Managing Your Email List and Reengaging Subscribers

by Brittain Whiteside-Galloway, Copywriter - 08/17/16

You’ve built an engaged email subscriber list. Now what? Learn invaluable tips for efficiently managing your email list and key components of a win-back email campaign.


You invested valuable time and made a robust effort to create an actionable email list. Pat yourself on the back—that’s no small feat. You’ve now got a solid marketing tool to connect with your clients and various audiences. Your email marketing game is strong—but there’s still much work to be done.

Like any good relationship, the relationships with your clients you build and maintain via email require regular check-ins—which means your email lists need routine cleaning or management, and your silent clients need some extra TLC.

Eric-Clarkson.jpg“Cleaning an email list is different than unsubscribing people. It’s taking a fine-tooth comb to it every so often—for example, every six months—and identifying subscribers who haven’t opened your emails within that period of time.”

— Eric Clarkson, senior UX designer at True North Custom

Email Basics: Clean-up 101 

What does the phrase “email list clean-up” bring to mind? Probably purging inactive clients. But, on the contrary, cleaning up an email list simply means managing it.

“Cleaning an email list is different than unsubscribing people,” says Eric Clarkson, senior UX designer at True North Custom. “It’s taking a fine-tooth comb to it every so often—for example, every six months—and identifying subscribers who haven’t opened your emails within that period of time.”

An effective practice to employ when cleaning up email lists is placing all subscribers into two segments: engaged/active and unengaged/inactive.

Haylee-Robinson.jpg“Once you’ve separated subscribers into focused segments, you can then aim your attention at the inactive group of subscribers and decide which actions to take to reengage them. That’s where strategizing comes into play.”

— Haylee Robinson, digital project manager at True North Custom

Smart Strategies to Win Back Inactives

When something goes awry in your digital relationship with a subscriber and he or she is not opening your emails, what should be your end goal and how do you reengage that potential reader?

“To begin, don’t focus on short-term goals, like getting blog subscribers to engage one time,” Eric says. “Your long-term goal should be to engage subscribers continually. Think beyond a quick win, or they’re likely to return to being inactive.”

A pro tip Eric and Haylee recommend is personalizing emails to tailor content to subscribers by providing content that matches their interests and life stage. But what other strategies can you employ to keep formerly inactive clients engaged?

“The worst thing you can do is rely exclusively on best practices,” Eric says. “Best practices are a good starting point, but the best move you can make is testing different email components—such as subject lines, send times, and content—to see what works and what doesn’t.”

Here are four savvy email testing tips to keep in mind as you begin to launch your win-back campaign:

  1. Don’t be afraid to test.
  2. Try different things.
  3. Test one thing at a time to be able to determine which change is effective.
  4. Test more than once.

“A one-time test might give an indication of success, but multiple tests can be the difference between having a fluke success and solid proof that your test worked.”

Key Takeaway

Email campaigns are still very much effective—there are more than 2 billion email accounts, and Gmail alone has more than 1 billion monthly active users, according to Tech Crunch. Before purging your list or sending out a one-hit wonder to win back unengaged subscribers, take time to try these valuable tips. The reward—a higher rate of engaged subscribers—will be well worth it.

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