offer them a 10$ gift card for a Netflix subscription, or anything! Add some personalization to the email to help make the subscriber feel appreciated and their previous engagement acknowledged and praised.

3. Camera- Lights- Action!

a. Set up your re-engagement workflow

This is still an exploratory phase to discover subscriber intent, so you want to write compelling copy for your subject line; if anything, now is the time to achieve the highest opens possible and you shouldn’t risk getting a low engagement rate on this one. Try to diversify senders in this email. If your sender has always been “Acme.com” from “newsletter@acme.com” you can change the name of the sender to “John from Acme” and change the email altogether to “john@acme.com”. This adds a more personal tone and intrigues subscribers into opening the email!

personal tone email

Once your subscribers have opened your email, they should see something that will draw their attention, get them to read on, and keep them from pressing the home button on their cell phone. That could be a personalization tag (e.g. “Hi Mary!”), a casual writing style, and a photo to go with it: for instance, it could be the photo of a sad marketing team followed by “We miss you, John” or “It’s been a while, Mary”. Then, you can build on that by encouraging them to keep reading: “See what you’ve been missing out on” or “Let’s update you real quick and get you up and running again!”.

Another indispensable ingredient of this email is the sense of urgency it creates. In case you provided your so-far inactive subscribers with a coupon or a giveaway, let them know that your offer stands for a limited amount of time and that they need to engage within a specific (short) time frame.

At this point, your opt-out link should be softly mentioned below the central message of the email.

b. Time to say goodbye!

Things have come to this; after you filtered out the subscribers who did engage with your brand in the previous email, and since a decent amount of days have passed, you are now letting them know you are permanently deleting them from your list. Why waste credits, anyway?

WAIT A MINUTE: In case they get this movie-like flashback of all the amazing times they had with your brand and change their mind, they should be able to click that button “No, wait, we are getting back together!” and remain on your list. Until the next re-engagement campaign!


Purifying your email list is one central way to take your email marketing off the ground. In three actionable steps, re-engagement workflows help you experience and measure the improvement . Ready to get started? (We set up an re-engagement recipe for you, that is fully customizable – check it out here).