Think Better Marketing


How to Re-activate Stale Email Contacts

Almost every business I've worked with has a big list of email addresses and leads that are dormant. The leads come from a variety of sources—webinars, list-purchases, partnerships, events, etc. The longer the leads sit there, in the database, the less responsive they become.

So! It's a good practice to try and re-activate those leads on a regular basis and clean up your list to improve deliverability and engagement. 

Here are a couple of approaches I've used to re-activate leads:

1. The survey:

This is a great strategy for companies that use a trial or demo request as the first step in the sales process. As a result of this lead generation approach, it's common to have a sizeable number of lapsed trials or old contacts from demo requests. 

A survey is a great way to re-engage, provide education, and gather information about these contacts. The email message is simple.

"It looks like your trial recently expired. That's okay! No hard feelings. We understand that the timing might not have been right, or maybe we just weren't compatible. Would you mind sharing your reason for not continuing to use our tool (by clicking on one of the links below)?"

Then, below the message, provide three to six options for the recipient to select. You can include options like:

  • Too expensive
  • Missing features
  • Not enough resources
  • The timing wasn't right
  • Went with another provider

For each option, provide a link to a page that provides the recipient with more information and another opportunity to re-engage with your company. This is a great method for understanding why your leads are falling out of the funnel. It's also an awesome way to surface dormant sales opportunities.

2. Subscription preference:

If you have a lot of inactive subscribers in your database, a great way to re-engage them and clean up your database is to send out an email that asks them to share their content preferences. 

In this approach, I recommend that you put together an opt-in form that allows for subscribers to indicate which types of content they want to receive. You can organize by topic, format, author, or timing/frequency. The options are dependent on your content strategy, but the intent is to give the people what they want!

This approach is simple and just requires a short email and landing page:

"Hi, <Name>. We're working on improving our content delivery so that you get the news and information you want when you want it. In order to do that, we need you to take two minutes to fill out a form that lets us know what kind of information you want and need. Fill out the form here for a less-cluttered, more interesting inbox."

From the email, send the recipient to a landing page with a form that provides options to select.

This is a great opportunity to follow up if their selection indicates interest in a purchase. For example, if they choose that they want to receive product updates, you can follow up with an email from a sales member asking if they want to get on a call to hear about the latest product improvements.


Sometimes, I hear from clients concerns about losing people from your list by giving them an opportunity to unsubscribe. Here's what I have to say to that:

Why do you want to keep people on your list who don't want to hear from you?

Quality is way more important than quantity. 

It just doesn't make sense to keep people on your list who don't want to receive your emails. When someone breaks up with you, do you keep texting them? I hope not.

You're more likely to piss them off then sell anything to them. And, if you do piss them off, they are likely to report your emails as SPAM which degrades your companies email credibility and deliverability. 

Keep the people who want to hear from you on your list and let the people who don't want to hear from you, free. 

There are several ways to approach re-activation programs. Have you seen success with another approach? 

Andrea Steffes-Tuttle