Why You Need To Ruthlessly Delete Inactive Email Subscribers




Here's an idea - delete all inactive email subscribers in your list. Sound crazy? Some marketers do it, and some don't.

But why would you delete email subscribers from your list? Even if someone hasn't opened my email in the last six to twelve months, is that a valid reason to delete inactive email subscribers from your list manually?

My answer to these questions is a big fat YES! Let me tell you why.

Why You Should Delete Inactive Email Subscribers

So you've successfully built your email list, but your metrics have looked the same for a long time. What's next? It's time to clean it up.

Cleaning your email list can improve three critical email metrics: 

  • Deliverability
  • Cost
  • Engagement

The better these marketing metrics, the more successful your email campaigns will be.

Let’s jump to it.

1. Improve Email Deliverability

A large number of inactive email subscribers can seriously harm your email deliverability.

Low engagement rates are one of the reasons why your emails go straight to the trash folder. Keep in mind that inactive email subscribers hurt the quality of your email list even more.

So to improve deliverability, delete inactive email subscribers.

2. Decrease Email Service Costs

A bigger email list means more fees or payments to email service providers. Having many inactive email subscribers who will never engage or buy from you means more costs.

Let's say you use ActiveCampaign, and you have a list of 10,000 subscribers. As of the date of this article, the lite plan will cost you $155 a month, or $1,860 per year. If you delete 50% of your subscribers (because they're inactive), your list will drop to 5,000 subscribers. Then the lite plan will only cost you $99 a month, or $1188 per year

Take the money you save and invest it in building your list with even more quality subscribers, converting them into customers and other investments to grow your business.

3. Focus On Engaged Subscribers

Delete inactive email subscribers - Enagagement

The truth is that inactive email subscribers will NEVER do business with you, and the signals for that are clear:

  • They don't open your emails.
  • They don't click on your links.
  • They don't visit your website.

If you believe you are not getting anything from deleting inactive email subscribers – you're wrong!

When you send one email every week to inactive email subscribers who haven't opened your emails for a long time, there is ZERO chance they will suddenly start doing so.

The only subscribers who matter are the active ones because they are interested in your content:

  • They open your emails.
  • They click on your links.
  • They visit your website.

If your current subscribers are semi-active, you need to learn tricks on building an engaged email list that converts.

Reasons Why You Don't Want To Delete Inactive Email Subscribers

Okay, so the reasons why you should delete inactive email subscribers are pretty reasonable. But are there reasons why you DON'T want to delete them? YES, there are!

Here's a couple of them.

1. You Believe Inactive Subscribers Might Still Buy From You

I’ve said it before, but let me repeat it. Your inactive email subscribers will never do business with you. It's time to stop telling yourself otherwise.

I know you have spent so much time, effort, and resources into building your email list, but accept the fact that inactive subscribers will never read your emails even if you still believe that at some point, they will.

Only by deleting inactive email subscribers will you stop losing revenue. Remember that!

2. It's About Protecting Your Ego

Let's admit it. One hundred thousand subscribers looks way better than having 50,000 or less. That's social proof for a lot of marketers and influencers.

When you show how many people have subscribed to your email list, others are more likely to join.

Also, having a more extensive email list makes you think there are more opportunities to sell your stuff, but the reality is there aren't. The inactive email subscribers aren't worth a penny – they won't do business with you, and they only cost you extra money for keeping them.


Have you tried one marketing tactic after another, and nothing seems to work?

It doesn't have to be this way. Get instant access to our on-demand masterclass now.

Common Reasons Why Email Subscribers Become Inactive

Here's a list of the most common reasons why email subscribers become inactive:

1. Opted In For The Wrong Reason

Some people agree to provide you their email address, not for your content, but because of the following:

  • To get a discount.
  • To get your email address.
  • They only opted in for an offer.

They opted in for a reason other than wanting to get your great content.

2. Poor Segmentation

Segmenting your list into certain "buckets" allows you to target your email campaigns to the relevant portions of your list.

If you blast every email to everyone on your list there is a higher likelihood your messages will lack relevance. When messages aren't relevant, users won't open them.

As time goes, subscribers will see that you’re not providing valuable content to them, so they become inactive.

3. Subscribers Don't See Value In Your Content Anymore

This one is not entirely your fault. It's just that peoples interests can change as time passes.

The solutions that you provide before may not be as helpful to your subscribers at the moment.

One of the most effective ways to keep subscribers interested is to analyze how their interests change with time. Determine what type of content they like and engage with. Ask them about their goals and challenges.

Doing so will allow you to segment your subscribers later and adjust your email marketing strategy according to their needs.

