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You often hear marketers speaking in reverent tones about their email lists, discussing the importance of ‘hygiene’ and keeping it ‘healthy’ as if it’s some kind of precious and fragile living organism.
When you think about it, you begin to understand why. Nurturing an email list, from the sign-up of your very first subscriber all the way to a thriving, bountiful source of revenue, is an ongoing process akin to keeping a garden, or raising a child.
Yes, I’ve even heard a marketer refer to his email list as his ‘baby.’
With email marketing still the top channel for ROI, delivering an astonishing $40 for each $1 spent, we all want to know how to successfully manage a healthy and lucrative email list. It’s not simply a matter of adding contacts and forgetting about it—you need to keep your subscribers happy and engaged with highly-relevant and personalized emails, and swiftly drop contacts that aren’t interested in what you’re offering.
In this article, we’ll check out some of the best software available to help you manage and segment your list, and introduce some best practices that you can easily incorporate into your email marketing strategy. But first, let’s find out why we’re doing all this in the first place.
Why is it important to manage your email list?
There’s a lot of potential value in your email list—it’s theoretically populated with people who are interested enough in your brand to learn more, and perhaps one day make a purchase. To maximize this potential, you want to make sure that your emails are reaching the right people, at the right time, and with the right messages.
A messy, disorganized list full of inactive and duplicate contacts is not only a waste of your precious time but can negatively affect your sender reputation. Managing your list to keep subscribers engaged, and trimming those who aren’t, is key to preventing your emails from going straight to the spam folder.
Luckily, there are plenty of smart, user-friendly software options that can automatically manage and segment your lists for you. Let’s have a look at what’s available, what kind of features you can expect, and how they can help you to build and maintain a killer email list.
Choosing the right email marketing software
If you’re reading this, you’re likely already using marketing automation software. If you’re not, then you should be! There’s simply no time or need to be manually attending to repetitive marketing tasks.
This applies to managing your email list too, and most email marketing platforms will offer various features to make this easier and more effective than ever before. Four features to look for include the following:
- Segmentation: Today’s customers expect highly-relevant marketing, and the better you can segment your subscribers, the more personalized your emails will be. Check if your email provider allows you to segment contacts based on a large variety of detailed metrics, from basics such as customers who’ve previously placed orders or opened and clicked on your campaigns, to those that browsed a specific product. Other useful data points that can be used for segmentation include things like age, gender, location, and signup date.
- Contact tags: Contact tags help segmentation by assigning labels to your subscribers based on their activity. This way, you can target customers with relevant offers based on their preferences and behavior, for example, what kind of links they click on, and what kind of products they enjoy browsing.
- Testing: With A/B testing, you can send emails with various subject lines to a small portion of each segment and see which generates the highest open rate. The subject line that generates the highest open rate is then automatically sent to the remainder of the segment, giving your campaign the best chance of success. Check out for 515 best subject lines!
- Automated remailing and reactivation: With an average of only 18% of promotional ecommerce emails opened, giving them a second chance at life is a must. Make sure your provider allows automated remailing for those emails that weren’t opened the first time around, with tweaks to the subject line to make it more noticeable. For customers that haven’t engaged for some time and are seemingly no longer interested in your brand, you should consider customer reactivation campaigns to try to win back their attention.
5 Best practices for email list management
1. Collect email addresses with consent
One of the reasons why email lists are so valuable is that they are populated by subscribers who have made a conscious choice to be there. Opt-in, permission-based marketing is not only more ethical and less intrusive for consumers, but it means that your list is full of interested potential customers who are much more likely to engage with you. Plus, it means that you’ll have no problems with GDPR, the EU regulation that requires consent for all personal information.
You should always be looking to grow your email list with quality subscribers. This is commonly done with sign-up forms and pop-ups on your website, but other tactics including referral marketing and contests are popular too. If possible, ask for mobile numbers as well as an email address—SMS marketing is becoming an increasingly utilized part of ecommerce business’ omnichannel marketing strategy. In fact:
Tempting as it may be, you should never, ever, buy an email list. Blasting out unsolicited emails to random recipients is not only an ineffective and unethical (and sometimes illegal) practice but with most of them going straight into the spam folder, it will quickly destroy your sender reputation. Don’t flush your money and reputation down the toilet—put in the time to grow and nurture your list.
2. Let your audience manage their subscriptions
There can be too much of a good thing, and customers can be turned off by receiving too many promotional messages from you. In fact, this study by eMarketer found that an excess of emails was the number one reason why people unsubscribe from email lists. However, that doesn’t tell the whole story, Many email subscribers unsubscribe due to the volume of irrelevant emails, not the overall number of them.
Rather than tone down the frequency of your messages (you have plenty of important things to say, after all), the best way to address this issue is to let your audience manage their own preferences. This way, your customers can decide exactly which kind of content they’d like to receive, allowing you to create and send with confidence.
Most email marketing automation platforms will give you the option to offer a preference center for your subscribers, so make sure you set one up and display it prominently during your signup process, and on all of the emails that you send.
3. Make unsubscribing easy
While it might seem counterintuitive to offer an easy escape from your email list, it is the right thing to do. Here’s why. If a contact is looking to unsubscribe, they are showing that they aren’t interested. Why risk annoying them, and getting a trip to the spam folder, just to hang onto an unengaged subscriber?
Create a prominent unsubscribe button and make the process as painless as possible. By allowing users to easily unsubscribe, you reduce their need to mark your email as “spam,” which can have long-term inbox deliverability issues.
With your list clear of unengaged subscribers, you can better focus on those who are genuinely interested in what you have to say and enjoy higher conversions as a consequence.
4. Clean your email list
As well as helping unengaged subscribers to easily remove themselves from your list, there are a few other things that you can do to improve your ‘list hygiene.’ Keeping your list clean and healthy is important to avoid sending emails to inactive, invalid, and duplicate email addresses, all of which can increase your bounce rate, harm your sender reputation, and negatively impact your deliverability.
Your email marketing automation platform should offer a list cleaning service, which you should use regularly to make sure that your emails are getting through to the right people, avoid the spam folder, and to protect your brand reputation.
5. Start off on the right foot
First impressions count, so you should make your new subscribers feel welcome with a memorable and rewarding experience. According to Ominsend research, welcome series emails are some of the best performing automations available, showing consistently high open rates and the highest conversion rates of all emails sent.
Using the data you’ve collected from your contact tags and segmentation efforts, you can create a personalized and effective welcome series that makes your new subscribers feel valued while setting their preferences, telling your brand story, and perhaps offering an introductory offer to nudge them towards a first purchase.
This is the moment when your brand has captured your new subscriber’s full attention, so utilize the effectiveness of the welcome series to really make an impression, and turn them into loyal customers for years to come!
Final thoughts on email list management
A lucrative, engaged email list is one of any marketer’s most prized possessions, and while it can take a little time and nurturing care to fully develop one, the results are well worth the effort.
One of the key points to remember is that a good email list is much more about quality, rather than quantity. It’s much better to have a smaller, focused group of well-segmented, interested subscribers that want to hear what you have to say, than a large and disorganized list of inactive and unengaged contacts.
So treat your list like the ‘baby’ that it is—regularly feed it with more subscribers, take it to the list doctor (cleaner) for preventative care, and keep it happy and entertained with relevant and personalized content. With a little love and the passing of time, you’ll see it grow into a healthy and thriving source of revenue for your business!