Skip navigation

Cleanliness of your database is extremely important for the long term success of your email marketing, but keeping your email subscribers engaged is even more crucial. According to a Return Path research study, marketers give up on inactive subscribers too soon.


Like many other organizations, our company has a significant amount of inactive contacts in our database. These inactive contacts have subscribed once to get our email messages, however it has been a long time since they have engaged with any campaign. Their email addresses are still valid, they have not marked our emails as spam, and they have not unsubscribed. Does it sound familiar to you? I bet it does.


To awaken our sleepy, emotionally unsubscribed contacts and determine who doesn’t want to hear from us anymore, we established a re-engagement campaign which was designed with 3 email touches and just to make tracking trickier for ourselves, we have also included 2 or more calls to action into our win-back emails. Furthermore, one of our primary aims was to make this campaign on-going in order to minimize the number of inactive contacts in the future, reengage and create some opportunity.

Let’s see the 5 most important questions we considered and how we addressed them:

   1. Who should count as an inactive contact? Who should be targeted and how to feed your segment automatically?

Identifying your inactive contacts should be based on their activity, such as haven’t opened or clicked on any emails, submitted a form, or visited your website for an extended period of time. To define that certain amount of time, you need to examine your industry, the size of your database, frequency of emailing and how long does it usually takes to turn a lead into MQL and Opportunity. Our company classifies and tags inactive contacts with a Lead Stage: 0-Suspect, which means they have not interacted with any campaigns in a measurable way in the past 6 months. In our demand funnel stage hierarchy, the Suspect stage is followed by the Inquiry stage, where the leads have interacted at least once with our company within the last 6 months, but have not reached the MQL stage yet.

We have created a Downgrade Rule which downgrades the lead’s stage from Inquiry to Suspect after 6 months of non-activity. With the help of this rule, we were able to set up a dynamic segment by giving one criteria which contain contacts whose have a Lead Stage: 0-Suspect AND another criteria which contain the Lead Stage Downgrade Date equals Today. This way we can automatically feed our segment without have to build complex filters to define the inactive criteria (haven’t opened, clicked, visited etc.) and target leads whose stage is just downgraded into suspect and not totally cold yet.

filter criteria of reengagement segment.png

     2. What counts as a response in the email campaign and how to handle them?

To implement an ongoing campaign, it is advisable to score the leads by their activity. If you insert more calls to action in your email eg. “Yes, send me emails”, “No, I need a break” or “Check out our recent blog posts”, how would you distinguish positive and negative responses? Based on our lead scoring model, each click-through or form submission is captured as a response. In the case you ask your subscribers to confirm their subscription and they say “No, leave me alone” or “No, I need a break”, you shouldn’t score these negative responses.

Example email
email2_blog post version.png

Our solution for this problem was very simple. We use blind forms behind each hyperlink – which also give us the possibility to build a more efficient flow on the canvas – but we only place those blind forms on the canvas for links which capture positive responses. We have also decided to count an engagement as a positive response if somebody click on our additional links eg. “Check out our blog post”. This is not an explicit statement that they still want to get our emails, but this interaction definitely shows interest, which marketers should go after.

For detailed instructions how to build a blind form submit link, check out this document created by Oracle Marketing Cloud Academy. In case you are already an experienced user and you only need a guideline how to create the link, refer to this short version: What Does a Blind Form Submit Link Look Like?

     3. How to avoid overlaps between campaigns?

We are running several dynamic campaigns into which our freshly reengaged subscribers can be automatically included. However we don’t want to necessary include all reengaged contacts into campaigns where their profile fits the given criteria. The reason behind this is that we don’t know their exact interest – unless you were born under lucky stars and your company has a preference center - and we don’t want to bombard them with several emails.
One option to avoid overlaps between campaigns is collecting reengaged contacts on a Shared List which can be used to exclude potentially those contacts from the segment of other campaigns.

     4. What to do with reengaged leads?

It is worth considering including your reengaged contacts in your nurture campaigns. But you have to be careful, because including them in nurture campaigns where they can get one email every week or every second week can be overwhelming for them. Therefore, it is advisable to continuously monitor their reaction to the campaign and adjust if it is necessary. You can also consider setting up a separate nurture campaign built for them.  If you are tempted to choose the specially built campaign, you have to make sure that you have enough valuable content or resources to create content for your targeted audience.

     5. What to do with non-reengaged leads?

After your inactive contacts went through your re-engagement campaign without showing any interest, do not give up on them just yet. Before you decide to isolate or remove your subscribers from your list, make sure you tested different types of content and calls to action, and gave them enough time to respond because responses from inactive contacts can take months. In the end, if you tried your best but you couldn’t win them back, you have to say goodbye. Otherwise what’s the point of your campaign?

Last, why should you do this? Isn’t acquiring new customers much more expensive than sustaining the engagement of the already existing ones? You shouldn’t throw out your money and time what you invested into your subscriber list. Running a properly planned re-engagement campaign gives you the opportunity to:

  • identify your valuable contacts
  • maintain a clean, healthy database
  • improve your sender score and email deliverability in long term
  • increase your open and click-through rates in long term

From a strategic point of view, the above mentioned 5 questions should be answered before you take any action. After the activation of the campaign, remember to continuously pay attention to your sender score, bounceback rate, spam compliance and your unsubscribe rate. Most importantly, there is no one best solution how to execute a re-engagement campaign, you should find your own strategy based on what works for you.

Helpful Academy Courses:

  • Fundamentals of Segmentation
  • Advanced Segmentation
  • Fundamentals of Forms and Landing Pages
  • Blind Form Submits
  • Lead Quality

Filter Blog

By date: By tag: