Talk to any business owner who does serious email marketing and you’ll notice the topic quickly turns to things such as list size, open rates and good subject line ideas.
Chances are one thing you will not hear discussed is the “health” of the email list.
List health is about the number of people who are actively engaged with your emails (e.g. opening, reading and responding to them).
Personally, I take a very black and white approach to this. I feel if a person is inactive and not reading my emails (over a period of time or number of emails sent) the chance of them becoming a customer is slim (be sure to think through what “inactive” means to you and your business before treating a subscriber as inactive).
As I was preparing this article, I surveyed a number of respectable business owners, who I know use email marketing, and NONE OF THEM concern themselves with the health of their email list.
Quantity Does Not Equal Quality!
I believe this is a mistake and in a world where “bigger is always better” many business owners think simply having a big list is the primary goal.
Creating An Engaged Email List
Is Your #1 Priority!
Simply feeling secure in the notion you have an email list and not worrying about keeping it full of quality subscribers reminds me of the tale by Hans Christian Andersen we all read as children – The Emperor’s New Clothes.
Maintaining an active email list, full of subscribers who read your emails on a regular basis, is a challenge and for the business owner who is successful in doing this, the rewards can be taken to the bank. By removing the inactive ones and focusing on the active recipients, you’ll maintain a healthier, more responsive list.
The simple fact of the matter is that a MAJORITY of people on your email list are not reading your emails. According to some email marketing experts, as many as 70 – 75% of your email list is inactive and there a number of reasons for this, including:
- They forgot why they opted onto your list
- They lost interest in what you have to offer
- No “reasons why” they should stay on your list
- They may have created a filter to move your email into a folder that no longer gets looked at
- They stopped checking that email account
Collectively, these unread emails are important for two main reasons:
- Emailing people who are not opening your emails costs you money. Typically most email service providers charge for different levels of numbers of emails sent during a month and if you go over this limit, you pay an additional amount.In some cases, business owners will decrease the number of email sent, in order to stay within these limits, instead of purging the dead-weight on their list.
- The other reason unread emails are bad is because they can potentially lower your email rating score resulting in your emails being marked as spam by the email service provider (this is how emails end up in your spam folder).
Did you know behind the scenes, your email provider is watching how people respond to your emails using engagement metrics to determine your email reputation?
Improving the levels of engagement is crucial not only for profitability, but also for deliverability. As Tara Natanson of Constant Contact wrote:
“If people on your list aren’t engaging, then the Internet Service Provider (ISP) will think your messages aren’t important to your subscribers and may place them in a spam or trash folder.”
Having a Smaller More Engaged Email List
is Smarter than a Larger, Less Active List!
Email marketing is like any other type of marketing… it’s all about the math.
Rather than worrying about how big your email list is, focus on how responsive it is and do everything in your power to keep as many readers engaged as possible. In a future article, I will focus on ways you can keep your list opening and reading your emails, but for this issue, I want you to focus on getting healthier.
Think of it this way… would you rather have a typical email list of 5,000 people where only 150 people are engaged or…
An email list of 1,000 and 600 of them are opening and reading your emails?
Hopefully it’s obvious maintaining a healthy and active email list should be a primary marketing goal for your business and a smart way to accomplish this is by running a semi-annual or annual “purge and profit” email campaign.
The Purge and Profit Campaign
The goal of this specialized campaign is to attempt to re-activate as many of your inactive email subscribers as possible. Those that respond to the campaign are left on your list and those that don’t are purged from it. I’m giving you a copy of my campaign this month so you have a starting point to create your own.
How much you rely on email marketing will determine how many times a year you will want to run this campaign. In my case, I like to run this campaign twice a year.
The campaign consists of seven steps:
Step 1: Identify those individuals who are not opening your emails based on some time period and identifying them as “inactive” so you can put them into a three step email campaign. (Infusionsoft users can use tags to identify individuals as either active or inactive.)
Step 2: Choose your re-engagement strategy.
Step 3: Create the campaign content and reason to respond.
Step 4: Send out the first email.
Step 5: Send out the second email to everybody remaining on the inactive list.
Step 6: Send out the third email to everybody remaining on the inactive list.
Step 7: Purge!
Let’s take a look at each step in more detail.
Step 1: Identify Inactive Subscribers
My personal definition of an “inactive email subscriber” is one who has not taken some action (e.g. opened an email) in a defined period of time or past # of emails sent.
The metric I use for my business is an email subscriber who has not opened any of my last 20 emails. I don’t use time as my basis, since I am not very consistent on how many emails I send out each week (but this roughly equates to about 12 weeks).
Since we use Infusionsoft, we can search on this criteria and add anybody who matches it to the purge and profit campaign.
Step 2: Choose Your Re-Engagement Strategy
There are three strategies to get the recipient to re-engage.
- You can send an email that has only a single call-to-action and requires them to click-a-link-to-stay-on-the-list. This strategy requires the recipient to take a specific action to remain on your list (e.g. clicking on a hyperlink in the email).
- Or you can send an email (that has a single call-to-action) requiring them to click-a-link-to-remove-from-list. This strategy requires the recipient to take action to be removed from the list.
- Or you send an email that offers them both options in the email, which is what we do.
I am not a fan of only doing the the click-a-link-to-remove-from-list strategy because this requires the recipient to open your email and literally click on a link to remove their email from your list.
If they’re not opening your emails to begin with, they will never be able to click on the link… so they remain on your list. In my opinion, this strategy is a half-hearted attempt to clean up an email list and gives you a false sense of doing something.
Step 3: Campaign & Reason to Respond
Next week, I’ll give you the actual purge and profit email campaign we use. It contains three emails, each designed to get the recipient to take one specific action, which is to click on the link to remain an email subscriber (for convenience we also give them the option to click to be removed).
Here are the important components for review:
- We inform them why they are getting the email and let them know they are missed and we want them to re-engage.
- We remind them where and why they originally got on our list.
- We tell them what they can expect in the future from us and let them know if we don’t hear from them, we will remove them from our email list.
- In order to get them to click on the link to remain a subscriber, we offer a free gift (such as a special report).
- We also give them the option of simply opting out forever (or we do it for them if they don’t respond after the third email).
- We send the emails out on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Interestingly, I have a very good open rate on Saturdays.
The emails are short, simple and to the point.
Step 4: Send Out Email #1
Send out the first email and move anybody who took the click-a-link-to-stay-on-the-list action to your active list so they do not receive the last two emails. Certain email systems, like Infusionsoft can do this automatically for you. Make sure you thank them, reaffirm their smart decision to stay with you and give them their gift.
Make sure you remove anybody who asks to be removed from your list.
Step 5: Send Out Email #2
Two days later send out the second email to everybody remaining on the inactive list. Move anybody who took the click-a-link-to-stay-on-the-list action to your active list so they do not receive the last email. Send thank you and gift email to those who chose to stay with you.
Make sure you remove anybody who asks to be removed from your list.
Step 6: Send Out Email #3
Send out the third email to everybody remaining on the inactive list. Move anybody who took the opt-in action to your active list. Send thank you and gift email to those who chose to stay with you.
Step 7: Purge!
Remove anybody who still has the inactive identifier and do not email them anymore.
If you’ve done everything properly, chances are your email list will be a bit smaller, but will consist of more engaged recipients.