Email Marketing List Management Explained (with 8 Best Practices)
Let’s warm up with a quick question: Would you rather work with a team of 50 unmotivated members or with just 10 members that enthusiastically support you from start to finish?
We’d choose the latter. You?
Well, we often get fixated on quantity rather than quality - and this is certainly true when it comes to email lists. Surely more people joining your email list is a great thing, but not when your email performance and deliverability numbers take a tool because half your subscribers are inactive.
A healthy email list with active subscribers will result in more engagement, higher deliverability, and of course, fewer chances of ending up in an ever-feared spam folder.
This blog post will show you how to do email marketing list management right, including 8 best practices.
Table of contents
- What is email marketing list management?
- Why should you manage your email list?
- 8 email marketing list management best practices
- 3 best email marketing list management tools
- The final verdict
What is email marketing list management?
First and foremost, email marketing list management is the process of maintaining a healthy list.
It is a regular routine of controlling contacts in segments or lists to ensure that you’re sending targeted, personalized content. A typical example of this would be organizing blog subscribers in an email list, and only sending blog posts to that list.
Sometimes your subscribers lose interest along the way, which may hinder your marketing efforts. When this happens, it is better to unsubscribe them from your email list. We’ll explain why right below.
With every email marketing campaign you send out, Email Service Providers (ESPs) will keep track of a number of things.
Firstly, they track your spam complaints. When a subscriber hits the “Mark as spam” button in their inbox, that is bad news for you.
Secondly, they look at your opens, clicks, unsubscribes, and inactivity. If your subscribers love what you are sending them and interact with your emails, you have nothing to worry about. If your engagement is low, you need to immediately take action. Low (or no) engagement of inactive subscribers can impact deliverability for the active ones.
Lastly, they pick up on bounced emails, which happen when your email does not make it into the subscribers’ inbox.
You’ll want to keep your bounce rates as low as possible as ESPs can take them into account. Regularly cleaning your list will get rid of any sneaky typos or invalid email addresses, and keep those bounce rates down to a minimum.
Why should you manage your email list?
Quality subscribers are people that open, read, and show interaction with your email marketing campaigns. By interaction, we mean any type of action, such as clicking on a CTA button, answering a survey, visiting your website, or buying your product.
To maintain a quality email list, it’s essential to make email marketing list management part of your strategy. With just a few clicks or a re-engagement campaign, you can find out exactly which ones won’t bring any value to your business.
It’s better to have fewer, higher-quality subscribers who really care about your business, rather than masses of email addresses that don’t engage with your content at all. It is not necessarily about the number of subscribers you have; it is about how much they engage with your newsletters.
8 email marketing list management best practices
Below are 8 tried-and-tested ways to help you boost your clicks and conversions, lower bounces while keeping your email list as clean as a whistle.
1. Take a permission-based approach
Here’s a little reminder: It’s essential to follow permission-based email marketing, which means you must obtain the permission of the recipient to send them relevant content.
Online users have more protections than ever, which gives them choice over who collects their data and how giving rise to permission-based email. Recent pieces of legislation, such as the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), are strict data privacy laws that shouldn’t be overlooked for email marketing.
That means you must make sure that addresses on your list have voluntarily opted in. The best way is to collect your contacts organically and let them dictate the terms of your contact. Below are three steps that you should build into your opt-in process:
1. Sign-up form. This should be accessible right from your homepage, perhaps with a pop-up, or you might use a sign-up form to gate your content.
2. Email preferences. Let your contacts select exactly which types of email they want from you, or can scale back on the frequency of your email sends. This means hitting “unsubscribe” isn’t the only solution when your contact is receiving content they don’t want.
3. Double opt-in. Contacts need to confirm via email that they want to be added to your list. By creating this additional step, you can communicate with really engaged users.
The optional fourth step is the welcome sequence. This can add an extra level of security to ensure that your subscribers want to hear from you and get them engaged right from the start. Read our next section to explore more!
2. Create a positive first impression
A welcome email is considered the first email that a subscriber receives from your company, and it sets the stage for future communication. How that email can make readers feel will influence their level of engagement with your brand, which means a positive experience can make them more receptive to your marketing campaigns.
Greet the audience by name. People often want to be addressed by name, and if you have captured your subscribers’ names at opt-in, it’s high time to start personalizing your emails by using their first names.
Include next-step guides. Welcome emails can be the perfect starting point for educating your audience about your product/ service benefits. For example, if you are selling a business app, your welcome email should include step-by-step instructions on how to install the app on their desktop or smartphone.
Offer a welcome gift. Make your audience feel extra special by offering a gift. For instance, a 25% discount coupon can motivate them to make a purchase.
Ask them to whitelist your brand’s email address. Remind them to add your company email address to their approved sender’s list. This way, your emails won’t get trapped in the junk folder, and subscribers won’t miss out on important promos and updates.
Ask them to follow you on social media channels. Provide the links to your company’s social media accounts, so subscribers can follow your updates on the social platforms they often use while reaching out to your customer support team for any concerns.
