Five Ways to Maintain a Healthier Email List

by Bridgette Darling

posted on 06-28-2016

Maintaining a healthy email list is critical to the success of any email program. In a recent Only Influencer’s blog, Karen Talavera of Synchronicity Marketing reminds us that “the gold is in your list,” and while that may be true, today’s consumers often use multiple email addresses. In addition to their primary addresses, they may have one dedicated to marketing messages, one to work, another to school, and even shared family accounts. Not only are they managing a personal inbox that’s overflowing, but also multiple inboxes — most of which are probably overflowing too.

Nevertheless, consumers are still enamored with email. According to an Adobe study, consumers admit to spending up to six hours a day checking emails. It’s still the workhorse of digital marketing and the preferred way marketers reach their consumers. Here are some helpful hints for ensuring that you are able to reach and maximize investment of the “golden nuggets” in your list:

1. Acquire Email Addresses Legitimately
Ensure subscribers want to hear from you. Before you send any emails, be certain that the way you’re obtaining addresses is legitimate. Don’t buy lists or append email addresses to other data you may have on your customers. According to best practices — and, in some cases, the law — it’s necessary to secure express consent from everyone you send emails to. Sometimes, it’s best to send an email to confirm opt-in email addresses to ensure the customer intended to subscribe to your emails. A few days ago, I signed up to win a trip to Jackson Hole through a promotion that one of my favorite brands was running. Two days later, I received an email dedicated to young, hip fathers. I unsubscribed immediately. I’m definitely not their target audience. Ensuring from the beginning that the subscribers on your list actually want to receive your email is the best way to maintain a healthy and clean list.

2. Remove Bounces as They’re Happening
Monitor bounce logs carefully, and when an email does hard bounce, remove it immediately. Don’t make the mistake of repeatedly trying to send it in hopes it will successfully deliver. Set your system appropriately so that, after one hard bounce, you no longer send to that address. If you’re unsure of your email service provider’s bounce policies, check with your deliverability team.

3. Eliminate Invalid Addresses
Consider investing in third-party technology. Identifying and eliminating invalid addresses — meaning, those that do not exist and will not deliver — before you send emails to them is a key step in maintaining a healthy email list. The best time to do this is at the time of acquisition or immediately after. When integrated at point of sale or on a website, users can catch their mistakes and update them while they are still engaged. Keep in mind that this doesn’t excuse you from removing bounces or sending opt-ins — it’s simply another tool in the box. If you’re afraid of damaging your reputation — let’s say that you acquired addresses through point of sale, for instance — identifying invalid emails can help. The good news is that a number of tech companies are there to help you do it right. Reach out to your deliverability team for recommendations on the best available services.

4. Pay Attention to Inactive Subscribers
There’s a host of reasons why subscribers may suddenly become inactive, and it’s not uncommon for people to be engaged with a brand one day and not the next. Maybe they’ve purchased that one product they were looking for and no longer need a relationship with your brand. Whatever the reason, your emails are no longer relevant. Inactive subscribers hurt your list. They’re not engaging, they’re not opening or clicking, and you’re sending to them without purpose. At best, you’re junking up their inbox — but at worst, you could be damaging your brand’s reputation or your relationships with consumers.

How do you manage inactive subscribers for a healthier email list? While the solution is different for everyone, the rule of thumb is that you should reduce the frequency of emails sent to subscribers who haven’t engaged with your brand for 6 to 12 months. Determine the level that’s appropriate by asking someone who is familiar with your program such as an account manager or deliverability team. Use data to segment those audiences through other channels or to place them into different communications from your day-to-day sends.

5. Look for Reengagement Opportunities
Of the many ways to draw new interest from inactive subscribers, one is simply to ask. Send a straightforward email asking subscribers whether they still wish to receive communications from you. Let them know that — for their benefit — if they don’t opt back in, you will remove them. Invite them to opt down through a preference center or try sending new messaging. If you’re still not achieving engagement, consider communicating with users through other channels such as sending direct mail pieces that drive them to a local store or an online action or connect with them through targeted, social advertising. Testing is a key part of the process. Test everything — from the subject line to the closing and beyond. There’s opportunity to encourage reengagement; you simply need to figure out what works for specific segments. However, at the end of the day, it is okay to say goodbye to subscribers who no longer want to receive your emails. They’ll only produce diminishing results on your list and are no longer golden nuggets.

Final Word
Too often, I’ve seen brands get in trouble by trying to reengage with very old lists, purchasing lists, or by sending blindly to subscribers who are not engaging. If your messy list needs a deep clean, chances are there’s an in-house fix that allows you to look at what you’ve been doing end to end to both identify and prevent further mistakes. Analytics, combined with an integrated customer profile, allows you to see how your subscribers are engaging with you across channels and how best to engage with them. Use data to drive meaningful conversations and have a warmup process in place for new subscribers. Keep it legitimate, eliminate invalid emails, and pay attention to inactive subscribers for a healthy, robust email list that’s sure to deliver.

Topics: Campaign Management