Email list – anything – is a big topic.
When it comes to sharing best practices for growing an email list, email list maintenance, and of course, continuing to have an engaged email list, it’s hard to know exactly where to start.
I got to thinking about all of these topics way back in early 2014 – just before we revealed some stats about a spike in email subscribers after John was featured as guest on Pat Flynn’s Smart Passive Income Podcast.
Always pay attention to your numbers
I realized something pretty huge right around that time: while we continued to grow our email subscriber base at a nice rate, we also started noticing something about our open and click through rates: week after week, the numbers were always about the same.
Not necessarily a bad thing, right? At least they weren’t dropping.
But for me, staying the same wasn’t then – and isn’t now – what I want.
What I want is to be continuously improving everything we do here at EntrepreneurOnFire in order to best serve our audience, and I know John feels the same.
That’s why I decided that given our flat-line of open and click through rates, something had to change.
Email list maintenance was the first thing that came to mind.
Maintaining a strong email list
I’ve already shared the main tactics we’ve used to grow our email list, and today I’m going to share how we maintain a strong email list through email list maintenance.
As for continuing to keep an engaged list?… That’ll be a future topic I’ll discuss right here on the blog, too!
3 Steps to maintaining a strong email list
1. Get clear on your email list goals
In order to maintain a strong list, you have to get clear on your email list goals, otherwise you’ll never have anything to check yourself against.
What are your goals for email list growth?
What are your goals for email list engagement?
The definition of email engagement might vary… We define engagement based on our readers’ responses (actually taking the time to reply to an email when we’ve asked them to reply to an email), or the actual conversion rate we get through our call to action (that might be opting in to a Live Workshop or other).
Make sure you’re creating SMART goals around your email list so you can check in with yourself to see if what you’re doing is working, which brings me to step 2:
2. Check your email list stats often
Every couple of months it’s a good idea to check your email list stats and determine if what you’re doing is working.
Some things you might check:
– Average rate of growth (how many opt in’s you get per day or per week versus your goal)
– What your average open rate is (industry average for business is about 20%)
– What your average click through rate is (industry average is between 3 – 5%)
– How would you rate your email engagement?
Now that you have an idea of “the current state” of your email list, think about it from an improvement perspective: what can you do in order to improve what you currently see as lacking?
If your list isn’t growing, then have you exhausted all of the 7 tactics we covered in this post?
If your open and click through rates are low – or you don’t feel like you’re getting the engagement you really want – then what types of changes can you make, or tests can you do in order to improve in these areas?
This might include changing up the date and time you send your emails, improving your subject lines, changing the style of your writing so that it’s more conversational, testing out different calls to action…
Before you start doing email list maintenance, it’s important you have a clear goal in mind of what you want your email list to look like, and also a good understanding of where you’re at right now so that you can create clear action items to follow in order to improve it.
3. Email list maintenance
Email list maintenance starts with your email service provider. We use Infusionsoft for our email marketing, and with their software we’re able to run in-depth searches in order to find out very specific metrics about the actions our email list subscribers are taking.
This is where the maintenance part comes into play.
The last time we ran a search for our typical email list maintenance in March 2015 – which includes finding out which of our subscribers are actually opening our emails and engaging through clicks – we found out that we had 4,631 email addresses (or contacts) in our system we wanted to “target for deletion”.
The criteria we used to determine who was “targeted for deletion” was first and foremost based on the contact having unsubscribed, or the email on file being a hard bounce. If you can’t email the contact, then there’s really no point in having them in your system.
However, in running this search we also wanted to make sure none of these contacts had any orders or memberships with us. Just because someone doesn’t want to hear from us via email doesn’t mean they aren’t a member of one of our programs, and deleting them from our system would erase any info we currently have on them and their membership – we definitely don’t want that to happen.
Quick tip: when targeting contact for deletion it’s always a good idea to export their info to an excel document prior to actually deleting them just in case you need their info to cross reference something in the future.
Next, we pulled a report on contacts who were considered active subscribers from the last 6 months and found that:
– 30,547 contacts had opened an email
– 19,829 contacts had clicked an email
So out of nearly 50,000 contacts in our system, 66% of those contacts were considered “warm contacts” (they had either opened an email or in some way engaged with our emails within the past 6 months).
Conclusion from our email list maintenance
– 9% (the 4,600+ who came up as unsubscribed or a hard bounce before) could be completely removed;
– 66% were active and should stay; and
– The remaining 25% would be sent through a re-engagement campaign (or a “clean contacts” campaign) asking them whether or not they wanted to stay on our list.
So just by repeating these 3 steps every couple of months, we’re not only able to continuously improve our click through and open rates, we’re also able to maintain a strong list by cleaning our contacts regularly.
A lot of people have told us we’re crazy for running our clean contacts campaigns, which basically give people a one-click option to tell us to never email them again. But unless someone wants to hear from us, why would we keep them on our list?
Regardless of whether you have 10 subscribers or 10,000, your list is only as strong as your subscribers’ engagement levels.
What’s one tactic you use to maintain a strong email list through email maintenance? Let us know in the comments section below!
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