How to Re-Engage Inactive Leads with Email

These three steps can help you re-engage inactive email subscribers and turn them back into leads. Identify inactives, re-engage and add value to improve your email marketing.

By C&EN Media Group

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Updated February 2020

The worst has happened: your audience is no longer opening your emails. Many leads fall off the buyer’s trail, but that doesn’t mean they’re lost forever. While this post was originally written in 2016, today in 2020, email remains one of the most effective marketing tools available, with a variety of formats and avenues to choose from. Listen to your audience and be creative.

This framework for re-engagement can reignite the connection and start a new path for customer conversion, and has the added benefit of following best practices in light of GDPR.

Step 1: Identifying Inactives

“Inactives” are members of your list that have stopped engaging – these are the people that are not clicking through, responding to, or opening your emails. To effectively re-engage this group, you need to figure out exactly who they are.

Your email marketing system should be able to identify periods of inactivity among your subscribers, but you need to decide which users to deem “inactive” based on the length of your sales cycle.

If you sell syringe filters, for example, it’s likely that 6 months of inactivity is a bad thing; your audience should need supplies more frequently than that. If you sell a long-read genome sequencer, on the other hand, your sales cycle could be much longer – on the order of years – so a lull of a few months shouldn’t cause alarm.

Step 2: Use a Re-Engagement Strategy

Once you have your inactives parsed, it’s time to re-engage them. There are a few techniques you can use to get a response.

A “we missed you” email:

An email with “we missed you” in the subject line feels personal. When paired with an incentive, – say 10% off on the next purchase, – this can be an extremely effective re-engagement tactic. Keep in mind that this technique is not ideal for all businesses: syringe filters and other frequent purchases will be better served than larger, one-time equipment purchases.

This approach can also help you secure double opt-in’s in order to follow privacy laws. If you’re inactives are missing that opt-in, a ‘we missed you’ email asking to confirm their subscription is a great step to get them back in – legally – to your database.

A settings check:

Prompting your audience to update their email address is a great way to make sure they’re the right audience for you. This is a simple check that allows users to ensure that your messages get delivered to the correct email address – you can even include different subscription options to allow readers to customize their experience by providing options for the type and frequency of emails they receive. Also – you’ll want to make sure your emails aren’t going to spam – which you can prompt your leads to check as well.

This tactic may result in some unsubscribes, but that’s ok; the settings check is only sent to inactive users. If people don’t want your emails, it’s better they opt out of your list than build up resentment. Their continued inactivity hurts your open rates and can even hurt your Sender’s Score. You may consider trimming away inactive users yourself if this strategy doesn’t get them to re-engage.

A survey, with incentive:

A survey is a great re-engagement strategy because it allows you to better understand why your audience became inactive to begin with. Offering an incentive can boost responses, but chances are that disgruntled subscribers want to tell you why they are disgruntled. This both gets them to engage and gives you valuable information that you can use to inform your email marketing strategy, and beyond.

Step 3: Add Value

Once you have successfully re-engaged inactives, you need to follow up to keep the conversation going. Your next series of emails to the inactives list should address their specific concerns, desires and needs.

In fact, it’s good practice to examine your general email marketing strategy at this time, as it contributes to readers becoming inactive in the first place. Assess the content in your emails. Are you meeting your audience’s pain points? Do you answer the questions that they encounter in their everyday work? How can you help them?

Effective email marketing means providing true value to your audience, not just selling to them. If your emails are excessively self-promotional, your audience will of stop paying attention very quickly – and that’s where strategies like content marketing come in. It’s also important to note that the quality of leads is more important than the quantity. Some of your inactive audience won’t be the right fit; it’s okay to let them go and focus your attention on those with true market potential.

These three steps can help you re-engage inactive email subscribers and turn them back into leads. Identify inactives, re-engage and add value to improve your email marketing.

We want to hear from you:

What strategies do you use to re-engage inactive leads?

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