Putting Engagement Data to Use–Sunset Policies


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email sunset policySendGrid has a number of great features available for our users, and some of our favorites include click tracking, open tracking, and event notifications. You may have seen the data generated from these on display in your account statistics dashboard, but did you know you can put this data to use for more than just generating some infographic eye-candy? For example,  you can boost your email deliverability by ensuring you’re only sending your mail to recipients who want to see it.

Less is More

Being more selective about to whom you send email, or even no longer sending to someone who hasn’t asked you to stop, may seem to go against common sense as a marketer. In the world of email however, these changes can go a long way to ensuring that your mail is delivered to an inbox and not to a spam folder.

When many of your messages are received by a recipient and ignored, the automated filters provided by their ISP or mailbox provider may begin to learn that your mail is unimportant to that recipient and can be sent to lower priority folders or the spam folder. This may not sound like too big of an issue as long as it’s only one recipient, but when this is observed on a wide scale, the mailbox providers themselves may begin to filter all of your messages automatically to the spam folder. Worse yet, some may even drop the message entirely after providing an affirmative response that they have been received.

Additionally, if you have an old list, especially one that hasn’t been particularly well maintained, you may be sending mail to spam traps: abandoned addresses that have been reactivated for the sole purpose of receiving unwanted mail. Owners of these traps are very secretive about them, and will never tell us, or anyone, what these addresses are, making scrubbing your list of outdated and unengaged addresses an important task.

Establishing a Sunset Policy

An effective sunset policy is a customizable solution to these tough problems, and we have seen them work wonders for customers who are trying to improve their deliverability to inboxes and to the integrity of their lists through constant, preventative maintenance. The basics of a sunset policy are as follows:

  • Define what an unengaged recipient is to your company.
  • Determine how long it is appropriate for your business to send messages to a recipient who is unengaged.
  • Decide if you will silently let these unengaged customers leave your lists, or if you will send them a final permission pass or winback reminder, asking them if they would like to continue to receive mail from you.
  • Collect and consume engagement data using the Event Notification App (Event Webhook).
  • Follow your plan for as long as you continue emailing, as this is a form of preventative maintenance.
  • Watch your engagement, deliverability, and list integrity improve.

Sample Schedules

Every business is different, so it’s important to customize the sunset policy you adopt, including decisions on when and how to go about removing unengaged recipients. Some sample removal schedules that we have seen perform well can be seen here:

  • Removing recipients of daily emails who have not engaged in three weeks
  • Removing recipients of weekly emails who have not engaged in two months
  • Removing recipients of monthly emails who have not engaged in six months

When it comes time to remove recipients who have not engaged with your mailings, we have seen customers be highly successful in retaining recipients when sending a reconfirmation email prior to their full removal from mailing lists. However, it is just as sound of a practice to simply quietly remove these unengaged recipients from your lists.

In summary, an important facet of excellent emailing is ensuring that you are sending wanted mail, and you can ensure this through the proper removal of unengaged recipients from your lists through the implementation of a sunset policy. SendGrid provides event notifications, click tracking, and open tracking for more than just generating great looking graphs, and when properly applied, these tools can help keep your recipients highly engaged, your mail being delivered exactly where you want it, and your list integrity at an all-time high.

For more information on email best practices, join our email experts for our Email Deliverability 101 webcast on June 11th.


Tim Mendt is a SendGrid Compliance Engineer. He spends his days protecting The Grid by providing coaching on email best practices and helping to keep email safe from those who would use it for spam. Get to know Tim on LinkedIn or cycle with him on the streets of Denver.

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