How to re-engage bored email subscribers

Best practices for re-engaging an outdated email list

It happens to the best of us: Our once-passionate subscribers become uninterested in our content, and they stop clicking, reading, or engaging. Unengaged subscribers change our metrics and leave us saying, “Was it something we did?”

However, it’s important to remember that churn is normal. It’s not unusual to experience subscribers becoming unengaged over an extended period of time (even if it does feel a little personal). 

In this post, we’ll discuss best practices for unengaged subscribers: how to pinpoint them, how to re-engage them, and what you can do to cut down on unengaged lists in the future.

What makes a person unengaged?

In most cases, unengaged subscribers are those who stop opening emails altogether. A subscriber may engage sporadically or miss a few emails, but a good rule for an unengaged subscriber is someone who hasn’t opened the content in six months or more.

There are several reasons someone may stop engaging with your content:

  • They’re getting too many emails from you
  • They don’t recognize the from name
  • Your emails aren’t on a regular cadence, so they don’t remember subscribing
  • They’re no longer interested in the brand
  • The content hasn’t caught their attention recently
  • Their inbox is overly crowded

Now, you obviously can’t control a subscriber’s level of interest or how full their inbox is, but you can control your email cadence, your company's name, and how much autonomy you give the subscriber. 

Email best practices for sending to a list:

  • Let your subscribers know how often they’ll hear from you upon signup (e.g. daily, weekly, or monthly)
  • Keep a recognizable from name (e.g. Kalyn at Emma)
  • Give subscribers a preference center where they can decide what kind of emails they want to receive (e.g. promotions, newsletters, etc.)
  • Allow subscribers to pause their subscription for 30 days 

What to do with unengaged subscribers affecting your metrics

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Once you have your list imported and you're starting to grow your audience, it becomes important to pay attention to who becomes disengaged with your content. 


Over time, your disengaged subscribers can impact your email engagement metrics. So here are some tips on how to clean your list and improve your campaign numbers. 


Identify your disengaged subscribers by creating a segment. In the video above, we create a segment who has not opened a campaign in the last 12 weeks.


You can adjust that time to what makes sense for your organization. When your disengaged segment is created, you can exclude this segment from your campaigns. On the flip side of this strategy, you can also segment based on who is the most engaged with your email content. Reward their loyalty with early bird specials, special promotions, or a simple note of gratitude.

By the same logic, you can place unengaged subscribers in a special group, too. Once you’ve placed your unengaged subscribers into a separate segment, you can begin catering to those subscribers with a re-engagement campaign.

Creating a re-engagement campaign

Before you remove unengaged subscribers from your list, you’ll want to create a re-engagement campaign in an effort to get them back. After all, it costs less to retain customers than to attract new ones.

If you’ve created a segment for your unengaged subscribers, you can begin your re-engagement campaign. This should provide a nurture-like experience.


First email

Your first re-engagement email should be highly personalized. For instance, you might name the subscriber specifically with a message like, “Cameron, we miss you.”

This email should ask your subscriber if they want to remain on your mailing list. Ideally, this email will send subscribers to a preference center where they have the option to unsubscribe altogether or change the cadence of the email.


In the Framebridge email below, the CTA makes it easy to remain on the Framebridge email list. The copy is also short and clear, giving subscribers the opportunity to make a quick decision.


reengagement email example

Second email


Hopefully, subscribers have responded well to your initial email, meaning they’ve opted to stay on the list. For subscribers who have re-engaged, you’ll want to take advantage of your newfound relevance. 


To do this, send them appealing content, like a content download, new product announcement based on their interests, or—if you want to push conversion—a discount. The email below from Blue Apron is a perfect example of how you can incentivize subscribers with a re-engagement email.


reengagement second email example

What to do if people don't engage


If your re-engagement campaign goes well, some people will unsubscribe from your list, and others will re-engage. However, there may be some people who do neither. In other words, they might continue to ignore the emails in their inbox.


For these subscribers, it’s unlikely that you’ll encourage them to re-engage, ultimately making them an additional and unnecessary cost. It’s best practice to remove these people from your list.


What you can do to improve list hygiene moving forward


You’ll always have some unengaged subscribers and list churn, but there are some email best practices you can develop to curb this behavior moving forward.


In order to improve long-term retention, you need to start at the source. This means creating a customized journey from the beginning.


How to reduce churn from the beginning:

  • Create signup forms that include email type and cadence (e.g. Sign up for our weekly newsletter)
  • Create a preference center
  • Include a double opt-in
  • Use a welcome email or series to humanize your brand
  • Stick to your cadence
  • Include a recognizable from name
  • Send personalized content via segments


Sign up for Emma emails


By providing a clear, dependable source of information, you will prove to your subscribers that you’re trustworthy. And by creating content that’s dynamic and customized for them, they’ll have a better reason to stay engaged with the content you’re sending. Tailored content performs better and receives higher opens.


Wrap up

If some of your subscribers seem to have fallen out of love with your content, don’t worry: Your metrics don’t have to suffer. By segmenting your list into those who are engaged and unengaged, sending a re-engagement campaign, and periodically cleaning your list, you’ll continue to maintain healthy metrics and engaged subscribers.


And if you want to stop the churn before it happens, you can do that, too. Provide clarity to prospective subscribers, and always give your subscribers the most personalized and dynamic content you can. Emma’s unique features can help you do just that. Click here to sign up for a demo, and find out what else Emma can do for you.


About the Author

Emma Email

Emma is an email marketing platform that gives you all the tools you need to send campaigns that really connect with your subscribers. With our​​ powerful automation and personalization features, you can create and send email campaigns that reach the right customer at just the right time. It's email marketing that works for you.

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