5 Steps for Re-Engaging the Inactive Users on Your Email List

Let’s say your email campaigns have open rates of about 25%. Is it the same 25% of the people on your list opening the emails every month? Do you know how many people on your list are inactive users – haven’t opened an email for six months or more? If you don’t know the answers to these questions, it’s time to find out. In this month’s feature, we talk about why it’s important to know the numbers of active versus inactive users on your list, steps to effectively re-engage inactive users, as well as ways to keep your subscribers actively engaged.

Why Is It Important to Determine a List’s Inactive Users?

As recently introduced in FulcrumTech’s Email Marketing Blog, it’s important to know the number of inactive users on an email list because:

  • The number of inactive users is a good indicator of whether your message and content are successfully meeting the interests of your audience. The fewer inactive users, the more on-target is your email marketing program.
  • If you look at the open and click-through rates of your active users only, you get a more accurate picture of the response to your email promotions.
  • A high number of inactive users can have a negative impact on your email deliverability. For example, repeatedly sending to people who don’t open your emails can result in lower email reputation scores from the ISPs, thus, decreasing inbox delivery rates.

Take Action to Lower the Number of Inactive Users on Your List

So what can you do if you find your email list has a high number of inactive users? Launch a re-engagement campaign to:

  • Re-establish a connection with subscribers who once were actively interested.
  • Identify inactive users you can – and should – cull from your list without risking the loss of a potential customer.

Steps to Effectively Re-Engage Inactive Users

Step 1: Identify the inactive users on your list. This would include anyone who hasn’t opened a message in a either a set period time or a certain number of emails – such as in the last six months or the last 10 emails sent. Now take this group and make a separate “inactive” mailing list.

Step 2: Re-ignite interest in your inactive list by sending them a special message. Let them know they’re missed and you want them back with a subject line that says just that. Also include a special offer, invitation or incentive, such as discounts, access to free information, samples or free shipping. And be sure to provide a prominent unsubscribe link for the people who really are no longer interested in receiving your communications.

Step 3: Move the people who respond to your re-engagement message to the active list and send another message to the people who still haven’t responded. Tell inactive users in a second message that they will be removed from your list if they don’t respond within a certain period of time, such as one week.

Step 4: Remove the non-responders from your list. This may be tough to do, but keep in mind that even though your list may be a little smaller, the quality is much better.

Step 5: Prevent a build up of inactive users by keeping your subscribers engaged. The following are some ways to keep active subscribers interested and opening your emails:

  • Be sure your subject lines are clear and communicate what your email is really about.
  • Regularly offer incentives, discounts, contests and coupons to motivate people to open your emails.
  • Don’t overwhelm subscribers with too many emails. One way to do this is by giving subscribers the opportunity at sign up to choose the frequency of emails they are sent.
  • Use a survey in one newsletter with a promise to report results in the next issue; subscribers will come back next month just to see what everyone else had to say – a great way to keep subscribers engaged.
  • If e-newsletters are part of your email marketing strategy, be sure to limit the amount of promotional content. You can avoid too much self-promotion, for example, by simply sending subscribers to your Web site for more information.
  • Find out why people are no longer interested by asking them when they unsubscribe. Then use the information you obtain to modify your email promotions.
  • Provide a convenient change of address link on your email correspondence. Many times people change jobs or ISPs and get a new email address, contributing to your inactive user list.
  • Consider having an annual subscription renewal process where subscribers must renew their subscription to continue receiving your emails. This will help keep only those people who are really interested in getting your communications.
  • Testing is an important tool for finding out which email strategies work and don’t work. See the May 2008 NewsLever for more information about ways testing can help improve your email marketing results.
What Happens to Subscribers’ Interest As Time Goes By?

It’s inevitable: The longer people stay on your email list, the more likely they will lose interest in your communications. According to data from MarketingSherpa and EmailLabs, you will see a drop of between 20% and 25% in subscribers’ open rates within the first two months after signing up, and a 35% to 45% decrease by two years later.

EmailLabs shared open rate data from their e-newsletter — Intevation Report — to make the point:

Time after Subscribing Open Rates
0 – 2 months 51.8%
3 – 6 months 41.6%
7 – 12 months 39.3%
13 – 24 months 31.8%

So what does this mean? You have to continually strive to find new ways to excite new subscribers, as well as re-ignite the enthusiasm in people who have lost interest but haven’t unsubscribed.

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