Cleaning and managing your list

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

When you're first getting going, you will often find yourself pushing 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 actually end up hurting the success of your email campaigns as you continue to grow.

In fact, 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 list that is simply large 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 in order 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 'dead weight' that's hurting your reputation and profits.

Here's 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 it was before. Increasing these metrics improves your sender reputation which means better placement for future emails with your existing subscribers and new ones alike. This means you are actually 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're able to get a better and more accurate sense of what hits and what 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 % swing is larger. Bigger numbers are easier to notice and act on, which means compounding results over time.
  • Costs: When you send less email 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 cost 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 actually 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 really 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 totally 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 manually unsubscribe 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 take a 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 to do, but the bulk of this can actually be automated right inside of your Campaign Refinery account.

  • When you import a list: If you're importing a new list or migrating from another provider to Campaign Refinery then 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 off your list on the right foot going forward.
  • Sending frequency: If you're sending a lot of emails on a regular basis (such as a daily newsletter), then you'll want to lean on more of our automated cleaning rules to help you keep your audience segments nice and pruned without a bunch of 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 a very exciting thing to happen! The most common scenarios for this to happen 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 make sure there isn't a rogue form somewhere getting 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-engagment campaign to get some data into your Campaign Refinery account who has either opened or clicked an email over time

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 how you manage your audiences, because at the end of the day it's your audience.

After picking an engagement window, you'll see an option to save an audience segment towards the top of the results:

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

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.

Automated Engagement Rules

Being able to manually select audiences based on engagement, 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 either re-engage them or suppress them entirely is a thing of beauty.

To access your account wide cleaning rules go to Contacts > Clean in the left hand navigation:

Here, you'll be presented with two types of automated cleaning rules.

1. Cold Unengaged

Even with your Audience Segment search criteria in place (e.g. "Opened in the past 30 days"), it's still useful to pull out people who may have engaged in that window, but are starting to fall out of love with your content. Cold Unengaged is a great ruleset to deal with this  people.

For example, if someone had opened an email in the past 30 days, but has NOT oepned or clicked an email in the past 10 consectuvite emails you send to them, then something may be going on. Activate this feature and create a re-engagement sequence to ask them to do something that indicates they are still interested. If they open or click anyhting at all, it will remove them from this sequence.

You have the option here to base this on emails sent without engagement (between 10 and 25), or based lack of engagement for the last 6 months.

We like to put in actions to go ahead and unsubscribe a contact if they don't bite by the end of this sequence.

Reminder: You don't pay for unsubscribed contacts in your Campaign Refinery account.

2. Cold Unsubscribe

If you're just looking to unsubscribe and and suppress people who are even more unengaged without putting a lot of effort into your re-engagment sequence, then Cold Unsubscribe makes it happen for you in just a few clicks. Activating this feature will immediately unsubscribe anyone who meets your settings, which can be after 25-50 emails, or hasn't engaged in the last 12 months.