#59: Reasons Why Your Email List Went Cold (And How to Re-Engage)

Marketing / Automation

This month’s theme is all about systems to re-engage a cold email list…

According to industry norms, list churn (people moving off your list over a specific period) cuts down about 25-30% of the average email list every year. That’s a huge chunk of your list! Now, there may be nothing you can do about “voluntary churn” because people change jobs and change or deactivate emails, which may lead to hard bounces and you cannot email them anymore. But there is that list of people who haven’t unsubscribed but they stopped engaging with you. If you don’t identify these people and take action, they can end up costing you money.

In short, if your email marketing platform charges by the number of contacts or number of emails sent, you should be checking to make sure that is a high-quality list. If your list has 30,000 contacts yet 25,000 haven’t engaged with you in over six months, you are WASTING money. I see this all the time. When I meet a client for the first time and do a quick audit of their Keap® (fka Infusionsoft) application, 9 out of 10 times they haven’t been pruning their list, sometimes for years. In one client’s case, it was close to 75% unengaged subscribers! On one hand he was horrified that he wasn’t keeping up with the back-end administration of his systems and was paying out of pocket for nothing, but on the other hand, I was able to save him about $100/month. 🙂

In today’s video, we look at common causes of decreased email engagement and 3 things you can do today to turn it around.

Last week, I showed you my system how to identify inactive and unengaged subscribers, so be sure to watch that video if you haven’t seen it. Really quick, the system included defining the activity, what metric are you measuring? The most common data point is the date of the last time they opened your email. If you have a store, you may want to focus on the date of the last purchase.

Next, define thresholds – do you want to target those who haven’t opened an email in the past four months? Or those who haven’t purchased in a year? Decide what action you want to take, do you want to delete the subscribers or offer a discount?

This month we’ll dive a little deeper into the steps and I’ll give you some ideas of what you can do to keep your list happy and more engaged.

And, as we talked about last month, having inactive subscribers on your list is asking for spam complaints not to mention it may be costing you money as some list managers chare you by the subscriber count or how many emails you are sending. And if those emails aren’t getting read, what’s the point?

Let’s look at some common causes of decreased email engagement:

Silence: You left them hungry for content by not sending emails.

And I’m going to give you a big fat demerit if you have an opt-in box on your website in which they can sign up for your “newsletter” and then you go months without sending anything. Someone signed up because they want to hear from you, but if you don’t deliver, they will forget you so that when you finally do send something, they think you are spam.

All sell but no value: You sent out nothing but promotional emails and didn’t create value for your audience. And I think we’ve all seen these types of marketers. They are probably the same people who rent Lamborghinis to take selfies.

Missing the mark: Your content didn’t resonate with your audience. This can be that the content isn’t matching the wants of the audience, the subject lines aren’t inducing them to open.

Overwhelm: Your subscribers get too many messages and yours didn’t stand out.

How can you fix?

Whether you missed the mark during your initial email campaign, or you’re re-engaging after a long absence, it’s important to understand what your audience does want.

Ask them.

Send an email asking your subscribers why they signed up, and what kinds of information, content, and insights you can offer that will make them stick around. Ask them how often they want to hear from you, maybe include questions in which they can self-segment so that you can begin to personalize your content if it looks like you have specific groups.

Something else you can do to segment is to create an email preferences center in which they can set their preferences. Nothing more frustrating than to lose subscribers when the reason is simple like instead of weekly, they would prefer to hear from you every two weeks.

As you can see in my preferences center, I let people opt-in or opt-out of promotional emails, emails that are training related, my weekly Systems Sunday videos, or those that are specific to virtual assistants. This is something that can easily be set up in Infusionsoft, but check with your list manager to see how you can incorporate a preferences center.

Keep track of your email broadcasts to see which subject lines resonate with your audience. You may notice a trend of some topics that resonate more than others.

If you don’t have any system in place this is a good time to start. Next week we’ll start looking at smart strategies to win back subscribers and customers.

Did you enjoy this episode and want to put it into action? Grab this planner!

Subscriber Re-Engagement Planner


It happens to the best of us: we have great plans and intentions for growing our businesses and we vow to email our subscribers regularly; but then life and/or business events get in the way and those awesome plans are forgotten or given a lower priority. Whatever you do, don’t condemn yourself or consider this an epic failure. The beauty of being human is we’re allowed to make mistakes and there’s always a way to start over again.

This planner walks you step by step to re-engaging with your subscribers.


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