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Unengaged Subscribers: Potential or Pitfall?

Spoiler alert: this blog post is from the perspective of email deliverability, so it’s mostly about the pitfalls of unengaged subscribers. There could be some potential though, and we will talk about that too.

Before we discuss how to manage unengaged subscribers, let’s review exactly what they are. Unengaged subscribers are contacts that are not new and have been included in email sends, but they do not open, click or otherwise engage with your emails. The timeframe in which a company determines a subscriber to be unengaged depends on the business and the email sending cadence. A company that has a short sale cycle and sends daily (an eCommerce retailer, for example) may decide that if a subscriber hasn’t opened or clicked in 60 days that they are unengaged. Another company that has a long sale cycle and sends monthly (a real estate brokerage, for example) may decide that a subscriber is unengaged after one year with no engagement. A general rule of thumb is a subscriber that hasn’t engaged in 12 months is unengaged.

You may be thinking, what is the harm in sending to unengaged subscribers? They will unsubscribe when they don’t want the emails anymore, right? Well, maybe. There are a few reasons why unengaged subscribers are risky to your sender reputation. This population is at a greater risk to mark an email as spam. They are also a greater risk to become a recycled spam trap address. And lastly, but an important point, inbox providers determine your sender reputation by engagement. If you have a lot of “dead weight” in your lists, it can impact inbox placement.

The best thing to do to maintain active subscribers on your lists is to regularly remove unengaged subscribers using a timeframe that is appropriate for your business. Below are the steps to do this in Dynamics 365/CRM.

1. Create a new marketing list. This list will contain the contacts that have not opened or clicked. Name it something like “Unengaged Contacts.”

2. In the marketing list, add contacts by selecting the + and then select Add Using Advanced Find.

3. Look for contacts where: Sent Emails (Contact) have Deliveries, Is Greater Than, 0

4. Click Find.

5. On the next screen, select “Add all the members returned by the search to the marketing list” and click Add to Marketing List.

Now we need to go back and remove all the contacts that also have an open, click, bounce, complaint or unsubscribe. You might have to refresh your screen to get the updated number of contacts in your marketing list.

6. Click the + and then Remove Using Advanced Find.

7. Look for contacts where the sent email has any of the activities mentioned above greater than 0. Remember to group them all into an OR statement.

8. Click Find.

9. Then select “Remove all the members returned by the search to the marketing list” and click Remove From Marketing List.

This will give you a list of contacts that have had a deliver but no other activity.

If you want to remove any newly added contacts from this process (you want to give new contacts a chance to engage), you can remove any contacts added in the past X days.

If you have welcome campaigns, you can narrow your search down to campaigns other than your welcome campaigns to eliminate new contacts.

10. Click the + and then Remove using Advanced Find.

11. Look for contacts like this: Created on, Last X Days, 60.

12. Click Find.

13. Then select “Remove all the members returned by the search to the marketing list” and click Remove From Marketing List.

Now we have to create a view from these contacts so we can bulk edit.

14. Start a new Advanced Find. Look for contacts where marketing list equals the marketing list you just created.

15. Select Save and save as a new view.

16. Go to Contacts.

17. In the dropdown for My Active Contacts, go to My Views and find the view you just created.

18. Select the first 50 records using the check mark, then select Edit.

19. Scroll down to bottom of the Change Multiple Records window that pops up.

20. Make the Bulk Email field = Do Not Allow.

You will have to do 50 records at a time.

We have had many customers follow this process on our recommendation and not only does their deliverability improve, so do their campaign metrics. These unengaged subscribers weren’t opening or clicking anyway, so once removed, the percentages for opens and clicks increased and the removed subscribers were not missed.

Removing unengaged subscribers greatly reduces the risk of sending to spam trap addresses and other pitfalls, and does wonders for engagement metrics which will improve sending reputation.

Now, what about the potential of these subscribers? Some marketing teams will use re-engagement campaigns either as a one-off or an ongoing process to try to entice unengaged subscribers to start engaging again. A re-engagement campaign is usually more than one touch per subscriber and needs to include the reasons why they should engage again with the brand.

Happy Marketing!

About the Author:

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Julie Turner is a Senior Email Deliverability Engineer at ClickDimensions.

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