Dela Quist looks at why 40% of subscribers to an email database may not open a single message they are sent for six months or more.

He says this is not necessarily a bad thing as they are ‘unemotionally subscribed’ – they still want to receive messages from you but are not in a position to take up your offer today.

In my last post I talked about how we should send timely emails, based on the buying patterns of our email customers.

However, what do you do if almost half your subscribers don’t open a single message sent to them in a whole year?

If this is your experience, you’re not alone. On average, we’ve found that 40% of the subscribers on a wide variety of lists do not open a single message sent to them for well over six months.

Some commentators have said that this length of time means subscribers have ‘emotionally unsubscribed’ – but simply haven’t got round to hitting the unsubscribe button yet.

So should you stop mailing them?

Well, I was talking to a publisher recently who sends out 60,000 emails a month just to let customers know the latest magazine is in the shops .

A very low percentage of these emails are ever actually opened, but here’s the kicker – sales go up every time he sends it.

So even if subscribers are not engaging with offers and letters you send them, this doesn’t mean they don’t want to receive them.

They may still want to receive messages from you but are not in a position to take up the offer today.

At Podcast Pittsburgh 2 this August, a group of delegates coined a phrase for this type of email. They call it Bacn – defined as ‘Email you want – but not right now’.

These guys were trying to put a handle on the ’twitter’ (another US originating word) of emails you get from news alerts, friends and social networking sites and it appears to have stuck.

I don’t believe there are many people out there who stay subscribed to your messages just because they can’t be bothered to unsubscribe.

A better description would be that they are ‘unemotionally subscribed’ – until that is they are ready to buy.

Put another way, the 40% not responding are not necessarily ‘emotionally unsubscribed’ individuals, they may just want to monitor the Bacn coming their way.

They may not respond for months, but when they do, it will be when they’re at the point in their buying cycle where they’re likely to make a purchase.

For a supermarket this could be a couple of times a month, for a book shop two or three times a year, for insurance, once a year.

The important thing is to stay in touch – it will eventually bring in the bacon (sorry).

Dela Quist is the CEO of email marketing agency

Alchemy Worx Ltd