Monitoring Email Deliverability: Unengaged Users – Part II

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This blog is the second in a multi-part series on monitoring your email deliverability. The first part on managing bounces can be found here.

While it’s very important to manage your bounces, it’s somewhat reactive in that you’re only addressing an issue after it’s already happened. It’s also important to be proactive and purge unengaged users from your mailing lists regularly. Many marketers are hesitant to do this because it means they will have a smaller target list. To be sure, new name acquisition is a key metric for a demand gen marketer, but since 25% of the average email list expires every year, we should be expecting that kind of turnover on our lists. Unless your unsubscribe and bounce rates for the year add up to 25%, which would be rare, that means you have to be taking an active role in purging.

You want to start with identifying your chronic non-responders. Look for people who have been delivered email in the last six, nine, or twelve months, but have not opened or clicked on any of them. If you don’t want to judge solely based on email behavior, you could also choose to look for other types of engagement, such as web page visits, form fills, or event attendance.


These individuals are a good target for a re-engagement campaign. Since they are already non-responsive, they are an easy group to test on. You basically have nothing to lose. You can do something as simple as a one-time email or do a more involved multi-channel nurture program. There’s lots of ideas for re-engagement campaigns on the Community, so I won’t spend too much time on that here.

But even if your re-engagement program is really successful, you are still going to have a lot of inactive leads left. As much as it might hurt to cut back your count of emailable leads, you should really marketing suspend these individuals. Why marketing suspend them? This means they will stop receiving promotional emails, but they will still have the ability to get operational emails, such as auto-responders if they fill out forms on your website. If you do see sudden activity from that person, you can then unsuspend them so they start getting marketing messages again.

The smart list will vary based on your requirements but will look something like this:



The flow can include just the Marketing Suspended change, but I like to add a custom reason field so that if I ever need to know why someone was suspended (or when), I have that recorded:


One side effect of regularly purging these people from your email lists is that you will see a corresponding improvement in your open and click-through rates from the remaining responsive leads, which will impress those you work with.

Level 4

Hi Kristen,

Great articles! Our team was just talking about a way to remove inactive leads from our nurture because we believe they are misrepresenting our database.

In your article you give clear smart list requirements, but I want to make sure I set up the filters correctly. Would you "Use ALL filters" or "Use Advanced 1 and (2 or 3...etc.)" for both sets of smart lists?

Thanks in advance for clarifying!

Megan Reed

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Both would use ALL filters.

Level 10

Good post Kristen!  I'm currently working on improving what I have in place now, and I never thought to even add the marketing suspend reason.  I was adding it in the personal notes but I use that regularly for other stuff. 

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Glad to hear that!

Level 4

Love this article

We suppress our inactives from our database and attempt to re-engage them at times with targeted campaigns/nurtures.

When creating our filters, we put in a number of emails we've sent to them, so we don't inadvertently suppress someone who just hasn't qualified for a campaign(s) recently For instance we say something like: have been sent 12 emails in the last 6 months and have not opened, clicked, visited website etc in last 180 days.

We want to make sure we suppress someone who just hasn't been responding to our emails vs someone who just hasn't qualified for many campaigns.

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Glad to hear you enjoyed it - and even more so that you're already doing this kind of filtering.

Just one idea: If you are using filters like that very regularly, you might want to consider creating a data management campaign to populate a custom Boolean field. Doing a lot of activity filter queries can be a little slow so if you're doing it often, you can centralize that and then just use the Boolean field, which should give you better performance.

Level 10

Hey Kristen

Thanks, interesting stuff. However, one point that I don't think you addressed here was the "why" of marketing suppression. I've read some articles about disengaged subscribers having a negative impact on deliverability, but I always wonder to what extent. If we are sending something like an email a week, and a customer hasn't opened or interacted in 3 months, would the negative effects of this disengagement (from an ISP perspective) be more important than the potential gain if they do spring back to life?

Currently we have re-engagement programs running which attempt to re-activate these sleepy customers. But at the moment we don't marketing suspend or unsubscribe if they don't succeed. Should we be? And if so, what's a reasonable timeframe to consider a user "dead"?

Thanks, any thoughts would be appreciated.

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The main reason to suspend them is that these are the email addresses that are most likely to generate spam complaints or become spam traps in the future. Generally we would say to review it once per sales cycle, however long yours is, and at least once a year. Remember, marketing suspending is temporary by nature; you can always temporarily suspend them if they fail to respond to a reengagement campaign and then try emailing again later and if they still don't respond, keep them off the lists permanently.

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This is a great article and still holds true.
We recently ran a re engagement campaign which was fairly successful.

We manged to filter unsubscribes, bounces and re engaged leads

We were left with a large batch who did nothing to interact with the campaign and historically had not interacted with us for over a year.

We marked this group to  "marketing suspended".

We now have a database that is skewed by a large group of suspended leads.
What is the best practices for handling this group?

What is other peoples policy to the marketing suspended list?
My thought is that marketing suspended should really be a temp solution with sales dictating whether they are un suspended.

We keep our unsubscribes in the data but this group we are just going to back up the data and remove but leave in the CRM.

Would love other people's thoughts?

Level 5

Thank you for this well-written document and discussion trail!