Inactive Subscribers… What to do about them?

Recently I was approached by a client with a couple of questions… 

‘What percentage of our email database are inactive?’ and ‘How can we re-engage our inactive subscribers?’

You might be surprised to know that on average nearly 70% of a subscriber database is usually classed as ‘inactive’, we can define ‘inactive’ as a subscriber that hasn’t opened or clicked on your email for an extended period of time.

It’s a classic debate within our industry, and from my experience between us ‘the experts’ and the board level. Is it better having higher volumes to send to so we can say how large and glorious ones database is, or can we convince that a small, engaged and reactive subscriber database will perform better. My suggestion to aid in this debate would be, let’s keep the high numbers but let’s find out which subscribers are inactive, and look at how to re-engage this proportion of your database.

In your email marketing platform perform a quick insight report on engagement. You can define and find who your inactive subscribers are very easily (hopefully, otherwise change platform)!

A re-engagement campaign is a good way to try and rekindle that flame with your subscribers and, dare I say it, delete and cull some of the bad subscriber data if need be. Here are some easy steps to follow when considering a reengagement campaign:


Firstly identify who they are and define what inactive means to you.  Whether it is, when a subscriber hasn’t opened an email in the last 10 emails sent or hasn’t opened an email in the last 3 months.  I’d recommend hasn’t opened in the last 90 days as a benchmark.


Next consider how you want to reengage your subscribers. If subscribers haven’t been opening emails then this isn’t going to be easy. You need to give a compelling reason to re-engage with your brand.


There are a many options on how you go about re-engaging these subscribers, a personalised subject line that prompts a reaction is best. Once you gain the open the next mission is to gain a click, ask if they want to be on the list still, let the subscriber know what they are missing, or most commonly give them an incentive.

Say goodbye:

After your re-engagement campaign, you will still see some subscribers are still inactive. At this stage it is time to say goodbye.

Keeping your lists active and engaged, by getting rid of the dead wood you’ll increase results, decrease costs and see improvements in testing.

This process can be timely and for some emotional… to save on performing such campaigns regularly, make sure your welcome program is as robust as possible. Gather as much information as you can when a subscriber is most responsive to you. This will lead to more targeted communication and in turn less inactive subscribers in the long run.