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Email Marketing

8 Fuss-Free Steps to Manage and Maintain a High-Quality Email List

Popeye had spinach. For Harry Potter, it was the phoenix feather core wand. And for marketers who are hitting the mark in 2016? It’s got to be the email list!

Beyond using the right keywords and having a three-page website, marketers are coming to terms with the fact that marketing is all about building relationships with prospects, initiating meaningful conversations, and personalizing the user experience. An email list helps accomplish all three.

Next to providing real value to prospects, a stellar email list is a result of effective management and careful segmentation. This is where many marketers and branding strategists get stuck.

According to Econsultancy’s 2015 Email Marketing Census, developing and maintaining a quality database of email addresses remains a struggle as marketers refuse to transition to more advanced segmentation tactics.

Managing Your eMail List

How do you keep your email list boned, veined, and skinned down to quality subscribers? We've laid out the steps below!

1. Spring clean your email list.

Check for typos and misspellings.

A marieclaire@gail.com is obviously a marieclaire@gmail.com so there’s no use holding on to the former that’s a typo. Also, it’s best to get rid of role-based email addresses (e.g., webmaster@, info@, support@) or those with disposable email domains.

Most email marketing providers have built-in tools to help you do your spring email cleaning. If you’re looking for a separate email verification tool that you can use to sort the good, the bad, and the ugly of your existing list, Kickbox is a good example.

2. Kill your unengaged darlings.

Like a lover holding on to a relationship gone stale, letting go of unengaged subscribers may be the best option.

Who are these unengaged darlings? These are the subscribers who can’t be bothered to click your email call-to-action or even open their emails. What’s worse is that some of them won’t unsubscribe from your list.

Before letting these contacts go (and for you to have proper closure), send at least one or two emails (with special incentives) as a reactivation campaign and see if open or view rates will pick up. Experian estimates that a thoughtfully planned re-engagement strategy could deliver up to 14 times the lift of your email marketing ROI.

If there’s no sign of engagement, it’s time for you to move on and find someone who is more attentive to your emails.

3. Keep an eye on your bounce rates.

Next to unengaged subscribers, keep an eye on undelivered emails.

There’s a host of reasons why this can possibly happen. A user may have move on to another email service provider or changed jobs from where their email address originated. This is known as a hard bounce. Or it could be a temporary situation, also known as a soft bounce. In this case, it’s either the email server is down or your subscriber’s inbox is full.

HubSpot’s Ginny Soskey recommends that you keep your total bounce rate under 2 percent. This is accomplished by removing hard bounce addresses as soon as you can and keeping an eye for those in the soft bounce list.

For contacts who have changed jobs, Advertising Age quotes LeadJen founder Jenny Vance:

It makes sense on many levels to reach out and ask if, for instance, the company operator knows who took over for an old contact. You can confirm the name and spelling of the new person's name as well as their email address and phone number. Then, you can send out a message inviting them to join your list. If you get the new person on the phone, you can have them opt in to your list verbally.

4. Look after your open and click rates.

Open and click rates could vary across company sizes and industries. However, the average email open rate these days is between 20 to 30 percent. If your open rate is lower than average, your subscribers are most likely not as engaged with your content.

To help you maintain a high-quality email list, monitor open and click rates after you send out a particular campaign.

5. Monitor feedback loops.

Although you can try various email marketing best practices, it's still possible for your subscribers to report you as spam.

Check for these feedback loops and identify subscribers who report you for phishing or spam. In addition, immediately remove them from your lists to avoid high bounce rates or to prevent your email from being blacklisted in the future.

6. Segment your lists.

Email list segmentation used to be a headache. However, with a variety of email marketing tools and apps available today, segmentation is a breeze.

The possibilities are endless when it comes to segmentation: you can sort by gender, location, or date of subscription. If you want to further refine your user experience, you can also segment through in-depth categories such as purchase history and campaign activity.

Here’s a case study of how SwayChic, an eCommerce store for a California-based women’s fashion retailer, improved their open rate by 40 percent through a campaign driven by email segmentation.

7. Confirm subscriptions with double opt-ins.

A double or confirmed opt-in ensures that your prospect’s email address is legitimate and that they actually opted to receive email from you.

An email list built through this process means no fake or spammy email addresses end up in your database. Apart from having a clean and lean email list, you also don’t have to second-guess if your prospects are truly interested in your brand or not.

8. Aim for personalization.

It’s a great feeling if someone you just met remembers and addresses you by your name, right? The same goes for emails. In fact, first name personalization can increase your click-through-rate from about 5.8 percent to 7 percent.

HubSpot allows you to insert personalization tokens to your email, personalize the From name, or send dynamic content via emails. With a couple of personalization tokens, engagement rate is less likely to dwindle. As a result, you get to maintain a high-quality email list.

Quick note on personalization: Do not overwhelm your customers with too much personal info or you’ll scare them away. Use personal data that is only relevant to your product.

The Bottom Line

Email marketing drove 25 percent more online sales over Black Friday sales in 2015 than the previous year. However, you have to be more strategic (and ruthless!) in managing your email lists to fully reap the benefits of email marketing. After all, what's the use of sending in offers if your subscribers are not your target prospects?

Read More: 28 Must-Learn Email Marketing Tips

Written by Kyjean Tomboc / April 18, 2016

Kyjean Tomboc finished nursing school but found joy in plucking and stringing words to ​create value-driven content for brands in the health, life sciences, and lean startup niches. She loves everything strategic in creating content -- from CRO to SEO to SMM to UX (the Internet sure loves acronyms!). Her current obsessions include the human gut microbiome, A/B testing, and Benedict Cumberbatch. Kyjean is also a seasoned trekker.

Articles by Kyjean Tomboc