Clean your list


You’ve got a mailing list for your business, right? You should have, anyway. It’s a great way of collecting customer and client leads, and yourself on their radar. Mailing lists have been around forever, unlike twitter/instagram/facebook/periscope. They’re not going anywhere fast.

I’ve been working on building the mailing lists for my two businesses for the past few years. They’ve got a fair number of subscribers, and I send out occasional newsletters about sales, blog updates, new products etc. I get a fair level of engagement, and a low unsubscribe rate.

My lists are on Mailchimp, I looooove Mailchimp and have been a long time fan. You might have yours on Aweber, Mad Mimi, or any of the other mailing list providers out there. Chances are you pay a certain amount each month, or per send, for your mailing list. It’s usually dependent on the number of subscribers you have and can sometimes come to quite a hefty business expense.

So here’s what I did last week…

I removed around 25% of the subscribers from each of my lists.

Whhhaatttt? From the lists I’ve been building for years? Isn’t that like, a whole year’s worth of subscribers?! Pretty close, actually. But here’s the thing…

I removed subscribers who hadn’t opened, let alone clicked through from, the last 5 email campaigns they’d received. 

Considering the frequency I send out emails that’s around 6 months worth of no engagement. I was paying hard earned money to send emails to these addresses that either:

  • Deleted the email without opening
  • Had it disappearing into spam
  • No longer used that account

What a waste!

(NB: open rate tracking can be a little unreliable, but it’s a good starting point with clearing out your list)

Here’s what’s awesome about having a list clear out

Clearing out your list this way means that the stats from your remaining subscribers should be much improved (your open rate, click through rate, and overall enagement percentages will increase), which is AWESOME if you have a business that relies more on engagement than subscriber numbers (and let’s be honest here, it’s the engagement that counts).

It also means that you’re not gonna be invading the inbox of someone who obviously doesn’t want you there anymore (Bye, Felicia!). They might come across you again at some point, and it’d be better for them to think “oh! I thought I was subscribed to that list, I better sign-up again” than “Ugh, there’s that annoying brand that I keep trashing in gmail”.

You’re list is less likely to be flagged as spam. Chances are, if someone’s trashing your newsletter without engagement, it won’t be long before they report your emails as spam. Erk.

And of course, they amount you spend on your list each month will decrease until you get your list back up to the same numbers.

My Challenge for you!

Go take a hard look at your lists. What’s your engagement like? How many people didn’t open any of your last 5 emails? What about the last 10?

Mailchimp has some really great segmenting tools to allow you to create groups based on the engagement of your subscribers, which is even more powerful than open-rate. You can read more about how that works here.

You could also try and run a campaign to re-engage those subscribers who haven’t been very active lately, maybe offering a discount, or a special reward for opening the email.

Either way, I want you to give your list a good hard clean. Dust off those cobwebs, make your list even more powerful for your business, and engage with the subscribers who really want to get your emails!

This post isn’t sponsored by Mailchimp by the way, I just really, really like their service! The links to mailchimp throughout the article are affiliate links, though, so clicking them and signing up for Mailchimp could yield an affiliate bonus for me. 

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  • I noticed you tweet about this a while ago and it got me thinking about my own list.

    The only problem I have with manually removing people from a mailing list is, it depends on a few factors and removing people who haven’t opened the last 5 mail outs means you could be missing out on valued customers. For instance, I send out emails about secret sales, I only do this once or twice a year and I know certain people on my list only open these emails + promotional content. Since this is a small percentage of my yearly mail outs, it would be silly for me to remove people based on whether they have opened the last 5 emails because chances are, those customers are just waiting for my next promotional email.

    I’m definitely all for cleaning up a mailing list though, especially when Mailchimp can get super pricey relatively quickly.

    • Interesting point! I don’t do anything like that with my list, so the same doesn’t apply, but.. would it be worth segmenting out the people who you know only open those types of emails and not sending them content they’ve not actively been engaging with?

      I’ve been thinking more about how I can segment my list further, and I think one of my next segmenting tests will be content type segmentation. I really want my subscribers to appreciate every email that’s sent out, rather than just the odd one. I don’t like creating interest fields on sign-up (the extra thinking and pressure that’s involved for the user is a huge UX barrier for sign-ups), so this might be an interesting way around it. Either that, or, a CTA within the emails prompting the subscriber to get more specific with the content they want to receive using good ol’ Mailchimp groups.

      • Oops, that should read: I really want my subscribers to appreciate every email that’s sent out TO THEM, rather than just the odd one.

      • I definitely segment the lists and cater specifically to what people on the list seem more interested in and I think your opinion on making people select before they sign up is spot on. I think keeping the signup form as simple as possible and then giving them the option of specifying their interests in certain content.

        So are you talking specifically about your “Kim Lawler Creative” mailing list here rather than your “Finest Imaginary” list?

        I treat my mailing list like a VIP list – anyone who signs up gets the best deals, exclusive access, and rare discounts. I use it to really push sales and it works really well. I think people like to feel special and I treat them that way because they care enough about my brand to give me their email address.

        • I have a lot more subscribers for my KLC list than my Finest Imaginary list, so I have to admit I do concentrate on that one more. I think it’s time that I gave the Finest Imaginary list a little more love, though, as I’ve started pushing more for sign-ups over there since moving my site to Shopify.

          Do you do your segmenting by hand, using mailchimp segmentation queries, or based on what they select as interests? (I’ve just signed up, so I might answer my own question!)

          • I segment using Mailchimp.

            I’m actually moving my shop to Shopify in the new year, it seems like a huge process but I know it will be better in the long run since I’ve completely outgrown BigCartel and need certain services they simply can’t offer. Any tips on making the process easier?

  • Am a massive advocate of this at work. Lists full of stale customers can even hurt your business, if your engagement in email starts to drop, some email providers pick up on that and use that as a reputation indicator. Which could mean your emails start ending up in spam boxes.

    Running one off re-engagement campaigns is a great idea – then you have a better indication of out of your dormant customers, who are ready to re-engage and who aren’t. You could try to sweeten the deal, as part of re-engagement, and incentivise those customers to come back onboard.

  • I am great fan of email marketing because this is traditional marketing trick and i use mail chimp for doing this but my account is suspended every time. Please help me out in this.