How do I re-engage the disengaged?

Disengaging contacts is as inevitable as taxes. These disengaged contacts not only affect your reporting but they might damage your reputation as an email sender. Whether you call it a re-engagement, sunsetting or win-back strategy having one in place is important to re-engage with contacts who have stopped engaging with you. You could develop an overly complex plan but I always believe starting small and simple, before scaling, is a better strategy.


Work out who is and isn’t engaged


The first thing you should do is decide what an engaged and disengaged contact looks like. Be specific and ensure it’s measurable. Start with something straightforward and easy to measure such as an email open. After this you can scale it to include multiple metrics and more complex equations.

  • Active/engaged – contacts who have opened an email at least once in the last six months.
  • Inactive/disengaged – contacts who haven’t opened an email in the last six months.

Once you’ve decided on the measurement the next step is to identify how many contacts are in each pot so that you have a baseline to work from. It isn’t uncommon, at first, to have what seems like a high number of disengaged contacts.


Why are your contacts disengaged


There will be a reason why these people are not engaged. It’s useful at this stage to investigate and find out some of the common reasons why your contacts disengage. Look at how many emails you sent to them before they stopped engaging. Look at what you were sending them and whether it was relevant. Another question to ask yourself is whether they have ever engaged with you.


Some common reasons are:


  • They received too many emails from you
  • They didn’t receive enough emails
  • The content they received wasn’t relevant
  • They weren’t interested in the first place
  • Understanding even a little bit more about your contacts can help


Build a strategy for re-engagement


Through your sleuthing in the earlier stages, if you noticed that you were sending quite a few emails the first thing to try is to reduce the number of emails you send to contacts who are disengaged. Simply sending fewer emails might be enough. However, they may not realise you are sending fewer emails. You might want to send them a specific message telling them what you are doing. Make it clear in the subject line that is what you’ll be doing.

One of the single biggest reasons for contacts disengaging is that the content that you send isn’t relevant. You can approach this in two ways; either ask them explicitly to give you their preferences by using a preference centre, or you can use implicit behaviour. If they click on certain links or visit certain pages you could assume they have an interest and change their preferences. Then you should make sure that you send them the content that they’ve asked for. Make it clear in your email that you want to send them relevant content so that it stands out from the rest of your emails.


If the contact has never engaged with ask yourself why are they on this list in the first place? We would recommend that you suppress these contacts and cease sending them any further communications. You could be damaging your reputation if you continue to send to these contacts.


Try the following steps to re-engage your contacts:


  • Suppress contacts that have never engaged with you.
  • For two months after a contact has disengaged decrease the frequency with which you email them.
  • After two months, send a re-engagement email asking them to update their preferences so that they receive relevant content.
  • After two weeks, send a reminder re-engagement email to those who don’t engage with the first email.
  • After two more weeks, send an exclusive email with content that might interest them. Use a sense of urgency if you can.
  • After another month, send a final email. You have nothing left to lose at this point. Try using an unusual and eye catching subject line.
  • At this point, stop sending communications to the contacts that don’t engage at all during this process. They can always sign up again if they would like to.