Mary Dolan

// Content Marketer

It’s that time of day—sunset. The sky is growing dark. An alarm sounds in the distance. You’ve been dreading this moment for days, weeks, months. You know what’s coming.

It’s time for the purge… of your email mailing list.

Okay, maybe using a sunset policy for your subscriber list isn’t quite as scary as your average horror movie. However, many people still hold unreasonable fears when it comes to using sunset policies. Will a shorter core mailing list impact your engagement? How often is too often when it comes to sunsetting? Have no fear–we’ll answer these questions and more in this post. Just be sure to be home before dark…

What is a sunset policy?

While the name may sound ominous, a sunset policy is simply a reference to a common email segmentation concept. Implementing a sunset policy means identifying your unengaged subscribers and deciding whether or not you will still send mail to them.

Depending on which scenario is right for your organization, you may decide to cease further contact with these subscribers, or you may decide to send them a “last call” message or two to see if they’re still interested. This could be a quick text-only email with a few emojis, or it could be a video of you singing all the lyrics to “Closing Time” at your desk—whatever gets your point across. Below is an example of a recent re-engagement email that Mailjet sent to its subscribers.

we miss you sunset policies

The email is playful—who doesn’t like cute dogs?—but it has a serious message: Do you want us to keep sending you messages?

Sunset policies exist to further email marketing and email deliverability—and one of the keys to deliverability is focusing on recipients who truly want your emails. By segmenting your subscribers based on their engagement, you can easily focus your attention on those who are currently interested in your products and services.

Note that sunsetting policies are different from actively cleaning your list. When you use sunsetting policies, you stop sending messages to certain subscribers. When you clean your list, you actively remove these subscribers from your mailing list entirely. Be careful not to get them confused.

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What will happen if you don’t use a sunset policy?

Not using sunset policies isn’t going to, well, get you purged—but it could bring you a real nightmare on email street (hold the applause, please). It may be tempting to cling to a long list of subscribers… after all, aren’t we taught that more contacts = more potential business? Not exactly.

In fact, continuing to send to unengaged subscribers can hurt your deliverability and weaken the effectiveness of your email program. Having lots of unengaged contacts drives down your open, click-through, and conversion rates—this is because unengaged recipients won’t engage with you. It’s kind of their thing.

Additionally, internet service providers (ISPs) tend to view this behavior in a pretty negative light. If you’re sending lots of emails to unengaged recipients, ISPs see the situation as you focusing less on the needs and wants of your subscribers, and more on sending large, potentially unwanted email blasts. This makes them less likely to trust you and want to deliver your emails to the inbox… which, of course, hurts you and your goals. It’s pretty simple:
Focus on the recipients who will engage with you and keep your statistics up. Luckily, this strategy has quite a few perks.

sunset policies EN stats

The benefits of using sunset policies

As previously noted, using sunset policies has some great benefits. It can be done whenever you want, whether on a schedule or as you go. And, no matter how often you use it, a sunset policy ensures that you’re always staying focused on your active, engaged subscribers. On an email program scale, these are the people who will open and interact with your emails, and keep your open/click-through. rates strong and your engagement high.

On a larger scale, higher engagement helps your business stay consistent and allows for growth. When you’re not focused on trying to lure back customers who aren’t interested, you can spend much more time tailoring your messaging to those who will use your goods and services.

How to implement a sunset policy

There’s a magic word when it comes to sunset policies: segment, segment, segment.

First, figure out how you will separate engaged subscribers from unengaged ones. Will “unengaged” mean anyone who hasn’t engaged with your mail in three months? Six months? 84 years? What works best for you?

It is a good idea to consider how frequently you send emails when you’re figuring out this timeframe. If you send emails once every couple of weeks, you’re probably okay if you filter out recipients who haven’t engaged in the last couple of months. If you send emails every day, you should make sure you’re excluding them from your email communications much sooner. This helps you avoid sending an influx of emails to uninterested subscribers in the times between your updates.

Once you’ve figured this out, the next step will be to use segmentation to automatically exclude your unengaged recipients. All you need to do is create segments based on the timeframe you just defined. For example, if you send a Daily Digest, you could apply a segment to only send your daily messages to contacts that have opened your emails in the past two weeks.

Sunsetting with Mailjet

You might be wondering–does this fine website I’m currently visiting have any tools that could help me with sunset policies and measuring engagement? Well, you’ve come to the right place. Mailjet’s segmentation tools help you slice ‘n’ dice (but not purge!) your email data based on the categories you want.

You can apply a segment that sends emails to users that have only opened your emails within a prescribed amount of time, like three or six months. Then, you can review these segments and have full understanding of the data that powers (and strengthens) your email program.

Suddenly, separating the engaged from the unengaged just became that much easier.


When you’re ready to create those engaging new emails, Mailjet’s customizable email template allows you to craft targeted messages and send them to any of your segmented audiences—namely, those core recipients. After sending, you can use their analytics tools to measure both areas of improvement and outstanding successes.

Sign up now to see how Mailjet can help you segment your contacts and send better, more engaging emails that are worthy of celebration.

TL;DR: Sunset policy takeaways

Hopefully, you’ve learned some information that will make sunset policies look far less scary. Implementing them can only help your deliverability, and they allow you to focus on your true audience. If you’re thinking about using them, make sure you set firm schedules and guidelines for their use to get the best results. In no time, you’ll be seeing the benefits of a sharper, more engaged email list…one that shines even in the dark. Happy sending!