Have you worked extra hard to build a robust mailing list from scratch and can now boast an impressive database of high-quality contacts? Well done, congrats! Now, what's next?

According to a report by Marketing Sherpas, B2B email list data decays at 2.1% per month; that equates to an annualized rate of 22.5% decay per year.

I means that unless you work just as hard to reduce subscriber churn as you do to acquire those subscribers, you’re going to be losing roughly a quarter of your subscribers every year.

To ensure the effectiveness of your mailing list, you need to manage it. Lucky for you, NetHunt knows all about it.

What Is Email List Management?

Email list management is the process of organising all the contacts your business has accumulated through to its email list building activities. The critical tasks of email list management include ensuring the contacts’ email addresses are valid and that all subscribers are engaged. While the end goal here is to maintain a healthy mailing list, which is a crucial factor of successful and effective email marketing.

The attributes of a healthy email list:

  • Low bounce rate.
  • High open rate.
  • High click-through rate.
  • The overall number of subscribers grows consistently.

All of these attributes are interlinked with each other, which means an improvement of one can fix the rest of them. At the same time, still all of them need to be actively attended to. The competition in email marketing is high: unless you work on improving your metrics, they’ll keep decreasing.

Best Email List Management Practices

If you want to minimise the email list churn and make sure your list remains healthy and engaged, you need to work on keeping it such. NetHunt has collected the top-5 best email list management practices for you to include in your email marketing strategy.

Practice #1: Give Your New Subscribers a Warm Welcome

I bet you’re happy to welcome a new member of your mailing list! In fact, you must be over the moon - the growth of your mailing list is a clear indicator of business success, your target audience has a genuine interest in your company. Why not share your excitement with the new subscriber?

The average open rate for welcome emails is 82%.
[GetResponse]

A welcome email is the first piece of content that reaches your new subscriber’s inbox. It’s the first step on the way to building a robust relationship between you and your freshly acquired subscriber. Use it as an opportunity to present yourself in the best light, and settle down the important questions.

🔥 NetHunt Pro Tip: Set up your welcome email in a form of a welcoming drip campaign.

Some of the key things to include in your welcome email:

  • Greet the subscriber by name.
  • Offer a welcome gift.
  • Ask them to whitelist your company’s email address.
  • Ask them to follow you on social media.
  • Ask how you can help them.
  • Give them a chance to adjust their subscription preferences.

Practice #2: Let the Subscribers Be in Control of Their Subscription

To an extent, all your mailing list contacts have already done you a favour by sharing their personal information with you. So it’s only fair that you play by their rules. Allowing your email recipients to be in control of what and when they receive from you is beneficial for all sides. Your subscribers can keep their inbox more organised and only be sent the stuff they care about, while you get a chance to hyper-target your campaign for better conversion.

Unsubscribe reasons
Source: Marketing Sherpa

According to the study done by Marketing Sherpa, the top reason (26%) why people unsubscribe from a mailing list is because they get too many emails in general, with 19% of subscribers having a problem with companies bombarding in particular. At the same time. the report conducted by Chadwick Martin Bailey shows that the figure is even higher than that:

69% of US email users unsubscribe from a business or nonprofit email because the organization sends too many emails.

This, however, is easy to avoid. All you need to do is provide your subscribers with a chance to manage their own subscription, including the frequency of emails, the content they get sent, and the times when they receive it.

The best ways to ensure user preferences are accounted for are:

1. Enable the subscription preference centre.
It’s best to create a subscription preference centre page so that your subscribers could be in control of what and when goes into their inboxes.

Some of the frequency controls that you can include in your subscriber preference centre are:

  • Email Timing (weekly, bi-weekly, monthly) - can be varied to a significant degree and customized as you see fit.
  • Receiving emails on specific days.
  • Option to pause and unsubscribe for a set amount of time.

    You can go as far as let people self-segment themselves by ticking off the types of content they are most interested in receiving from you.

