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Strategies to keep your email marketing aligned with your business
As a business owner, you use your email list to stay connected with people who’ve already shown an interest in your service or product.
Your subscriber base is a valuable resource, not just because they’re people to sell to, but because they’re people who believe in your product and brand and talk about it to others. They root for your success because they benefit from it too. They’ve shared their email address with you so you can contact them directly, and yes split them into groups to do background “markety” things they’ll never know about – like A/B testing and segmentation.
The more people you have on your email list, the more useful your data.
But a large email list means nothing if the people on it aren’t interested.
People Join Your Email List For Many Reasons
It would be nice if every subscriber was a potential customer, but people are on your email list for a mind-boggling number of reasons. Here are some of them:
- They want your enticing freebie and can only get it by signing up
- They’re a beginner in your field and hoping to learn something by watching the way you do things
- They’re a competitor wanting to know what you’re up to
- They saw you on social media and signed up to remember to check you out some day
- They signed up through duplicate or different email addresses (work/home/new work…)
- They entered a competition and ended up on your list by default
- A friend added them
- They signed up to wait for exclusive offers
- They’re your friends and colleagues under obligation to show support even though they have no interest in your product
Some of these people belong on your list, but many don’t.
6 Reasons to Clean Your Email List
Business owners often resist pruning their list because the numbers can reduce dramatically. But valuing your list only by its size is a red herring.
- Each subscriber added to your newsletter service plan costs you money. Even free services only allow a set number of subscribers for free before you start being charged.
- Quality matters more than quantity. People will always be at different stages of the buying cycle so while immediate buying-potential is NOT important, you want subscribers who enjoy hearing from you and will hopefully click the odd link to take a look at your latest offering.
- Interest doesn’t last forever, people move on as life changes. They don’t always hit the “unsubscribe” button. They abandon email addresses, delete emails unread, or worse, report you as spam. Being flagged as a spammer impacts your credibility and also the deliverability of future emails to your list.
- Your business evolves over time and the people you sought to attract three years ago may not be your audience anymore.
- A clean list means you’re speaking to people who already know who you are and have invited you into their world. Marketing is always more pleasant when you’re not fighting suspicion.
- Single opt-ins and aggressive lead capture activities can add a lot of fake addresses and robots to your list, leading to bouncebacks and flagging you with a poor sender reputation.
4 List Cleaning Strategies
A clean email list is a joy to market to because it’s responsive and you get a great return on your time.
It’s important to remember that everyone on your list is not a buyer. Some people want information, some want to get to know you, others want offers. With some subscribers, it could be weeks, months, or years before you see a sale.
So while you want a clean list, you also want to respect those who are quietly enjoying your business in their own way.
1) Use double opt-ins as a filter
Double opt-ins are when a person subscribes to your list and then has to respond to an email to activate their subscription. Some businesses prefer not to use double opt-ins because the activation email often lands in the user’s spam folder or a person changes their mind about signing up.
But a double opt-in filters out spambots that fill your database with fake addresses to make you look like a spammer too when your emails bounce.
Some bots are malicious, signing up other people to your list or trying to harvest your email address. It’s more work to clean up your database after bots, and you have to consider the damage if your email service flags you as a spammer.
2) Don’t rely on email stats to delete addresses
Newsletter services provide performance statistics about your email list, including the number of opened emails.
Some business-owners delete email addresses if the stats show a subscriber isn’t opening emails. Be wary of this because open stats are not always accurate. I sometimes get emails from readers who the stats claim have never opened a newsletter, when clearly they have.
I also get emails from businesses saying something like, “We see you don’t open emails, we’re taking you off.” It makes me feel they’re punishing me just because they don’t understand their own technology.
Be aware that open rates can be skewed by individual browser and cookie settings.
3) Clean up the manual way
Because Wednesday Genius is a small business that builds on relationships, I prefer cleaning my list manually. Every month, I’ll check new subscribers for any spammy-type addresses that have got through the double opt-in and captcha. I’ll delete all unverified subscribers who are older than 30 days, and I’ll double-check any unsubscribers have been removed from the various segmented groups.
Every 18-24 months, I email everyone directly. In December 2020 I asked everyone to reply by email if they wanted to stay on my email list. This can result in a brutal clean-up so brace yourself if you do this because generally, people don’t like responding by email. But the bonus is that you know the people who do reply really do want to hear from you.
The second, more softer, approach is to ask people to click a Yes button if they want to stay on the list. You’ll get a better response rate than asking people to reply by email, so choose this option if you’re not looking for a super-deep-clean.
I always send a reminder (sometimes two) before manually deleting the email addresses of the people who don’t respond.
4) Automate your email list cleanup
You’ll prefer an automated cleanup if your list is very large or populated by single opt-in entryways.
Tools like Neverbounce and EmailListVerify check for valid email addresses, duplicates, typos etc. Some automated services let you clean a number of email addresses for free before the paid plan kicks in.
Automation streamlines monotonous tasks and frees up your time, but it’s not foolproof and a human check helps maintain integrity. You don’t want an unsubscriber to receive an email a few months down the line just because you forgot to check if they were in one of your segmented groups.
Enjoy Your Newsletter
The advantages of a large subscriber base are lowered when you have poor engagement and high bounce-rates. You risk spam complaints and face unnecessary operational costs.
It’s also harder to keep motivation up when you’re not getting a good return on your time and investment.
Lighten your load by cleaning up your email list – your hard work will be better directed and you’ll have stronger engagement.
Contact me for help planning and writing email content for your business.