How to Stop Inactive Contacts from Destroying your Marketing Campaigns

Say you have a few thousand inactive contacts in your database. They may have opened one or two emails right after they subscribed, but nothing since. Not a big deal, right? A bigger contact list is better, isn't it?

Well, keeping those inactive contacts in your database can do more damage than you might realize.

First of all, many customer relationship management and marketing automation platforms charge based on the number of contacts in your database. If you have several thousand contacts that will never be a return on your investment, then you could be overpaying.

Next, if a significant portion of your audience never engages (and will never engage), your actual engagement metrics may be much better than is currently being reported.

By removing those contacts, you may see an increase in your engagement metrics.

Finally, engagement is one factor that comprises your Sender Score or Email Sender Reputation.

If the email service providers see that there's a significant portion of your audience that never engages, then they may divert your marketing messages to the spam folder, even for those prospects who look forward to the messages. (We have another article that goes deeper into this topic.)

But before you purge all those inactive contacts, consider that there may be several different reasons why your contacts haven't engaged. For instance:

  1. Some contacts see your emails and are waiting for something in particular.
  2. Some contacts see your emails but aren't interested in what they see and just haven't unsubscribed.
  3. Some contacts don't see your emails because they've hidden your emails in a folder in their inbox they never check.
  4. Some contacts don't see your emails because your email isn't delivered due to email server settings.

Re-engagement campaigns work best on contacts that fit into the first category, and can perhaps get a clarifying response from those in the second.

The second two groups are harder to re-engage because they aren't seeing your emails.  If they don't engage for more than a year, you should consider removing them from your standard segments or even removing these contacts from your database to free up space.

Here are some tips for using Motiva to analyze and re-engage those contacts before removing them from your database. Of course, you won't revive them all, but you may reactivate some.

Step 1: Analyze Inactive Contacts

Start by analyzing the inactive contacts based on their contact features, so you know their industry, job title, region, etc.

You also want to know what email content has engaged them in the past. This will help you understand the audience and inform your approach for re-engagement.

Key Questions:

  1. How did these contacts originally opt-in, and what initially interested them about your company?
  2. What are their demographic and firmographic features?
  3. What content have they engaged with in the past?

Motiva Persona Reporting

Isolate the inactive contacts in an Eloqua segment and connect that segment to a Persona card in Motiva to answer questions 2 and 3 above.

Step 2: Approaches for a Re-Engagement Effort

If contacts aren't engaging with your current messaging, they will not choose to opt-in to your current strategy. They'll just unsubscribe.

They may, however, choose to opt-in to something else that's more relevant. You can try:

  • A different preference center: create a landing page that allows prospects to choose what types of messages, assets, or topics they prefer and how often they are received
  • A new type of campaign that curates and positions existing content in a new way
  • A new type of campaign that offers fresh content

With any of these options, make sure you're offering something meaningful along with your opt-in, so contacts experience the benefit of your communication. This could be a helpful resource or a special offer.

Here are several approaches:

1. Learning Engine: Easy learning phase using Message Testing

  • Identify key topics that could be relevant to these contacts and develop emails that highlight each topic separately - one email for each topic.
  • Feed these topical emails into a Message Test step that sends just to the inactive contacts.
  • Keep testing until you find one topic or several topics that better re-engage these contacts.

2. Opt-In Message Test: Direct call to engage with a specific preference center. The preference center may be a separate landing page or just a subscription management area as part of another landing page.

  • Develop one email version for each preference center.
  • Feed the emails into a Message Test to learn which preference centers best re-engage the audience.

3. Opt-in Email: Direct call to engage with any preference center.

  • This is one email that contains a content block highlighting each preference center with a CTA to opt-in.

4. Targeted Nurture Sequence

  • If you identify topics that resonate with your inactive contacts, then you can turn them into value-added targeted nurtures that keep these contacts engaged.

Expectations & Goals

So what should you expect?

This re-engagement effort won't bring all these contacts back from the dead. However, if they've been looking for a particular type of asset (newsletter, white paper, case study, etc.) or offer, it will slowly re-engage those contacts. You should expect to see open rates between 1-5% for these re-engagement campaigns.

For the other contacts, see if you can engage them using different channels.

If it's clear you cannot reach them, it's time to remove them from your contact database. But this kind of targeted approach to data hygiene will ensure that you aren't eliminating contacts who might be customers in the future, while purging the dead weight that may be holding down your engagement metrics and sender score.

Motiva can help identify and categorize inactive contacts to help you determine which might be re-engaged and which should just be purged. Learn more about our Dark Pool Cleanup.

Ready to see what Motiva can do for you? Pick a time to see Motiva in action!


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