How to manage your unengaged subscribers

Growing an email list is often high on an email marketer's to-do list. But managing the inactive subscribers and deciding on actions to take isn't always a top priority.

And although unsubscribe rates are usually low, they can be upwards of 50% when taking into account contacts that are emotionally unsubscribed. These are people who are actually subscribed, but inactive: they no longer open or click your email messages. Which may be an indication that the channel is not effective for them anymore. Or that they are no longer interested in your communication.

Not every inactive subscriber is a lost contact.

Before making the decision to simply cut a large percentage of your database, there are some considerations to make.

It's not that strange if a contact does not interact with every communication on any channel from a bank, travel company, electronics shop,… People will interact when they feel the need for those services. Same goes for email: subscribers may not have interacted for some time, but that doesn't necessarily mean they are totally uninterested. They will only pay attention when they are in the market for your product or service. Likewise, people will sign up for emails around Christmas, ignore them for most of the year, then start opening them when they're looking for presents.

In a nutshell, sometimes it's easier to sign up and ignore them than to unsubscribe and renew their subscription later.

There's also the top-of-mind effect to consider: some studies have shown that, with a good subjectline — even if emails stay unopened — they can serve as a constant reminder of where to find the right service next time people need one. But this is only a side benefit. The objective of email marketing is measured interaction and engagement. If you want to track indirect impact, you have to identify the subscribers and use your data to link them to website and transactional behavior.

Manage & minimize disengagement

Some recipients may behave as described above, but it's worth taking steps to keep their number low. Particularly as it influences overall results and can have a negative effect on inbox deliverability.

These 6 steps will help you do the job…

1. Deliver relevant messages
To minimize fall-off in engagement and maintain dialogue, the most essential element is to make sure your email contact and content planning is focused on delivering relevant messages.
Use the information on preferences and knowledge about behavior that's stocked within your customer database to determine which messages to send out to which specific target group on which particular moment. This will increase and strengthen engagement significantly.

2. Develop automated customer lifecycle emails
These are part of the contact strategy and are intended to be relevant and tailored according to the interests of the subscriber. 
The automated process can include a survey to inactive subscribers to learn about changed preferences; and a final goodbye email asking them to respond if they want to keep receiving your communication.

3. Measure long-term engagement
Measure the level of activity in email response over time. Do not only measure it campaign per campaign. Also track open, click and conversation rates at different points in time compared to when the subscribers first signed up.
Set criteria for what an inactive subscriber is and when they become inactive move them to that segment and look to re-engage them.

4. Define different frequencies
It may be appropriate to reduce frequency if customers become inactive and only send them key messages. Giving subscribers the option of how often they wish to hear from you at the point of sign-up can also help with this.

5. Use online and offline communications to re-engage. 
If you can detect a website visitor who is no longer engaging via email (when logging in or identified by cookies), then they can be prompted to change preferences, provide a new email address, etc… If the data are available — and as part of existing marketing tactics — printed DM can be used for the same purpose.

6. Make it easy to unsubscribe
Old, inactive addresses can be used by ISPs as traps to monitor spam-like behavior. Keep in main there is a hidden danger in emailing very old subscribers that could negatively impact on deliverability.
Rather let a contact unsubscribe than forcing him/her to hit the spam button or add you to the junk mail folder



Be sure to handle people who emotionally unsubscribed to your newsletter with care. Find out why exactly they no longer react to your e-mails and offers and take the necessary steps to try and re-engage them.

Posted on
Nov 21, 2014