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Advanced Email Marketing: List Hygiene, or Cleaning Up Your List - Part 1

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Why You Should Clean Up Your List

Keeping a good quality list is important, because it means that you can get greater engagement from it, which in turn will enable you to derive greater revenues.

It's also important from a deliverability perspective. ISPs track how many emails of yours are opened, and one factor they use to determine inbox placement is how your list engages with your mailings. The more your emails are interacted with, the more likely they are to be safely routed to the inbox and the less likely to end up in the dreaded junk folder.

Finally, economics comes into play. You might be able to move your list into a lower pricing tier if you can cut some of the dead wood out.

List Hygiene - An Ookie Term for an Important Process

This is the essence of "list hygiene" - a term professional and corporate email marketers use to describe a process used to keep a list down to its most engaged, enthusiastic and committed members.

What you want to do is get rid of subscribers who haven't engaged recently. But what you don't want to do is lose subscribers who might engage soon, still want to hear from you, but have gotten a little lazy or switched off. That's why engagement date fields, as hinted at yesterday, are crucial. They help define the group of subscribers you're going to work with.

So a thorough list hygiene process is based on a "re-engagement campaign," where you try to convince, cajole and coerce apparently non-interacting subscribers into engaging with your content again. This ups the energy level, and means that you get to keep the relationship with subscribers who you can work with more in the future. Everyone else who isn't interested, you can safely clear out.

Elements of a Successful Re-engagement Campaign

So remember, you want to convince, cajole and coerce people into staying engaged. OK, so you can't really coerce them into doing much of anything, so the content plan is simple: Start out all sweetness and light; then ratchet up the intensity until you're done.

Your biggest decision is probably the amount of time you want to use as the non-engagement window. Let's say it's six months.  In that case, you know that there are two core criteria for recipients of the re-engagement campaign:
  1. The subscribers much have been on the list for more than six months; and
  2. The subscribers must not have engaged in the last six months.
The second criteria is obvious; the first one stops you from throwing out people who joined recently and haven't yet had the chance to engage in many - or perhaps any - of your mailings.

Now instead of throwing these folks off the list in a fit of social media pique, let's send them a sequence of emails, spaced a day or two apart, as we roll the campaign out.

Mail #1 - Hey, Haven't heard from you for a while, are we still friends?

See, I told you to start with sweetness and light (with a side of guilt thrown in - obviously tune the messaging to suit your audience). We just want to make it seem more personal and not a run of the mill blast to our list. If you have custom fields, this is a great campaign to use them in.

What you do in this list though, is set the stage. Tell  them that you really don't want to keep mailing them if they don't want to hear from you, and that's what's behind all this. This initial mailing is also a great place to showcase your popular posts - you want them to engage, so each mailing in this campaign must give them a reason to!

Mail #2 - A sweet deal for you!

As it turns out, many people are lazy, deadline-hugging procrastinators. Come on, we all do it.

It's actually unlikely that your first mailing will have brought many people back into the fold. That's OK - we have a ways to go yet.

With this mailing, then, you want to incent your laggard subscribers. Just as incentives work brilliantly to attract new subscribers to your list in the first place, they can work here too. That incentive could be a coupon, a freebie, a sample from your e-book, some of your time, a transcript of a webcast or an introductory membership in your coaching program. You have to do the work of finding the right incentive for your audience and your site, and that the incentive you use makes sense for you financially, operationally and personally.

Mail #3 - Time is running out.

Tick, tick, tick - Let's make your procrastinators aware that the deadline is starting to lurk offstage, even if it isn't looming directly overhead yet.  Again, you emphasize that you don't want to bother them, but if they want to keep hearing from you they need to act now to avoid being turfed off.  But don't be all stick and no carrot; find something you can offer them that's positive. For example, perhaps they can switch to a weekly version if the daily one is too much? Give them that link here.

Mail #4 - Action Required: Last Chance

Oh my. Now we're serious. The subject line is imperative. The content is short and to the point. You're off, this is it, fix this now! Since you actually don't want to lose someone who actually will engage, perhaps you can remind them of all the reasons to stay you delivered in emails 1-3. But this is the last chance. You mean it!

Mail #5 - Bye Bye, Baby

This is it. The subscriber hasn't responded, and you've had to let them go. Let them know to confirm you did this (it's OK, you chose to get rid of them; they didn't unsubscribe). And give them, like on "Who Wants to be a Millionaire," a lifeline. Tell them how to get back onto the list, and perhaps you can leave them with a reason to do it, or a small gift to thank them for their long-standing subscription.

Moral: Don't burn your bridges when you run a re-engagement campaign.

Tomorrow: Setting expectations, protecting egos and list hygiene process implementation tips.

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