Building and Maintaining Your Email List

To get the best possible return on any email marketing you do, you have to have a system in place for managing your email list. You don't want such a poor deliverability rating that your email is declared spam by the email giants. And you don't want to waste your money on email campaigns that yield poor returns. So what must you do to have the most efficient email list?

managing your email list

When you hear about the topic "email list management," what is being referenced is the practice of managing your email contacts using lists and segments, as well as maintaining your database by removing bad records. This management keeps your contacts organized based on what content they requested, what they've interacted with in the past, and their declared interests.

The maintenance piece is about ensuring your deliverability stays good, and you aren't spending money on emails that aren’t going anywhere.

Most content management systems (CMS) or marketing automation platforms have subscription management functionality built in. You just need to enable it.

A healthy list has the lowest possible churn rate (with churn referring to the number of people leaving your list). There will always be some churn. People may unsubscribe, report you as spam, an address may result in a hard bounce, or they may just not open your emails. They are not engaged, or they've actively disengaged. Sometimes, this is unavoidable. But keeping your list healthy means you can keep the churn at manageable levels.

Best Practices to Maintain Email List Health

1. Reach out to and welcome new subscribers.

Thank them for opting in. Tell them what to expect in terms of email frequency. Talk to them about what kind of content to expect in your emails. Be sure they know where to find the unsubscribe option. Sometimes just knowing this convinces people to stick around, as it shows that you care.

2. Let your subscribers fine-tune the frequency of emails and customize the content they receive.

This encourages engagement. The ability to unsubscribe from emails they aren't interested in while staying connected to the content they value shows them you value their relationship with you. Remember, they've invited you into their inboxes because they believe you will add value to their lives.

3. Keep your list clean.

Clean up your list twice a year or if you see a spike in bounce rates. Remove duplicate addresses, fix addresses with typos if you can, and remove these addresses where you can't fix the typo. Try to update invalid addresses and remove them if you can't update them accurately. Delete addresses that produced a hard or soft bounce. This maintains your sender reputation, and you save money not emailing the disengaged.

You can remove inactive contacts or try again to re-engage with them. After the cleanup described above, you will still have unengaged users. These people have valid addresses, are subscribed, and don't open or read your emails.

If you decide to try one more time to reengage, send emails to those on your list who haven't opened or clicked in the past six months to a year. Send a targeted email describing updated benefits of being an engaged list member, or send a freebie and ask them to re-subscribe.

If they do, you have a new subscriber. If they don't, you'll feel okay removing them because you know you'll get better results from a more engaged list.

4. Make unsubscribing easy by having a prominent unsubscribe button.

This way, you comply with CAN-SPAM, the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act of 2003, which was set up to protect consumers from unsolicited emails. Nothing to fret about if they unsubscribe; they weren't engaged anyway.

Now you can concentrate on delivering targeted, relevant content to people who want to hear from you. This creates the high ROI email marketing should be delivering for you.

5. Never buy lists.

Not only is it illegal, but it can also get you a hefty fine. There are also poor-quality lists that can include spam traps. Spam traps are once-valid addresses that get your IP automatically blacklisted for sending to them.

6. Look into people-centric email marketing tools

Traditional email providers are list-centric. Individuals exist on multiple lists. So, sending to multiple lists means some people get multiple copies, and you get charged for each email.

A people-centric email marketing tool allows you to attach tags to people, but each individual only exists once. This means you can send the right message to the right person at the right time. You get a targeted and relevant conversation.

You can further segment your list for targeted mailings by using tags and events to identify specific people so they get only the messages that are most appropriate for them. A tag is a piece of data used to identify the person's membership on a particular list. An event is like a tag but includes a date and applies when someone takes a defined action.

For example, tags within your email list may be generated when a product was purchased, when content was downloaded, when geolocation was enabled, through attendance at an event, participation in a webinar, or when an email was clicked.

Tagging your email list members helps you avoid spamming your subscribers by knowing what content they're interested in and allows you to segment them according to their behavior.

Suppose you can use tags and events. In that case, you gain a competitive advantage since many companies have not automated their email lists and can't target specific dates and actions with a few clicks.

Start with these suggestions and guidelines, and before you know it, you'll see better ROI for your email marketing efforts and a more engaged group of subscribers. And that's better for everyone!

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Shelley's been in Seattle practically since the dawn of time. She enjoys having fun (seriously) with research and writing. In her off hours she reads and walks, although not at the same time -- because tripping over sidewalks is embarrassing.

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