If you’re regularly monitoring your email open rates and other engagement metrics, you may notice that a segment of your email list never opens your emails. It can be frustrating, but it’s a reality for even the most engaged email lists.

There could be many reasons for this. Many times, if a recipient isn’t engaging with your emails, it doesn’t mean that they quite view you as spam, but they also don’t sense a high value or perceived value from opening your email.

In a lot of these cases, you will need to remove unengaged users from your list to help your engagement rates and sender reputation.

If people tell you they don’t want to hear from you in these campaigns, you are absolutely obligated to remove them from your email list.

But there’s something you can try before you say goodbye forever—the re-engagement campaign. Also known as a win-back campaign, this form of email serves as the last touch point with a user before you remove them from your list. A re-engagement email has one purpose and includes only one call to action: do you still want to get our emails?

If the recipient says yes, you can keep them on your list (consider pointing them to your preference center so they can adjust email frequency). In some cases, recipients may just not have time to open your emails. And others will inevitably ask you to remove them from your list.

The following tips will help you pull together a re-engagement email quickly, effectively, and gracefully.

Rework your subject line

Convincing people who don’t open your emails to open a re-engagement email takes some extra time and consideration. If your subject lines tend to follow the same format after each send, try mixing it up so that somebody who expects a certain subject line will take notice and recognize that this email is different from other ones.

Proper Cloth, a men’s clothing line takes advantage of the subject line by providing an intriguing and click-worthy email, which happens to be the headline as well: Is this the end?

Notice that Proper Cloth defaults to removing all recipients on this send from their email list. But in addition to giving their recipients the chance to change their mind, they also provide them with an additional option to reduce their email frequency to once a month. This strategy is great because it will keep the recipients who are most likely to engage in the future while also clearing their list of inactive and uninterested users. Their email above is clear, concise, and just the right amount of cheeky.

Be friendly

When reaching out to inactive readers and asking them if you’re bugging them too much, the last thing you want to do is come off as defensive. Remain friendly and humble throughout your copy. But, keep your copy succinct and to the point. Here’s an example of copy that you can alter and customize depending on your program:

Hi [first name],

We noticed that you haven’t been opening our emails lately. We know you’re probably busy, so we want to let you know that we’d be happy to remove you from our email list if you’re not feeling our content or are feeling overwhelmed with all your emails (we understand!).

But if that’s not the case, let us know and we’ll keep sending our emails. We think they’re valuable and hope that you do too.

No, keep me signed up!
Yes, please remove me from your list

Humor may also play in your favor, but keep in mind that everyone has different senses of humor, and you don’t want to offend people either. Always tie in the theme that you want to be providing valuable content and, if you aren’t, then they should be removed from your email list.

Keep it simple

Although it may be tempting to personalize your messaging for each recipient, the simpler you keep it, the more likely you are to keep your users’ attention (and not to mention, save some of your time). The real point of a re-engagement campaign is to field a black and white “yes” or “no.”

There is some leeway to be creative with your CTA copy message, but it should clearly point to either yes or no. You may also want to consider adding a link to your preference center and suggest they update their preferences.

Automate re-engagement campaigns

Once you have copy pulled together for your first re-engagement campaign, consider setting up automatic emails to a segment of your list that hasn’t opened your emails during a certain amount of time—ideally around one to two months.

Doing this work up front allows you to focus your efforts on developing new content for people who are highly engaged, while also checking in with your less engaged recipients.


One of the biggest challenges for email marketers is to prove brand value and earn your recipients’ trust enough that they open your emails. If you’re not achieving that with a segment of recipients, don’t be hard on yourself. This isn’t necessarily a reflection of your content quality; it might just mean there was a disconnect between when they signed up and what they were really looking for.

Remember, if you keep your re-engagement campaigns simple, friendly, and consistent, you’ve taken a big step towards improving your email engagement.

However, if you notice that your segment of unengaged users tends to grow instead of shrink, this might indicate the need for a larger content and email strategy audit. For more resources on how to optimize your program, check out our A-Z Email Marketing Guide which provides tips and best practices to help you send better email campaigns.

Kelsey Bernius
As content marketing manager at SendGrid, Kelsey oversees all functions of the SendGrid Delivery blog including scheduling, writing, editing, and publishing. Her downtime is dominated by either her mountain bike or skis (depending on current weather forecast)–and mixing up a salty marg afterward.