How to Re-Engage Inactive Customers with Email Marketing

How to Re-Engage Inactive Customers with Email Marketing


Email marketing is an excellent way to engage and retain leads or buyers.

You probably already know that you can get a $44 ROI on email for every $1 spent.

However, there’s more to successful email marketing than convincing people to sign up for your list and throwing content at them. According to Seth Godin, marketing of all kinds is a “contest for people’s attention.” Unfortunately, many businesses are struggling to win that battle.

60% of the average company’s email contacts are “dead” subscribers.

Fortunately, there are ways that you can bring your customers back to life.  And that’s by re-engaging inactive customers using email marketing.

Re-engagement campaigns are effective 71% of the time, yet only 57% of companies are currently using them.

Let’s discover how to win back inactive customers, fast.

Why is it Critical to Re-Engage Inactive Customers?

As a company investing in email marketing, you have 3 options with your inactive subscribers.

The first option is to ignore the inactivity and keep sending emails. The second option is to cull your list and remove inactive subscribers altogether.

The third option? Learn how to re-engage inactive customers and get them back in your customer list.

While the first option might seem like the easiest choice, it can damage your long-term success rates.

Emailing inactive users reduces your open rate ratio and increases the chances of your emails being sent directly to spam. Internet service providers start to take note of your poor activity levels, and your email reputation starts to suffer.

Eventually, you’ll stop reaching even your active customers, as ISPs will block your emails based on a poor reputation.

The other option is to delete your inactive users entirely. But these people signed up to your list for a reason. You don’t want to miss out on their engagement.

So, here’s how to re-engage email subscribers.

1. Start by Segmenting Your List

Before you do anything to re-engage inactive customers, you’ll first need to define the inactive leads on your list. Most marketers view inactives as people who don’t interact with or open an email sent in the past 6 months or so.

To win these people back, the first thing you need to do is identify who they are.

Remember, segmented emails generate 58% of all revenue. What’s more, if you know exactly who has stopped interacting with your emails, you can start sending them specific content to get them back into your community.

You can even split your inactive customers into additional sub-sections. For instance, you might create a group of people who haven’t connected with you in 3-4 months. Giving these people a boost with a dedicated email campaign may stop them from losing interest in your company entirely.

Using email automation strategies, you can move customers directly into your inactive list when they fail to open emails within a specific period of time. From there, you’ll be able to use the following techniques to drive re-engagement.

2. Use Sensational Subject Lines

Once you know which customers are ignoring your emails, your first goal will be to convince them to click into your content again. Only by opening your messages will your customers see all the amazing content and offers you have to give.

Since inboxes are flooded with a huge amount of information each day, it’s up to you to make your subject lines stand out. There are a few ways you can attract your customer’s attention with subject lines, including:

  • Doing something new like using emojis
  • Injecting your subject lines with humor “Is it us, or you?”
  • Using mystery to spark curiosity: “There’s something we need to talk about…”
  • Providing an offer: “Come back to us for 10% off.”
  • Trying FOMO (fear of miss out): “Don’t miss this great deal…”

Path combines the promise of “something special” with curiosity to re-engage inactive customers in this email:

ReturnPath engagement email

3. Make Sure your Emails Have the Right Content

We mentioned above that customers are often overwhelmed by email these days. However, the problem is a lot worse than you think. The average office worker receives about 90 emails a day. To waste their precious time clicking on a message, they need to know that they’re going to get real value from it.

Unfortunately, a lot of companies cut corners on their email content. They think that a good offer or some great pictures is enough to send people back to their website.

However, content that’s immersive and emotional is more likely to connect with your client and keep them clicking on your emails. Remember, email isn’t just a way to keep asking your customers to buy your products. The new generation of customers isn’t engaged by advertisements alone – they expect brands to deliver stories, news, information and guidance.

Show your people that you respect their time by giving them the content they deserve.

You can even ask them what kind of content they’re looking for like Return Path does here:

Returnpath email example

4. Provide Exclusive Offers and Discounts

The more your customers feel as though they’re getting value from your emails, the more they’ll continue to open them. When it comes to figuring out how to win back inactive customers, few things work better than an exclusive discount or offer.

