Cleaning Up A Low Engagement E-mail List: Why It Works For You And Your Customers

Like a bolt of lighting, another e-mail hits a phone user's phone. The all-too-familiar little red dot appears above the e-mail icon, and the user feels obligated to click on that application to see what new message has appeared in their inbox. For many people, checking the message is almost a reflex, but the final result may not lead to precisely what they had hoped for. While they may have wanted to see a message from a friend or family member, or at least from a company that makes products that interest them, they are often left looking at a message from a brand that they are no longer interested in. With a quick swipe of their finger, and perhaps an eye roll, the message is gone. 

This is the scene of low engagement, and it happens with alarming frequency. Too many companies neglect their obligation to take care of cleaning up their e-mail lists, and this corresponds with a lot of e-mails sent to people who would rather not see them. At best, the person may ignore the e-mail, but it can even get to the point where they actually get a negative impression of your company as a result of what feels like spammy e-mails. We want to look at why cleaning up your e-mail marketing lists should be a top priority, and how you can do it.  

Low Engagement Is At Epidemic Levels 

It is not known when the very first marketing e-mail was sent to a user, but one has to imagine that it was not long after e-mail itself became possible. Companies have looked to e-mail as a great avenue to reach their customers and help them get connected with their products and services. This is great when it works out as planned, but unfortunately, that is often not the case. reported on a study in which researchers found the following: 

Roughly 1 in 10 (9%) of commercial emails sent by brands in 2015 were deleted without being read, according to a recent report from Return Path. The incidence of deletion before reading ranged from a low of 5% (for distribution and manufacturing companies) to a high of 14% (for office supplies companies), per the study. There appears to be little seasonality on this metric, with most categories seeing fairly steady rates throughout the year.

This means that no matter how much time and effort is put into marketing e-mails, roughly 10% of that time is going to be completely wasted. Consumers have been hit with so many marketing messages in their inboxes over the years that they have adapted to completely tune them out whenever possible. That said, this leaves the possibility that some messages can still get through as long as they are carefully crafted and hit the right targets. 

The elimination of low engagement is the biggest challenge for those trying to improve their e-mail marketing efforts. If they can find ways to reduce the number of uninterested parties seeing their messages, then they can reduce some of the waste that is inherent in e-mail marketing campaigns. 

3 Big Upsides To Cleaning Up Your E-mail List

We have already touched on the idea that removing some uninterested parties from your e-mail lists may reduce the amount of waste that goes into an e-mail marketing campaign. That is a big incentive to get started on this project, but it goes beyond just that. Marketing campaign managers have noted the following upsides that come with cleaning up an e-mail list:

  1. Reduction In Spam Complaints - Fielding complaints that you are sending spam messages is not something that you want to spend manpower on if you can avoid it. The additional labor costs and frustrated consumers are baggage that you don't want to carry around. Those most likely to complain that your e-mails are spam are those who are disengaged with your product and don't want to receive these types of messages from you any longer. Therefore, cleaning up your e-mail marketing list may be just the solution to reducing this problem. 
  2. Bring Down Your Unsubscribe Rate - One of the metrics that companies look at when gauging the value of a brand or even the success of that brand's marketing efforts is their unsubscribe rate. When someone actively goes into the system and opts to unsubscribe from a brand's e-mails, it is a flashing red sign that they are done engaging with that brand. This is why companies want to keep their unsubscribe rate down. Too many people unsubscribing reflects poorly on them. Proactively eliminating those who have shown some signs that they could be on the verge of unsubscribing anyway can be helpful to avoid the risk of them actually going through with it. 
  3. Increase Deliverability - People change e-mail addresses frequently, and it might be necessary to update the e-mail accounts that you have for various individuals to make sure you are reaching them at their primary address. When you clean up your e-mail list, you are bound to find that you have some addresses to get updated. It is likely to add to the rate that people actually open an e-mail when it is delivered to their primary e-mail address in the first place! 

As you can see, the advantages that one gets from cleaning up their e-mail marketing list are multi-pronged. When companies realize this, it becomes more obvious that they should be engaged in the opportunities that are before them. 

Inactive Versus Disengaged 

Before the scrubbing of an e-mail list begins, it is important to determine if those who are about to be removed are truly inactive or simply disengaged. An inactive account is one that has truly gone dormant and one from which the owner of that account does not wish to be bothered. Those accounts can go into the scrub list with ease. However, a disengaged account may still contain some promise within it. Perhaps the owner of that account is not receiving the right kinds of messages to help keep them engaged. 

An inactive user is generally defined as someone who has not opened or even clicked on any e-mail that you have sent in the last 6-12 months. They have completely gone dark on you, and they obviously show no clear signs that they are likely to come back to you or reengage at any point in the process. Those people can be swiftly removed from your list to consider better targets for your future materials. 

A disengaged user may still be opening your e-mails, but they are not taking any action on them beyond that. They still see what you are trying to pitch to them, but they just aren't taking any concrete steps towards purchasing your products or services. These individuals should remain on your marketing lists, but you should make new efforts to get them interested in what you have to pitch to them once again. 

To get a disinterested party to once again look at what you have to say, you might consider the following: 

  • Host a webinar or other live event to engage directly with your subscribers.
  • Include a call to action in every e-mail that you send out to help prompt more direct action. 
  • Consider giveaways and freebies as a way to get people's attention once again.
  • Reduce the number of e-mails you send out in a given period of time (you might be overloading your viewers).
  • Ask for feedback from your list to see what they want to get from you.
  • Segment your email campaigns to send disengaged users messages that incentivize them to come back.

You don't have to reinvent the wheel to make the most of your marketing list. You just need to make sure that it is working in an optimal fashion to meet your needs. It takes some trial and error to get it right, but many report that they are highly successful at learning how to reel back in some people who might otherwise have drifted away from them entirely without these efforts. 

Balance Your Tactics For The Best Outcome

When a business is first getting off the ground and trying to grow its e-mail list, it can seem like all of the incentives are aligned for them to behave as aggressively as possible to grow that list. Indeed, it might make sense in the very early stages of a business to try to get as many subscribers as possible. That said, there is a delicate balancing act that must be done to get everything to align perfectly for your marketing efforts. 

Giving consumers more options is the name of the game. Strategies that allow for people to give more consent on how many messages they will receive from you if they want special offers at all, and so much more, make a lot of sense. gives a great example of how the tactic of creating a double opt-in for marketing e-mails is useful to many: 

A double opt-in asks subscribers to confirm they want to be added to your list before your email marketing provider actually collects their data. With a double opt-in, your email service provider will ask users to confirm their subscription. This sets your list up for a clean future without any misspelled or erroneous emails. Plus, if someone doesn't check their email enough to notice a confirmation after signing up, that's a solid indicator that they won't be as engaged with your emails over time.

This strategy gives visitors a second chance to opt out of your marketing materials altogether, but it also means that you are likely to reduce the overall number of inactive or unresponsive people you are sending messages to. Essentially, this strategy allows them to identify themselves. 

There are many tactics and strategies that one may use to make the most of their e-mail marketing efforts, but one thing is for certain, cleaning up e-mail lists periodically helps reduce waste and improve outcomes.


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