I get more unsubscribes on Tuesdays than any other day.

Because Tuesdays are the day I send my newsletter.

It’s a brutal realization when you start a newsletter: some people will unsubscribe.

And it’s a blow to your pride. It stings. “What did I do wrong? Why don’t they want to hear from me anymore? Was it something I said — or didn’t say?”

They’ve broken up with you. And just like an ex-lover who’s told you they can’t lead you on any longer, that their heart isn’t in it — unsubscribers are doing you the same favor.

Because there’s a cold mistress much worse than the unsubscribed heartbreaker.

The Dreaded Cold Subscriber

Cold subscribers still receive your newsletter.

You still include them when you boast about your subscriber list.
You still send them emails.
You still think of them each week as you write your newsletter, hoping they find it useful, entertaining, educational.

But they don’t open it. Or they stopped a long time ago. They’re ghosting you — and it’s costing you.

“Why is this worse than an unsubscriber?”

There are a few reasons.

  1. Unsubscribers increase your open rates. Each unsubscriber is one less unopen. It’s also one less user who isn’t clicking through. Getting them off your list will improve your open rates.
  2. Unsubscribers increase your click-through rates. Just like open rates, each unsubscriber is one less recipient who isn’t clicking in your emails. Click-through rates are calculated not by the number of opens — but the number of recipients — someone who never opens or clicks on your emails is keeping your metrics lower than they could be.
Lowering the emails sent number can increase your click rate (source)

So unsubscribers are actually helping you out. But cold subscribers are hurting you.

How do you combat these cold subscribers?

The best way is by creating & publishing quality content they want to consume.

Easier said than done? Absolutely. Super obvious? For. Sure.

But it’s worth including here because you simply can’t take your readers for granted. You are competing for attention (i.e. affection) in their inbox. Treat them like they deserve and publish good content.

With that caveat out of the way… here are two other proactive ways to deal with cold subscribers.

How To Manage Cold Subscribers

#1 Resend To Unopens

I’m guilty of keeping emails unopened in my inbox because “I’ll read them later”.

Then I completely forget.

They get buried and never read despite my best intentions. I might be ghosting you. And I’m so sorry I don’t have the guts to call it quits.

That’s why you need to resend me your emails.

Resending your email to those who haven’t opened is a soft nudge, a gentle reminder.

I resend my newsletter 5 days after the initial send. That gives readers time to open and read before a nudge. Since implementing this strategy 6 months ago, I’ve seen a 7–9% boost in my overall weekly open rates. But more importantly, it nudges people “on the edge” to finally unsubscribe.

My resend on May 01 got more unsubscribes than my initial send.

“Hey, here’s my email… again. Look. If you don’t want to read it, I get it. You’re busy and I just don’t excite you anymore. The spark is gone. You have to do what’s best for you. Just let me down easy and hit that unsubscribe. It hurts, but it’s best for the both of us.”

Thankfully, ConvertKit (affiliate link) has a feature right in its report view that allows you to set up a Resend To Unopens campaign and nudge your subscribers to open up or move out. If your newsletter platform doesn’t offer this feature, I highly recommend switching to ConvertKit for this feature — and many others.

Set it and forget it.

#2 Manually Remove Cold Subscribers

Another way to get rid of cold subscribers is to manually remove them.

Maybe (clearly) your resend hints just aren’t getting through. But before you break up with them permanently, give them one last chance: send a breakup email sequence.

Consider it a kind gesture offering the chance to remain subscribed to your newsletter. Maybe it’s the wake-up call they needed?

Or maybe they’ve been opening your newsletter this whole time.

With recent iOS email tracking privacy settings, it’s likely some recipients’ opens are going untracked. That’s why the breakup email sequence is a good idea — and better than manually removing them first.

Creating this sequence is simple.

  1. In ConvertKit, draft a short email sequence explaining you’re about to break up with them in X days if they don’t take action (“It’s not you, it’s me.”). Some publishers send one email — one chance — while others send a few.
  2. Prompt the recipient to click a link in your email to remain subscribed.
  3. Ensure you tag subscribers who click on that link as “active” or “ghost subscriber” or something similar that indicates they’re flying under the radar of your analytics.

Once the sequence is complete, you’ll have a swath of cold subscribers who’ve done you the favor of removing themselves from your list. You’ll have another swath you’ll have to manually remove.

I won’t get into the details in this post, but here’s an incredibly helpful tutorial from the folks at ConvertKit. It walks you through the steps to execute the strategy. Even if you don’t use ConvertKit, the strategy, sequence, and templates in the tutorial are excellent and could be applied to most platforms.

How Often Should You Remove Cold Subscribers?

There is no definitive answer. Some recommend doing it monthly, others every 6 months.

But if you’re noticing a steady down tick in your open & click rates, that’s your red flag. Start trimming.

What next?

If you’ve followed the strategies above, you’re going to see your open rates & click rates increasing. Awesome!

And since your engagement rates are going up, maybe it’s time to start booking some paid ads.