What Is a Sunset Policy?

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After spending time and effort building your list, removing contacts from your list may seem counter-intuitive. However, inactive contacts waste your resources, decrease campaign performance, and hurt your deliverability.

But how can you tell the good from the bad? This is where a sunset policy comes into play.

A sunset policy is a list segmentation strategy to remove disengaged subscribers from your list.

Why is a sunset policy important?

Mailbox providers will use past engagement behavior to determine whether emails belong in the inbox or spam. Positive engagement like opens, clicks, and replies show inbox providers that your contacts are happy to receive your emails. 

Meanwhile, a consistent lack of engagement shows you are not aligned with your recipients’ needs and, in the worst case, earns you a spot in the spam folder.

Delivery rates aside, why bother communicating to contacts that have made it clear they’re not interested? While email marketing is an incredibly cheap and cost-effective marketing channel, a large portion of uninterested contacts still drains your resources. Focus your attention on those who care.

How do I identify disengaged contacts?

While there are general indications that your contacts are disengaged, your company might have other metrics that indicate somebody no longer offers value to your company. 

Determine what a disengaged contact means to you. Some factors to keep in mind are how often you send emails and the length of your sales cycle.

Here are some questions you could ask yourself to identify disengaged contacts: 

  • When was the last time they opened one of my emails?
  • How many emails have I sent them since the last one they opened?
  • Does this contact interact with certain types of emails more than others?
  • Does this contact engage with my company through other marketing channels?

Be cautious when taking into account activity on other platforms. Just because a contact visits your site or likes your social media posts doesn’t mean they want you in their inbox.

This stage is also an excellent time to ponder why contacts may have gotten disengaged. It’s normal for a couple of subscribers to lose interest; if you see more worrying numbers, you might want to look at your list-building methods. Make sure your contacts have given explicit permission to be sent your marketing communications and that you have adequately informed them of what they can expect to receive in their inbox.

If your email marketing strategy consists of a wide variety of types of emails, let your subscribers choose exactly which emails they’d like to receive. Segmenting your list is an easy step to a more engaged audience.

Managing disengaged contacts

After you’ve identified and segmented your disengaged contacts, it’s time to decide on your course of action. You can either remove them without warning or try to re-engage with them. 

Keep in mind lengthy re-engagement campaigns can hurt your deliverability rate as you continue to knowingly send emails to disengaged contacts.

What option works best for you depends on numerous factors. For example, how harsh are your criteria in the previous step? How valuable is each contact? How many contacts do you have?

If you’ve decided you want to give your contacts another shot, it’s time to plan out your re-engagement campaign.

Re-engagement campaigns

Let’s go ahead and give our subscribers one last chance to show they are interested. A simple way to approach a re-engagement campaign is a 2-step email series.

Email #1: In this email, you’re making your last effort to engage your contact. There’s a number of ways you can approach this. 

Ecommerce stores might want to give a 10% discount to incentivize the recipient. If you send multiple types of emails, ask contacts to update their email preferences to just receive the communication they care about. You could also take an emotional approach and tell the recipient you miss them and haven’t heard from them in a while.

Whichever way you go, if they do not interact appropriately with this mail, it’s time to let go and unsubscribe them. That’s where the second email comes into play.

Email #2: Time to say goodbye. Let your disengaged subscribers know you’ve opted them out of future communication. It’s always good to add a button that lets the recipient subscribe back just in case they’ve changed their mind.

Ease of automation

We don’t expect you to start manually tracking each of your subscribers’ activities every day. Quite the opposite, a great thing about a sunset policy is that it is easy to do on a scheduled basis. Many dedicated email marketers will clean their list on a monthly basis.

Using the examples given above, you could place a contact that hasn’t opened an email in 6 months into a simple flow with your re-engagement emails. Then, once that’s done, you can review your results and remove any inactive users.

It is good practice to check up on your list every once in a while. Are you getting the desired result? Is a tolerable amount of contacts being removed? Perhaps a recent business development changes your criteria. You don’t have to inspect your email list daily, but checking monthly is a good habit.

The end result

Mailbox providers rely more than ever before on users’ engagements with emails to differentiate spam from value. With a sunset policy, you take a proactive approach to keeping your list clean. In turn, you get a higher deliverability rate, along with improved click metrics.

It takes a lot of work to grow your mail list organically. So don’t let it go to waste by ignoring data list hygiene practices. Instead, step up your email marketing and put your focus on the contacts that want to hear from you the most.

When it comes to email marketing, it’s vital you use software that not only keeps up with these laws, but gives you the ability to comply — which is exactly what we do here at AllClients.

The AllClients CRM takes care of email validation (for better deliverability), helps you avoid spam filters, and we provide you with resources to help your emails make it to your reader’s inbox!

Want to see for yourself? Start a free 14-day trial and learn first-hand why we’re the #1 CRM for small businesses!

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