4. Your Emails Go Straight To The SPAM Folder

Delete inactive email subscribers - Spam

One of the reasons why email subscribers become inactive is the email itself. Your email content gets flagged, goes right to the spam folder, and the user never sees it. It's also the reason why your newsletters are ignored.

Avoid spam trigger words such as:

  • Dear Friend
  • Click here
  • Free
  • Re: or Fwd:
  • Great offer
  • Guarantee
  • Risk-free

Other reasons for triggering the SPAM filters include:

  • You are using big images and little to no text in your email body.
  • You are sending emails to a huge list without cutting it down into segments.
  • You have attachments in the emails.
  • You are using link shorteners in your emails.

5. Change Of Email Address

For whatever reason, people change their email addresses. It's out of your control, but it happens all the time.

How To Properly Delete Inactive Email Subscribers

Before deleting inactive email subscribers, ensure that these people will never engage with your emails again.

The proper way to test that is with a re-engagement email campaign to know if these inactive subscribers are a lost cause.

Follow these steps to delete inactive email Subscribers:

Step 1: Identify Inactive Email Subscribers

Inactive subscribers are the ones who haven't opened a single email for a long time. I'd say six months and beyond is a good indication.

Look at three pieces of information to identify inactive subscribers: 

  • Time of subscription.
  • The last time they opened your emails.
  • The frequency of emailing content to your subscribers.

First, you need to study your subscribers, especially those who have subscribed to your list for more than a year. If they haven't opened your email in the last six months and you have sent many, this means they are inactive.

Next, look at the people who have subscribed in the last six to twelve months to know if they also engage with your list. If you email three to four times per week, you will know who your inactive subscribers are in that group.

Simultaneously, if you email more than once per month, the data for that period may not be accurate. Remember always to compare when a person joins your list. You don't want to put people on the inactive subscribers' list because they didn't open your email in six months when they recently joined your list.

Step 2: Create A New Segment For Inactive Subscribers

Once you identify your inactive subscribers, you need to create a new segment to target them later with a new email campaign.

Here's a list of guides on how to create segments depending on your preferred email marketing software:

Step 3: Run A Re-engagement Email Campaign

Your email re-engagement campaign can be as simple as one email or a sequence of emails, depending on your preference.

Here are a few examples:

Delete inactive email subscribers - Re enagagement sample from Lowes

Email Re-engagement sample from Lowe's

Delete inactive email subscribers - Re enagagement sample from Animoto

Email Re-engagement sample from Animoto

Step 4: Analyze Results

First, give subscribers enough time to reply. I'd say a week is perfect.

Sometimes subscribers might be on vacation, a business trip, or doing something else that may prevent them from opening their inboxes.

Those who opened and replied to your email should still be on your list, so exclude them from the unsubscribe segment.

Step 5: Delete Inactive Email Subscribers

Finally, delete all your inactive email subscribers. It's a difficult task to accomplish, but it's worth it. You will see how much more responsive your list is afterward.

Here's a list of guides for deleting email subscribers based on your email marketing service provider:

And that's how to delete inactive email subscribers!

I listed helpful resources below to learn more about inactive email subscribers.

Recommended Email Marketing Resources

Why You Should Delete a Bunch of Your Email Subscribers Right Now

How Inactive Subscribers Affect Email Deliverability

Should You Say Goodbye to Inactive Subscribers?

So, what do you think about this blog? Are you ready to clean up your email list?

Leave a comment below, and let's discuss it.

It will be a great honor if you think this article is worth the SHARE.


Have you tried one marketing tactic after another, and nothing seems to work?

It doesn't have to be this way. Get instant access to our on-demand masterclass now.

Header image courtesy of Pixelied.

About the author, Tim Fitzpatrick

Tired of marketing that doesn't deliver? Ready to create lasting marketing success?

The world of marketing is vast and constantly evolving. It's easy to fall prey to information overload and feel lost in the marketing maze. In this ever-evolving landscape, expert guidance is critical to navigate successfully.

We understand - marketing your business can be more than just challenging; it can be downright disheartening. But it doesn't have to be. Marketing shouldn't be difficult.

Limited returns on your marketing efforts? Unsure about your next move? Or perhaps you're doing all the "marketing stuff," but it's not working.

This is where our expertise comes into play.

We provide marketing consulting, advisory, and outsourced or part-time marketing executive services. We help MSPs & B2B professional service firms build and manage their marketing engine to get where they want to go faster.

Ready to remove your revenue roadblocks and simplify marketing? It's about time you feel confident in your marketing strategy. Let us help.