If you have a list of subscribers to whom you send emails about your business (or even your hobby) and you fret over how many people are actually opening the messages, you are NOT alone. But don’t let that get you down! Here’s a message we received recently from a reader:
“I’m having a helluva time with the number of people who are getting the emails put directly to spam…they have to be really dedicated to get that not to happen. Have you had this problem? My list…inherited from [NAME REMOVED], I think is the problem. It’s over 3,000, but seriously, the number who open the emails is always under 1,000. So I suspect a lot are going directly to spam instead of people having unsubscribed over the years. But how to dump the 2,000 who aren’t reading…the only way I’d know to do that is to manually go over the lists of opens for the past year, and then cull the master list. I was going to do this over the summer but, as you can imagine, did not. Now, I don’t know how to do it. I could try that fiver.com place…but it seems a bit sketchy to do this with something as valuable as the list. Any suggestions?”
This person didn’t specify exactly how many opens she is averaging but we know it’s under 1k in a list size of 3k. Since she mentioned the 1k number, we will assume that’s the point at which she has mentally set the benchmark of success vs. failure. Now let’s make another assumption… Maybe she is averaging 600 opens per message, which works out to a flat 20% open rate. Seems low, right? Good news – It isn’t! MailChimp keeps detailed records of open and click rates for various industries and releases the results for free on a monthly basis. You can check them out here:
If you visit the link above, you will see that 20% is actually quite good for many industries and average to slightly below average for the rest on the list. The important thing is that it certainly is not BAD and not necessarily an indicator that her messages are being diverted into spam folders.
Still, it’s always a good idea from a housekeeping standpoint to periodically perform maintenance on your list in order to maximize open rates and minimize opt-outs or complaints. But where to start…
List Pruning: A Quick HOW-TO Guide
Pruning is the act of removing people from your list who are no longer interested in your content for whatever reason. These are the people who haven’t opened, clicked, or purchased (if you are selling stuff) anything in the last x amount of time (3/6/9/12 months or however long you want to go back, depending on what you feel is right for your business). This becomes your “not engaged” group and the one on which you will be doing the pruning.
Now you may be saying “Slow down, why would I voluntarily reduce the size of my list?!” This process might seem a bit scary or counter intuitive but it’s actually a great way to remove people who haven’t shown any interest and are basically a ticking time bomb for a complaint or opt-out while, at the same time, re-engage people who might really care about your content but haven’t had a chance to consume it recently. It’s good for everyone involved.
First and foremost, you should NOT contact everyone on your “not engaged” list at once. Why? Number one, that doesn’t look good to companies who monitor spam and it could adversely impact your email deliverability. Number two, this is a valuable opportunity for feedback and engagement so it’s much easier to manage if you do it in pieces, especially if you intend to respond to any messages personally as a retention effort.
Instead, break your list up into a number of parts. The number that is right for you will depend on the static size of your list and how you want to use the feedback but, generally, it should be at least four parts of 25% each.
But what should you say? Here’s a good example of a basic list pruning email:
“Hey there CONTACT_FIRST_NAME,
I noticed that you haven’t checked out my stuff in a while so I’m just reaching out to see if you’re still interested. If not, no hard feelings, but I’d love to hear your thoughts on how I could catch your interest again. Any feedback at all, positive or negative, is always appreciated.
If you click the unsubscribe button below, you won’t hear from me again… but I hope you’ll stick around!
Thanks so much for your time.
Have a great day,
YOUR BUSINESS NAME”
You could then set your email automation software to send a reminder email after 30 days to people who haven’t opted out or responded and modify the copy of the above to include something like this:
“I sent a message about a month ago so I’m checking in with you one more time just in case you missed that one”
And finally, you could either remove all non-respondents from your database or classify them as “inactive” and manually opt them out from receiving emails (depending on personal preference and the capabilities of the software that you use).