As a marketer or salesperson, you work hard to generate leads. So the idea of deleting or opting out hard-earned contacts may seem counterintuitive to your business goals.  

However, regularly removing contacts from your database that are no longer engaging with marketing sends can improve your overall email deliverability.

Time to create a sunset policy.

A sunset policy is a plan of action for how to manage disengaged contacts that are no longer opening your marketing emails.  

 

Why Is a Sunset Policy Important?

Getting into the primary inbox of your recipients is influenced by past sending engagement.  Positive engagement signals like opens, clicks, forwards, and replies from recipients demonstrate to inbox providers that people are interested in your messaging.  Negative engagement signals like lack of opens and clicks, unsubscribes, and spam reports demonstrate that your email marketing efforts are not aligned with your recipient’s needs.

When a contact is consistently not opening your messages, their inbox provider will react by filtering your next message to the spam folder or by quarantining it altogether.

When contact disengagement occurs across multiple contacts within an inbox provider or organization, the provider or company may begin filtering all your marketing communication, even to the contacts who have been engaging with your sends. This trend is called graymail, and it should be a concern for every digital marketer.  

Creating a sunset policy can help reduce the effects of graymail and improve your chances of being placed in the primary inbox. It can also help you to avoid accidentally mailing a recycled spam trap, which can damage your brand’s sending reputation.   

 

Sunset Policy Basics

Before getting started, start with the basics:
  • Determine what a disengaged contact means to your company. Use data from both your average email frequency and the length of your sales cycle to determine the point at which you consider a contact to be disengaged.
  • Determine how long a disengaged contact should continue to receive email from your company. The longer you continue to send to disengaged contacts, the greater the negative impact on your brand's deliverability. 
  • Decide how to manage contacts who have become disengaged. You can either remove them from your mailing list without notification or try running a re-engagement campaign to give them an opportunity to stay on your list.
  • Execute on your sunset strategy on a regular frequency to keep your database healthy and improve inbox placement.  

 

What Contact Criteria Should I Use?

A sunset policy will work best when it has been customized to match your sending frequency and business needs.

If you're unsure of what criteria to use, you can start with contacts on the auto- generated list called “Unengaged contacts” (Marketing Hub Basic, Professional, and Enterprise).  This smart list includes contacts who have never opened 10 or more emails or who haven't opened the last 16 consecutive email sends.

If you would like to create a custom list of disengaged contacts, consider these properties:

  • Sends since last engagement
  • Last marketing email open date

You may be tempted to also use website interaction as an engagement property, but keep in mind that just because an individual is visiting your site doesn't always mean they're interested in marketing email from your organization.  

Before sunsetting a contact, you may want to try engaging them one final time through a re-engagement campaign.  Be sure to use a compelling subject line to entice an inactive subscriber to open. You might want to provide a relevant offer or simply ask contacts to update their subscription preferences.  Whatever your approach, it’s important that non-responders to a re-engagement campaign be suppressed from future sends or removed from your database. To ensure inactive contacts are not accidentally emailed in the future, be sure to import them as an opt out list following deletion from your database.

 

The End Result

Regularly executing on your sunset policy will help to surface your email messages to the individuals that demonstrate they're engaged with your messaging through their positive actions.

Not only will you be targeting contacts who want to hear from you, but you'll also be left with an improved set of open and click metrics. Now that's a great way to grow better with your email marketing.  

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Originally published Nov 29, 2018 8:00:00 AM, updated November 29 2018