In a recent survey of business executives, increasing subscriber engagement was the most frequently cited top priority—ahead of segmentation and social media integration. The focus on subscriber engagement has been rising over the last several years, driven by the growing role engagement is playing in email deliverability and by the recognition that one has to work harder to cut through an increasingly crowded inbox to affect the target audience. If recipients aren’t reading your emails, they’re not getting your message. Moreover, your emailing reputation will suffer and fewer of your emails will reach their intended inboxes.
Most “best practice” discussions around this topic advocate strongly for asking recipients to define their email preferences—the kinds of topics they’re interested in and the frequency with which they’re interested in receiving emails. Though this should absolutely be part of the email engagement approach, the reality is that for many B2B companies with small email lists, the decision to give people who are currently receiving emails (albeit not reading them) the option to refuse certain emails is an extremely difficult one to make. A compromise approach is one in which only those who are most at-risk of eternal inactivity are “invited” to define their preferences.
A complement to the explicit solicitation of preference definition is an approach that focuses on understanding what the recipient has responded to rather than on the fact that he/she hasn’t responded recently. For example, analyzing customer response data could reveal that a segment of “inactive” recipients used to respond with some frequency to a monthly newsletter; a reasonable hypothesis would be that they stopped paying attention to the newsletter because they couldn’t differentiate it from all the other emails they receive. In this case, testing the efficacy of sending them only the monthly newsletter would make sense. Likewise, looking back at how the contact got on the email list in the first place can yield some potential avenues for re-engagement: if they signed up to receive a whitepaper, it may be worth trying to limit them to only those emails offering a whitepaper download.
The point is that clearly your non-responsive recipients need to be re-engaged. Asking them what they want and responding to them offer two good options for resetting the communications relationship and gaining back their attention.