What Are The Reticent Subscribers

Whether the number of email subscribers in your email list is 5,000 or 15,000,000, there is a lurking set of email addresses that no one wants to talk about it. They are Reticent Subscribers. These email addresses can be a gold mine or a sinkhole. Believe it or not, you, as an email marketer, can control at least part of where they end up.

First things first, the Merriam-Webster reticent definition:



ret·​i·​cent | \ ˈre-tə-sənt  \

Definition of reticent

1inclined to be silent or uncommunicative in speech.

Reticent Subscribers

Reticent subscribers are the quiet ones that you have no idea what they are thinking about your brand’s email program. These subscribers are people who have signed up, engaged, and have potentially converted. They remain on your list because you keep sending to them with the hopes that they will convert until it’s time to and to get them “re-engaged” into the program.

To that, the majority of email program owners only look at email behavior to determine whether or not they are un-engaged, lapsed, or inactive.

At some point after labeling them something, you send an email with a special offer, a survey, a sad dog face with a “we miss you” message in hopes that they will do something that will signal a heartbeat in the inbox.

Our goal is to get them active because we have been led to believe that we could have deliverability issues down the line. While this can happen, siloing email-only behavior and attaching a label to that email address is short-sided thinking.

Reticent Subscribers Engage Your Other Channels

Let’s be clear; the reticent subscriber engages in your other channels, not just email. They could be visiting your website, your social media channels, reading your DM pieces, going into the brick-and-mortar location, participating in your SMS program, and a whole lot more.

The reticent subscriber could be influenced by email or something else, but that doesn’t make them inactive or un-engaged. It makes them a programmatic advocate, but you would not know that if you are ONLY looking at email engagement as the source of truth.

It’s All About Messaging and Lifecycle Strategy

The reticent subscriber can be a gold mine if you, as the email marketer, reach across the channel aisle and work together around a messaging and lifecycle strategy that can be attributed using a time decay model. Let’s be honest; each marketing department head should share in winning customers’ by leveraging all channels.

If not, then that is the first problem to solve. If so, the gold mine is out there, and you need to seize it and work together while understanding that there isn’t a competition for attribution anymore. Customers are fickle, and marketing spend is always fluid, so instead of being divided by channel and spend, unity should be a part of the charter.


The inferno is the hamster wheel that many organizations seem to be on by only using email engagement data to determine a strategy to get the prospect or customer re-engaged. The inferno happens when silos are present and when email marketers wall themselves off from other parts of the organization because of some antiquated attribution model that doesn’t play into modern-day marketing.


The reticent subscriber is different from that of an email only “inactive”/”un-engaged” person. There are likely more reticent subscribers than you think, but in order to find that out, email engagement is not the only place you need to start and look.