Can you scrub your email lists clean?

Can you scrub your email lists clean?

How often do you clean your email marketing lists? And why should you? 

When you think about it, cleaning a list, is like cleaning your house. A clean house keeps the occupants healthy and happy, clean lists maintains healthy members and keeps you happy.

Benefits of a clean list include:

  • Spring CleanAn increase in clickthrough’s and opens
  • Less bounces
  • Increase email savings.
  • Better conversion rates
  • Truer reports

A clean list (aka scrubbed list) is one that holds addresses of engaged subscribes, that are involved with your campaigns. Members open, read and act on your messages. However, lists, like a house must be maintained regularly to keep them clean.  Without a list scrub, you may never achieve the ROI you expect.

When you clean your house, you remove unwanted items. ball bouncing to reduce bounce emailSimilarly, when you clean your list you remove the clutter, the garbage the unwanted items which is comprised of inactive list members, hard bounces and unsubscribes; basically, those list members who have not opened your email in a while.

In a while is a broad term. You will have to decide how long is too long. To do this, dissect your campaigns by interest, content, and timing. Select a period of time to review. (i.e., 6 months). Start with the members list and what you know about them.

Realize not all list members should be considered inactive. For example: as a pet shop owner you sell worldwide products from your online store. your email campaigns consist of tips and articles about different pets.  Profile pages tell you that 1000 members have dogs, 20,000 have a cat or two and a dog, 17000 have horses and so forth. Your last few mailings relate to horse owners; therefore, most non-horse owners may choose not to open your message based on the Subject.

In this case those subscribers, non-horse owners would not be considered inactive because the Subject is not for them.  So, they temporally bypass your newsletter. (FYI create triggered segments specifically for the other pet owners that address their specific interests to keep them engaged with your members list.)

You only want to assemble inactive, non-responsive members, who never seem to connect with your emails over x amount of time.  Start with a visual review of your member lists, such as sanity checks, which will identify spam email addresses (will be prevalent if you don’t use suggested email opt in methods)

Remove those addresses that are spammy and those who have unsubscribed from your active list. If you’re using Dundee email there will not be duplicate addresses to remove, however with other email list services, you may have to check for duplicates and remove them.

Addresses may go inactive because:

  • spam filtersSpam Filters
  • List Fatigue
  • The subscriber only signed up to get a free offer
  • Your information is not what they expected
  • They only read email on their cell phone without images or URLs to click on.
  • They enjoy your newsletter but only want to read subjects relevant to them.
  • Your product or service is something your subscriber seldom needs, like ordering flowers for special occasions or reading about software releases.
  • The Subject of your message reminds your subscriber to call in an order or go to a brick-and-mortar store, so the email doesn’t get read.
  • The subscriber is no longer interested in your email and are too lazy to unsubscribe.
  • The email address once active is still valid but rarely used by the subscriber.
  • Your messages are being stopped at the receiving ISP level. The recipient’s email client is employing image filters that typically disable images from being loaded. Many recipients delete the message rather than enabling images and opening the message.

In most cases the cause of inactivity may never be known, therefore classifying an email address as an inactive one, becomes an exercise in intuitive science rather than factual science. This classification is based on assorted variables such as how many email campaigns your organization implements, the structure of each subject lines, how many images in the message and so forth.

If you consider using the typical industry standard of six months of inactivity to classify an email address as inactive consider your mailing habits.  When you only mail twice a year the 6-month rule wouldn’t work. Therefore, in most cases, create your own formula based on your mailing habits. Once you decide how to identify your viable inactive email address follow-up with a re-engagement campaign.

A re-engagement campaign should be simple and clear-cut with the purpose of regaining your recipient’s interest in your email messages.  You do not need to spruce up your email message with fancy fonts and pictures, be direct and to the point.  Keep in mind your goal, asking your subscribers if they would like to continue receiving email from you.   Consider offering a sale, coupon, or other enticement if you think it would help.

A re-engagement campaign should be timed to reach your inactive subscribers early on.  When tracking your recipients, those who recently became inactive (based on your formula) are the easiest ones to recapture, by peeking their interests again.  Plan your re-engagement campaign to mail to half or a third of your inactive list at a time, over the course of a few weeks.  Monitor the response rates and activity in each mailing:  you’ll be able to update your membership accordingly.  Email a final message emphasizing the value of rejoining (re-opting into) your mailing list, with the caveat that they will be removed from future mailings unless they act now.

After your re-engagement campaign, maintain a good engagement record by identifying those addresses you could not re-engage and remove them from your active mailing lists.

Can you wash your email list clean? Maybe but like house cleaning it takes time, but well worth it.