Why and How To Re-Engage Your Email Leads

Reading Time: 5 Minutes Practical Marketer

Marketing is a contest for people’s attention. And that’s a big challenge, as you’re up against a lot of noise. To be honest, noise is only how marketers describe all the other messages and distractions consumers have in their life. If you can get and keep subscribers engaged email remains one of the most consistent channels to reach and motivate your target audience.
 In earning the same valuable piece of attention, the trick is, of course, to not become noise yourself.

Your potential customer is assaulted by marketing messages everywhere he goes, so it’s tough to firstly generate quality SMB leads and after that keep them engaged. The even harsher truth is that many well-intentioned, committed SMB marketers are working with email lists in which an average 60% of the subscribers are inactive – or, to use the appropriate industry term, “dead.” These contacts have not opened, clicked on or responded to any email sent in in the last period. Usually, the yardstick is six months or longer.

Armed with this knowledge, SMB marketers can make the choice not to ignore the inactives
and just keep sending, with the risk of diminished deliverability. Instead, go for re-engagement, attempt to re-establish a relationship with those potential customers.

Why It’s Worthwhile to Re-Engage

It is a big chunk of the email list we are talking about. Inactive subscribers on your list have not unsubscribed. That means they are still part of your (addressable) audience. They already like you and want to hear from your brand. At one point, they opted in, which means they are on your good side – they’re a far cry from cold calls. You want to keep your email subscribers longer than a day.

Although the email marketing rule of thumb has historically been to proactively “prune” dead subscribers to avoid damaging your message deliverability and refrain from teaching ISPs to recognize you as spam, it’s worthwhile to attempt re-engagement before starting to prune.

Ultimately, the ROI of email marketing campaign for reactivation is hard to miss. The dollars and cents tell you to attempt re-engagement before cutting the inactive subscribers from your list.

Don’t take your existing contacts for granted. Re-engaging them is a way to improve your list quality, increase conversion rates, and maintain good list hygiene.

Re-engagement Versus Winback

Before we break down disengagement into “reason buckets” in order to formulate your re-engagement strategy, it’s critical to define a “reengage” message vs. a “win-back” message. A re-engagement email’s purpose is to convince a dead subscriber to become interested in hearing from your brand again, whereas a win-back email is used to drive a specific purchase after that purchase may seem lost. For instance when someone cancels his subscription.

The difference between the two is essential because you are not attempting to get one customer to buy anything at this point. Your goal is to spark your potential customer’s interest in your messaging and re-establishing a long-term relationship with your brand.

Why Did Your Subscribers Flat-Line?


In order to formulate your reengagement strategy, first it is good to identify various reasons behind disengagement. You can adjust your email marketing strategy if the reasons are known. Here are the most likely disengagement enhancing culprits.

1. Poor quality content: If your emails didn’t deliver relevant, valuable content that your target audience could genuinely benefit from, no wonder your subscribers stopped opening your messages. Back to the (content) drawing board after you find out this is the main reason for large scale disengagement. You have to give your email subscribers some love if you are to expect anything in return.

2. Email overload: Did you send too many emails? Subscribers have limits to their attention, so they prioritize. Overloading them likely landed your messages in your subscriber’s “I’ll read that tomorrow” pile… and tomorrow never came.

delish email campaign

Image via notablist.com

One way to prevent overload in combination with re-engagement is to (just once) give the option to decrease frequency, like Delish does with their “we miss you” campaign.

3. They were never interested in the first place: Perhaps, with the best of intentions, you offered an expertly marketed opt-in to increase subscribers. But it ultimately didn’t provide you with quality leads. If the freebie offer was “too good,” you may have unintentionally attracted people who don’t care about your brand, but instead simply wanted the freebie you were offering. In order to keep track of your subscription quality always mark save the name of your subscription in the customer profile. It avoids investing in a big but uninterested freebie/giveaway group which is watering down your subscriber list in the future.

4. You broke a promise (or many): Clickbait-y titles that don’t deliver, a super useful-looking download which turns out to be nothing more than a blatant advertisement… broken promises compromise the trust your subscribers hold in your brand, and that leads to disengagement.

Take Their Pulse

It’s important to identify how disengaged your subscriber really is. Has this person walked away just from your email marketing campaigns or from your other touch-points as well? Because there are different levels of “dead,” each rightfully having its own reengagement strategy. You must segment your dead subscribers into groups based on what channels they’ve disengaged from.

  1. Alive but unengaged: This person isn’t opening your emails but is still visiting your website and your brick-and-mortar store, and last week, she liked one of your Facebook posts. She is going to be reasonably easy to re-engage.
  2. Mostly dead: This person not only isn’t opening your emails, she isn’t visiting your website or engaged via other channels. She made a purchase and this year, but you haven’t heard from her since. She is going to be hard, hard, hard to re-engage
  3. Go through his clothes and look for loose change dead: This person is entirely uninterested. He isn’t opening your emails, isn’t engaging with your brand, and has never made a purchase. The only engagement you’ve ever seen is the email subscription, but it stopped there. You may never be able to win him back because he likely wasn’t interested from the start.

How to Re-engage

If someone has only disengaged from your emails but is still engaging with your brand on alternate channels, your best move is to reach out directly with a reactivation email prompting them to update their preferences. Perhaps the emails they’ve received from you thus far haven’t been properly personalized or are simply not valuable or engaging. Revamp your emails to make them more valuable, and reach out. Not once. Not twice. Attempt at least three times before closing the door on this still valuable contact.

If, however, someone has walked away from most or all of your channels – email, social, website – you have to re-demonstrate your value entirely. You can send an offer to entice, or send something that shoots straight including messaging that states clearly that you haven’t seen this person in a while and that you’d love to re-establish a relationship.

Highlight all the news, features, sales and “buzz” that you’ve created in the last few months, and perhaps even kick it up a notch by including recent testimonials to prove your value.

Yes, there are some subscribers you’re going to have to cut from the list. When you find yourself picking through his clothes for loose change, it’s time to cut him.  If he has never made a purchase or interacted with your brand on any channel, you can feel productive eliminating him from your subscriber list.

Don’t Let the Contact Wither

When you notice “dead” weight on your subscriber list, avoid the temptation to delete disengaged users immediately. First re-market to them intelligently.

Remember, your purpose here is not to convince the disinterested subscriber to buy directly from that first email, but neither is it to open just that one email. What you really want is for your potential customers to start interacting with you again and ultimately purchase regularly. It’s a worthwhile effort to re-engage your contacts!

Are you ready for a smarter way to engage with your customers?

Benchmark helps you do email marketing the practical way. Create an ongoing relationship with your subscribers that leads to increased sales and happier customers.