Breaking up is(n’t) hard to do

It’s time to think about breaking up with some of your subscribers when your email list size is getting close to the next pricing bracket offered by your email provider.

To break up the right way, you should give the subscribers on your list who haven’t been engaging with your emails a fair chance to stay on your list, but let them go (lovingly) if they are no longer interested.

It’s good business to do this. There’s no reason to continue paying for someone to be on your list if they haven’t been opening your emails for an extended period of time. The benefits to pruning “cold subscribers” go beyond being smart with your hard-earned money.

  • You also will see higher, more accurate open rate statistics.
  • Your sending reputation will be protected. Low engagement with subscribers can cause internet service providers to flag you as a low-quality sender whose emails are sent to junk mail, making engagement problems worse.

Sending a break-up email
(a.k.a. re-engagement campaign)

It’s important to try to confirm with your low-engagement subscribers that the break-up plans are mutual instead of just deleting people from your list. When your subscribers have images in email turned off as part of their personal settings and don’t click on anything, they can appear as not engaged in your statistics even when they have been opening and reading your emails.

  1. Choose the low-engagement subscribers from your list to receive your break-up email. For example, ConvertKit allows you to select “cold subscribers,” which they define as people who haven’t opened any of your campaigns in the last 90 days. Some providers like MailChimp allow you to select people based on their campaign activity or email marketing engagement, such as people who have not opened the last 20 campaigns.
  2. Create a break-up email. It should explain that it looks like they haven’t been opening your emails for a while so you’re checking in with them. It doesn’t hurt to add some value such as a one-time discount or describe the benefits they receive by remaining on your list, although many re-engagement campaigns do not include this information. Then explain that if they’d like to remain on your list they should click the Don’t Delete Me link.
  3. Give some thought to your subject line. Some ideas to consider are gentle “We’ve really missed you” to more direct “<Personalize with first name>, we’re emailing you one last time.”
  4. Mark your calendar to wait a couple weeks; then delete everyone who is both of these things: a low-engagement subscriber AND did not click your Don’t Delete Me link.


Examples of re-engagement campaigns

Here are some examples of re-engagement campaigns:

  1. Plain text break-up email example, adapted from ConvertKit
I want to make sure that I’m only sending emails to my readers who are getting a lot of value from them. So I’m removing everyone who isn’t engaged from my list. It looks like it’s been some time since you’ve opened an email. If you are finding your inbox is too cluttered, no action is required. You’ll get removed sometime next week. But if you’re thinking “Wait! I love your emails!” Then just click the link below to stay on the list.[ Don’t Delete Me Link ]


>>View all of ConvertKit’s recommendations for pruning cold subscribers here.

  1. Example of break-up email from Paul Mitchell, using humor.
    It says, “We hate goodbyes so we’re emailing you one last time. We can take a hint (sniffle sniffle).” The sad face made out of Paul Mitchell products is a nice touch. They mention the benefits of staying on their list at the bottom, including style inspiration and new product announcements.

>>If you need help purging your unengaged subscribers to save some money and protect your sending reputation, contact me at

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