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How to clean up your email list & engage your subscribers


Email marketing is a a great way to engage and to nurture your community and contacts. But you need to take care of a very important anchor that is the foundation of any email marketing program — your contact list.  This is important because it is likely you will lose one third of your contacts every year through attrition or “churn.”

Churn is the number of subscribers you lose over a specific period of time through unsubscribes, hard bounces or undeliverable emails.  Email lists are living communities. Contacts drop in and they drop out. Your list will constantly change, which means you should play an active role in its management.

Is that a typo?

Your first step towards email list hygiene is to correct misspellings or typos. Review your bounce and churn list. You never know when you might see an important contact in the undeliverable list with a typo. We have a client who sent out a very important fundraising list to supporters. After reviewing the hard bounces and unsubscribes, we noticed many of the emails had typos or no longer existed. 

Check your data

How often should you check your list? It depends on how many emails you send out to your groups. If you are sending out monthly newsletters, I recommend taking a look at your email release data every month. This will help you get a handle on your email marketing as a whole and also offer you an opportunity to make corrections and content adaptations as need. Overall, pay close attention to your open, click and delivery numbers. By looking at which links in your messages your contacts click on, you’ll be able to gain insight on what interests your community.

In-active subscribers are an opportunity

If you’ve noticed some of your subscribers haven't opened an email in a couple of months, build a campaign around it. Send out a “we miss you” email or try a survey to identify interests. Be sure to include a strong subject line and incorporate an offer or gift into your email. This may help to energize your inactive community members.

Re-engage your active subscribers

Always check your open rates. When a person signs up to receive your newsletter, they always have a reason. Periodically, make sure you remind people why they signed up in the first place. If you notice your open rate is very low, take a look at your subject lines. Users will get tired of the same old stale content and will unsubscribe quickly if you aren't offering anything new of value. Try something new that is in line with your brand. Personalize your emails (we are conditioned to notice our own names) and try segmenting your lists to offer content that is more focused and appealing to specific audiences.

Are you sending to the right people?

While I’ve primarily been discussing your customer, newsletter or blog subscriber lists, there are other very important contacts you should nurture for your marketing and PR – your media list. A major factor in the art of the media release is sending your release to the right person at the right media outlet. Journalists move around often. Make sure the media contacts you are sending emails to are correct and current. Research the reporters and media outlets likely to be most interested in what you have to say and therefore most likely to cover your story.

Software and technology is changing all the time. We are all becoming more aware of what is happening in our own inbox. I know if I get too many emails that don’t provide value to me from one organization, I’m going to unsubscribe. 

Email marketing is a great way to stay in touch while also driving traffic to your website. Taking the time to practice proper email list hygiene is the first step to help you build a thriving, engaged community.


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