Freshen Your Email List to Stay on Top

September 27, 2012
By Michael Neubarth

With the erosion of email lists being an unavoidable and persistent problem, making a continual effort to refresh your email list is necessary to keep your marketing program from degrading.

As Ken Semple relates, “On average your email database loses 25% of its subscribers each year as readers change jobs, change email providers or simply unsubscribe.”

Regularly refreshing your list, as well as verifying addresses at the source, enables you to counteract erosion to keep your program performing at its peak capability. “An email database that is left alone, without refreshing,” Carolyn Nye notes, ”will lead to lower open and click rates.”

The ways to refresh your list are many, and include the same methods you use to grow your email list, with the additional ability to reengage inactive subscribers you already have.

Expert advice on how to grow and refresh your email list is abundant. Looking through the collections of tips, you’ll find a number of tactics in common, such as putting signup forms on your website and in social media venues, collecting business cards at events, and collecting addresses at points of sale.

Because many prospects will gladly give you their email address for a compelling offer, experts advise you to offer all sorts of incentives, including gifts, deals, discounts, promotions, contests, coupons, etc. Visitors will also swap their email address for useful information like surveys, whitepapers, and case studies.

Is there controversy in the list-refresh advice ranks? You betcha. Caleb Wojcik, for example, takes issue with those who advise using what he calls flashing arrows or pop-ups to “trick” people into giving you their email address? “Sorry,” says Wojcik, “the results are in and people hate pop-ups.”

Among those who advise considering pop-ups, however, is Carolyn Nye, who says, “Yes, pop-ups may be obtrusive. However, site visitors sometimes need a bit of nudging to take action, especially something as easy as signing up for a newsletter.”

Similarly, while some experts advise simply removing inactive subscribers from your list, others believe it is worthwhile to try to reengage them, citing the cost of retaining vs. acquiring new customers as one reason. A common approach is to segregate inactive subscribers and mail to them separately to attempt to reengage.

A reason to cut inactive subscribers is the cost saving on email service provider fees. As Nye relates, “These costs may be minor. But over time they add up.”

As you refresh your list, practicing list hygiene is critical to maintaining high data quality. Experts also advise employing data append services, which will enable you to fill in missing data and enrich existing data to achieve more effective marketing results via profiling, segmenting, and targeting prospects.

For example, if you possess only limited information about your subscribers, says Carolyn Nye, consider a reverse data append that provides physical addresses, demographics, shopping behavior, likes, and interests to enable you to develop a segmented email approach.

Likewise, Tal Nathan on ClickZ advises you to consider email append if you have a large offline customer base and want to communicate with them online.

These methods are proven, and if you have a great list refreshing tip, please feel free to share it with us here.