How do you deal with inactive subscribers?

In the perfect email world, subscribers would open and click on every email you send. However, even your most devoted fans will skip some of your messages. That’s just email life.

In fact, despite all the best practices at your disposal, some – even many – subscribers will eventually go “inactive”. This means they stop opening or clicking on any of your messages. In a given year, marketers may lose up to 30% of their lists to normal attrition.

To help combat this, many marketers send “reactivation campaigns,” emails specifically designed to encourage inactive subscribers to start interacting with email again.  Reminders of what the subscriber is missing out on and attractive offers are great ways to entice folks to reengage. If the subscriber responds, great. If not, you might consider using an email change of address (ECOA) service.  ECOA can help you reconnect with inactive customers by finding their up-to-date email addresses.

Sounds like a winning approach!

Are your inactive subscribers… inactive?

One challenge is how to define “inactive”. Email marketers often talk of someone recording no opens or clicks in the last six months. Does that definition or duration make sense for your emails? After all, if you sell Christmas decorations, you won’t expect too many email opens and clicks from January to June.

It’s important not to overlook that inactive subscribers might be responding positively to your emails in a way that’s simply not recorded by your email marketing software or service. Perhaps they keep the information in mind for next time they’re out shopping. Maybe your email prompts them to visit your website directly using a bookmark. Maybe they simply read your email using software that blocks the tracking image that records an open.

If you can, cross-reference your email data with website visitor stats or your customer database, to double-check your impressions.

Don’t always do the same thing with your reactivation emails

A common practice is to send inactive subscribers a reactivation email that looks and feels pretty similar to the ones before it; only the message it communicates is different.

Those inactive subscribers are probably tuning out anything that looks like another email from you. Consider trying something a little different to recapture their attention. A quirky subject line, a modified design or a change in send frequency might just do the trick.

(Speaking of something different: do you have a plan in place to stop people going inactive again?)

Give people a chance to confirm their interest

If your reactivation effort falls flat, send your inactives one or more emails inviting them to (re)confirm their interest in getting your emails. This will catch many of those you might remove from your list who actually want to stay subscribed. They might just be waiting for the right content or offer.

And, of course, don’t forget ECOA. With just one project, you could recapture deliverable emails for up to 15% of your list.

How have you approached the issue of inactive subscribers? Let us know in the comments!

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