Spring Cleaning: It’s Time To Clean Your Email List

It’s that time of year again – spring cleaning time. Why not apply the same vigor to cleaning your email list as you do with cleaning out that flower bed full of weeds?

Have you begun to see your email open rates slowly declining, along with your click-through rates? Are you still experiencing moderate list growth, but feel your not getting the most from all your subscribers? Are your spam complaints beginning to climb? Then it may be time to do a little house keeping.

Keeping a fresh list clean and free of ‘weeds’ is important to maintain quality scores and to your bottom line. If you are like a lot of companies, you have a set number of emails you can send in a year, so getting the most of those emails you do send is critical. That’s where our email list cleaning comes in.

Undoubtedly, you have subscribers to your email list that have stopped opening your emails, stopped clicking links, and in general have displayed no behavior that indicates they are interested in your product or service. Therefore, there’s no need to send emails to these people. Cleaning out these ‘weeds’ will leave more room for more ‘flowers’. Here’s a quick step-by-step list of how to clean out the ‘weeds’ from your garden.

1. Identify the Weeds – (i.e. the inactive subscribers on your list). Do this by creating a list of subscribers that did not open or click on any of your emails in the last 6 months. This will give you a list of subscribers who have been inactive, which we can then use for multiple purposes.

2. Create a ‘Last Chance’ Email – This email is designed to re-engage the inactive subscribers, by asking them to re-subscribe to your email list, or if they chose not to respond, be removed from your list entirely. They also have the option to unsubscribe themselves right then and there.

Note: You might ask why we would provide them the opportunity to unsubscribe so easily. Really, if the user chooses this route, you didn’t want them on your list to begin with. Remember, these are people who haven’t engaged with you in the last 6 months. If this is the only engagement you get, be thankful, because they have removed themselves from your list, and they are no longer inflating your active subscribers numbers.

This email should be designed to talk about what the subscriber would be missing out on if they decided not to continue to receive emails from you. Don’t clutter up the email with images – make it clear to the user they have 2 options. Here’s an example of a campaign I ran at DenTek.

An example of a no frills direct message to your subscriber.

As you can see, its obvious we are encouraging them to click the orange button and remain on our list by opting in again. Essentially, they aren’t really opting in, they are just registering a click on the email, so we can then track that click as an engagement by that user in our campaign dashboard later on. The opt-out button in this case is a one click unsubscribe, so the user is removed immediately from the list.

Tip: It’s important not to incentivize the user to click the opt-in button. Don’t offer them anything in the email for staying a subscriber. We are trying to determine their true feelings about being subscribed to your list, and do not wish to prolong their subscription with bribery. Instead, when the user decides to re-opt-in, that click should go to a page on your site that thanks them for sticking with you, and offers them some coupon, say 20% off their next purchase on your site. Never miss an opportunity to surprise a user with an offer, especially in this case where they may have forgotten why they were subscribed to your list in the first place. It’s a chance to make a second first impression of sorts. This approach rewards the the opt-in behavior, but on the backside of the user action, and affirms the user’s motives for re-opt-in was not based on the incentive.

3. Gather the Results – So now we have engaged those inactive users, and you’ll notice that some users have decided they really really like you so they clicked through the opt-in link, and others have decided to opt out. A majority of the users you tried to re-rengage, will indeed still be unengaged, and will not open or click this email either. Shocking I know! These actions will determine our final filter list against which we can filter for our regular email campaigns. Now run your collection again like in step 1 – gather all the non-openers and non-clickers into one list, and you have a list of subscribers who have not opened or clicked any of your emails in the last 6 months (including our re-engagement email). You now have your final ‘Inactives’ list.

4. Apply Your Inactive List To Your Campaigns – With your newly created Inactive List in hand, you now have some options. You can use it as an exclude filter when you send out campaigns, or you can use it to unsubscribe all of those users from your global subscriber list. If you have multiple lists you manage within one company, using the Inactive list on a per list basis as a filter may be the best option, as inactive users on one list may not be inactive on another list within the same company, for example.

5. Watch Your Open and Click-through Rates Spike – Once your remove the weeds, watch your flowers bloom! OK enough of the spring references. Seriously though, you will see a marked improvement. At DenTek, after we ran our re-engagement program, we saw open rates go as high as 40%, up from 10-15%. Click-through rates also doubled with our new clean list.

Keep in mind that this can be performed a few times a year, and it will keep your list nice and clean, full of active users – the kind who like to buy stuff.

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