Growing a large, engaged mailing list is one of the primary goals of my business. Sometimes, however, you have to delete existing subscribers in order to get new ones.
It sounds a little bit weird, right?
In today’s post I’m going to talk about why I might be deleting so many subscribers, and why you might want to think about deleting some as well.
We’ll investigate the problem right back to it’s root cause (and look at all the clues along the way) so that you can see if there might be something going on with your list too.
Warning: make sure you read to the end before deleting any! This should be fun.
A quick re-cap on why we like email subscribers
Why do we put so much effort into getting more email subscribers in an age of Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, and a million other social networks?
Well, despite all that noise, and all of those different platforms, people are still using email as much as ever. And, more than that, once someone opts in to your mailing list they are more likely to engage with your brand again and again.
When you have a big and engaged mailing list you can:
- Promote your new articles
Every time you have a new blog post come out you can email your list and let them know it’s live. That leads to better traffic levels, more shares, etc.
- Promote new products and events
If you have a new event or product launch coming up you can put together an email campaign to let people know it’s happening. Instant customer base.
- Get honest feedback
An engaged mailing list will happily participate in things like surveys that help you improve your business as well as be more helpful in solving peoples’ problems.
All in all, a quality list of subscribers that you have built up through honest, helpful content can be one of the most vital aspects of your blog – and it’ll help you survive and grow your business for the long term.
So, why are you deleting subscribers then?
It’s crazy to delete so many subscribers if they are that valuable, right?
Well, yes and no.
You see, a successful mailing list is not just about the number of subscribers, it’s also about the levels of engagement. A mailing list of 100,000 people is useless if only five people open the things you send out!
And while I am genuinely grateful to each and every person who subscribes to my list, there is a downside we need to consider: If you’re not careful, a disengaged email list will actually cost you money, lose you future subscribers, and have a negative impact on your blog.
Before I explain how let’s take a quick look at the life cycle of an email subscriber:
- A person encounters your blog
First someone has to stumble across your blog through a Google search, social media share, referral link, or advertising promotion.
- They sign up to your list
That person feels that your content can help them solve some problem they are having and thus signs up to your mailing list to get either a free giveaway or get future help from your content.
- The knowledge gap is filled
Somewhere along the line, this person will learn what they came to learn and either become satisfied and thus no longer need you, or forget who you are.
- They unsubscribe or mark you as spam
Once someone no longer needs your content they will either unsubscribe (that’s fine) or mark you as spam.
And that is where the problem occurs.
Once someone forgets about you because they no longer need your content, there is an increased chance that they will mark your email campaigns as spam because they can’t remember signing up for the list, or they see it as an easier solution than manually unsubscribing.
This has a huge impact on how successfully you can deliver future campaigns – especially if your email gets blacklisted.
It’s important, once realizing this, that we investigate further and take some action.
So, what do I do next?
Let’s take a little look at whether or not we need to delete some email subscribers, and then how we go about deciding which ones.
First of all, it’s important to figure out whether you actually have a problem or not. For me, I was noticing a drop off in the open rates of my automatic follow up emails, and then my regular weekly emails to the point where it was starting to bother me.
These numbers are still quite good, but whenever something is trending downwards you’ll need to keep an eye on it and figure out why – especially for your more regular campaign emails (my numbers are lower there).
The second thing you’ll want to do is take a look at your complaints rate and see whether there is any noticeable increase.
Increases in complaints often happen when people can’t remember signing up for your list, or the content that you are sending out doesn’t match their expectations. It’ll also rise when people can’t find a clear unsubscribe link in your mail outs.
Lastly, take a look at how many people on your list just aren’t opening emails anymore. I did a bit of research and decided that if someone hadn’t opened an email from me in three months then I’ve probably lost them, or they’re so good at blogging they don’t need me anymore!
At this point you could try a re-engagement email to try and re-energize them, a different style/campaign to generate interest, or just remove the lot. There’s no reason to store thousands of email addresses of people who don’t open your mails, unless you want to keep the large number for social proof.
A quick word of warning about deleting subscribers
Of course, you want to be careful before deleting any email subscribers (maybe take backups) as they are not easy to win in the first place.
And remember, a drop in open rates could be signalling some other issue (like poor delivery, opens not registering properly, Gmail filtering into the junk folder, etc.) and not an issue with the subscriber themselves, so make sure you’ve done your research and be careful before taking action.
You also don’t have to delete them completely – you can just move the inactive ones to a separate list that you store somewhere but don’t actually email regularly.
I’ll show you the results of my list cull campaign in the next few weeks if you’d like to wait and see that before proceeding with your own list adjustments.
How healthy is your email list?
Is your mailing list healthy? I’d love to know whether you’ve ever deleted a large chunk of subscribers and how it improved your open and click rates. Let us know in the comments below whether you’ve got any good stories, or any other information that might be useful to people reading.