Unengaged subscribers can be a risky population and have a negative impact on campaign metrics, sender reputation and inbox placement. Before purging this segment of your list, you may want to reach out one more time to make sure they are no longer interested in your emails. These emails are usually called re-engagement campaigns and there is a right way and wrong way to do them.

Here are seven things to keep in mind when designing your re-engagement campaign:

1. Re-engagement campaigns work best when run on a consistent basis. List maintenance in general is best to do on an ongoing, consistent basis. Not unlike other cleaning tasks, breaking it into smaller chunks on a regular basis makes the job easier and less intimidating. It also ensures there won’t be long stretches of time where list quality suffers, and poor engagement drags down your sending reputation or inbox placement. We recommend that you clean your lists every six months.

2. Segment the audience. As a best practice, you should be sending to your entire database on a regular basis and at a minimum of every five months. If an email address is abandoned, this allows you to catch it during the period where the email server is returning a hard bounce. This also helps with customer recognition with your brand and the fact that they are subscribed to your emails. During the re-engagement campaign, you want to segment your list based on the last time they interacted with your emails. Start with the most recently engaged – the last time they interacted was within 60 days, for example. Then work backward (90 days, 120 days, etc.). If you notice a drop off in interactions or an increase in blacklists or complaints, you have probably reached the end of your population that has potential. Stop while you are ahead.

3. Use email verification, if needed. If you don’t send to your entire database at least every five months, but still want to reach out to a population that hasn’t been sent to and is unengaged, run your list through an email verification tool first. If you don’t know the source of the email addresses or if you have consent, avoid including them in your campaign and go ahead and remove them. There are lots of email verification companies out there; here are some that we like: Webbula, Kickbox, FreshAddress, Xverify.

4. Unsubscribes are not evil. Welcome emails and re-engagement emails should have the option to unsubscribe in prominent and conspicuous locations. You don’t have to hide it in the footer, and you don’t have to only have it in one location. If a recipient no longer wants to receive your emails, you want them to be able to unsubscribe easily. The alternative is much worse.

5. Include more than one touch. Re-engagement campaigns shouldn’t be a one-and-done campaign. Send two to three touches and change the messaging for each. Use different subject lines and have the messaging in logical order.

6. Be compelling. It is so important to make sure that you are including information about the benefits of receiving your emails. What’s in it for the recipient? Answer that question in the email content. Some re-engagement emails are funny, some are flashy, some include incentives. All of that is fine. How you choose to be compelling will depend on your brand and the content of your emails.

7. Be okay with purging email addresses if they don’t re-engage. Repeat after me: “I will delete any email address that does not take action on my re-engagement emails.” Unengaged subscribers are dragging your list down. Be okay with letting them go.

Need some inspiration? Below are a few examples of good re-engagement emails that I have received.


Subject: Valued Customer, how are things? We miss you around here!

Publix is very upfront about why they are sending this email. They include information about the benefits of receiving their email: “the best information, offers, and savings that matter to you.” They also include that I hadn’t opened their emails in 90 days. I love how transparent that is. And then they provide a means to either engage and continue receiving emails, “YES” or to unsubscribe, “NO” (an unsubscribe link is included in the footer as well as a link to manage email preferences).


Subject: Julie, was it something we said?

Walgreens is a little more fun with their email and encourages the recipient to shop online. They also include an incentive of the Beauty Enthusiast club and information about exclusive information they send. The email is also animated, adding a fun and eye-catching touch.

Pottery Barn

Subject: We’d love to stay in touch! But only if you want to…

True to the Pottery Barn brand, they have beautiful imagery. The email includes the reasons why the recipient should stay subscribed: “Stay subscribed to receive great benefits, including exclusive offers, design tips and more.” And they give the option to stay subscribed or to unsubscribe in bold black buttons at the top of the email, which I love.

Happy Marketing!