Someone just unsubscribed from your email list. Hurts, doesn’t it?

Regardless of how hard you work at creating a thick skin, receiving the notification that someone has unsubscribed from your email list never feels good. You are left with a feeling of loss and sadness that in spite of your best efforts, you ended up offending or boring a subscriber’s sensibilities.

All is not lost as there is still hope and a few things that you can do to get them back on your list with a renewed interest in what you have to offer them. But first, you must swallow the bitter pill that when it comes to subscribers you will win some and then you will lose some. 100% retention rate is not possible.

You might be then wondering whether it is worth reviving unsubscribes or should you just focus your resources on capturing new ones. Research shows that compared to retaining an existing customer, it will cost 5 times more to acquire a new one. A lot of time is spent marketers and business owners in getting customers to opt-in to your email newsletters and lists and not enough time is spent in actually engaging with them. You then end up with inactive subscribers which then have an end result of customers instantly canceling their subscription.

Reasons For Canceling Subscription

In order to keep customers from unsubscribing, it is important to first have an understanding as to why they feel the need to do so in the first place.

  1. Never opted-in or didn’t know they opted-in to your email list
  2. Email frequency is too high
  3. Email cannot be viewed properly
  4. Email looks unprofessional
  5. Content is not relevant
  6. Email content is only about sales
  7. Content is unoriginal or repetitive

Re-Activation Strategy

Before trying to get back an unsubscriber, work on the ones who are inactive. This is a step by step process which involves the implementation of a strategy that begins exactly when your inactive subscribers open one of your emails.

Subscribers that don’t open your emails lead to a drop in engagement rate which implies that the sender has created a poor reputation for themselves which results in poor deliverability. Once opened, the content needs to be able to aid in resolving the reason behind the inactivity and prompt a Call To Action (CTA) click.

Step 1: Send emails that prompt the inactive subscriber to open your mail

Step 2: Improve the content in your emails

Step 3: Follow the re-engagement email rule – include only one CTA

Step 4: Ensure their level of activity is either stabilized or improves

Re-Activation Benchmark

After going through these steps, if your open rate and engagement rate again lessens then your email is to blame. There are a few re-engagement best practices that you can use to help you out.

  1. Develop emails that promote an informative dialogue tone instead of a promotional monologue
  2. Offer customized value that prompts action along with vouchers and incentives
  3. Incorporating a mobile-friendly email design, a great subject line with an interesting email copy, and appealing graphics will add incredible value to your re-engagement campaign
  4. Test, review and refine before rolling-out your automated re-engagement campaign
  5. Define what counts as inactive as the longer the period, the more the prodding required
  6. Take the call of unsubscribing those email contacts who have been inactive for a long period
  7. Take this opportunity to completely redo your email design and copy and start afresh
  8. Place the inactive subscribers on a different list and refrain from sending them any emails for a while

Forestall Inactivity

After gaining some of your inactive subscribers back, there are certain things you can do that will help reduce future inactivity.

  • Find out the root cause for inactivity
  • Ensure that users aren’t getting automatically opted-in
  • Check whether your welcome email reminds the subscriber how they opted-in
  • Put a strategy in place that helps list all inactive subscribers

Re-Activation Campaigns Rules

According to Colby Cavanaugh, Senior Vice President of Marketing at Email Service Provider – Emma, explains that as it takes a lot of time, energy and resources to build an email list with an approximate churn rate of 25-30% annually, companies tend to cling onto their subscribers and make it hard for them to cancel their subscription.

When trying to reactivate subscribers, if they choose the option to unsubscribe then you mustn’t make it hard for them to do so as the penalties include damaged relations with customers and a bad brand reputation. Apart from that, you could get reported to the authorities, receive hefty fines and most likely be marked as SPAM by the recipients!

There are a few rules you need to follow when it comes to ease of email subscription cancellation.

Rule 1: If someone wants to opt-out of your email campaign then let them go. You could ask them if they could provide a reason for unsubscribing which you can then fix.

Rule 2: Every marketing email needs to include an opt-out link

Rule 3: Unsubscribe link should not be hidden

Rule 4: Unsubscribe link should be placed in a prominent place

Rule 5: The unsubscribe process should be simple with as few clicks as possible

Rule 6: Respect the customer when they unsubscribe and don’t send any more emails

Rule 7: Design the opt-out landing page to suggest other engagement options for customers

Rule 8: Allow subscribers to opt down in the kind of emails received and their frequency

Rule 9: Collect information on all mistakes committed


Implementation of thoughtful messaging that focuses on maximizing value for the customers and follows through on any promises made to them will result in customers lining up to join your email campaign list and staying subscribed for a long period. Email re-engagement campaigns can help boost the reach and power of your content and will encourage inactive subscribers to become active again. As a marketer, you are aware of how vital it is, that you keep close what you worked so hard to find: prospects.


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