How to Set up a Re-Engagement Campaign in HubSpot in 7 Easy Steps

Written By Sean McGauley
May 19, 2023

List fatigue is a very real thing. No matter how hard you try in your quest to master your inbound marketing, a portion of your email subscribers, 25% annually according to HubSpot, will eventually lose interest and stop opening your emails. This could be for any number of reasons

  • You’re emailing them too frequently
  • Your emails have started to feel stale and predictable
  • They only joined your mailing list to download a piece of your content
  • They no longer need what you offer

Many marketers don’t think twice about the unengaged subscribers on their mailing lists. They continue sending them email after email, ignoring the signs that these messages may be unwanted. This can have serious consequences for your business.

Superficially, sending emails to unengaged subscribers hurts your email success metrics. You will see higher open rates and click rates by excluding them from your email sends. Higher rates mean happier bosses and you look like a marketing superhero.

A more significant consequence of sending to unengaged subscribers is the potential effect on your sender reputation with mailbox providers. If you’re getting a large number of bounce backs, mailbox providers will think you’re a spammer and penalize you for sending too many emails to inactive email addresses.

Unengaged subscribers are also more likely to report your emails as spam and mailbox providers factor this into your sender reputation as well.

If your sender reputation with a given mailbox provider falls below a certain threshold, they will start sending your emails to spam folders instead of the primary inbox or worse, stop delivering your emails all together. With only a handful of mailbox providers owning the lion’s share of the market, this could have a disastrous effect on your business. Just one mailbox provider blocking you from their customers could decimate your mailing list.

To avoid this monstrous headache, you will want to exclude unengaged email subscribers from receiving your marketing emails and attempt to re-engage them with what is called a re-engagement campaign.

How to Create a Re-engagement Campaign

Step 1: Write your re-engagement campaign emails

A single email won’t cut it. If you want a re-engagement campaign that converts, you need to think of this as a campaign. I recommend a series of three emails.

To engage the unengaged, you’re going to have to get creative. Choose a “from name” and “from email address” that will get people interested. Maybe these emails come from your company president. I’ve had a lot of success by choosing a person in the company we don’t send a lot of outbound emails from. If it is a name and email address they don’t recognize, it will get their attention.

Your subject lines and email copy must be creative, compelling, and different from your normal messages.

  • Email 1 should be a fun, light message explaining that you noticed they haven’t been opening your emails and informing them you’re thinking of removing them from your email list. Provide a CTA for them to click to stay on your list.
  • Email 2 should be a more direct approach. If they don’t click the CTA to stay on your email list, they will be removed. Keep it friendly and professional but clear about what will happen.
  • Email 3 should inform them they’ve been removed from your email list but they can get back on by clicking the CTA

Pro Tip: Here's how to use the power of HubSpot's artificial intelligence to save a ton of time writing your emails. 

Step 2: Create your success landing page

Create a landing page thanking the subscriber for wanting to continue receiving your emails. This will be the page your CTAs link to in the emails you wrote in Step 1.

Step 3: Set up a goal list

Create a dynamic list in your marketing automation software of anyone who has clicked on any of the CTA’s in the three emails you wrote in Step 1. Call it “Re-engagement Success List”.

This will be your goal list to tell the workflow you are about to create that someone has successfully converted and remove them from the workflow.

Step 4: Set up a failure list

Create a static list in your marketing automation software and name it “Re-engagement Failure List”. You don’t need to add any contacts to this list yet, that will be done automatically by the automated workflow you’re about to create.

Step 5: Define your workflow criteria

Unengaged subscribers are defined as subscribers who would have not opened a single email you’ve sent over a specific time frame. Best practice suggests 6 months but this really depends on your audience. A marketer targeting millennials may be more aggressive and use 3 months. I’ve worked with organizations that operate internationally. Western Europe has a much more relaxed work culture with generous maternity leaves, study leaves, and extended holidays. These organizations tend to be more conservative and prefer a 9-month timeframe.

Step 6: Create your automated workflow

In your HubSpot, create an automated workflow. The criteria for a contact to be enrolled in the workflow will be anyone who has not opened an email from you in 3 months (or whatever timeframe you chose in Step 5) AND has not visited your website over the same time.

Enrollment Trigger for Re-engagement Workflow

The reason we include web visits is that your marketing automation software only knows if someone has opened your email if they download the images or click something. Some people never download the images as a personal preference. It may look like they aren’t opening your emails when they really are. Including web visits as a criterion will weed some of those false positives out.

Add the three emails you created in Step 1 to your workflow. The time between each email should be 5-7 days. This gives them enough time to respond if they are away on vacation or too busy to get to the message.

After email 3, add a 7 day delay and then add any contacts to the “Re-engagement Failure List” you created in Step 4.

Add your goal list, which will remove contacts from the workflow when they successfully convert

Step 7: Create your unengaged exclude list

Create a dynamic list in your marketing automation software with the criteria “Is a member of ‘Re-engagement Failure List’” OR “Is currently in workflow ‘Re-engagement Campaign’”. Call this new list “Unengaged List”.

