Facebook - email non-openers and remarketing

Has it ever frustrated you that only 20-30% of the people on your email list open or interact with your emails?

This is a common problem and while a voice in the back of your head tells you to delete the email non-openers to save on your email marketing service charges and at the same time drastically improve your open rate, most people just can’t quite bring themselves to do it.

Sure, you have already tried to engage these non-openers by testing different subject lines, different offers and even mailing at different times of the day or week. You may have also tried the: “Do I bore you?” subject line with the threat to remove them from your list if they do not respond. This can convert a few, but you are still left with a list of non-openers and wandering what to do with them.

So here’s how to deal with the email non-openers

  1. Problem: We presume that these indifferent contacts are on your mailing list because at one time they did express an interest in receiving updates from you, and they signed up. Their apparent disinterest therefore suggests one or more of the following: email is just not their thing, perhaps they are too busy, perhaps your email ends up in their spam folder. And perhaps they just are not interested.
  2. Solution: if they are just not interested then it is of course good to get them off the list, but for the rest the solution is to try and reach them through a different medium such as Facebook or Google advertising. This is called remarketing or retargeting.

How to remarket to your non-openers

Note: While I will outline some remarketing tactics below, it is beyond the scope of this article to go into detail on how to set up a Facebook or AdWords advert (both topics usually taught in a day-long workshop). You can read more about setting up adverts at Facebook or Google, or discuss implementing these strategies with your digital team, or contact me.


  • Facebook allows you to upload a mailing list as a .csv file through your Ads Manager and it will look for those contacts on its platform using the email addresses as the identifier. You can also add telephone numbers and names to the file if you have them and this will give you a better match rate as people do use different email addresses for different platforms and the email alone may not provide a match. Once Facebook has found these contacts it will create a ‘Custom Audience’ for you.
  • You can then target this audience via Facebook advertising, selecting your non-opener custom audience when choosing your target audience for the campaign.
  • When you next send out an email newsletter, use the archive link** from your email to create a Facebook promoted post (advert) and see if you can re-engage those non-openers by reaching them through a different platform.


  • Mailchimp makes remarketing to your email list easy. You can now integrate your Facebook account with Mailchimp, and then create a Facebook advertising campaign to target your non-openers. Mailchimp does away with the fuss of uploading .csv files and working through all the options that Facebook presents you in Ads Manager. This Mailchimp option is recommended for people who just want a simple solution. As above, create an advert that links to the archive link of your email newsletter.


  • Google’s AdWords also allows you to upload a mailing list and remarket to matched email addresses via Google search, YouTube and Gmail. To access this functionality, log on to your AdWords account and navigate to ‘Audiences’ through the ‘Shared Library’ option on the left hand menu bar. Under the ‘Remarketing’ button you will find a ‘Customer emails’ option. Simply follow the upload instructions from that point on.
  • Set up an advert that links to the archive link of your email newsletter, and target your non-opener audience.

Your measure of success

The downside of this email remarketing is that you will not know exactly who on your list is re-engaging with you unless, of course, they respond to an offer in your newsletter and identify themselves with an email address that tracks with your non-opener list. If after remarketing to your non-openers you still get little or no response, it’ll be easier to acknowledge that they were probably not that much into you anyway, and deleting them will be that much easier.


Permissions is a big thing with remarketing and Facebook and Google have guidelines which you have to agree to before uploading.

In Europe GDPR is casting a big shadow over this kind of remarketing as you would have to have permission from the contact to use their data to  reach them through the different platforms.

You may already have this. But if not this is the time to revisit your sign up message so you are clear that contacts are signing up to receive your specified content/helpful tips from you through several platforms such as Facebook, Adwords, Email marketing. They keywords to remember are ‘specified’ and ‘explicit’.

“…collected for specified, explicit and legitimate purposes and not further processed in a manner that is incompatible with those purposes” – Article 5 GDPR

Hong Kong was ahead of the curve on personal data protection with the introduction of The Personal Data (Privacy) Amendment Ordinance which came into effect in 1 April 2013. To that end, Hong Kong marketers have been more diligent about personal data collection and hopefully would have already been covering their bases with ‘specified’ and ‘explicit’ use of data.

Caution: please do your own due diligence with regard to how GDPR applies to your business.

Using remarketing to increase the conversion rate of email openers

I have discussed remarketing to non-openers but it is worth experimenting with remarketing to your whole list, openers included. It generally takes several points of exposure to a message for someone to notice it much less act on it; by remarketing through different platforms you are able to achieve several points of exposure without becoming too spammy. In this case, it may increase your conversion rate.

*If their email address has changed and is now invalid, the contacts should show up hard bounces. If you have the resources, you might consider calling these people and asking them if they want to resubscribe with their new email address.

** The archive link is also known as the webview version of your email newsletter. As I use a personalised mail-merged salutation in my email marketing, when creating the version of the email for advertising, I make a neutral version of the email (with a generic salutation) and mail it to myself to get a link to this neutral version of the email.