Browse by...
Home Resources Blog

Are your email subscribers as active as they could be? Not sure? In order to increase engagement and earn more revenue from your email marketing campaigns, it’s important to know how to identify the subscribers who are still paying attention, use re-engagement techniques for those who aren’t, and improve the relationship you have with all the people on your lists.

All email marketers have inactive subscribers haunting their lists, costing money with seemingly little return. But unlike bounced contacts that come back as invalid and need to be removed from your lists immediately, a subscriber with no recorded opens within the past 12 months isn’t necessarily a lost cause. They might have abandoned their email, changed their mind about opting in, or they could be missing your emails entirely. Regardless of their reasons for staying quiet, having too many subscribers who don’t engage with your campaigns–that is, not opening or clicking–can be costly, and worse, disrupt your deliverability over time.

Conversely, engaged lists mean better inbox placement with your active subscribers which means a greater ROI for you and more revenue for your company. In fact, studies show that purging a list can lead to increased opens by more than 25%. Maintaining list hygiene means you see the best possible results from your email marketing campaigns.

Here’s how to monitor the engagement of your subscribers and launch re-engagement campaigns without breaking a sweat:

How engaged are your subscriber lists?

Good email marketing amounts to sending high-quality content to a list of people who have chosen to receive emails from you; engagement is how marketers measure its effectiveness. Most frequently, engagement is represented by the ratio of opens and clicks over a period of time. Engaged subscribers receive your emails, open and read them, and then click through to visit your site. Whether you want your subscribers to “Read More,” “Start Shopping,” or “Sign Up Now,” the aim of email marketing is for people to read your email and then be inspired to take some action.In order to illustrate the different levels of engagement you can expect from your own list, here’s an example of how to categorize subscribers according to their engagement levels:


Pre-built engagement segments are available for Campaign Monitor customers on the Premier and Advanced plan.


A closer look at the fine print:

Segment name How they’re calculated
Active Performed an action at least once in the last 30 days
Engaged Performed an action at least once in the last 90 days
Unengaged Has not performed any actions within the last 3-6 months
Dormant Has not performed any actions within the last 6-12 months
Zombie Has not performed any actions in the last 12 months
Ghost Subscribed over 12 months ago and have never performed any actions

It’s pretty shocking to see that on average, 35% of subscribers can be classed as “Zombies.” Zombies are the perpetually unengaged users, likely because they’ve abandoned their email address, left a job, or filter their mail overzealously. While this might seem concerning, it doesn’t have to be. On average, lists lose up to 22.5% of users a year, so some churn is normal and should be expected. Zombies also mean there’s a lot of room to improve your engagement rates–and your ROI and delivery rates in the process.

Getting more value from your campaigns

The link between list engagement and ROI is fairly straightforward. An engaged list loves the content you’re sending and as a result, opens, clicks and visits your site. If they really like what you offer, they’ll tell their friends and share your content, too. Obviously these users are the gold standard every marketer strives for, but what if you measured your list and found it teeming with zombies?It’s time to actively re-engage subscribers.Using this 5-step re-engagement plan, you can get back into your subscribers’ good books. It may seem like extra work, but the results are worth it: less money spent on inactive subscribers, higher engagement, better deliverability, all which ultimately drive revenue and build brand recognition.

Our 5 step re-engagement plan

Step 1: Go zombie hunting

Identify any subscribers who haven’t opened one of your campaigns in 12 months (assuming you’ve sent a few in this time) and segment them using custom fields.

Step 2: Send a reconfirmation campaign

Put your best foot forward and send a “we want to make sure you still want to hear from us” -style reconfirmation campaign to these subscribers. For example, you can send a special promo, a thank you note, or actively ask for their feedback. Keep in mind this should be a pull-out-all-the-stops, best content, best offer kind of email since this is the last chance you have to win them back.

Step 3: Pat yourself on the back

Following the re-engagement campaign, turn to your reports. If a few subscribers have engaged with the email, well done. That’s a few more engaged prospects on your list and hopefully you’ll see more activity from them in the future.

Step 4: Say goodbye

If your zombie subscribers don’t open or click on the re-engagement campaign, it’s time to say goodbye. It may feel like you’re getting rid of potential customers, but the reality is they’re likely doing more harm than good by hanging around.Not only are you saving money by removing people who aren’t interested in what you have to offer, you’re also purging deadweight from your lists, contacts that are negatively affecting the performance of the rest of your list. As the engagement level of your list as a whole improves, you’ll see better inbox placement on your next send. That means your emails have a better chance of being seen by those who want to hear it, which you should see reflected in your open and click-through rates.

Step 5: Revisit your content

As they say, prevention is better than the cure, so it’s time to up your game and give subscribers less reason to disengage in the first place. In particular, the first 90 days following a sign up are critical, so it’s essential to focus on communicating effectively with new subscribers in this courting period. Update your welcome email or welcome series in order to captivate your subscribers’ attention when their interest in your brand is at its peak, right after they opt-in.Are you inviting them in, showing them around, and being a good host? Using autoresponders to send a welcome series of emails, or post-purchase follow-ups can automate this process, making it even more effective.

Wrap up

Sending re-engagement campaigns is a crucial part of maintaining list health, but overall, there is no substitute for solid content. If you are sharing must-read news and articles or even the cutest puppies, your subscribers will want to open your emails.If you’d like access to the pre-built engagement segments mentioned above, upgrade your Campaign Monitor account to the Premier plan.

This blog provides general information and discussion about email marketing and related subjects. The content provided in this blog ("Content”), should not be construed as and is not intended to constitute financial, legal or tax advice. You should seek the advice of professionals prior to acting upon any information contained in the Content. All Content is provided strictly “as is” and we make no warranty or representation of any kind regarding the Content.
Straight to your inbox

Get the best email and digital marketing content delivered.

Join 250,000 in-the-know marketers and get the latest marketing tips, tactics, and news right in your inbox.


Get started with Campaign Monitor today.

With our powerful yet easy-to-use tools, it's never been easier to make an impact with email marketing.

Try it for free