Is It Time to Clean Your Email List?

You write good emails. You write really good emails.

And yet, you can’t seem to catch a break. Your brilliantly crafted subject lines are just landing with a thud, and your open rate seems to be getting lower and lower by the month. What’s worse is your click-through rate and bounces seem to be feeling the pain, too.

What’s a smart direct response marketer to do? Well, whether you want to admit it or not, the answer is obvious.

You need to scrub your email list.

But when do you know you need to clean your email list? And how do you determine who needs to go? Are there any tips that help you achieve a nice, clean email list?

Which Lists Should You Clean?

There are two primary types of email lists that can use a good scrub and polish.

  1. An email list you are actively using. These lists build key relationships with your customers, drive important leads, provide necessary data to your team, and require the occasional maintenance.
  2. An old email list you are preparing to use. If an email list has been sitting unused for a while, there’s a good chance it needs a refresh before you start using it again. 

Signs It’s Time to Clean Your Email List

It’s good practice to clean your email list every few months, but you may run into more obvious signs that your email list needs scrubbing.

To start, your metrics may have taken a slide in the last couple months. Over time, people lose interest, change their emails, or simply never click. And when your click-through rates, bounces, or open rates start to take a hit, you should take the hint.

Another sign that your email list needs a scrubbing is hiding in your spam and unsubscribe data. When people are unsubscribing from your list, or worse, marking your emails as spam, you want to make sure you get them off your email list. Spam complaints, in particular, can have an adverse impact on your whole domain if you don’t keep up with them.

Don’t Be Too Precious

We know you hate to see your email list get shorter, and we don’t blame you! Especially when you’ve spent time and money to build a list, it can be tempting to hold off on email scrubbing for “just a little longer,” hoping things will turn around.

But don’t be too precious.

Email scrubbing is a way of getting the best possible list you can. Of course, you want to continue building your list until it reaches whatever goals your company has for it. But a list with 1,000 email addresses and an open rate of 2% has just as many people opening emails as a list with 500 email addresses and an open rate of 4%. Plus, the smaller list may be cheaper to manage, too.

Is It the List? Or the Emails?

When you’re cleaning your lists, you want to look for the signs of sustained decline in your numbers—not just one-offs. That’s why it’s not wise to clean your list every day or every week. You need to be able to spot patterns, and you just can’t see the forest when you’re staring at tree after tree after tree.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t look at the performance of each email. Quite the opposite. You need to know exactly how your emails perform on a daily or weekly basis, so you can craft the best messaging and the best subject lines possible, to convert your email list to readers, site visitors, and hopefully, customers.

A regular habit of email scrubbing helps you trim the fat and ensure your data is as accurate as possible for your own internal metrics. How can you really assess the success or failure of a particular email or a particular campaign if you have a bunch of people on that list who don’t read their emails or who are just plain tired of yours? They aren’t helpful for your data, and if we’re being honest here, they aren’t all too helpful for your company, either.

Clean Early & Clean Often

Regularly cleaning your email list brings a lot of the same benefits as regularly cleaning your kitchen. A cleaned kitchen means your stove and silverware stay nice, shiny, and functional for a lot longer. Similarly, regularly cleaning your email list is the best path to ensuring your open rates and CTRs are in good shape.

So, go on a cleaning spree! We bet it’s long overdue.

Thinking outside the box can go a long way in your direct response marketing—and that’s exactly our approach. Learn more about Our Story here.

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