List Fatigue: An Email List that has gone Stale

Email marketing is not rocket science but to some it is a science just the same.  You may make one change in your mailings and as expected (Or not) your overall results change.  If you’re working with numbers and formulas and testing with list segments, you might just come up with a mailing routine that, one day elicits soaring conversion rates, higher than you ever expected AND your facebook© “likes” double with your Internet sales hitting new numbers.  Exciting for you-Exciting for your company.  You might think, if only we can get these results more often, and conclude, maybe I should mail more often, so you do.

When you send email marketing campaigns more often, and get good results its encouragement to send again and again, usually between shorter intervals, until finally your list goes over the “just right point”  and reaches the exhaustion point, the point between under mailing an over mailing.  When you reach the exhaustion point, your conversation rates start going downhill and your members become non-responsive.  You now have a condition known as List Fatigue.

List Fatigue is the state of an email list that has gone stale.  It produces less and less returns from mailings because the list members received either too many offers or the same offers, in a short space of time. Essentially your members become disinterested, inactive, and disengaged.

List fatigue can be diagnosed with symptoms such as:

  • Subscriber lethargy.
  • Decrease interest: drop in refer- a- friend, clickthoroughs and opens.
  • Big drop in conversion rate.
  • Decline in facebook© activity.

List fatigue has some know causes:

  • Sending the same message to the same list – you find yourself hoping for different results.
  • Your messages are not important; they lack substance.
  • Mailing to an outdated, overused list.
  • The subscriber no longer fits their profile.
  • The list member only signed up for specific information: i.e. Christmas Sale

With List Fatigue, you may not notice a steady decline in membership, other than the normal churn, because members suffering from List Fatigue may not actually have unsubscribed, they only stopped interacting with your mailings.  Various studies indicate fatigued list members opt to delete your emails, or filter you right into their SPAM or Junk folder with the attitude, “why wouldn’t you just go away”.

This is not the type of message you want to convey.  You want list members who want your email. Therefore, if you find yourself dealing with a seemly fatigued list, it may be beneficial to determine the percentage of subscribers in the fatigue category compared to your entire list, creating workable components.

This is easy to do, especially if your ISP supplies good reporting tools.  For example you could select a time frame, say 6 months, look at the inactive list members (those who have zilch activity: such as no opens) and compare that number to your entire list of members.   The results may surprise you.   A fatigued list can have as high as 50% of inactive members, subscribers who remain your list members but are not interested in your messages.  Consider why someone opens your email and then think of reasons why they will not.

It could be your messages are:

  • Filtered as junk in the subscribers email client.
  • Being Blocked.
  • Saved to be read later, but later never comes.
  • Not read because the subscriber is not motivated by your Subject  Lines.
  • Long message that take too much time to read in a busy day.
  • Lost in the volume of mail received
  • (Again) sent to often, same old, same old.

How to cure List Fatigue:

As previously mentioned in earlier blogs, keep the content interesting and relevant, using segmentation and triggered email, make good use of the Subject Line and work on re-engagement.

More importantly continue to activity seek to add new subscribers (with all the acceptable Opted in methods) and re-energize the old list members with re-engagement tactics.

In conclusion, do not fall into the trap believing that List Fatigue happens to someone else – it could happen to you.  If you notice declining open rates don’t be so quick to blame spam filters and deactivated images; combat this issue by regularly adding new (opted in subscribers) and re-energizing old ones.  Your list is merely getting tired.  Make one of your goals an established target list growth rate while decreasing the proportion of inactive subscribers.