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Email marketing list cleanup tips

Once you've had a subscriber list for a while - be it for general marketing blasts or newsletters, the number of people on it who never bother to open your emails will naturally increase. 

Having people on your list who don't read what you send *can* be a problem - it really depends. 

For example, it can have an impact on spam filter scores - but it's only one of many factors. 

If you're in the business of selling ad space in your newsletters and such, most savvy advertisers are as interested in your open rates as they are about the number of people on your list. 

Another scenario where you may wish to do a list cleanup is where you haven't contacted your subscribers for quite some time and really aren't sure how many of your current subscribers still want to hear from you.

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There are ways to address the list cleanup challenge, but the following example is probably not one of them.

I received the following email from a very well known analytics company recently, who have many fortune 500 clients on their books:

---
Subject: Michael, is this the end?

Hi Michael, 

I donít want it to be the end, but maybe you do.

A few months ago, you downloaded information from our Web site. I continued to send you more information on the same subject when I came across it. I thought youíd be interested. But you havenít opened a single email since then.

There is nothing worse than getting emails you donít want or care about. Unfortunately, I canít tell if you fit into that category. 

Here is a simple way to find out: Go to our Preference Center so I can determine if you want to stop getting emails from me altogether or you are waiting for something more relevant to your needs to come from us. 

This could be the end between us, or it could be the start of a beautiful relationship! 
----

When I read the note I found it a little odd. I nearly deleted it before reading the contents based just on the dramatic subject line. 

I "get" what the company was trying to do - to make it a little light hearted, but using humor or levity can really backfire - it can be viewed as sarcasm. It's also unnecessarily long for what it is attempting to achieve and subtly attempts to play on guilt.

People are also generally way too busy these days to do mental gymnastics to translate these sorts of messages.

I didn't think much more about it, but then another email from the company arrived a few hours later:

---
We apologize for an automated email you received earlier today created and sent from Marketing on behalf of your Account Development Manager. 

This message was sent to you in error. Please accept our sincere apology, as this is not the type of communication we send to our customers. We look forward to continuing a valuable dialogue in the future.
---

Oops! I pity the poor guy who sent the first note as I think he had his butt severely kicked.

A much simpler way to go about this without making people jump through hoops to unsubscribe or possibly offending them is with a note like so:

----
Subject: About your X subscription

Hello X,

We're tidying up our subscriber list at the moment and just wanted to ensure you still wished to receive communications from us. 

If you no longer would like to receive special offers, announcements and news from X, please click the link below. If you would like to continue to receive these communications, there's nothing further you need to do.

Yes, I wish to be removed from the X list:

<unsubscribe link>
----

If you're using HTML, make sure the anchor text says something like "unsubscribe" so the person knows exactly what the link will do and not accidentally click it if they wish to stay on your list..

In cases where you might offer multiple types of email communication, something similar:

----
Hello X,

We're tidying up our subscriber list at the moment and just wanted to ensure you still wished to receive communications from us. 

If you would like to continue to receive these communications, there's nothing further you need to do, or as you may be subscribed to multiple communications from us; you can set your preferences here:

<management link>

If you would like to be unsubscribed from all our communications, just click the following link:

<unsubscribe link>
----

That's it, nothing complex, no attempt at wit, just a clear message and a good email marketing software application will handle the rest for you.

Aside from issues of clarity, if you have to do a song and dance to keep people on your list, then something is wrong with what you are sending them. Trying to get people to stay on your list who don't read what you send them is rather counter-productive to the whole exercise anyway.

Related:

Email delivery tips
Gauging email open rates

Michael Bloch
Taming the Beast
http://www.tamingthebeast.net 
Tutorials, web content, tools and software.
Web Marketing, Internet Development & Ecommerce Resources
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