Re-engagement Workflow Exclusion List

Exclude this list from all of your outbound email sends and make sure all the marketers in your department do the same.

Explore an example of a HubSpot re-engagement campaign workflow

What the heck did I just create?

Email subscribers who don’t open your email after 3 months AND don’t visit your website over the same time period will be entered into the re-engagement workflow. They will receive a series of three emails every 5-7 days attempting to re-engage them.

If a subscriber clicks the CTA in any of the three emails indicating they want to continue receiving your emails, they will be added to the success list, removed from the workflow, and continue receiving your emails.

If a subscriber goes through the entire workflow and doesn’t take action, they will be added to the failure list. Any lead currently in the workflow or on the failure list will be added to the unengaged list which will be excluded from all your outbound email sends.

4 Ideas for Your Campaign Emails:

If you’re struggling to think of copy for the emails of your campaign, here are four proven ideas for getting inactive contacts to re-engage:

  1. Personalized Offers
  2. Abandoned Cart
  3. Exclusive Content
  4. Customer Surveys

Personalized Offers:

Leverage the power of HubSpot’s personalization tokens to create irresistible offers tailored to each contact. Whether it’s a discount on a previous purchase or a special promotion based on their interests, personalized offers show that you value their engagement and can entice them to take action.

Example: A clothing retailer could send personalized offers to customers based on their previous purchase history. For example, if a customer has bought men’s pants in the past, the retailer could send a targeted email offering a discount on men’s pants.

Personalized offers make good re-engagement campaigns

Abandoned Cart:

Utilize HubSpot’s automation capabilities to automatically send targeted emails to contacts who have abandoned their online shopping carts. Use emails to remind them of the items left behind and offer incentives like discounts or free shipping to encourage them to complete their purchase. HubSpot’s tracking features allow you to identify and act upon these opportunities promptly.

Example: You may have seen an example of this in your personal life as abandoned cart re-engagement campaigns are very effective in e-commerce. Online stores, like Amazon, send automated emails to customers who abandoned their shopping carts. These emails could include a reminder of the items left behind, along with a time-limited discount or free shipping offer to motivate them to complete the purchase.

Learn about abandoned cart workflows in HubSpot

Exclusive Content:

Deliver exclusive content or sneak peeks of upcoming products or features to your inactive contacts. Create a sense of exclusivity and reward their engagement with valuable insights, behind-the-scenes content, or early access. 

Example: There are many ways to use exclusive content in your re-engagement emails like using an exclusive offer, a special book, or access to unpublished data. An example of a sneak peek is a software company offering early access to its upcoming product launch. Exclusivity is a great way to re-engage with your contacts.

Exlclusive content can be used to re-engage your contacts

Customer Surveys:

Use survey and feedback tools, like HubSpot’s to gather insights from inactive contacts. Create engaging surveys that encourage them to provide feedback on their experience or reasons for disengagement. Use this feedback to refine your strategies, improve customer experience, and tailor future communications to better meet their needs.

Example: Customer surveys can be used to understand why a contact has become disengaged. To get people to take the survey, it’s a good idea to offer participants an incentive such as a gift card. You can get creative with your offers too – I’ve seen surveys being incentivized by exclusive content work well too. Survey responses are a source of valuable insight and should be used to improve what’s making contacts disengage.

Use customer surveys to re-engage your list

What kind of results can I expect from a re-engagement campaign?

Don’t be discouraged if you don’t see crazy high conversions, that’s to be expected. Your success rate should be between 2% and 3%. Some marketers claim to get as high as 5%, which might be possible but sounds like a tall tale. My re-engagement campaigns tend to settle in the 2.5% range and I am happy with that.

Like anything in marketing, this process needs to be refined over time. Carefully analyze your results and make tweaks as necessary

Conclusion

You worked hard for every lead in your database. It makes sense to want to keep them all, even if they’re not engaging. But you have to be equally protective of your sender reputation score. A re-engagement campaign will help you sort the leads that still want to be on your list from those who are safe to remove.

Don’t be discouraged if your re-engagement campaign doesn’t result in sky-high conversion rates. It will have a significant impact on your email success metrics and sender reputation. As with most things in marketing, refinement is critical. Monitor your results, make adjustments as needed, and keep improving over time.

For more ways to clean up your HubSpot database, check out our step-by-step instructions for 5 data hygiene workflows

Sean McGauley

About the Author

Marketing is more challenging than it’s ever been - but, I’m committed to finding new and creative ways to succeed. By day, I’m a digital marketing enthusiast with a passion for connecting brands with their target audience. I have over a decade of experience in creating and executing successful campaigns with a proven track record. I specialize in Strategy, Copywriting, SEO, and social media marketing - always staying up-to-date with the latest industry trends and technologies. By night, you'll likely find me adventuring with family and friends. I enjoy nature, photography, mountain biking, fly fishing, and trying new foods. I want to connect with other like-minded professionals to learn from and work with.