Jonas from MailerLite

Jonas10 min readTips and resourcesSeptember 11, 2018

Re-engage inactive subscribers with a win-back email campaign

Re-engage inactive subscribers with a win-back email campaign

Your email list is your most important asset. But the size is not as valuable as a list full of active subscribers. So what happens when people stop interacting with your emails?

Don’t give up on them! Send a re-engagement email.​ 

For one reason or the other, some of your subscribers become inactive. These subscribers are not only bad for business, but they can actually hurt your future email marketing performance.

But before you take them off your list, try sending a win-back email campaign to remind them why they signed up with you.

Your subscribers gave you their email addresses because they liked something you had to offer. By reminding them of your value, you have a good chance of winning some of them back.

In this post, we'll explain why you don’t want inactive subscribers on your list, and teach you how to set up a winning re-engagement email campaign.

How inactive subscribers hurt email marketing

No matter how engaging your emails are, you will have people on your list who simply don’t interact with you. It’s not necessarily something you are doing wrong. Inactive subscribers are an industry-wide problem.

According to Loren McDonald, Marketing Evangelist at IBM Marketing Cloud, 10% to 25% of subscribers completely disengage from a brand's email campaigns annually.

But the bad news doesn't end there. Inactive subscribers affect your sender reputation. A low sender score can cause more of your emails to land in the spam folder.

Inactive subscribers also interfere with your data. Skewed data can cause you to make incorrect marketing decisions. For example, how can you identify why your open rates are low if the email went to both active and inactive subscribers?

The best way to keep your email list healthy with active subscribers is to clean your list.

But before you remove inactive subscribers, do everything in your power to find a way to reconnect. They signed up with you for a reason.

A re-engagement campaign is your last effort to remind them of the value you add to their lives.

Here's how you start an email re-engagement campaign

1. Segment your inactive subscribers

The first step to any successful email re-engagement strategy is segmentation. You have to group the subscribers who haven't engaged with your emails within a given time frame and place them on a separate email list. 

Now depending on what you offer and how often you send your emails, "inactive" will mean different things to different businesses.

A simple way to segment inactive subscribers is to group them based on whether they've opened your emails or clicked on any of your offers in the last 6 months. Anyone that falls into that category is an inactive subscriber and needs to be part on your re-engagement list.

2. Create your re-engagement email

Your re-engagement campaign needs to grab people's attention and restate your value proposition (why they signed up in the first place).

Don't just send them a slightly different version of the emails you send your active subscribers.

These people might not even remember signing up for your email list. It's easy to lose track of things in today's crowded inboxes.

Start with an attention-grabbing win-back email subject line.

Win-back email subject lines can wake up an inactive subscriber if done right. Remember, this is your last opportunity to breathe some life into this relationship, so don’t hold back. Experiment and try creative ideas to grab attention.

You want the re-engagement email subject line to be completely different than what you normally send, so readers will do a double take. Some fun examples could be:

  • Hey [name]! Is it us or is it you?
  • Be honest with us, we can handle it
  • Are you missing us? Let’s reconnect
  • We need to have THE TALK

If fun, attention-grabbing subject lines don’t fit your brand or content, you can also go for the more straightforward approach or entice them with an offer:

  • It’s been a while
  • $xx off your next purchase
  • Please come back
  • We miss you, [name]

It’s important to test your subject lines until you find a few that work well for you. When you are happy with the subject line, it’s time to deliver value in your content.

Here are a few win-back email examples to inspire you.

Give discounts

Your inactive subscribers might just need a little more incentive to use your service. And depending on your profit margins, it might be better to give them a discount rather than lose them completely.

SkillShare adds an incentive to this 'we miss you' email by throwing in a discount for inactive subscribers that come back.

Remind them why they signed up

Don’t rethink your whole value proposition just because you have inactive subscribers. The reality is that all subscribers get distracted. Their inboxes are flooded with dozens or perhaps hundreds of other emails and promotions.

With so many companies reaching out to them, they simply could have forgotten why they signed up for your email list in the first place.

Here's a win-back email from Grammarly, which does a great job of reminding a subscriber the reason they signed up.

