VerticalResponse Blog

So you’ve got some subscribers on your mailing list who haven’t opened your emails or clicked on any links in a long time. How do you get them re-engaged? We recommend eight simple steps to help you re-connect with non-responders.

1. Segment
Figure out who the non-responders on your email list are, and segment them out. You can do this easily with most Email Service Providers, including VerticalResponse and create a separate email list with your non-responders – those who haven’t opened or clicked on any links in your email in while. This step is important because it allows you to experiment with changes for people who aren’t opening or interacting with your emails, but not with the ones who are engaged and responsive.

2. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater
Jill Bastian, our Training and Education Manager, warns against simply removing anybody who’s not responsive on your list. There are many reasons why someone may not be engaging, and the next series of steps can help pinpoint what those are.

3. Create an engaging subject line for this segment
What’s in the body of your email doesn’t make much difference if people aren’t opening it. Experiment with an engaging topic in your subject line, such as something that solves a problem for your subscriber, or an offer of a discount or free trial of a product. You can also ask people whether or not they’d like to remain on your list with a subject line saying something like, “We’ve missed you!”

4. Highlight list benefits
When creating a highly engaging subject line for your segmented list of non-responders, it’s important to highlight the benefits of being on your email newsletter in the body of the message. Since your readers haven’t been interacting with the email, a reminder of the value of what they get by reading these emails can be helpful.

5. Send a survey
Kim Stiglitz, our Director of Content Marketing & Organic Customer Acquisition, recommends asking subscribers and if the content you provide meets their expectations via a short survey. “If you find a disconnect between what you’re providing and what your subscribers expect, it’s time for a change,” she writes. This survey data can help you modify your content so that it meets the needs of your readers.

6. Play with timing
Try sending an email at a different time of day, or on a different day of the week. “A lot of times, people tend to send emails on a certain day or at a certain time. If you send an email to non-responders at a different time, they may be more interested or it may be a better time for them to look at it,” Bastian says. Check out our post on the best time to send your emails. It might surprise you. 

She also points out that different target audiences respond better to different times of day. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to finding the best time, since each list is different. For example, she gave a presentation recently at a children’s clothing company that chose to send emails around 2:30 p.m. and 3 p.m., when parents are picking their kids up from school and have time to check a quick email on their smartphones or mobile devices, or in the late evening when kids are asleep or doing homework and parents have more time for themselves. “There are specific times and days where more emails are sent, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s going to fit every audience,” Bastian explains.

7. Take a look at your send frequency
It’s possible that too-frequent emails are causing your readers to lose interest, particularly if your frequency is different than what you promised when they signed up for your list. It’s important to make sure that you’re sticking to what you promised in your sign-up form. If your email list subscribers signed up for an email once a week, for example, they may feel overwhelmed with emails sent more often than that.

8. Look at your own expectations
Although there are benchmarks for each industry, Bastian recommends coming up with your own open rate goals based on your own list performance. If you’re getting a 12 percent open rate, for example, try shooting for small increases over time. Creating incremental goals is often more realistic than trying to hit a benchmark based on an entire industry, and small gains can add up over time. 

What approaches have been successful for you in helping to re-engage non-responders? Share with us about in the comments section.

Ready to whip up your next email? Use the tips in our 5-Step Recipe to Snag Subscribers Attention and get started with VerticalResponse.

© 2014, Contributing Author. All rights reserved.

  • Jill Bastian

    Hi Ann,

    Good question! Email delivery is definitely something we work hard on, and we do have lots of information to help you as well. I took a look at what I think is your account and you have really good engagement with your emails, good open and click through rates. Looking at the last few emails you’ve sent, I don’t really see anything too alarming in the numbers or the response rates. I did look at the domains you’ve mailed to and they mostly look like they’re companies, not big email providers like Yahoo or Gmail. It is possible that they have their own spam filters and have high settings, but most of the domains you mailed to have at least some opens, so they may not be in the spam folder.

    Assuming that some emails are going in the spam folder though, there a few things you can check out in your emails. ISPs look at a variety of things in determining where your emails go. More and more they look at overall engagement, not just a word like Free, for example. But you still want to make sure you’re doing everything right in creating your email. Make sure your HTML is clean (it looks okay, but I just briefly glanced at it), if you link to other companies websites that the pages are good, that you’re mailing to good lists and sending the info you promised.

    Asking people to whitelist your from address is a good idea, but it may come down to getting their IT department to allow our IPs to mail to them if it’s their spam filter. We can provide those if you find your emails are going to spam folders and you’ve tried everything else. Our support team is happy to work with you on this too, their email address is [email protected]. You can also call them, but Denmark is far enough that our time zone’s probably don’t match well.

    We have some resources to help with this too:

    The Ultimate Delivery Guide –
    What VR does to get your emails in the inbox –
    And a quick overview in infographic form –

    Hopefully some of this helps, but like I said, reach out to our support team, they are great at helping with this.

    Jill Bastian
    Training and Education manager

  • Michael

    Hi Ann,
    My VR emails were going into spam folders – one change that seemed to work well is that I stopped including a text link, instead used the program to add the url to a picture or to a specific word, that work.

  • Larry Goldman

    Ann, one method we’ve used and I have seen others use is to preempt the SPAM possibility by getting the subscriber to white list your domain or email address first. Also, it can help to send from a real name.

    Success really depends on the purpose of the list. If it’s a nurturing campaign, you have much less leverage than if it’s a company newsletter. I was disappointed with the article, as I expected more ideas than those – the ones we’ve been trying. Certainly playing with timing and subject line are the best possibilities.

  • Ann


    Any good ideas on how to get hold of the subscribers, where the emails have ended up in the spam-filter? Should we try sending an email from our ordinary email accounts, one at a time – or?

    If g-mail, hotmail etc has pushed the newsletters sent via VR to the spam folder, then it won’t work sending yet another from the system…. I would think.

    Thoughts are welcome!

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