Top Tips to Re-Engage Disengaged Contacts

|by Amy Birch

When building your email list you should use a method for data collection which ensures GDPR compliance. This would usually be done by using a double opt-in form to ensure that your subscribers have made a conscious decision to receive your messages.

Sending emails to a list of contacts who don't want to receive your content will damage your sender reputation in instances where your emails are marked as spam. You'll struggle to see a return on your investment because people just aren't that interested in your emails.

Building a list of contacts using the double-opt-in method may be a slower process but it will produce better campaign results in the long term. 

Nurturing your email list

At the beginning of the customer journey, when the customer has first subscribed to your emails, they're the most receptive and engaged that they will be with your company. 

Your emails should harness this engagement to motivate your recipients to perform your desired actions, such as downloading an e-book or making a purchase. 

Your emails should provide the contact with an incentive to open each email in a series by building content up with each email send.

The average email contact stays on an emailing list for six months. Companies should use this insight to pre-empt the drop off in customer engagement with appropriate content, prolonging the customer’s lifespan. 

You might want to consider using marketing automation techniques to begin nurturing a contact as they come towards the end of the average lifetime for a contact in the list.

For more tips on nurturing your subscribers, click here.

Identifying disengaged subscribers

Disengaged subscribers are subscribers who don't open or interact with your emails, meaning that your efforts go to waste. 

When you're put lots of time and effort into designing your email campaigns, it can be disheartening to see your email list become disengaged over time.

Generally, subscribers will be fully engaged with your campaigns when they first subscribe to your email list or when they first make a product or download content from your website. However, a customer’s need for your information and resources will decline over time, leading to a lack of engagement.

Of course, some contacts on your email list may never have interacted with your company, even when they were first subscribed. In these cases, the aim of re-engagement is to find out the reason why a subscriber doesn't engage and to provide them with a reason to re-engage with your brand.

You can identify your disengaged subscribers in several different ways. For some companies, a contact opening their email will be enough to constitute engagement, however, for another, only a click-through from the email will suffice. 

Deciding on which metric to measure engagement by is the first step towards creating an engaged email list. However, this decision can only be made using your company's unique insights.

You should also decide how long a contact needs to be disengaged for before they're added to a re-engagement workflow and how you will then monitor the subscriber's subsequent activity.

Re-engaging disengaged subscribers on your email list

Once a subscriber becomes disengaged, the difficult process of re-engaging begins. 

Before embarking on a re-engagement campaign with your email list, you should set expectations of what metric will be used to judge when a contact has sufficiently re-engaged with the company. 

You should decide which customers you want to re-engage, which subscribers you want to completely remove from your email list, and how long you're willing to persist with re-engagement campaigns before eventually deleting a contact.

Preference centre

Asking subscribers what kind of content they wish to receive by linking to a preference centre in your welcome email is an effective way to ensure you only send them relevant content. 

Your subscribers should be able to control the time and frequency that suits their needs as receiving too many emails contributes to an increase in unsubscribe rates. They want to receive communications on their terms, not yours, so preference centres are a great way to let them tell you what they want to receive, when they want to receive, and also how they want to receive it.

Preference centre forms should also include an option to specify particular interests.

Once a subscriber is disengaged, you could send them a link to your preference centre so they can update their details or interests.

For more information on creating a preference centre, click here.


Similar to lead magnets, incentives give your contact a reason to re-engage with your email campaigns. 

Such incentives may include a downloadable piece of content or access to information which is unavailable to non-subscribers. 

Incentives should be used when they can be produced at a low cost and give the contact a good reason to become a more valuable customer.

An email titled ‘Download our latest content for free’ or ‘Take a look at our latest offer for you’ is bound to catch the eye and make the contact feel valued again.


Giving the contact a date on which they will be deleted from your email list will urge the subscriber to make up their mind then and there. 

Although this type of engagement campaign should be used as a last resort, this will aid your list cleansing process by removing subscribers who don't respond or who subsequently choose to unsubscribe from your email list.

The emotive opt-out form

Sending an opt-out email to a disengaged client asking them if they want to be removed from the email list is a direct way that you can establish whether a subscriber still wants to be contacted. 

Although this may seem counterintuitive, asking your customers whether they still want to receive your emails forces them to make a decision. 

A well-crafted opt-out email which uses an emotional angle, such as ‘Have we done something wrong?’ or ‘Tell us how we can make it up to you’ can show the customer that you care about them, re-engaging them in the process.

These emails can also be used to make the customer realise why they subscribed to your email list in the first place. State why the customer is special to your company and what you can do to help them achieve their goals.

The subject line

In many respects, the most important part of the email is the subject line

Your first challenge of sending your email, once it has been delivered, is to stand out in the inbox as something that the recipient wants to read. 

A poorly titled email, no matter how good the content is, will not be successful. Make sure the purpose of your email is clear and include the benefit to the recipient in the subject line if appropriate.

Both of these subject lines and 'from names' are clear and concise. You know exactly what you'tr going to get by opening the email.

The preview text from “” might need changing next time though. They've missed an opportunity to add another reason for the contact to open the email.

Effective email design

All good email campaigns should adhere to the F-shaped reading pattern

The F-shaped reading pattern is a concept by the Nielsen-Normal Group whereby readers of text scan content firstly looking from left to right in 2 horizontal lines and then down the left-hand side of the page in a vertical line.

This is particularly relevant to content-heavy pages where the reader initially scans the page quickly for information. To ensure that the email recipient doesn't miss key details in the email, an email should be designed with this in mind.

Concise email copy with scannable bullet points and calls to action set out this format for you.

Each email should be designed with one goal in mind and should guide the user smoothly down to the call-to-action. For more information on setting goals for your email campaigns, click here.

Adopting this general shape in your email designs helps readers scan the most important pieces of information quickly and effectively.

The top of the shape is the email’s title; a strong title outlines the purpose of the email and why the recipient should read it.

The middle should outline the benefits of completing the call-to-action and why they should be clicking through from the email. Bullet points will make this very clear, although different styles should be tested.

The bottom section should be a prominent call-to-action button which gives the reader clear instructions about what they need to do next.

The subscribers you shouldn't try and re-engage

When considering your re-engagement strategy, there are some subscribers you should probably leave alone. 

No matter how good your emails are, there are bound to be subscribers who don’t respond, take action, or even open them.

If a subscriber has indicated that they no longer wish to be a part of your email list or has failed to respond to your re-engagement efforts, simply remove them from your list altogether.

Disengaged subscribers will negatively impact your email open rates. Setting a time-limit for your re-engagement campaigns will minimise the amount of time that you spend emailing people who are simply no longer interested in what the company has to say.

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