Ask how you can help them. Ultimately, your goal is to provide value to your audience through helpful, actionable content. Asking subscribers right off the bat what you can help them to show how you care about them.
According to some studies, the average open rate for welcome emails is 82%. So, you can maximize this potential by incorporating some (or all) of the above tips when welcoming new subscribers.
3. Let subscribers choose the frequency
The most popular reason why people unsubscribe from your email marketing list is the number of emails they receive.
Many brands send the same emails far too frequently, which frustrates subscribers and compels them to opt out. So, make it easy for them to fit your content into their schedule by offering various frequency options. These options can include:
- Below the sign-up form or pop-up, so subscribers can choose their preferred choice directly when signing up.
- On your landing page that also serves as a subscriber profile (also named preference center).
- In your email.
All of these options can work similarly. Based on the option subscribers click, they will be added to (or removed from) a particular group, so you’ll know exactly who wants to receive your newsletter when.
This method puts your contacts in control, while creating a degree of understanding between you and them, instead of disregarding your contacts’ preferences and inundating them with annoying emails on an hourly basis.
4. Keep your email list clean
Regular email scrubbing keeps “bad” guys away. There are some reasons why you should do this:
Reduce email bounce rate. A bounce often happens when a recipient’s email server rejects your email. Bounces can be classified into a hard bounce and a soft bounce. A hard bounce happens when an email address is invalid. Either you entered an incorrect email address, or the email address is no longer active. On the other hand, a soft bounce is a temporary bounce resulting from the message being too large, a full mailbox, or the subscriber’s email server being down.
Maintain a healthy email deliverability standing. If your bounce rate is high, it can negatively affect your email deliverability. ESPs monitor IP addresses with high bounce rates and blacklist repeat offenders.
Avoid the spam folder. Keep in mind that the lower your deliverability rates, the higher the chance of your content being relegated to the junk folder. Get rid of invalid addresses to reduce your bounce rates or unsubscribe inactive subscribers in order to keep your reputation intact and prevent the ESPs from blacklisting your IP address.
Reduce sending costs. Most email marketing software operates on a pay-what-you-need model. The bigger your list, the more you will be spending to reach your subscribers.
So, for best results, you should consider cleaning your email list a few times per year or when you notice a spike in bounce rates, whichever comes first.
Below are some best practices when you clean;
- Remove duplicate email addresses
- Remove email addresses with typos
- Fix email addresses with typos
- Remove invalid email addresses
- Update invalid email addresses
- Delete emails from hard or soft bounces
Don’t worry if you have lots of invalid email addresses - people move, change their jobs, and get new email addresses all the time. Removing these email addresses from your list is essential, as the higher your bounce rate is, the more it hurts your sender score and the less likely your mail is to get delivered.
5. Re-engage inactive subscribers
Unengaged. Disengaged. Inactive. Dead.
These are common words that marketing professionals refer to email subscribers who don’t engage with their email marketing campaigns. They don’t open your emails, and simply choose to ignore you. What should you do?
Design re-engagement campaigns to reignite their interest. For example:
Make your subject lines more compelling. No matter what type of email you are sending, provide a clear and engaging email subject line. It is the single line of text subscribers see when your email reaches their inbox, so the bigger the impact, the better.
Personalize your email marketing campaigns. Properly segment your email lists, and customize your campaigns based on those segments.
Ask for assistance. You’d like to help your subscribers, but you can’t do that if you don’t know-how. Ask them how you can help.
Offer something interesting, such as a discount coupon or giveaway.
Let them know you are about to unsubscribe them if they don’t respond within a specific timeframe. Some won’t care, but others will ask you to keep them subscribed.
Before you cut particular subscribers loose, make sure you have done everything you can to have them reconnect.
Here is how Rabbit re-engages their subscribers:
Only send re-engagement emails to people who haven’t opened or clicked during the prior 6 months to a year. Deliver a targeted email, perhaps with updated benefits of subscribing or with a small freebie, and then ask them to re-subscribe.
If they do, hooray! A subscriber saved is a subscriber earned. But in case they don’t, you can feel good about removing them from your email list, knowing you will ultimately see better results from a more engaged list, even when it hurts to say goodbye to those hard-earned subscribers.
6. Make it easy to unsubscribe
It seems wrong to make the unsubscribing progress easy when your goal is to keep people on your list, but there’s no point in hiding it. If one of your subscribers wants to unsubscribe, they are going to - one way or another. If they cannot easily scan your email and see how they can unsubscribe, they will mark you as spam instead.
People can unsubscribe from your email list for a number of reasons, including:
Irrelevant content. They are not getting the content they signed up for.
Too many emails. For specific niches, like a news website, for instance, several emails per day are ok. But other industry verticals might need to email their audience only once or twice per month. Or, find the frequency that works well for your organization. What works for other companies may not for yours.
Emails look spammy. Your email subject lines look spammy, are riddled with exclamation points, or use overly salesy language.
