Three Steps to a Healthier Email Marketing List

Person sitting with their laptop and looking at their email

With an increase in opportunity—and risk—there’s never been a more important time to concentrate on email marketing list health.

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Fact: The health of your email list matters more than the number of subscribers.

As marketers constantly seeking to grow our lists, that might sound antithetical to our goals and tactics.

But there’s never been a more important time to concentrate on email marketing list health.

Consider the advantages of having a healthy email list: more of the right people receiving, opening and engaging with your campaigns.

Contrast that against the realities of an unhealthy email list: high spam complaints, low engagement, brand distrust, and more often than you’d suspect, getting blacklisted from industry tools.

What Makes an Email Marketing List Healthy?

The most common metrics in email marketing are the basics like open and click rates, which are easy to calculate. But those are campaign-specific.

Email list health, on the other hand, is bigger than the performance of a campaign. There’s no straightforward way to show it as a percentage or letter grade. But we know what to look for.

Healthy email lists are:

  • Built on trust
  • Highly relevant
  • Well-maintained
  • Not determined by size

How to Improve the Health of Your Email Marketing Lists

Healthy email lists don’t happen by accident. They require patience, accountability, and transparency.

Think of the following three steps as a way of maintaining your marketing infrastructure.

Step 1: Make sure you’re building on solid ground.

Take an honest assessment of your list(s). How did the first email address get there? Did your brand buy, borrow, or rent any part of this list? Was it originally imported from another platform or campaign intended for something different? Are the webforms feeding this list out of compliance?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, it might be time to rebuild. There are a couple of ways you can do this, and the right choice depends on what you’re trying to fix.

If you inherited a particularly bad email list, or worse, discovered that you shouldn’t have been contacting those users in the first place, your best option may be to delete the list and start over at zero (ouch, I know).

But if your list was built on trust and clear expectations from the beginning, and the problem is a growing attrition rate, there’s a better option: a re-engagement campaign.

A re-engagement (or re-verification) campaign may still feel like starting over, but you’ll salvage some of your existing list.

In either case, it’s important you set up your webforms to feed into a brand new list. This is also a good opportunity to review your brand’s compliance with email regulations like the CAN-SPAM Act, CASL, GDPR, and CCPA to name a few.

Step 2: Step up your segmenting game.

Unless all of your campaigns will be laser-focused on one specific topic, using multiple lists or segments is a surefire way to keep more subscribers interested. The right number of lists and/or segments for your brand depends on how relevant you’re willing to make your campaigns.

Having segmented lists for separate audiences, content, schedules, locations, etc. won’t be much harder to maintain than a single list, and this approach benefits you and your customers alike.

Not only will this make it easier for people to sign up for the content they want, but it gives them the option of unsubscribing to just one type of email content (instead of all your email communications at once), should they ever want to.

Step 3: Make opting out user-friendly.

Our job as marketers is to make people look forward to our emails. If we ever find ourselves trying to prevent uninterested subscribers from opting out, we’ve missed the point of email marketing (and put ourselves at risk of spamming).

Making it difficult for subscribers to opt out doesn’t benefit anyone: not your brand, not the bottom line, and least of all the human on the other side of that email address.

So start by making sure the process of opting out is clear and simple for users.

Next, take a few minutes to test how unsubscribing actually works on your email platform. For example, if a customer is on multiple lists, ensure they have the option to opt out of just the one(s) they choose.

Also consider giving customers the choice to “opt down” instead of opting out. This will take a little extra planning, but you’ll find that some subscribers will happily stay on the list if they can receive your emails less frequently.

Not Every Unsubscribe is a Crisis

It’s a fact of marketing: No matter how responsible we are, no matter how impactful our message is, some amount of list attrition is inevitable.

The best we can do is make opting out simple, give customers a chance to tell us why they’re leaving, and try to build some trust equity in the process. Remember, some will opt in again down the road.

Details Matter, So Does Perspective

Here’s my advice for email marketing—and really any marketing tactic: Be honest and be awesome.

Make it clear what people are signing up for, and send them campaigns they’ll want to open. In other words, Ring True.

DKY has extensive email marketing experience. Let us help your brand integrate this with your overall marketing plan, and get it right the first time.

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