How to Scrub an Email List and Increase Engagement


When you’re in the business of email marketing, maintaining your list is everything.

If you’re like most marketers, links to your mailing list are everywhere. Users can sign up from the call to action on your blogs, the banner on your homepage, and even pinned posts on your social media profiles.

But while a lot of people may sign up for your mailing list, not all those subscribers will stay active forever. Despite your best efforts, some of them may simply lose interest or lack time to get involved in what you’re sending out.

Even if they do skim some of your emails, these individuals may not provide the responses you want. But when you’re going over your metrics, you may notice your engagement rates remain low even though you’re getting more responses.

The reason why? Those inactive subscribers are pulling your numbers down.

A clean email list is a list that delivers the metrics you want to see. Let’s talk about a few ways to clean your email list and retain active subscribers.

What is a Clean Email List? List Scrubbing Explained

Your contact list is constantly growing, in most cases. Dedicated marketers have ways of getting their offers out there and gaining the attention of subscribers who want what they have to offer.

But there are also those who don’t receive your offers – or they receive them, but don’t read them. For these inactive subscribers, their spot on the mailing list represents a spot where you could instead put an engaged, active subscriber.

It’s not even indicative of any shortcoming in your email strategy – the average email marketing database degrades by roughly 22.5% yearly. Why does this happen?

  • Subscribers opt out of your emails for lack of interest or lack of time
  • Subscribers fail to open your emails due to disinterest or lack of time
  • Subscribers change their email addresses and abandon old accounts

These are a few of the main reasons why it’s good to clean out your list periodically. As for how often it should be done, it depends on the size and your current engagement rates.

Why Should You Pursue a Clean Email List?

If you’re still getting some engagement on your emails, why take the time to clean up your mailing list? Some people view this as such a tough task they want to avoid. But a cleaner email list means a higher conversion rate and a more engaged community.

You can also minimize bounce rates, which gives you more credibility as a sender. There are plenty of tips and tricks on how to boost engagement, but those are applied with the idea you’re already using a clean list.

If you aren’t, consider the following tips on how to clean up your email list. We’ll also cover the pros and cons of each approach so you can decide which is right for your business and email marketing efforts.

3 Strategies on How to Scrub an Email List

There are plenty of options out there when you want to scrub your email list. Tools and integration options are plentiful, and there are also manual approaches.

1. Ask Your Subscribers What Will Make Them Active

It may seem like an obvious answer, but one of the best ways to get a more active mailing list is to find out what it would take for them to be active.

A lot of email marketers take one approach to reach their subscribers, and when it doesn’t work, they simply assume some accounts on the list are a lost cause. But this could be letting go of a lot of potential leads. Just because your subscriber isn’t responding to one approach doesn’t mean they can’t be engaged.

If you want to get subscribers active again, consider asking them to participate in a poll or to give feedback. You can usually find some success with anything along the lines of “What Would You Like to See” or “What’s Your Favorite Type of Email to Receive.”

But what happens if you get different responses? You can’t send out every type of email at once. The key is to make sure you can send the appropriate email to the right group of subscribers. The answer? Segmentation.

Email segmentation can increase engagement and open rates. It will also give you a reliable way to contact people according to their preferences.

You could even automate regular campaigns to keep your subscribers engaged and continuously update their preferences. Automating the process of segmentation based on response categories is a way to speed this process up even further.

2. Create Custom Campaigns to Save Subscribers

If a single email asking for active subscribers to respond isn’t enough, you can build an entire campaign around this task.

If a single email asking for active subscribers to respond isn’t enough, you can build an entire campaign around this task.

Source: Delivra

For example, let’s say you send out your initial email asking users to participate in a poll. If you don’t get a response within a specific timeframe, you could automate your campaign to send a follow-up email.

You can set your campaign to create emails in the event a person expresses the desire to unsubscribe voluntarily. You could even set up custom emails to say thanks to those who respond to your efforts. If they help you clean your list, they deserve gratitude.

Campaigns like this can help you salvage subscribers before you clean them off your list. Keeping customers around can result in more ROI and cost as much as 25 times less for you to make future sales.

With this strategy, you can segment your email list multiple times if you feel it will boost engagement rates. Let’s say you scrub your list of subscribers who have engaged with fewer than half the emails they’ve received in six months. If your engagement rates are still lacking, you may choose to change those criteria for the next scrubbing.

You’re seeing the benefits of trying to keep subscribers as a means of cleaning your list – but what about if you want to automate some portions?

3. Track Accounts Via Response Frequency and Monitor Them

If you’re worried about people unsubscribing from your mailing list, you should know there isn’t much to fear – the rate for unsubscribing is far lower than the average click or open rate.

If you’re worried about people unsubscribing from your mailing list, you should know there isn’t much to fear – the rate for unsubscribing is far lower than the average click or open rate.

Source: Delivra

But your bigger fear may be having tons of subscribers when only some of them remain engaged. Luckily, there are ways you can filter your inbox and sent folder to see which accounts are a problem and which aren’t.

If you have an integrated service to monitor your email activity, you may already have insights into which accounts are most (and least) active in terms of engagement.

When you have this data tracked, you can benefit from automation. If you always want to keep a high engagement rate, you may even consider setting automatic criteria to purge receivers after a given period of no responses.

It may be an extreme measure for some, but it shows how automation can be used to provide the exact type of mailing list management you want.  You can even rely on A/B testing with your automation. An email tester lets you see how your emails come off to subscribers of varying engagement levels.

Once you have your lists segmented via engagement rates, you can monitor them and move accounts accordingly. It’s always good to put your priority on your most active list first. The active list is where the bulk of your leads and sales are coming from, so they should have a preference.

With a proactive approach to monitoring engagement from the start, you can streamline or even automate the process of scrubbing your list.

Wrap Up: How to Scrub an Email List and Why It’s Important

When you’re in email marketing, the contacts you keep can make your success. Your mailing list represents potential. It’s your community, and your audience – keeping it cleaned up and focusing your efforts on active subscribers is the best strategy. Remember to:

  • Reach out to your subscribers before cleaning your list manually
  • Build campaigns around retaining subscribers and tracking engagement
  • Segment your list based on engagement levels and consider automation

When you scrub your email list, you automatically put yourself on track for better metrics. Improved engagement. Higher retention. Fewer bounces. It all goes toward optimizing your email list.

Moving inactive subscribers off your list is a good thing. For one, you aren’t sending content to people who won’t enjoy it. But the more important takeaway is you’re freeing up space for subscribers who will enjoy what you send out and will be more inclined to engage.

Are you in the process of scrubbing your email list? If you want to keep subscribers with top-notch reengagement emails.


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