🔥 NetHunt Pro Tip: Describe different types of emails that your subscribers can receive as a part of your email marketing campaign so that they have a clear understanding of what they opt-in for and, therefore only tick things off if they’re genuinely interested in them.

Email preference options by Barnes&Noble
Email preference options by Barnes&Noble

2. Encourage subscribers to select their preference at the signup.
The earlier you collect your subscribers’ preferences, the better. Knowing what they expect from their subscription early on, allows you to segment them better and provide them with tailored content. Therefore, consider adding a subscription preference centre right to the signup form. It might help both you and your subscribers to set expectations and segment effectively.

Spotify notification settings
Spotify notification settings

3. Add a subscription preference centre link to every email.
Subscribers’ preferences can change over time, so it’s essential you account for that. Often, if settings are too difficult to access, your subscribers might simply unsubscribe from your mailing list instead (unlike the subscription preference centre button, it’s mandatory to include the opt-out button into every email).

To avoid it, make sure you put a noticeable link into every email you send. Perhaps, including it into the header or footer of your emails is a good idea. Besides, you can easily manage your email template to accommodate it.

Update preferences example
Source: Campaign Monitor

4. Give subscribers a chance to update their personal data.

On average, 15-25% of all valid email addresses are discarded each year as people move to a different ISP, change jobs, or otherwise acquire a new address.[Campaign Monitor]

If you don’t want to increase your bounce rate because of all the inactive addresses you send out your campaigns to, you need to ensure that you allow your subscribers to update their email addresses and other bits of information.

Practice #3: Ensure Mailing List Hygiene (Keep It Clean!)

While it’s extremely flattering to see your mailing list grow by leaps and bounds, you need to remember that you must stick to the quality over quantity approach when it comes to email lists.

10000>100

That’s basic maths knowledge, and I’m not René Descartes to challenge this. What I can do, however, is point out that applied maths is different from pure mathematical science.

In business, most numbers and figures have real people behind them, which you need to consider when doing your calculations. 100 dedicated subscribers that regularly engage with your campaigns are much better than 10000 subscribers who have joined your list years ago and haven’t interacted with any of your emails since.

If you want your email marketing campaigns to bring the anticipated results, you need to ensure your mailing list’s high quality. One way to bump up your list’s value is to keep it hygienic.

The resemblance of email list hygiene and human hygiene is uncanny! The same way you need to scrub and wash your body regularly to get rid of the dead cells’ buildup that causes acne, you need to remove all the dead emails in your database to make your list glow.

Email list cleaning, also known as email list scrubbing, is the process of reviewing your email list to remove bounced email addresses, dispose of unengaged subscribers, and update any email address change requests.

Regular email list clean-ups allow you to overcome a lot of email marketing-related difficulties:

  • Reduces the cost of email marketing. You’re paying your ESP for every single subscriber on that list, so you want to make sure there aren’t any ‘dead’ subscribers exhausting your budget.
  • Increases ROI. This one stems directly from the previous point. Since you don’t waste any money on the subscribers that bounce, you can convert more for less.
  • Helps to avoid hurting your sender reputation. Modern ESPs are brainy - they try their best to spot spammers and bin them before they harm the email client users. If your emails get very few opens or - what’s worse - frequently get marked as spam, you’re at the risk of getting black-listed. Email list scrubbing helps to remove the addresses of those contacts who no longer want to receive your campaigns and keep only those who do. Therefore, you can enjoy higher open rates and click-through rates, as well as lower bounce rates and spam complaints.
  • Allows for better reporting. If your mailing list is full of unengaged subscribers, their inactivity skews your stats, so it’s difficult to tell which campaigns are effective and which aren’t. Removing those subscribers will help you to get a clearer picture of your email marketing performance.

