Time to say goodbye? All the ways to deal with inactive recipients

Splitting up is tough and not everyone likes making that move, but sometimes it’s preferable and worthwhile! Not sure that’s what you should do with your inactive recipients? Read on and decide.

Out of your whole mailing list, chances are that there’s a sizable number of recipients who simply don’t open your emails anymore.  They prefer to send emails directly to spam, delete them right away, or just not to open them if the content doesn’t interest them, but even if a recipient hasn’t unsubscribed from your list, hasn’t said goodbye in spite of the fact that he doesn’t read your emails anymore, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do it.


Why shouldn’t you keep a mailing list that includes inactive recipients?

A huge mailing list, most of which is inactive, doesn’t do you any good. It’s not only that ‘it’s not quantity, it’s quality that matters’, the quantity can actually fool you.  Even if you have a mailing list of 100,000 recipients, if only 10,000 open your emails over a substantial period of time, your content only reaches 10,000 recipients; that’s your real mailing list and that’s the number of recipients who receive your emails.

Besides that, if there really are recipients who send you straight to the spam box, it can damage the deliverability rate of your emails and begin to categorize you automatically as spam for other recipients as well, and you certainly don’t want that to happen.

Finally, a huge list of recipients, most of whom aren’t active, may sabotage the reliability of your reports. In order to get real data about the emails you send out, about which emails work better, which don’t work as well, and other relevant data, you need your mailing list to reflect the real numbers.  If your open rate is low and you don’t understand why, there’s a good chance the reason lies in your mailing lists.

Last month ActiveTrail started a recipient filtering operation that raised the open rate of the emails we send you from 25% to 40-50%! Want to know how we did it?

We’ve gathered for you the best, most effective ways to deal with inactive recipients:

An unsubscribe campaign – parting gradually

Create a dynamic group of recipients who haven’t opened your campaigns in the last year/half year/three months.  You’ll send an email to this group, an automatic campaign that will be sent to everyone who joins this list (i.e. doesn’t open your emails in the designated time period) and in this way you’ll be able to check the status of these inactive recipients.

What will be in this campaign? You have all kinds of possibilities:

A feedback email and preference management

One option is to send a preference management campaign. This campaign has to have a very tempting subject line, intriguing and personal, so the recipients who aren’t used to opening your emails will decide that they will open it this time.  A line like this could be, for instance: “Ronnie, what kind of content do you like to receive?”

In the email itself you can build a survey using our survey system that asks why the recipients don’t open your emails, and thus get feedback about your content.  Alternatively, if you email on a number of topics and you have different mailing lists that you send to, the email could lead to a preference management page through which your recipients can mark the subjects about which they’d like to get emails.

A special discount

If you’re an online shop, you can give your recipients a special discount in order to encourage them to continue receiving emails from you.  The subject line of the email has to be personal and clear, so your email will get the special attention you want it to get, so you should write something on the order of “Michelle, we noticed that it’s been a while since we saw each other. We’d like to give you a present” and attach a discount coupon to the email.

If, through these campaigns, you manage to “save” a few recipients, there’s no doubt that your work has paid off.  That being said, you probably won’t be able to keep carrying the recipients who don’t open the unsubscribe campaign either, and it’s time to leave them behind.  After we’ve already seen above why it’s not as revolutionary as it seems to pare down the mailing lists, don’t be shy about simply removing these inactive recipients from the list.

Parting hurts, but it’s effective

Sometimes you simply have to cut the rope, break the chains, or in short, to say goodbye.  If you don’t want to start dealing with dynamic groups and separate mailing lists, it looks like this is the best solution for you.  If you have a sizable number of recipients who have never opened your emails, or at least haven’t opened your email for a year, half a year, or four months (depending on what you’ve determined), it looks like it’s time to say goodbye for good and to invest your efforts in new recipients.

Dynamic parting

It’s so great that there are smart, dynamic solutions that facilitate good, effective emailing.  Remember the dynamic group you created for the unsubscribe campaign? A group of recipients who haven’t opened your emails in the last half a year?

What’s left for you to do is to create a list of recipients who have opened your emails in the last half a year, and to keep emailing them!  That way you can email precisely those people who open your emails and take an interest in you, at least once in half a year.  The group is dynamic, because it retains only those recipients who continue to open your mail, and moves the others to the second group (of recipients who didn’t open).

If you created a special unsubscribe campaign like in the first option, and there are recipients who opened the unsubscribe campaign (and didn’t unsubscribe), create a rule that returns them to the group of recipients who opened emails in the last half a year, so you’ll keep emailing them.  Nice, isn’t it?  That’s what we think, too, and that’s the option we chose, so our recipients will be satisfied and won’t get emails they’re not interested in.

After you’ve chosen the best solution for you for dealing with inactive recipients, there are all kinds of other things you can do in order to improve the quality of your mailing lists:

  • Invest in autoresponders and automatic panels. Using autoresponders, you build a series of emails for new subscribers. If you build this series right, your content and your videos appear there, and you’re giving your new recipients a good opportunity to get to know you. Through ActiveTrail’s new automation system, which is about to be launched, you’ll be able to create an automatic marketing panel that works in accordance with your recipients’ behavior. So, for example, a customer who doesn’t open your email will get an SMS on the spot, or maybe a different email that you created especially for those who didn’t open.  The autoresponder gives you a terrific opportunity to turn your subscribers into your loving fans, so don’t miss out on this.
  • If you don’t want to stop emailing your inactive recipients entirely, simply email them less frequently. Create dynamic groups with emails at different intervals; so for instance to a group of recipients who haven’t opened your email in the last half a year, you’ll keep sending emails, but only 50% of the emails you send out to all your other recipients.
  • Invest in your pop-ups and sign-up forms. Check the way you gather leads, make sure you  do indeed email about the subjects you said you would, and make sure that when your recipients sign up to your mailing list, they know what they’re going to get from you.

That’s it, we hope we’ve helped you deal with the necessary goodbyes and don’t forget that every parting is a new beginning.  Cleaning up and organizing your mailing lists is a great way to improve the way you email, your open rates, your emails’ deliverability, and in short – to email like pros.

Want to know what makes an email marketing campaign successful? Here are 10 steps for a successful newsletter

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