5 Valuable Tactics For Cleaning And Refreshing Your Email List


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Running an effective marketing campaign is always a challenge. Whatever it is you’re trying to sell, whether it’s IPaaS tools or a video collaboration software , or even if you’re selling handmade crafts as a side hustle, you need to know how you’re going to reach your intended customers, and how you’re going to make the right impression on them.

There are lots of ways through which you can do this. Obviously, we all understand the importance of search engine optimization, and the same also goes for social media analytics. Email marketing, too, is a hugely important tool. Done correctly, it can be a very valuable weapon in your marketing arsenal.

Perhaps you’ve been using email marketing for some time already – in which case, you may already have built up a list of email subscribers. Email lists are great as they allow you to provide customers with information and offers that are relevant to them, while also (hopefully) ensuring that they keep coming back to you, time and time again.

However, you should make the effort to clean and refresh your email list on a regular basis. We’ll get into more detail about this subsequently, but suffice it to say for now that there’s not much point sending emails to people who aren’t likely to interact with them. You need to be sure that the people on your email list are reading what you’re sending them.

In particular, you need to ensure as best you can that your email CTR (click-through rate) is as efficient as possible. Otherwise, you’re likely to be wasting your own time and energy – and no doubt you have plenty of other things on your plate as well.

In this post, we’ll discuss why you should keep your email list clean and well-maintained, and some of the things that might happen if you don’t. We’ll also list five of the best tactics for cleaning and refreshing your email list. Let’s get started.


Why you should clean up your email list

Emails are an important way of generating sales engagement. But if you want to make a success of email marketing, you’ve got to understand the importance of basic email list hygiene. There’s no point bombarding people with emails if they aren’t genuinely interested in them: you need to be sure that you’re targeting the right customers.

A well-maintained email subscribers list is worth the effort. It’s likely to boost your overall engagement rates substantially, as your emails will be targeted more precisely. This ensures that you focus your attention on those subscribers who have a real interest in whatever products or services you’re offering.

This means that you can create email content that’s better tailored to their needs and interests. There’s little point in racking up a huge list of subscribers if it’s full of people who aren’t reading the material you’re sending out to them. 

It’s also worth remembering that email lists are always depreciating over time. There are a number of reasons why this might happen: people might change their email addresses as they move between employers, for example. You need to keep on top of this, so don’t leave it too long to prune your email list – maybe every six months, and no longer than a year.


What happens if you don’t clean your email list?

There are still businesses which don’t bother cleaning up their email subscriber list. Some still assume that it’s no big deal if emails are being sent out to people who don’t read them, and that it can’t do any damage. In fact, this isn’t the case.

Think about your emails in much the same way as you would an outbound call. You no doubt already appreciate that customers don’t like being cold-called by people trying to sell them things they don’t really want, and so outbound calls should be carefully targeted. The same principle applies to emails as well: your emails need to be targeted at people who are genuinely interested in what might be in them.

For another thing, high email bounce rates and large numbers of spam complaints can hurt your business’s reputation in the eyes of consumers. You may also be penalized by email providers if people aren’t opening the emails you’re sending to them. What this means is that your emails may simply be redirected to spam folders, where even fewer will see them.

This way, even the people who want to read your emails might not get them – and this can ultimately hurt your all-important bottom line. This is an important part of both the B2C and B2B customer experience, which is why it’s so important to maintain your email list and avoid being subject to these penalties.


5 top tactics for cleaning and refreshing your email list

So, now that we’ve clarified why cleaning your email list matters so much, we also need to discuss how you might go about doing it. There are lots of ways you can approach this, but we reckon the following five suggestions should provide you with some very good places to start. Let’s take a closer look.

1. Send re-engagement emails

If your emails are receiving fairly low engagement, you shouldn’t assume that this is necessarily because your recipients don’t like your products and services. Instead, it might just be that they need a little incentive to get them to re-engage again.

Before you start lopping unengaged subscribers off your email list, you should try sending them a re-engagement email. You might be able to chivvy them into engaging with your emails with the help of a little offer: perhaps exclusive content, a discount, a free trial or gift, or some other unique perk.

Incentives such as these can do a lot to boost click-through rates, giving your subscribers the encouragement they need to go ahead and make a purchase. They might sound like a relatively minor thing, but they can make a big difference. What’s more, they generate lasting goodwill, and leave customers with a more positive impression of your business.

Alternatively, you could send out a feedback survey to these customers, asking them what they’d like to see more (and less) of in the future. Don’t forget, your customers are probably busy people, and they no doubt have plenty of other things to be getting on with. They also probably get quite a lot of emails, and this can get tiresome after a while.

Whatever you choose to include in any re-engagement email, make sure that it’s compelling and relevant – a snappy subject line wouldn’t hurt, either. Nor would a professional email ending. You might also remind users that they can engage with you on other platforms (such as social media), just in case it’s more convenient for them to reach you there.


