When to Clean your Subscriber List

It’s never easy to say good-bye to any relationship when you know it’s over, especially when there has been a lot of time and energy invested. Taking time to re-evaluate your digital marketing program and deciding to eliminate areas that are not working for the bottom line, can often improve your program instantly. Where should you begin re-evaluating your overall program?

Email Subscribers
One area of immediate potential improvement that’s often overlooked or missed is the entire email subscriber list. Sending out email marketing campaigns is still the highest ROI channel out there, beating out social media and direct mail. (Reference article here confirming my statement). It is understandable that a subscriber list of 20,000 email addresses could be considered the “bread and butter” of potential recurring business and hard to let any of them go if they aren’t unsubscribing. However, positive delivery reputation is heavily considered these days in order to receive any measure of ROI success.

Less is more. Letting go of 7,000 unengaged addresses will increase your overall ROI potential for each email campaign thereafter. Let’s dive down into what causes campaign delivery to dwindle and lower percentages of transactions each time an email campaign goes out.

The Issue
Holding onto unengaged subscribers can drive down analytics (Open Rates, Click Rates) over time and will eventually land your mail into subscribers’ junk folders. How so? As we discussed, email delivery reputation factors heavily into your results. The best way to maintain positive delivery is to target your subscribers. A great way to start is to send to your recent purchasers or openers. This means the campaign going out is only sending to subscribers that want your mail, and will therefore receive a higher Open Rate. Enough campaigns sent out with successful Open Rates, will receive a higher and trusted delivery reputation. This means more of your mail will land in recipients’ inboxes rather than the junk folder, and have a higher percentage of being seen and opened.

Client: But look at how big my database is! That just shows that my program is successful, why would I get rid of them and make my subscriber database go smaller?

Let’s dive a little further on why delivery reputation really matters and is an important factor for success. ISP’s like Gmail and Yahoo are vetting your IP address and sending domain, along with the rate all their users open your mail, to determine if they will let you into the inbox, the junk folder, or withhold your mail altogether. If 5,000 of your 20,000 subscriber list are Gmail users and all 5,000 addresses are sent every email campaign without leaving out those that never open your mail, your opening percentage rate will be lower than sending solely to the 3,000 Gmail users that have been opening your mail and making purchases. Therefore, sending to many non-openers will register with the ISP and after a certain unknown threshold has been reached, your inbox rate will go down and more mail will be delivered to the junk folder. Imagine email delivery as a credit score. Paying off your balance (keeping a healthy subscriber list) each month will result in a higher credit score than missing payments (not targeting and sending to all subscribers). There is also the amount of time and work it takes to get your credit score back up to a healthy rate, and that is something worth avoiding with pre-emptive subscriber targeting.

The Solution
First Timers: A great way to rip the band-aid off is creating a filter which pulls up all subscribers who have not opened email campaigns sent out in the last 3 months (6 months if you send less frequently, such as once a month).

Advanced Users: If you’ve cleaned out your subscriber list before, filter out sends to those that have purchased in the last 2-3 months. Try multiple campaigns; categorize your subscribers into types of email campaigns they would like to receive, and tailor your campaigns to those sub groups for a stronger Open Rate. This may be categorizing your products and targeting those that have purchased from the same category in the past. A great example is organizing a beauty supply company into subcategories like Makeup products, Shampoos & Conditioners, Hair Straighteners and Blow Dryers, etc. If your company is not organized in such a way, break down your subscriber list in terms of frequency. Do they want a weekly email, or a daily email campaign? Perhaps there is an option for your Monthly Newsletter and any special flash sales that pop up.

Can’t bring yourself to press the delete button yet? Let’s tackle this on a sliding scale so the separation anxiety isn’t as prevalent.

A great first step is employing a re-engagement campaign. Put an email campaign together letting them know you haven’t heard from them in a while. If they are interested in continuing to receive your email campaigns, have them click a confirmation link to continue their subscription. Send this campaign out a few times a year to keep your mailing list up to date. I recommend sending the campaign out to those who haven’t opened or purchased anything in 3 months or more.

An automated approach to this method is to insert the email campaign into an automated workflow/auto responder that is set to pull in anyone meeting the criteria of unengaged. Set your entrance filter to anyone who has not opened any campaigns in 3 months. If you have access to filter based on purchase behavior, I recommend adding an OR statement that includes pulling in subscribers who haven’t opened and haven’t purchased anything in 3 months (or a month you feel suits your business model). Be sure to include an internal action of removing them from your subscriber list if they do not click on the confirmation link sometime after the campaign is sent, or remove if they do not open the campaign. This method will continuously keep your subscriber list clean and leave quality subscribers that engage with your email campaigns, resulting in positive engagement analytics that lead to a higher and stronger delivery reputation.