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Re-engagement Email Campaign – A Step-by-step Guide to Success

Want to put together a successful re-engagement campaign? Find what it takes in this blog!...

[This blog was originally posted on Feb 22, 2018 and has been updated to showcase new examples]

The time when a website visitor subscribes to your emails is the time when they are most engaged with your brand. It’s the honeymoon phase when they are all excited about each email you send. But eventually, your emails become a regular affair for them, something they often see in their inbox but choose to ignore and not open. These subscribers are your inactive subscribers.

Whatever may be the reason behind them not engaging with your emails, you need to address it and win them back because having too many inactive subscribers on your list can affect your reputation. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) monitor open rates and if you have a low email open rate, there are chances that the ISP may send your emails to the spam folder!

Moreover, it has been proved that it’s easier and cheaper to retain existing customers than acquire new prospects. That’s why re-engaging your email subscribers with a re-engagement email campaign becomes essential.

Now that we know the ‘WHY’ of re-engagement email campaigns, let’s get down to the ‘HOW’.

How to run a Re-engagement Email campaign

Here’s a comprehensive, step-by-step guide to help you run a re-engagement email campaign:

1. Identify your inactive subscribers

The first step you need to take is to determine a time frame on the basis of which you will separate your inactive subscribers from active subscribers. Inactive subscribers could be the ones who have not opened an email from you in the past 90 days. Another way you can have a list of inactive subscribers is by fishing out those subscribers who have not opened 10 or more latest emails from you.

An analysis of the frequency at which you email to your subscribers and the type of content you have been sending will help you determine a time frame for segregating inactive subscribers.

How to create a segment

Depending on the ESP you are using, you will have to create a segment of your ‘inactive subscribers’. Go to the section from where you can manage your list. Choose the option that specifies the emails not opened. Then specify the date from which onwards your emails were not opened (depending on the time frame you fix).

Now to make sure you are dealing with subscribers who have joined your list before the specified date, you need to fill that field as well. Make sure the date is the same as the above-mentioned date.

You now have a list of inactive subscribers. Save it.

2. Plan a strategy

Equipped with a list of inactive subscribers, you now need to plan a strategy to re-engage them with your brand. There are two important factors you need to focus on if you wish to make your re-engagement email campaign successful:

a. Plan the send time/ email frequency

Keep in mind that you are trying to win back subscribers who have stopped opening your emails. Among the many reasons behind them not doing so could be your email send time. Do a little research about the times they will want to engage with your email. The times at which they once opened your emails might also help; find that out.

Pro Tip: If your subscribers are business owners or people who are rather busy, you can send your emails sometime later in the day.

b. Plan your email content

Re-engagement emails are about rekindling the relationship you once shared with your subscribers and customers. The content of your email thus plays a crucial role here. Moreover, it’s essential that you write something that grabs attention or makes them want to reconnect with you. So, be it your subject line, preview text or email copy, you need to do something outstanding. Personalizing the emails with dynamic email content will also have a positive impact on the success of your campaign.

There are two factors that can help you connect well with your inactive subscriber: emotion and humor. You can make use of either one of these (together, even better!) to create an amazing copy that clicks.

Check out these re-engagement emails from Airbnb and YNAB. While Airbnb aims to lure back their dormant buyers by highlighting their new features, YNAB  keeps the tone professional to win back subscribers.

Ideally, you should be sending a re-engagement series (preferably 3 emails) to get the most out of your efforts. Let’s look into the emails you should be sending:

Email 1- Grab attention

The objective of the first email in the series is to grab attention. The emotional card is what most brands play at this stage. A little research about the subscriber’s behavior on your website or, in case of a customer, their purchase history can guide you in creating the right content. Be helpful, share links to your latest eBook, whitepaper, guide, etc. Also, ask them to set their preferences for content, email frequency and time.
Check out this re-engagement email campaign from Zapier. They are trying to help the subscriber with the possible problems they might be facing:

Email 2- Provide value

Wait for two weeks after you’ve sent the first email. There will be some who open your re-engagement email but many who still don’t. You will need to send them a follow-up email. Tell them that you care about their time and choice and do not want to keep sending them emails if they are not interested. At the same time, tell them about any changes you’ve made in your products/services/policies or remind them of the benefits they will be missing out on leaving your email list.

Nevertheless, keep your tone friendly and let them know you respect their choice.

Email 3- Let them decide

Now, wait for another two weeks. Again, there will be some subscribers who have not opened your second email, too. Take their inactivity in your stride and give your relationship one last try before you break up. Creating a sense of urgency is a good idea; tell the subscribers that you will be removing them from your list, if they do not choose to keep receiving emails from you. Another way some brands use to re-engage subscribers at this stage is by offering a discount as the last resort to win back the disengaged lot. However, it’s up to you whether to incentivize or not and at which stage to do so.

Re-engagement email series 1-2-3

Giving them the option to connect with other channels like your social media pages and a clear, prominent CTA to help them opt in or opt out is a must in every email you send in the series.

3. Automate

Email automation is one tool that makes every email marketer’s life easy. Your re-engagement program can also be automated. You can space your emails with email automation software. Also, you can remove contacts who do not engage with your brand even after the re-engagement program.

You will have to create another contact list, to which you add those contacts who take some action during the fixed time frame-

1.    Open any of your 3 re-engagement emails
2.    Click on a link in your email or
3.    Visit your website during the time frame

These contacts will be removed from your inactive subscribers’ list and will no more receive re-engagement emails.

4. A/B Test your content

Re-engaging subscribers is important to any business and you will thus want to send the best campaigns ever. Split or A/B testing can help you find out the best option for your campaign. Say for example you are unsure about your subject line. You create two versions and send the email with two different subject lines to two different subscriber groups. The data you collect helps you compare the performance of the two options and decide what’s best for your campaign.

However, you need to make sure you only test one element at a time for best results.

5. Analyze The Results

The goal of your re-engagement program is to win back disengaged subscribers and that’s what you will be analyzing after you are done with the campaigns. What you get in the end is two sections of subscribers- those who re-engaged and those who did not.

So, what do you do now?

  • For those who re-engaged, add them to a new lead-nurturing workflow and not to your regular list of subscribers. That’s because you need to handle them differently and not send them your regular promotional emails but more specific emails leading them towards conversion. An automation platform will help you at this stage as well.
  • For those who did not re-engage, it’s time to say goodbye. And that is the best option because by staying on your list and not opening your email, they are only going to hamper your deliverability, as mentioned in the beginning.

Wrapping Up

Re-engagement is a vital part of email marketing and should be done without any mistakes considering that it is your last chance to rejuvenate a relationship that you once adored.

Are you looking for a trusted partner who can design and code re-engagement emails for you? 

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Kevin George

Kevin is the Head of Marketing at Email Uplers, one of the fastest-growing full-service email marketing companies. He is an email enthusiast at heart and loves to pen down email marketing content. You can reach him at or connect with him on LinkedIn.



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