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Email Best Practices

Email inactives: It doesn’t have to end in a painful breakup

How to identify email inactives and tactics that can bring back contacts and steer clear of an emotional breakup. Improve your email marketing today.

Hermes passing the box with envelopes to Hera



In many ways, your contact list is a long-term romantic relationship. Both parties, you and your customers, get to know the ins and outs of your respective personalities. Contacts first sign up because they’re attracted to your content and trust that your offer is relevant and provides value. It’s love at first sight.  But let’s face it, it’s also hard work. This long term relationship with your customers requires upholding this trust and communication - it doesn’t always work out in the end.

A key factor in maintaining this relationship is two-way conversation, not only sending your customers campaigns with the latest news but also listening to how they respond through opens and clicks. Unfortunately times change, people change. So it’s important that you notice the signs of a contact starting to drift off or lose interest in you. You have to know when it’s time to have “the talk”.

Even the best of relationships go through highs and lows, just like how despite all your best efforts there are customers that will become disengaged with your content for various reasons.

In this blog post we’ll show you how to identify email inactives and different approaches that can help save you steer clear of a teary and emotional breakup.

Who is an inactive?

The first thing you want to determine is how you define an inactive contact. While the word itself is quite self explanatory, it depends on the nature of your business, how often you send and how long you’ve been sending for. If you’ve only sent a few campaigns, it might be too early to draw conclusions. Analyze the results of the campaigns you’ve sent over the past 6-12 months and try to identify contacts that have not opened your email in that period. If you send a lot of email campaigns, say 3 per week, you might want to wait less than 6 months before looking for contact inactivity.

What to do with them

Now that you have identified your  inactives, you want to separate them from your list of active contacts. By doing so, their inactivity and thereby bad stats will no longer affect your overall campaign KPIs. Don’t jump to remove them from your list though. They might not be reacting to the campaigns you send them, but you still have a chance to win them back. Or at the very least, understand why these contacts aren’t responding to the messages you’re sending them.

So instead of abandoning your inactives, create a separate list for them, which you can use to re-engage and win back these contacts.

Time to win their hearts back

With your email inactive contacts on their own list, it’s time to bring out the re-engagement tactics and win back their hearts. Here are a few approaches you can take to understand why your inactives aren’t responding to your messages and turn that around:

  • Tell them how you feel

As difficult it might be to accept, your contacts might have forgotten about you or why they signed up for your newsletter in the first place. The value of opening and reading your messages in no longer clear to them. You need to remind them that you haven’t forgotten about your relationships, how much you miss them and convince them to come back.

There are several approaches to this “win back” email, depending on your business. If you’re running an online shop, you can send your idle customers a special discount code. Or if you run a blog, send them a recap of the top blog posts from the past month. The key here is to focus on something that has value to them that they may have forgotten about.

Make sure to use a catchy subject line to increase the chances of your contacts opening your email so the message gets across.




  • We need to talk

The simplest way to understand why your contacts are inactive is by asking them. And a way to do this is to simply send them an email and give them the opportunity to share their thoughts.

A good approach here is to be personal in your email instead of blasting out the same, generic message to everyone. Write the email in a tone and language that is sincere and be clear about why you’re asking for their input. Make it clear that you’re doing this to understand their inactivity in order to improve their email experience.

I might be useful to offer your contacts something in return for their input. Raffle a prize or give them a discount as a thank you for filling out your feedback survey or sending you feedback. And make sure to tell them this in your subject line, so they know that there is an incentive for them to take action.





  • Sometimes it just wasn’t meant to be

If all of your re-engagement efforts fall short, there might only be one more thing to do: opt-out the contacts. If you get no response to your attempts of reminding them why they should read your email and respond to your messages, they simply might not be interested. And if that’s the case, it’s probably time to move on and opt them out of your contact list.

A great way to notify them is by sending an emailing to let them know they have been removed from your list. This gives you the opportunity to show that you’re actually paying attention to and care about how they respond to your email.

It can be a good idea to leave them with an easy way to opt back in, in case they change their mind.





Inactives can be a real threat to the success of your email campaigns. But if you notice the signs and listen to what your significant other has to say, there are several ways for you to take action and try to save the relationship. Always try understand the reason why your contacts are becoming inactive and try to provide a solution for them to stick around. But also know when it’s time to let go - because sometimes you have to realize that maybe they’re just not that into you...

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