Cleaning and managing your Contact list

Cleaning and managing your list of subscribers is one of the most important ways to increase deliverability, reduce cost, and dramatically enhance the profitability of your email marketing.

When first getting going, you often push for list growth milestones such as your first 10, 100, or 1,000 subscribers. And while these goals feel like major achievements in the beginning (because they are!), they can end up hurting the success of your email campaigns as you continue to grow.

The most profitable emailers around are focused on cutting the size of their list down to their most engaged subscribers.

A focused list of engaged subscribers will beat a simply large list without filters.

If you're noticing that your open rates, click rates, and replies have continued to slip over time, it's a good sign that you could benefit from reducing the number of total people you send to dramatically increase the engagement (and thus, your sender reputation) with each subsequent campaign or broadcast.

See here how we doubled openers and tripled clickers by making an audience size smaller.

This process works best if you've been mailing over a long period of time, as you're more likely to be carrying a 'dead weight' that's hurting your reputation and profits.

Here's a list of why you should keep a close eye on sending quality over quantity:

  • Improved Deliverability: As you focus your sending to your most engaged subscribers, the major mailboxes (Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, etc.) will see that the rate of people opening, clicking, and replying to your email is much higher than before. Increasing these metrics improves your sender reputation which means better placement for future emails with your existing and new subscribers. This means you are getting disproportionate returns from trimming down your list as a reward for being a higher-quality sender.
  • Engagement: Less email to subscribers who no longer care as much about your content means you can get a better and more accurate sense of what hits and doesn't within your more active crowd. This gives you deeper insights into which formats, offers, and language resonate with your audience and will be much easier to notice when the actual percentage (%) swing is larger. Bigger numbers are easier to notice and act on, which means compounding results over time.
  • Costs: When you send fewer emails to unengaged contacts, not only are you a better sender with better results but you won't be paying for those cold subscribers anymore either. Sending an email to your hottest prospect and coldest prospect costs the exact same, so why not focus your resources where it brings the best value for you in your online business?
  • Profits: With improved deliverability and better engagement, you are very likely to generate more revenue than you were before sending to the larger list. Couple that with the reduced overhead cost of sending to a bunch of cold leads and the gap widens even more. As a wise person once said, it's not how much you make... it's how much you keep. Rarely do you get an opportunity to push both needles in the direction you want, but this is one of those amazing opportunities.

Why you shouldn't fear a smaller list

Have you ever subscribed to someone's list, but after a while your needs changed or it just didn't resonate with you like it used to?

If so, you've likely unsubscribed from one or more lists in the past... and this is normal!

It's unrealistic to expect that the needs of every subscriber remain exactly the same as it was the day they signed up, so using engagement as a metric to help you weed out people who are no longer interested but haven't taken the step to unsubscribe manually is good for you, good for them, and great for the success of your online business.

When should you clean up your list?

Now that we've touched on the benefits and value of cleaning up your list let's look at when and how often you should implement this strategy for the best results. Some of the suggestions below will be manual procedures for you, but the bulk of this can be automated inside your Campaign Refinery account.

  • When you import a list: If you're importing a new list or migrating from another provider to Campaign Refinery, it makes sense to run a re-engagement/warm-up campaign to help you weed out people who don't fit the bill anymore to be regularly emailed from you. This will give you a clean slate and start your list on the right foot.
  • Sending frequency: If you're sending many emails regularly (such as a daily newsletter), you'll want to lean on more of our automated cleaning rules to help you keep your audience segments nice and pruned without manual intervention. These rules will make keeping a tidy list automatic, and automatic rules mean they never get missed!
  • Sudden growth: Sometimes, you'll have a spike in growth, which can be very exciting! The most common scenarios for this are running a viral contest or having a surprise hit piece of content that sends a bunch of new subscribers and followers to your content. When you get these spikes, it's good practice to double-check the authenticity of these subscribers to ensure there isn't a rogue form somewhere filled up by a bot. Our built-in cleaning system does a great job of finding undeliverable, spam trap, and bot accounts before you ever send your first message, but no system is fool-proof, so always give it a sanity check if something doesn't seem quite right or isn't expected.

How to clean your list

We've covered the why and when for cleaning your list. Now, let's look at the nitty-gritty of how.

First and foremost, if this is a new list, we highly encourage you to run a re-engagement campaign to get some data into your Campaign Refinery account who has either opened or clicked an email over time.

Audience Segment & Filter

After your account has some historical data, you can do a contact search by going to Contacts > Search Contacts in the left-hand menu:


Then, you can use the "Engaged:" filter to find audiences of openers, or clickers and then define how many hours/days/months you'd like to see.

One thing that's a bit unique about our criteria in Campaign Refinery is that we allow you to specify any interval that seems important to you instead of making you use whatever we decide is best for you. So this means you could do something more obscure like "Opened in the past 19 days" if you wanted to depend on your email cycle.

We believe in giving you a lot of flexibility in managing your audiences because, at the end of the day, it's your audience.

You can learn more about the different filters at this link.

After picking an engagement window, you can save an audience segment toward the top of the results.

Giving the audience a name and clicking "Save as new segment" will save the search criteria for quick access in the future, which is especially useful when creating a broadcast.

You can learn more about how to save an audience segment at this link.

During your broadcast creation flow, you'll see an option like this:

Or, you will also be presented with the same set of search criteria during a broadcast as you have in the general contact search should you need to do something on the fly.

To learn more about how to create or update an audience segment for Broadcasts, you can check out this link.

Automated Engagement Rules

Being able to select audiences based on engagement manually, tagging, etc., is great, but what about automating the rules for frequent email sends?

So glad you asked!

When your volume is consistent with broadcasts, automating the rules to pluck out colder subscribers and re-engage or suppress them entirely is beautiful.

You can set your automated rules in the Global Settings of your account. Go to this link, and scroll down until you reach Automations in Global Setting.

If you need to clean your contact list and remove unwanted emails on a regular basis, you can access your account-wide cleaning rules by going to this link.