Not only does an offer encourage your customer to give your brand another try, but it’s a chance for them to use your product or service again. This could mean that they remember what attracted them to you in the first place.

When your client reaches a certain point in your inactivity segment, deliver an email letting you know how much you miss them, and what you’re willing to do to earn back their trust.

Skillshare uses this strategy in the email below. Importantly, they also let their customers know that there’s a time limit on how long they have to take advantage of the deal. This pushes subscribers to act quickly so that they don’t miss out.

Skillshare engagement email

5. Remind Them Why They Signed Up, and What They Could Miss

If you can’t afford to re-engage inactive customers with an offer yet, then consider reminding them of why they signed up in the first place. Sometimes, subscribers simply get distracted by other things in their life. All they need to jump back into action is a reminder of what they love about your business.

Send an email showcasing some of the biggest benefits of your brand. This email should highlight the USPs that you use to convert customers on your landing pages and other marketing campaigns.

Another great option? Unlock the power of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), by letting your customers know what they could miss out on if they don’t come back to you. Today’s customers don’t want to lose out on excellent opportunities. Let them know what you have coming up in the following months or remind them of what they’ve achieved with your company so far with some custom statistics.

For instance, Unsplash lets its users know exactly how many viewers they could be missing out on.

Unsplash engagement email

6. Make your Emails Look Amazing

People do judge a book by its cover.

If you want to re-engage inactive customers, then you need to make sure your emails look interesting and professional. If an email is difficult to read because of a poor format, then your readers will stop engaging with it.

On the other hand, a selection of clear, crisp-looking emails designed specifically for each segment in your campaign will boost customer engagement. To update your email design:

  • Keep copy blocks short and sweet
  • Embed attractive images
  • Draw the eye down the page with formatting
  • Use a bright, large and easy-to-click call to action

Most importantly, remember that your emails can’t just look amazing on a desktop device. They’ll also need to stand out on mobile too. About 53% of emails are opened on mobile devices. Check out this clean and simple design from Paul Mitchell. It has a strong headline, a sub-header, and a brief piece of text, followed by an amusing image:

Paul Mitchell email example

7. Get More Personal

Businesses today know that email personalization is essential to their success.

Unfortunately, while creating personal content is the number one goal for many companies, it’s also the number one challenge.

One of the easiest ways to re-engage inactive customers and remind them that you care about them is to provide them with highly personalized content. For instance:

  • Product recommendations: Check out what your customers purchased before and suggest something similar. You can even deliver offers on corresponding products that would appeal to your target customer.
  • Birthday gifts: Just by tracking the date of birth your customers share on their accounts, you can deliver valuable birthday messages that make your business seem more like a friend. This will help customers feel closer to your brand.
  • Anniversary discounts: Celebrate the day that your customer first joined your email list with anniversary gifts every so often. It doesn’t have to just be once a year! You can also consider a 6-month anniversary too!

Re-engage inactive customers example: Asos reengagement email

8. Give Them More Control

Finally, when you’re wondering how to re-engage email subscribers, one of the best things you can do is simply give your audience more control.

Usually, the main reason your subscribers will stop engaging with your emails is that you’re sending too much, too quickly. You might be covering topics they don’t care about anymore or sending messages that don’t interest them.

To prevent your followers from unsubscribing, give them the option to change how they receive content from you instead. For instance, the team at Refind allows subscribers to choose what kind of subjects they’d like to hear about, and how often:

Refind email example

Raising the Dead with Re-engagement Emails

Ultimately, it’s not just the quantity of email subscribers you have that matters – but the quality too.

Customer engagement is crucial to long-term success. If your people aren’t clicking on your emails, then they’re not seeing your offers or purchasing your products either.

Rather than just allowing your messages to go into the trash folder, commit to earning back the trust and appreciation of your subscribers.

Use some (or all) of the strategies above to re-connect with the customers that might be losing interest in your brand and track your results. You’d be surprised how quickly you can bring some people back into your community just with the right messages.


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