Recipients don’t know you. You might have obtained email campaign lists from suspicious sources, and people don’t remember subscribing through your website.
Having a prominent unsubscribe button will keep you on the right side of CAN-SPAM and keeps recipients happy, even if they aren’t a good fit for your message. With inactive users off the list, you can concentrate on sending targeted, relevant content to the people who are excited to hear from you - and that is the stuff that email marketing’s high ROI is made of.
7. Never buy lists
You cannot storm into someone’s home and expect them to welcome you with open arms. They are more likely to kick you out or call the cops.
The same applies to buying email addresses. Although it seems tempting to add numerous email addresses at once and quickly grow your email list, in fact, you are wasting your money, risking your sender’s reputation, and potentially ending up with a hefty fee.
Firstly, buying email lists is illegal. You could face legal backlash from violating the CAN-SPAM Act and end up paying $16,000 in fines for each email improperly sent.
Secondly, most rented or purchased email lists are poor-quality. They are not targeted for your brand, niche, or industry, so you will not get full value from interaction with them. They also include spam traps, once-valid email addresses that automatically get your IP blacklisted for delivering to them.
No matter how tempting it may be to easily and quickly bump your number of subscribers, think of how annoying you find it to receive unsolicited emails and remember the golden rule.
8. Track email marketing metrics
Carefully monitoring your email marketing metrics lets you spot when things are going well, and when you need to take a different approach.
Here’s what you should look for:
Email deliverability rates. This tells you when your emails are not going through to send lists, especially when you have hard and soft bounces. Too many of these, could threaten your sender’s reputation. Studies show that your email deliverability rates should be 95% and higher.
Open rates. This tells you how many subscribers in your send list are opening your emails. It could highlight issues with email subject lines, sender addresses, send times, or identify that you’re ending up in spam folders.
Engagement rates. This indicates whether a contact who has opened your email has done anything with it. The most common is the “click-through rate (CTR),” which is the number of individuals who have clicked on your link over the number of individuals who have opened your email. This shows you how effective your content and CTA buttons are.
Churn rates. Only about 56% of new subscribers remain in email lists after their first 12 months. The others are either unsubscribing or decaying. This metric can tell you when your contacts are unsubscribing or decaying at too fast a rate.
As a matter of fact, there are many other important metrics that you should keep an eye on. You should read our 10+ Most Significant Metrics in Email Marketing for more information.
3 best email marketing list management tools
Using email list management tools is an easy way to analyze metrics that you don’t have time to collect yourself. In addition, these tools can provide you with robust insights and suggestions on how to improve ROI.
To save you the hassle of researching the best ones for email marketing list management, we’ve done the heavy lifting for you. Below are the best 3 email marketing list management tools, let’s explore!
1. AVADA Email Marketing
AVADA Email Marketing is an all-in-one marketing automation platform that is designed for E-commerce businesses. The platform currently supports Shopify and Magento stores with the following outstanding functions:
Sign-up forms. The platform helps collect leads easily with various form types, such as Newsletter pop-up, Add-to-cart pop-up, Spin to Win, and Inline form.
Automation campaigns based on customer behaviors. Welcome Email, Order Follow-up, Abandoned Cart, Cross-sell/ Upsell, and many more.
Smart segmentation. The platform divides customers into different groups to bring more relevant and personalized experiences.
Advanced reports. You can know how successful your email marketing campaigns are with in-depth reports at multi-levels.
SMS automation/ SMS newsletters. You can send text messages to any country at the best price.
AVADA Email Marketing offers 2 plans. With its Free Plan, you can connect up to 1000 contacts and 15,000 emails per month. If you want more advanced features, you can commit to the Pro Plan, which costs only $9/ month and send unlimited emails.
OptinMonster’s interface allows for a bit of creation, which offers an email form template for you to choose how to set up your email.
With OptinMonster, you’re given a choice to opt-in to emails and track their progress. Plus, the interface supports multiple campaign structures and has different toggles for the analytics you select to track.
The platform is an excellent choice if you’re able to design a workflow that works best for your campaign. If WordPress integrations are key for you, OptinMonster is also great for that - it has its own plugin that creates lightboxes and subscribes forms.
Price: $19-$49/ month
Zapier allows you to set up workflows, which can sync to apps like Gmail or Dropbox. In addition, Zapier lets you import your subscriber list from Eventbrite, Facebook, and Google Sheets.
For further syncing, you can back up your data on Google Sheets for more analysis. If you are looking for a tool to help you consolidate workflows a little better, Zapier might be for you.
Price: $0-$599/ month
Please read our 10+ Best Email List Management Tools & Tips to Boost Your Campaign blog post for more awesome email list management tools.
The final verdict
A healthy email list can increase your email marketing ROI and position your business for digital success. Nevertheless, no matter how much you want to have a huge email list, remember that quality is determined by results - not quantity.
The 8 best practices mentioned in this article will ensure your email list stays in good condition year-round. You will enjoy a high-quality subscriber list and can be sure that you are investing your money and efforts in subscribers that have the potential to become your long-time customers.