Inactive subscribers? Re-engage them with 2 steps

Inactive subscribers? Re-engage them with 2 steps
Inactive subscribers? Re-engage them with 2 steps

Have you noticed certain newsletter subscribers showing signs of losing interest? Maybe they haven't opened your newsletter in a few months, or  haven't clicked on anything in a few weeks? You don't want to lose these subscribers, but you also don't want them dragging down your open rate.

In an interview on the Newslettter Crew podcast, Sam Parr from The Hustle said that one of the best ways to increase open rates across your newsletter is to either re-engage inactive subscribers or scrub them from the list. Here, we'll walk through implementing a reactivation campaign for your newsletter, re-engaging those subscribers that may have gone cold. You'll see a noticeable increase in open-rates with these steps.

Types of inactive subscribers

It's important to identify three different kinds of inactive subscribers. We'll approach each group differently with our reactivation campaign.

Hibernated Subscribers

These are subscribers who were engaged with your newsletter but haven't been opening for the past month or more. This is the most common kind of inactive subscribers. They either forget about your newsletter, became too busy, or filed your newsletter away into an obscure folder in their inbox.

Dead Subscribers

These are subscribers who signed up for your newsletter either by a subscription form or opted-in by a lead magnet but have never visited your site or engaged with your emails. Some people tend to forget why they signed up for your newsletter and haven’t visited your site since they did so.

Hard Bounces

Then there are hard bounces, which are completely different from inactive subscribers. Most ESPs remove them automatically.

Step 1: Segmenting inactive subscribers

According to Campaign Monitor

“Segmenting is the division of email subscribers into smaller segments based on set criteria. Typically, segmentation is used as a personalization tactic to deliver more relevant email marketing to subscribers based on their geographic location, interests, purchase history, and much more. Segments are created so that the marketer can cater specifically to each different email list and that list’s independent interests, rather than creating one mass message for all.”

Using the segments feature, you can identify inactive subscribers and put them on re-engagement workflows to get them re-engaged. You can segment inactive subscribers based on their inactivity timeline: How long have these subscribers been inactive? If it’s longer than 45-60 days, it’s time to send these subscribers a re-engagement email/workflow.

How to segment them?

For the sake of this guide, we will show example screenshots from the MailerLite dashboard. First of all, create segments based on the subscriber’s inactivity.

This filter contains Hey emails as well. As we know Hey doesn’t allow ESPs to track email opening due to privacy. So we will add a condition to filter subscribers who have signed up using their emails.

To do so, add a condition. Field > Email > Does not contain > (as all Hey emails end at This way, 10 more subscribers are excluded from our filter.

Now we have a final list of inactive subscribers. You can make a group of them or save them as a segment. For the time being, we will save them as a group.

To do so, select all > then click actions > add to the group.

Step 2: Sending re-engagement emails

After segmenting inactive subscribers, it's time to create a campaign to email them. You want to do two things: First, remind them about your newsletter with a few recommended pieces of content they can read. Second, give them the option to not receive further emails and unsubscribe. If they aren't interested in re-engaging with your newsletter, make it easy for them to opt-out. (That's to protect your open rate.)

Here is the workflow Indie Letters sent to inactive subscribers.

Summary of this re-engagement workflow:

  • Inactive subscribers including dead subscribers: 417
  • Email opens of 1st re-engagement email: 57
  • Re-engaged subscribers after 1st re-engaged email: 27
  • Email opens of 1st re-engagement email: 74
  • Re-engaged subscribers after 1st re-engaged email: 26

In short, 131 (31%) inactive subscribers opened these emails. Keep in mind, this email was sent to inactive subscribers who had not opened a single email in the last sixty days.

How you can set up your workflow?

Go to Automations > Create a new workflow. Let’s call it “Inactive subs workflow”.

Setup workflow like this:

Now, create your 1st workflow email. Here are some subject lines you can use for your 1st re-engagement email:

  • We Want You Back!
  • It’s Been a While!
  • There’s Still Time!
  • ✨ We Miss You! ✨
  • Are we on the same page?

After that create your email. Here is the re-engagement email for Indie Letters:

Remember to add a delay of at least 7 days between your automated email campaigns. You don't want to be too pushy! 

Now set up conditions for adding re-engaged subscribers back to the active subscriber’s list. For this purpose, a condition was setup, so that only those subscribers will be considered engaged that have clicked on the re-subscribe link. And that's it, you've gotten back into the inbox.

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