So far, so good! The question is, how often is the mystical ‘regularly’ that allows you to leverage the benefits of email list scrubbing?
I’d recommend you to scrub your email list every time you encounter one or more of the warning signs:

  • Reduced open rate
  • Reduced click-through rate
  • More unsubscribes
  • More spam complaints

As soon as you see any of those red flags (or the final boss of all the red flags - decrease in conversions), you should give your mailing list a good scrub.

In the process of email list scrubbing, you want to take care of the following:

  • Remove duplicate addresses.
  • Remove addresses with typos.
  • Fix addresses with typos.
  • Update invalid addresses.
  • Remove invalid addresses.
  • Delete emails from hard or soft bounces.

Practice #4: Attend to Unengaged Subscribers

As you clean up your list, you’ll see that not all subscribers are equally engaged with your email campaigns. While some subscribers regularly interact with your business, others may show little to no interest in communicating with you. The next step you need to take when managing your mailing list is to identify those contacts.

From there, it can go in two directions: you either cut those subscribers off, or you try to save your mailing list and perform some CPR on your disengaged contacts. To do that, you need to figure out what’s causing the problem in the first place. Once you know what led to a decrease in engagement, you can fix it.

The most common ‘causes of death’ fall into one of the following four categories:

  • Silence: You failed to satisfy your subscribers’ hunger for your content.
  • All sell, no value: All the emails from you were promotional, and didn’t have much value for the subscribers.
  • Missing the mark: Your content didn’t resonate with your audience.
  • Overwhelm: Your subscribers get too many messages, and yours failed to stand out from the rest of the emails in their inbox.

Don’t be fooled by the straightforwardness of these categories. It’s your last chance for redemption, so you can’t just assume what is the cause of your subscribers’ disengagement. Don’t give them yet another reason to be annoyed at you. You can only win them back if you know what’s bugging them and fix the problem successfully.  

With this in mind, the next steps you want to take to re-engage your subscribers are:

  1. Find out the reason why your subscribers stopped engaging with you and your content.
    A great way to do this is to ask them point-blank. Send out a feedback questionnaire - this will not just help you get first-hand data about your subscribers’ disinterest in your email marketing campaigns, but will also create a conversion that says ‘We value your onion’. This can strengthen your bond with the subscribers and help you retain them.
  2. Remind your subscribers why they joined your mailing list in the first place.
    With an endless stream of different emails, it can be easy to get lost and forget why you subscribed to a business’ mailing list. Fix it by reinforcing the overarching goals and values that convinced them to originally subscribe to your content.
  3. Offer your disengaged subscribers a reason to come back. On top of everything else, you should incentivise your subscribers to engage with your emails. Give them a fresh reason to interact with your campaigns by luring them back in with a special offer.

If everything else fails, remove disengaged subscribers from your list. Goodbyes are hard, I know, but sometimes they’re necessary to move forward.

🔥 NetHunt Pro Tip: Before you delete an address from your database, make sure you send your subscriber one last goodbye. It’s important to notify them they’re getting unsubscribed from your mailing list.

Notification email example
Notification email example

Practice #5: Ensure the Subscribers Always Have an Option to Unsubscribe

Break-ups suck, especially if you’re the one that gets dumped. But they also make you stronger (post-breakup glow up anyone?). The same applies to your email list.

Sometimes it’s better to part ways with the subscribers. As soon as they stop being interested in your content (even after your numerous attempts to re-engage), they turn into a burden for your mailing list. Besides, you’re obligated to ensure your subscribers can unsubscribe from your email campaigns at any given time.

No, really! It’s not just a moral obligation, it’s an actual law. Failing to include an unsubscribe button into your emails can lead to massive fines and even more serious legal action.

🔥 NetHunt Pro Tip: Don’t fret over the subscribers who ditch you. If they left, they weren’t engaged in the first place.

Email list management is a continuous process of bettering one of your business’ most important assets - information. Keep it tidy and don’t forget to actively nurture your subscribers to make them stick with you for longer.

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