By Christine Doré, e-mail marketing manager, PETA
So you've got a stellar email program? Great! You write eye-catching subject lines and tantalize readers with your dapper HTML skills? Fantastic. Just one problem: Your list is dirty (and not in the fun way).
When was the last time you practiced good list hygiene? If you responded with "Say what?!" — then come closer and prepare for your open rates to rock. One crucial part of best-practice email marketing is often one of the most ignored rules, too. By maintaining a clean list, you are trimming off the excess weight that's been holding your results hostage for so long.
The first step is to come up with a definition of "inactive user" that's specific to your situation. For example, at my organization we define "inactive" as someone who has been on our list for over six months but has not opened or clicked on any of our email messages in over six months. This way, we've given people a distinct opportunity to engage with our content, but we've received a completely flat-line response. This happens all the time, despite how phenom your content is, so don't worry. It's inevitable that people are going to fall off; whether they've changed their email address, started bouncing or just delete emails instead of choosing to unsubscribe, they're basically telling you it's time you see other people, so let's all be adults here and respect their wishes (unless you want to hang outside their houses holding a stereo over your head, then hey, go for it, but please send me pictures).
Once you've decided what best defines "inactive users" in your unique program, then you need to find a strategy to remove them on a regular (at least monthly) basis. Many people like to attempt to reengage their inactive subscribers before removing them, but my research has shown that to be a pretty ineffective practice, because the response is so miniscule and the people who do respond don't tend to stay active for very long.
With my program, we run a query of our inactives every month and then completely purge them from our system. While it's at first difficult to cope with looking at a slightly deflated subscription number, it's absolutely worth it. When the only people on your list are the people who want to be there, you'll notice that not only will your open/click results flourish, but you'll be much less likely to have subscribers tag you as spam, which will benefit your ability to reach new people in the long term, too.
So scrub away my fellow email enthusiasts! Your freshly bathed subscription list will thank you.
Christine Doré is an e-mail marketing manager at PETA in Los Angeles. As part of the Marketing Engagement team, she focuses on email strategy and optimization. Her team's innovative tactics for audience segmentation and online advocacy have been twice awarded at the national level and continue to be trailblazing strategies for the nonprofit community.
This article originally appeared in ClickZ and is used here with permission.
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