Properly managing and maintaining your contact lists is a critical, yet often overlooked, component of effective email marketing. Once you’ve grown an organic list of quality contacts, you’ll want to manage it to ensure the integrity of the list moving forward.
List maintenance has become a necessary best practice for email marketing success. Hard bounces, soft bounces and unengaged subscribers can have a negative impact on email deliverability, plus they negatively affect the your email marketing KPIs. So here are 5 best practices for managing and maintaining your email marketing lists.
Proper list maintenance starts with the initial subscription. One best practice is to set up a triggered response email that sends all new subscribers a “welcome email,” thanking them for subscribing and requesting that they add your email address to their approved senders list in case your initial email lands in their junk folder.
It’s also a good idea to remind them of what they should expect out of their subscription as far as frequency and cadence, content, etc. You’ll also want to let them know how to get in touch if they have any issues, and make it clear how to adjust their preferences or opt-out altogether should they decide they no longer want to receive communication from your firm. (See #2 and #5)
Research from Econsultancy found that 66% of email users list frequency of emails as a reason to unsubscribe. So don’t lose a contact permanently simply because they are tired of receiving a certain type of email or too many emails altogether! Subscription management allows contacts to manage their email preferences and customize the content they receive from you and/or manage the frequency of the emails they receive. It gives a contact the ability to “unsubscribe” from certain types of emails, or they can opt out altogether.
Subscription management will allow your firm to stay compliant with CANSPAM and potentially avoid losing a contact when the issue is volume or content, not the sender itself. The good news is that most reputable email service providers (ESPs) or marketing automation platforms have subscription management functionality built in—it just needs to be set up and enabled.
You’re well aware of personal hygiene, but did you realize that your email lists need proper hygiene as well? In fact, while list hygiene is crucial to your ongoing email marketing success, this is one area where a lot of firms struggle. Statistics show that up to 25% of your email list will drop off each year. If you think about it, people change jobs all the time and email addresses change. Purging your list of old, invalid emails (or hard bounces to put it in ESP terms) is really important.
It’s a good idea to regularly remove all hard bounces and recurring soft bounces from your lists. Sending to invalid emails repeatedly will negatively impact your sender reputation, which will ultimately impact your ability to reach your contacts’ inbox. Consider a regularly scheduled purging (whether weekly, monthly, or after every major campaign) of these invalid emails to keep your lists clean and your sender score high.
Along those lines, unengaged subscribers are a major concern for proper list management. Unengaged subscribers are those contacts who still have a valid email address, are still subscribed to your list, but they haven’t opened and/or clicked one of your emails for quite some time. While they haven’t gone to the trouble of actually unsubscribing, they’ve emotionally unsubscribed and are simply ignoring and deleting your emails. What many marketers don’t realize is that unengaged subscribers not only hurt your sender reputation, but they’re also not helping your marketing cause since they’re not bothering to open your emails
But before purging unengaged subscribers from your lists, a best practice is to execute what’s known as a reengagement campaign. You’ll first want to identify any subscribers who haven’t opened and/or clicked one of your emails within the last 6-12 months. Then you’ll want to send those unengaged subscribers a targeted email acknowledging that they haven’t opened or clicked through in long time. Simply ask them if they want to continue to receive your emails and give them a chance to opt-in again. This provides you with both a chance to reengage an unengaged subscriber, as well as justify purging your lists of those who fail to click on the re-engagement campaign.
The final best practice for list management might seem counterintuitive, especially considering we’ve discussed ways to keep from losing subscribers. But in addition to CANSPAM compliance, it’s important to make unsubscribing as easy for your contacts as subscribing was in the first place. In other words, don’t try to hide or bury the unsubscribe link at the bottom of your email. If at any point a contact no longer wishes to receive your emails, it’s much better in the long run to lose an uninterested contact, than to have them ignore your emails (see #4) or flag your emails as spam.
Remember that with email marketing lists, quality is always preferred over quantity. A big part of managing your lists is making sure that they remain quality lists, free of invalid contacts and unengaged and uninterested contacts. Growing your lists the right way—using permission-based, subscription tactics as opposed to purchasing or renting lists—is the starting point for a solid email marketing program. But it can’t stop there. Proper list management is essential for ensuring ongoing email marketing success.