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Do you delete unengaged contacts from your database?

Hello, we have a large number of unengaged contacts in our Hubspot database. 
Wondering what others do with their unengaged contacts? Do you leave them in the database or delete them? 

I am inclined to delete them, but we sometimes send email to unengaged contacts when there's an important product announcement, or an end of life product notice, etc. 


Would love to know the best way to handle these unengaged contacts? 

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Do you delete unengaged contacts from your database?

Yes! Keeping unengaged contacts in email lists throws of analytics and lessens the effect of email marketing. We have a way to do that automatically:

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Contributeur de premier rang

Do you delete unengaged contacts from your database?

Hi @pina - This is a great conversation and appreciate the shoutout @gabriel-nextiny!  Lots of great ideas in this forum. 


Can you expand on your definition of "unengaged" contacts?  If you're using HubSpot's feature, the one thing you should definitely consider is your email volume.  For example (and we've seen this), if you publish a daily blog with email notifications and a contact goes on vacation or is out of the office for an extended period of time, say 2-3 weeks, then they'll fall into HubSpot's definition of "unengaged" even though they're just out of the office.  


I'm all for cleaning your database as there are all kinds of downstream effects, such as your sender reputation which helps with email deliverability, etc., but it's also a bit tricky.


One tool you might want to look into after you've gone through a cleansing excersise is which uses AI to look at your automated email replies to keep your database clean and uncover new leads.

Contributeur de premier rang

Do you delete unengaged contacts from your database?



Such a short, complicated question! 


For me, as admin of our HubSpot CRM, the question keep-or-purge is top of mind about twice a year. Think of it as a spring cleaning, and a fall sweep-out. 


I start with all of our unengaged/bounced contacts, and start to exclude people from there, in the following order:

  • People who have unsubscribed within the last 6 months
    • Need to keep them to make sure that we honor their unsubscribe preference for at least as long as legally required where we are. Better safe than sorry.
  •  Customers
    • If we have space to keep them, they stay...they are the ones who would need important product information, and their communication history is very important.
  • Contacts with a significant number of non-prospecting sales activities
    • Here I am talking about actually connected calls, back-and-forth emails, etc. and not 15 attempts to contact with no response. This is a PITA to determine as "Number of Sales Activities" doesn't imply "Meaningful" sales activities - so this is often a by-hand determination.
  • The "Right" People
    • If they are someone who is an ideal persona for us, they stay. Who knows...maybe one day they will see the light 😄 ... We get a lot of form submissions from people who are NOT the "right" people, and they go dark very quickly after...I don't have any heartache about getting rid of those people...they just cost me money in contact count.

Please keep in mind that this is coming from someone whose company's sales cycle is 9-18 months at best, so we do often have people who disengage only to come back YEARS later when they are finally ready for the type of process change that we bring. 


Let me know if you have any follow-on questions!

Leader d'opinion

Do you delete unengaged contacts from your database?




Your choices to delete unengaged contacts from your CRM depend on lots of factors and will be specific to your company's use of HubSpot -- e.g., level of (un)engagement, audience communication preferences, age of the contact in your CRM, sales cycle length, etc.. And on what version of HubSpot you're using because, not unlike many other automation platforms, HubSpot Marketing charges to house contacts in its underlying core CRM while the free version of HubSpot CRM does not.


Decisions! Decisions! 


- level of (un)engagement

HubSpot categorizes a contact as UNENGAGED if they meet one of the following criteria.

<> Have never opened a marketing email from you and has not opened the last 11 emails you've sent them.
<> Has previously opened a marketing email from you but has not opened the last 16 emails you've sent them.



 - see What is graymail and how can I avoid sending email to unengaged contacts?


However, only using email to determine engagement levels is a bit of an oversimplification depending on other factors like audience communication preferences.



- audience communication preferences

Do many of your contacts prefer to be engaged via non-email based methods? -- e.g., social media, phone, text, Facebook Messenger, etc.. If so, these factors should be considered as part of your overall plan to manage unengaged contacts.



- age of the contact in your CRM

The age of a contact in your CRM can be a mild indicator of under-performance when contacts fail to meet HubSpot's built-in graymail triggers due to you sending emails infrequently enough to stay below thresholds for long periods of time (e.g., >52 weeks). We typically see this when using an email cadence slower than one (1) email per month (for whatever reason).

(see image)mfjlabs-screenshot-company-HubSpot-Organic-List-Decay-20180107.png


A slower email cadence tends to be more greatly influenced by something called Database Decay. Decayed contacts are defined as projected contacts lost through attrition due to a variety of conditions - e.g., changed email addresses, abandoned email addresses, and opt-outs. Based on this phenomenon, contacts typically decay at an annual average rate of 22.5%.

- see HubSpot Database Decay Simulation -- the black line on the chart shows decay over time.


That being said, a marketing email cadence slower than one (1) email monthly isn't necessarily a bad thing especially when considering longer sales cycles or higher ticket product/services.


- sales cycle length

If the sales cycle for your product/service offering is 'long' (e.g., >7 months) or you sell highend products/services your marketing strategy will need to allow for extended timeframes. This can mean a slower email cadence that makes contacts artificially appear as dead or zombies (aka: 'the walking dead').


In 2016, Marketing Sherpas reported 36% of B2B sales cycles being longer than 7 months!

(see image)marketing-sherpas-b2b-sales-cycle-length.png




We like to use an accumulation of both positive and negative attributes to refine our definition of engagement -- similar to lead scoring attributes.

(see image)__client_ DELETE MASTER - v20180101.png

 - see cumulative criteria example



The trick is to find what measures of engagement work best for your audience, then build smart lists to identify contacts who meet those criteria. 


Hope that helps. 



Chief HubSpot Consultant

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Hope that helps.


Be well,
Gestionnaire de communauté
Gestionnaire de communauté

Do you delete unengaged contacts from your database?

Thanks for sharing @MFrankJohnson!


@Phil_Vallender@kcooper@Josh@Aakar@gabriel-nextiny do you have any advice for @pina



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Guide | Partenaire solutions Diamond
Guide | Partenaire solutions Diamond

Do you delete unengaged contacts from your database?

Hi @pina,  (Thanks @jennysowyrda for asking)


Do you use send time optimization?  If not, I would recommend checking Seventh Sense. Seventh Sense is a great HubSpot Integration that allows you to send emails at the most probable time that your leads would open. They use AI technology to determine from all the emails that you have already sent through HubSpot, what are the peak times for each contact and what would be the most probable time they will engage with your emails.


Knowing that, then you can send your emails through HubSpot by using the integration to each contact on their best time. Increasing opening, click-through and conversion rates. 


If I were you I would check the HubSpot-Seventh Sense integration, let them run an analysis on your database and see what you find out. Then run some campaigns to try to re-engage with your leads by sending them valuable content at the right time, and after all of that start making decisions on who to delete or not to delete.


Of course, over time you will have to delete people that are not engaged, but I would not do it before using a tool like Seventh Sense.



Let me know if you have any questions, I would be more than happy to share more about our experience with this integration. We use it for all of our customers.


Here's a case study with some videos explaining more about the tool:


I hope this helps. If it does, please mark this response as one of the solutions.