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How to Identify & Activate Inactive Newsletter Subscribers

Yaro Bagriy
Yaro Bagriy

Are you losing subscribers from your newsletter lately? Have they become inactive or outright dead? Well, there isn't much you can do about the subscribers who are gone. But you can still try to get back the subscribers who have become inactive. In this article, we will guide you on how you can do that in 2 simple steps.

Ask anyone with a newsletter and they will say it is much easier to activate back inactive subscribers than finding new ones. These people have willingly signed up for your newsletter. They just need a gentle reminder that you exist and their engagement with your emails matters to you.

In our latest podcast we interviewed Sam Parr from The Hustle who said that one of the main ways to increase open rates is to either reactive inactive subscribers or scrub them from the list. This guide will guide you through setting up this type of reactivation campaign for your newsletter. You'll also see a noticeable increase in open-rates with these steps.

One simple trick to grow a newsletter to 1+ million subscribers with Sam Parr from The Hustle
About this episode: This week we have Sam Parr, the founder of The Hustle, a massively successful newsletter with over 1 million subscribers. In this episode we're diving deep on The Hustles main growth channels, how The Hustle got its first 150k subscribers, how Sam would grow a newsletter to 1 million subscribers today, optimizing the overlooked parts of your newsletter, and so much more.

But first, we must understand what inactive subscribers are and how to identify them.

Types of Inactive Subscribers

When you are talking about inactive subscribers, the term kind of gives away what it means. These are people who have subscribed to your newsletter but haven’t been active on it for a while.

It is very important to identify the kinds of inactive subscribers because you have to approach them differently. Here are 3 kinds of inactive subscribers

Hibernated Subscribers

Subscribers who were engaged with your newsletter and were reading your emails lately but have not been doing so for the past month or more. This is the most common kind of inactive subscribers. They either forget about your newsletter or are busy nowadays.

Dead Subscribers

Subscribers who signed up for your newsletter either by a subscription form or opted-in by a lead magnet but have never visited your site or engaged with your emails. Some people tend to forget why they signed up for your newsletter and haven’t visited your site since they did so.

Hard Bounces

Then there are hard bounces, which are completely different from inactive subscribers. Some people either end up providing the wrong email address either by mistake or on purpose. Most ESPs remove them automatically.

EmailOctopus - Email marketing made easy
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Now let's get into the steps on how to activate your inactive newsletter subscribers.

Step 1: Segmenting/Grouping Inactive Subscribers

According to Campaign Monitor

“Segment is the division of email subscribers into smaller segments based on set criteria. Typically, segmentation is used as a personalization tactic to deliver more relevant email marketing to subscribers based on their geographic location, interests, purchase history, and much more. Segments are created so that the marketer can cater specifically to each different email list and that list’s independent interests, rather than creating one mass message for all.”

Using the segments feature, you can identify inactive subscribers and put them on re-engagement workflows to get them re-engaged. You can segment inactive subscribers based on their inactivity timeline: How long have these subscribers been inactive? If it’s longer than 45-60 days, it’s time to send these subscribers a re-engagement email/workflow.

How to segment them?

For the sake of this guide, we will showcase screenshots from the MailerLite dashboard. First of all, create segments based on the subscriber’s inactivity.

This filter contains Hey emails as well. As we know Hey doesn’t allow ESPs to track email opening due to privacy. So we will add a condition to filter subscribers who have signed up using their emails.

To do so, add a condition. Field > Email > Does not contain > (as all Hey emails end at This way, 10 more subscribers are excluded from our filter.

Now we have a final list of inactive subscribers. You can make a group of them or save them as a segment. For the time being, we will save them as a group.

To do so, select all > then click actions > add to the group.

Step 2 – Sending Re-engagement Emails

After segmenting inactive subscribers, it's time to make an action plan. You give them a reminder email that they have missed out on all these amazing topics and whether they would like to keep receiving your newsletter. Also, leave them a choice to not receive further emails and unsubscribe.

Before I explain more, here is the workflow for Indie Letters sent to inactive subscribers.

Summary of this re-engagement workflow:

  • Inactive subscribers including dead subscribers: 417
  • Email opens of 1st re-engagement email: 57
  • Re-engaged subscribers after 1st re-engaged email: 27
  • Email opens of 1st re-engagement email: 74
  • Re-engaged subscribers after 1st re-engaged email: 26

In short, 131 (31%) inactive subscribers opened these emails. Keep in mind, this email was sent to inactive subscribers who have not opened a single email in the last sixty days.

If you wanted, you could have added all email openers to the engaged subscriber’s list. But in this example, a friction point was added, to get a more refined list. A condition was added that only those subscribers will be added back who clicked on the re-subscribe link. This way more engaged subscribers get on the list.

How you can set up your workflow?

Go to Automations > Create a new workflow. Let’s call it “Inactive subs workflow”.

Setup workflow like this:

Now, create your 1st workflow email. Here are some subject lines you can use for your 1st re-engagement email:

  • We Want You Back!
  • It’s Been a While!
  • There’s Still Time!
  • ✨ We Miss You! ✨
  • Are we on the same page?

After that create your email. Here is the re-engagement email for Indie Letters:

Now add the delay. This way you will give subscribers time to take an action.

Add at least seven days delay.

Now set up conditions for adding re-engaged subscribers back to the active subscriber’s list. For this purpose, a condition was setup, so that only those subscribers will be considered engaged that have clicked on the re-subscribe link.

Final Words

In this guide we covered how to identify and activate inactive subscribers in your newsletter. Creating a reactivation strategy is a recommenced and effective way to activate inactive subscribers and also increase open-rates as a secondary effect.

If you're having troubles setting up your reactivation strategy or have any questions about reactivating subscribers, then join the Newsletter Crew community and get help from members who have successfully done it.

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Yaro Bagriy

Podcast host & community manager