2. Understand your target audience

Emails are great tools for sales, and to maximize its advantages, it helps a great deal to know who you’re sending it to and why. Don’t just think about what you need from them – think about what they need from you. Without a thorough understanding of your target audience, there’s a danger you’ll end up bombarding the wrong people with the wrong email content.

If, say, you’re extolling the virtues of hybrid clouds to people who aren’t remotely interested, then that’s a sign that you’ve gone badly wrong somewhere along the line. Your emails need to be precisely targeted in order to drive up click-through rates and conversions.

You should also look closely at your inactive email subscribers, as you might be able to glean some valuable clues. They may have signed up for a webinar or a free ebook, for example, and then disengaged after receiving it. You may be able to re-engage these people by sending more content similar to that which first attracted them.

We already mentioned that surveys can be a good way of learning more about your email subscribers and enabling you to deliver more content which is relevant to their interests and needs. A simple poll could give you useful insights into what your subscribers are looking for from your emails.

Alternatively, you could ask them to give their own feedback on your email content and what they think of it – they probably have some really good ideas which you can use. You can then use this to separate the wheat from the chaff, as it were, and determine which subscribers are open to re-engaging and which can be culled from your list.

3. Make unsubscribing easy

Some businesses make it difficult for subscribers to unsubscribe from their email lists, even though most countries stipulate that they must give consumers the option of doing this. They may make the opt-out process unnecessarily convoluted, or perhaps they might bury the unsubscribe link somewhere it’s difficult to find.

Hopefully this goes without saying, but we’ll emphasize it here anyway: you need to make it easy for your customers to unsubscribe from your email list. If you make it confusing for them, this is likely to create a lot of ill will, and it’ll do your business substantial damage in the eyes of consumers by making it look shifty and untrustworthy.

Also, it’s just not worth keeping people on an email list for the sake of it. As we’ve discussed, an email list full of inactive email addresses, or subscribers who don’t want or don’t read your emails, is just going to translate into a higher bounce rate and lower click-through rate. At worst, it could mean that your emails end up in spam folders.

You’d be surprised how many businesses still don’t seem to understand this, and think it’s a matter of hoovering up as many subscribers as possible. It’s not: it’s a matter of signing up the right subscribers. If people don’t want to be on your lists, let them go: this saves you a job, because it means they remove themselves rather than forcing you to do it instead.


4. Regular cleaning reaps rewards

We mentioned earlier in this post that email lists should be cleaned up on a regular basis; you should leave it no longer than a year between clear-ups. However, how frequently you refresh your email lists is likely to vary depending on the specific nature of your business – some will need to do it more often than others.

Keep a continual watch on your engagement metrics. If you’re sending out emails about project scheduling tools, for instance, then make sure you take a look at how they’re performing after each email is sent out. This will give you a better idea, over a certain period of time, of how your list is performing, and how often it’ll need to be cleaned up.

Once you’ve decided how often to clear up your email lists, don’t forget to revisit the matter every so often. It might be that you need to do it more frequently due to email list depreciation, which we discussed earlier. 

5. Remove inactive subscribers

Your attempts to re-engage inactive subscribers should reap some rewards, but there’ll be some people who simply don’t want to know. That’s fine – it’s their prerogative, of course – but you need to think about removing them from your email lists. Trimming the fat can boost click-through rates and reduce bounce rates, as we’ve noted.

We’ve emphasized the importance of making it easy to unsubscribe from email lists, but even if you do, there will be some people who don’t get around to it (especially if your emails are already going into their spam folder). This just means that you need to take the initiative, and remove unengaged subscribers from your lists.

Removing inactive subscribers should mean better email analytics, reducing the risk of incurring penalties from ISPs and email providers, and thereby improving deliverability. It’s much more efficient to have email lists full of people who want to read your emails rather than acquiring lots of subscribers who don’t.

Don’t be too trigger-happy, of course: you should make an effort to re-engage first. If these efforts come to naught with some people, however, then it’s time to prune them from your list. Try not to feel too guilty about it: if they’re not reading your emails, they’re not clicking through and they’re not buying. Better to concentrate instead on customers who are.


So, to conclude…

We’ve heard a lot about customer relationship management (CRM) in recent years, and it’s something that’s growing in importance all the time. A lot of businesses are using a CRM system as one of their customer analytics tools, particularly, for market segmentation, helping them to develop a better understanding of the different sections of their customer base.

It’s important to understand your email lists as one aspect of customer relationship management. By sending emails to your customers, you’re helping to maintain and strengthen the relationships you have with them. But to do so, you must ensure that your emails are relevant and that they’re reaching the right people.

Refreshing your email list at certain intervals can help you in this regard, reducing the risk that your emails get redirected to spam folders where your customers might miss them altogether. In this way, you should be in a better position to build strong, lasting relationships with loyal and happy customers.

Samuel O'Brien
Sam O’Brien is the Chief Marketing Officer for Affise—a Global SaaS Partner Marketing Solution. He is a growth marketing expert with a product management and design background. Sam has a passion for innovation, growth, and marketing technology.


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