If someone believe your email fits in this picture, you probably DO NOT want them on your list.  Your subscriber count is not that important!

If someone believe your email fits in this picture, you probably DO NOT want them on your list. Your subscriber count is not that important!

Hey there Rainmaker, we’re going to talk about one of those things that I’m not that great at personally, but that’s immensely valuable to do — and so I’m reminding myself as much as I’m reminding you…

Let’s talk email list hygiene.

How un-sexy does that sound?

I know!

But hopefully once I’ve shared a few thoughts on it, you’ll at least find it to be mildly interesting…

I’ve seen some pretty suspect, or at the very least lazy, email practices…

Back in the good ol’ days (snicker) of direct mail, it cost a lot of money to be sloppy with maintaining your mailing list.

When every piece of mail you send out costs you $0.50 or $1.00 to send, you were careful.

So you’d pay attention to those attributes of who was most likely to respond.

And, for instance, you’d only send mail to someone who has responded to something in the last 24 months.

Once they’d been non-responsive long enough, you’d basically write them off.

This is one of those things where the economics of the internet changed everything — for both better and worse.

When email marketing became a thing, the incremental cost of keeping someone on your list and mailing to them forever basically disappeared. Sure, it may cost a little bit more to have a list of 100,000 vs. 50,000. But not enough that you had to be that careful with who stayed and who went.

And so some bad, bad habits sprung up around email marketing.

Everyone became obsessed not with quality of the list… But quantity.

The bigger, the better.

It didn’t matter that a 100,000-person list responding at 0.5% gets the same revenue as a 50,000-person list responding at 1.0%. The cost difference was small enough that email marketers didn’t care.

Then, the deluge…

What this led to was a proliferation of email in our inboxes.

Now it’s rare for someone to get less than a few dozen emails a day. Sometimes, hundreds. Even, thousands.

Because email’s so dang cheap, we marketers send a lot of it.

The clutter stacks up.

Readers disengage.

Opens, clicks, and other metrics drop.

Email becomes less effective.

And everyone suffers. Because email service providers like Gmail and others do things to mitigate the poor email engagement.

Emails start getting auto-sorted into other folders, including junk mail.

Which only damages your reputation with everybody more.

It’s a nasty downward spiral.

The alternative…

The best alternative to this (while still remaining in email) is to keep very high engagement metrics on your emails.

Part of this is due to the quality of communications you send.

If people are looking forward to getting your messages, they’re more likely to open them, and click any links inside.

This helps. It helps you directly, of course. But it also helps you indirectly.

If, over time and across an aggregate of accounts, your emails get more engagement, email service providers will treat your emails better. They’ll show up as priority messages in the inbox. They won’t get filtered to junk mail. You’ll have less missed delivery.

This all helps. And is helped by better-quality messaging.

When you deliver both marketing and content that the recipient perceives as valuable, you’ll get a better email reputation.

But, it’s about more than that!

Even if your content is awesome, there will be people for whom it is not a good fit.

Or who, for whatever reason, disengage.

As long as you continue to send emails to these disengaged subscribers and customers, you’ll actually be eroding your email reputation.

The email service providers will notice that your emails aren’t being opened, or clicked.

It will negatively impact your ability to get messages delivered.

It may lead to more emails getting prioritized lower in the inbox, for services like Gmail that attempt to help with email sorting.

It may lead your emails to even be auto-routed to junk, even when the person subscribed to it.

For this reason, you must practice good email list hygiene — even if it means you’re sending to a smaller list!

Here’s when to remove someone from your email list…

When someone has neither opened nor clicked emails from you for the last six months, they might be worth removing from your list. Or maybe shorter — 90 days? Or longer — 12 months?

Depending on your frequency of communications, you can adapt this to you.

The idea though is that you want to take your most disengaged readers, and stop sending them messages.

Most email programs that offer sufficient tracking will let you do this. I know Aweber lets me create a subscriber segment based on metrics like this. Then I can either send them an email asking them to unsubscribe… Or I can manually unsubscribe them.

For example, right now a little less than 10% of my list was added at least 45 days ago, but hasn’t opened an email this year.

I can send them a note, and let them know I’m unsubscribing them. But that they can re-subscribe by going to my website. This is a very safe way to do this.

Sure, this risks making one or two people unhappy because they’re going to have to resubscribe.

But what happens is suddenly there’s an increase in my email open percentages. An increase in click through percentages. An increase in engagement.

My reputation gets better with the email service providers.

Which only makes it more likely that they’re going to give my emails favorable treatment in their users’ inboxes.

It means I’m far less likely to end up in trouble in terms of emailing. And frankly, because of that favorable treatment it can actually increase revenue.

So, Rainmaker, because you’re reading this you probably won’t see my emails telling you that you’re being removed from my email list.

If you somehow get wrapped up in this hygiene unintentionally (image blocking preventing open recognition, no clicks even though you read, etc.), I apologize in advance. You can always resubscribe if suddenly you’re missing me.

But you should also apply this to your own email marketing processes. Maybe quarterly, maybe more often, consider removing inactive subscribers from your list.

It’s a very valuable practice.

And in terms of saving face in a continually more cluttered email environment, it could just be a breakthrough.

Yours for bigger breakthroughs,

Roy Furr

Your Don’t-Want-To-Overstay-My-Welcome Rainmaker, Breakthrough Marketing Secrets