Email marketing, the digital marketing strategy with the highest ROI, is a great fit for most companies who do business online.
But a good email marketing strategy depends on having a strong, loyal list. And, in order to get the kind of healthy, evergreen list you need for top results, you need to focus on email list management best practices.
What is Email List Management?
Email list management encompasses numerous action items you want to master if you’re going to grow a loyal list of subscribers. Think of list management as a means to grow, segment, and maintain your email list and its health. The process includes everything from managing bounced emails to importing an email database from Excel. Your goal is to slowly grow your subscriber base so you can turn browsers into shoppers and prospects into customers. And that takes time.
However, there are things you can do to keep your list growing in a healthy way. Before we dive in to how to make a healthy list, let’s determine what it means for a list to be healthy.
What makes a healthy list?
There are a lot of elements that go into developing a healthy email list but the two most important are engagement and churn.
Engagement is critical for ensuring your email campaign earns the kind of results you’re looking for. If no one opens your email, then certainly no one’s reading it either, which means your opportunity could be wasted. Sending emails only to have them end up in spam folders or go to non-existent addresses can also negatively impact your sender reputation. This hurts the reputation of your IP, which, in turn, lowers your deliverability even further.
Email churn refers to the number of people leaving your list through unsubscribing, who report you as spam, whose addresses results in a hard bounce, or who just don’t open your emails. They’re either not engaging or they’ve actively disengaged with your emails. The average churn rate is 83%, which really means that 17% of your emails are not making it into your target audience’s inboxes.
While some churn is inevitable, using email list best practices will help rejuvenate your list and slow the churn to a manageable rate.
Now that you understand what makes a nice, healthy list, you’ll need to keep it that way. Following these six best practices will keep you and your readers happy with the content you’re sending:
1. Make new subscribers feel welcome
Maintaining your list begins at your first contact with a subscriber, when their experience with your brand is fresh in their mind and their excitement about your company is at an all-time high. This is best accomplished by sending an automated welcome email or series of emails triggered by their opt-in.
The first welcome email should thank them for joining your list and ask them to “whitelist” your email in their address book to keep you out of the spam folder. Personalize the welcome series as much as possible and don’t forget to direct your newest fans toward your best content to make them feel welcome and invested in your brand. The other thing the initial email needs to do is let your subscriber know how you’re going to contact them in the future: How many emails they’ll receive, what kind of content to expect, and anything else that could be important. Similarly, make it clear how your subscribers can contact you, adjust their preferences, or unsubscribe.
2. Let subscribers choose the frequency
Linkeo Ltd did some research and discovered that the top reason people unsubscribe from email lists is due to receiving a surplus of emails. When you make it easy for your subscribers to choose their own frequency, you’ll take the guesswork out of your segmenting and you can feel good about your marketing strategy.
Allowing subscribers to fine-tune the frequency of emails and customize the type of content you send them will help keep them engaged and subscribed. Giving them the option to unsubscribe from emails they don’t want while staying connected to the content they do value is a great way to show your contacts how much you value your relationship with them. Remember, your subscribers invite you into their inboxes because they believe doing so will add value to their lives.
3. Keep your list clean
List hygiene is a buzzword in email marketing circles—and with good reason. Keeping your list clean is important to the success of your marketing efforts, and yet most businesses struggle with this aspect of list management.
For best results, you should consider doing a list cleaning a few times per year or when you notice a spike in bounce rates, whichever comes first. In essence, you’ll need to remove or update invalid email addresses, remove duplicates and delete emails from hard or soft bounces. Don’t worry if you have a lot of invalid email addresses—people move, change jobs, and get new addresses all the time, often forgetting to update their opt-ins. Removing these addresses from your list is important, as the higher your bounce rate is, the more it hurts your sender reputation and the less likely your mail is to get delivered.
4. Re-engage or eliminate old contacts
After you’ve purged your list of all the incorrect, invalid emails, you should be left with a stronger list of contacts. You’ve still got some work to do, though, as some of those contacts are undoubtedly unengaged. An unengaged contact is one who has a valid email address and is still subscribed but doesn’t open or read your emails.
You have two options in dealing with your unengaged subscribers. You can purge their address since they’re not helping your sender reputation or your return-on-investment, or you can try to re-engage them. Re-engagement campaigns are a fantastic way to re-ignite your lagging subscribers’ interest in your product or service, so they are worth a try before deleting a list member.
Only send re-engagement emails to those list members who haven’t opened or clicked during the prior 6 months to a year. Send them a targeted email, perhaps with updated benefits of subscribing or with a small freebie, and ask them to re-subscribe.
If they do, great! A subscriber saved is a subscriber earned. But if they don’t, you can feel good about removing them from your list, knowing you’ll ultimately see better results from a more engaged list, even when it hurts to say goodbye to those hard-earned subscribers.
5. Make unsubscribing easy
It seems wrong to make unsubscribing easy when the goal is to keep people on your list, but there’s no point in hiding it. If one of your contacts wants to unsubscribe, they’re going to—one way or another. If they can’t easily scan your email and see how they can unsubscribe, they’ll mark you as spam instead.
Having a prominent unsubscribe button keeps you on the right side of legislation and keeps users happy, even if they aren’t a good fit for your message. Don’t fret over using this technique. If users unsubscribe, they weren’t engaged, anyway. With unengaged users off the list, you can concentrate on delivering targeted, relevant content to the people who are excited to hear from you—and that’s the stuff that email marketing’s high ROI is made of.
6. Never buy lists
This should go without saying by now, but it’s too important not to include. First of all, it’s illegal. You could face legal backlash from violating the law and end up paying hefty fines for each email sent improperly.
Secondly, most purchased or rented email lists are poor quality. They aren’t targeted for your brand, niche, or industry, so you won’t get full value from interaction with them. They also consist of spam traps, once-valid email addresses that will automatically get your IP blacklisted for sending to them.
A strong email list can increase your email marketing ROI and position your business for digital success. But, no matter how much you want to have a huge list, remember quality is determined by results—not quantity. Keeping your list chock-full of loyal, engaged subscribers is the right tactic for email marketing success. If you feel like you need expert help, be sure to engage with the team at Linkeo Ltd today!