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Optimizing Your Mailing Lists March 10, 2011

Posted by socialmarketnow in Blog.
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All lists need a little upkeep to stay healthy and keep communications relevant

PamelaAdams, Regional Development Director, Georgia

by Pamela Adams1,  Constant Contact Regional Development Director, Georgia
How is a permission-based email list like a Philodendron plant2? You want both to grow in size and expand their reach. And, like a Philodendron, a growing email list3 needs some care and maintenance along the way to ensure healthy growth continues. Giving a little TLC to your list also helps reinforce that you’re continuing to send relevant information to each of your subscribers.
Here are three surefire ways for maintaining a healthy email list:
1. Segment your list
When you have a larger list and send everything to everyone, you’re basically doing what my friend calls “spraying and praying.” You’re playing the numbers game and hoping that more people will open your messages. In reality creating smaller, targeted lists gets your better results. Letting subscribers choose which list they want to be on allows them to tell you what they want to hear, and it means you can send more relevant emails to those who want to receive them. A few examples of how business or organizations could segment their lists:
  • Nonprofits could have separate lists targeting members, donors, volunteers, and board of directors.
  • A clothing retailer could offer mailings targeting those interested in men’s, women’s, or children’s apparel.
  • Restaurants that offer live music on the weekend could segment their lists by those interested in only dinner specials and those interested in the musical acts.
  • A travel agent could offer an email on tropical vacations, ski packages, or vacations with kids.
You can choose which lists are available for subscribers on your Join My Mailing List and email preference page (e.g., a nonprofit wouldn’t want to have the board of directors list open to the public). Other options include segmenting your list by anniversary or birthday month, or by how often subscribers want to hear from you (e.g., weekly, monthly, quarterly).
If you’ve already got a big list (good for you!) that you want to segment, you can let subscribers know about the new options in upcoming campaigns and ask them to click the Update Profile/Email Address link at the bottom of your message to see and select which available lists they’d like to be added to. You can also put a copy of the Update Profile link in the body of your email4 to make it a more obvious call to action.
2. Prune the bounces
Every time you mail a message, there are going to be a few that get bounced back because the email address is no longer valid, has a typo in it, the recipient’s inbox could be full, or the person has an out-of-office responder activated. Take a look at your bounce report5 to see why the message is being returned. For the vacationers, you can ignore the report. But for hard bounces such as a non-existent addresses, you should:
  • Verify the address is correct. If it is and you think the report is a false positive6, you can always follow-up with the subscriber individually to see if she is actually receiving your message.
  • For those that are truly non-existent, move them to your Do Not Mail list. Doing so will eliminate the subscriber from future mailings, help lower your bounce rate, and improve your open rate. You may also save a few dollars since you won’t be paying for a contact that isn’t getting your emails in the first place.
3. Trim those who don’t engage
There are two schools of thought on trimming your list. Some say if a subscriber hasn’t opened your email in over a year, delete them from your list7 and watch as your open rates rise.
However, I am a believer that if people don’t ask to be taken off your list, you leave them where they are as you never know when someone is going to re-engage and potentially become a customer or donor. You can also conduct a specific re-engagement campaign8 to encourage those quiet subscribers to become active again. The decision to trim or not to trim is yours.
The goals of pruning, segmenting, and trimming are to keep your list clean and to enable you to keep sending relevant content to those subscribers who are interested in specific categories or types of information. No matter which routes you take, delivering winning content to your subscribers will keep them on your list and engaged with your messages longer.