Offer extra value that gains attention

Great re-engagement emails consider things from the subscriber's perspective. That means they don't just promote a service or product. They try to tie their win-back emails with how their subscribers can improve their lives.

Check out how Venmo shows how their service can improve the lives of their users in this win-back email.

Create your first campaign in minutes!

Our free plan includes access to the features you need like automation and landing pages.


Show them what they've missed

Give your subscribers FOMO (fear of missing out). Remind them of progress they've made so far and what's happening now.

With these type of emails, you're trying to build interest and give your subscribers more of an incentive to come back. We've all seen the email notifications from Facebook and Twitter. That show us everything that's happened since we last logged in. These companies keep using them because they work.

Here's an example from Unsplash that perfectly captures how you can use FOMO in your win-back campaigns. 

Let them decide on frequency and topic

The reason your subscribers haven't been engaging with your emails could be because you're sending too many. Possibly about topics, they no longer care about. Giving your subscribers the option to select preference puts control in their hands.

The team at Refined know that people don't want a lot of emails on things they don't care about. So they give subscribers the option to customize interest so they only get relevant emails.

Always follow up

Remember that your subscriber's inbox is usually crowded so your first re-engagement email might go unnoticed. In fact, an Experian report showed that e-commerce customers who receive multiple cart abandonment emails are 2.4x more likely to buy than those who receive only one email.

Your subscribers may not have seen your re-engagement email so try sending it again.

Give them a choice

Finally, give them the chance to leave. People change and a subscriber might've lost all interest in your emails. If that's the case, presenting them with a simple choice lets them think more about whether they want to keep receiving your emails or not.

Here's how we handled our re-engagement email at MailerLite.

3. Analyze your campaign results

After you've sent out your re-engagement emails, it's time to analyze your results.

A successfully reactivated subscriber is usually determined on whether they

  1. Opened your email
  2. Clicked on your offer

Your email marketing goals will determine how you ultimately qualify your subscribers. Though the click-through rate (CTR) is a better measurement of actual engagement than the open rate.

Based on who qualifies as a reactivated subscriber for your business, you should then segment those subscribers and nurture them to strengthen the relationship. 

The subscribers that don't engage with your campaign (no opens or clicks) need to be removed from your active list. Continuing to email them will only damage your sender reputation and skew your campaign data.

You'll know your re-engagement campaign is successful when your spam complaints decrease, deliverability rate increases and your overall email conversion rates improve.

Set up a win-back email campaign automation

While one win-back email might be enough to convince some people to re-engage, an effective campaign usually requires a few interactions to win back a subscriber. 

An efficient way to re-engage multiple times while segmenting your active and inactive subscribers is to set up an email automation workflow. By using MailerLite's automation feature, you can:

  1. Send a series of emails that automatically stop when the subscriber responds. 

Create 3 different win-back emails that are automated to send every 7 days. If the subscriber interacts with an email, the automation stops and they are automatically put in an active group in your subscriber management. If a subscriber doesn’t interact after 3 emails, they are sent to an inactive segment group.

  1. Send an email to each individual subscriber at the right time based on behavior.

When an inactive subscriber clicks on an offer highlighted in your re-engagement email, a link trigger automatically sends a follow-up email thanking them for reconnecting.

  1. Add subscribers to different groups based on their interactions.

You don't have to track every subscriber's actions. Automation enables you to place subscribers into different groups based on their actions. If you send a win-back email asking people to choose their preferred frequency of emails, they are automatically moved to a subscriber group based on their action.

VIDEO: Learn how to set up an automated sequence in MailerLite.

Stronger engagement is your end goal

Inactive subscribers are a reality for every email marketer. While a re-engagement campaign might leave you with a smaller list, the remaining active subscribers will be more engaged.

Stronger engagement increases the effectiveness of your email campaigns, improves your sender reputation and leaves you with a more accurate view of what's working and what's not. That is where you want to be!

If you've run a re-engagement campaign before or if you're thinking about starting one, please let us know in the comments below.

Jonas Fischer

Hi, my name is Jonas. I’m not the 4th Jonas Brother, but I do write content for MailerLite (which is similar to being a teen heartthrob). After writing for a bunch of companies over the years, I discovered my professional passion—helping add some humanity to B2B marketing. Email is the perfect place to start!