What Should You Do With Your Inactive Subscribers?

If you’re reading this, you’ve probably been thinking about how to handle the inactive subscribers on your list. Don’t worry - you’re not alone! According to GetResponse, it’s expected that an average of 25 to 30 percent of every brand’s email list will churn per year.

Email list churn is split into two types: transparent churn (think unsubscribes, hard bounces, spam complaints) and opaque churn (think emails that aren’t engaged with, emails in the spam folder, or emails being sent to an address that isn’t often checked).

Though some churn is inevitable, there is an opportunity to win back users who have opaque churned before there’s no hope left. To give your subscriber’s every opportunity to re-engage and stay on your list, we recommend having an explicit strategy around your inactive subscribers.

This strategy revolves around three types of inactive subscribers:

  1. Never Active
  2. Slipping
  3. Ghosted

Let’s get in to how to deal with each group!

Never Active

These subscribers signed up for your email list once upon a time, but then vanished without a trace. No emails opened, let alone any link clicks or purchases.

In this situation, it’s best to figure out why these subscribers signed up and what types of content they’d like to continue receiving. You can send a recommitment campaign letting them choose the types of emails they’d like to receive from you, and how often they’d like to be sent these emails. By providing options, these contacts are more likely to recommit to your brand: the decision is on their terms.

A great strategy to drive re-commitment is to link contacts to your preference centre in your campaign. This way, you can lay out all their options in an easily digestible way. Refinery29’s preference center is a strong example of how you can allow subscribers to opt-down based on their preferred email cadence and topics of interest.



These subscribers have a strong track record of engaging with your brand, but are starting to slip away. They’re the inactive segment with the most potential, as they’ve expressed affinity to your brand in the past. It’s important to re-engage these subscribers quickly, as they’re harder to win back the longer they stay dormant.

You can create automated journeys to re-engage these subscribers at the exact moment their activity dips. By triggering these emails based on your subscriber’s behaviour, you’re also personalizing the way that they’re invited to re-engage with your brand (and we all know how much personalization drives engagement.

These emails can be as simple as a ‘Hey, we haven’t seen you in a while’ with a link back to your site. If you’re an ecommerce brand, you can include a discount to incentivize a purchase. Asana sends a well-crafted winback email highlighting new efficiencies in their product, and a clear CTA button bringing subscribers back into their app.



There was a time when this category of inactive subscribers was super engaged, but they’ve since ghosted. You’ve seen no activity for a while and are probably wondering what happened to them. You’ve likely tried winning them back with re-engagement campaigns, but saw no success.

It’s best to ease these subscribers out of your campaigns overtime, as the alternative option is to give up and say goodbye. Though the chances of re-engagement are low, you’re still giving them an opportunity to return.

Try slowing down your sending cadence bit by bit - if you send daily content, try sending it once a week. If that doesn’t work, try switching to once a month. If you’re still ghosted after a few months, it might be time to send the final winback email: Do you want to keep hearing from us?

You’re ready to win ‘em back!

Now that you’ve got some insight into how we think about inactive subscribers, it’s time to start building relevant segments to recommit subscribers who have dropped off . Not only will you be able to re-engage subscribers more effectively, you’ll also ensure that your email deliverability rates stay healthy!