The point of an email list is to engage with the people on it, and to build a relationship with each person. Ultimately the point of the relationship is to make sales – either to the person on the list, or through them to people they know.

That said, if a person on your list is not engaging with you by at least opening your emails (hopefully reading the content and clicking on the links) at least some of the time, you're wasting your effort and their time by continuing to email them. You should periodically “wash” your email list by attempting to re-engage with the individuals and, if that doesn't work, removing them from your list. A small, dedicated and engaged audience is better than a larger audience that does not give a damn about you.

This describes a re-engagement sequence using MailerLite's Automation tool. I use this sequence for my own lists, as well as the lists of my clients. You can build a similar sequence in every other major Email Service Provider / list management tool.

First, I select people who have not opened an email from the sender within a certain framework. Depending on how often your emails go out, I suggest 24 emails or 6 months. I copy those names to a new list – make the name clear, like “No Engagement” or “No Opens,” something like that. I then send them a 3-email sequence to try to get them to confirm their interest.

I can't give you exact wording. Your list members, and their reason for initially connecting, will be different from mine. However, the “bones” of the email can be the same.

The first email thanks them for joining, but says you've noticed they haven't read any of your recent emails. Acknowledge that interests can change. Tell them that new content is coming, but if they're truly no longer interested, they can click on the “Unsubscribe” link at the bottom of the email. You could also give them a link to click (a page on your website is good) so they can see what's happened lately.

Send this, and add a delay. I use a number of different days of delay, to give a “randomized” effect to my emails, but you can just pick a number of days to wait and always use that number if you like. After email # 1, I like to wait 6 days. If they open it, I remove them from the list I created (“No Engagement” or whatever your name is). If they did not open it, I send email # 2.

Email # 2 again tells the reader you're cleaning up your list, and asks them to Unsubscribe if they no longer want to hear from you. Then, you attempt to engage again: ask them for their opinion on some topic, or to take a survey or poll on your website. I often ask them to say “Hi” by introducing themselves on a post on the sender's blog.

After waiting (I wait 8 days after the second email), if ML shows they've opened and / or clicked a link, I remove them from the list. If not, they get email # 3.

I give # 3 the title, “Sad to see you go.” This is an obvious tell – if they don't open this one, you're assuming they no longer want to be there. The email says just that. It also asks them to recommend you to friends / relatives who might have an interest in you and your list. Since I'm about to take them off my list, I don't ask them to Unsubscribe. However, it does say that you thank them for their past attention, and will welcome them back if they'd like to re-subscribe in the future. (Yes, you're about to delete them, but now is the time to be extra attentive and polite!)

After a certain number of days (I wait 7 here), if they've opened the email I remove them from this list. If they haven't opened the email, I have ML delete them (Unsubscribe them) from the main list.

While some people argue that emailing people who don't open your messages “does not hurt anything,” it actually can. The email providers of the people you send msgs to who don't open them may assume you're a spammer, and can block your future emails to all their customers. Some sites can block the IP address you send from, and MailerLite won't be happy about that, let me assure you.

It takes about half an hour to create this sequence the first time. Every six months, you add the latest batch of non-responsives to the list and run it again.