6 steps to refreshing your contact list this spring

4 min

Spring is here, so you’re probably thinking about tackling those seasonal chores – like clearing out the garden, or your closet. But what about your email contact list? Cleaning up your contact list (what we call “list hygiene”) is one of the most under appreciated areas of email marketing. And it’s probably the least popular, too. But done well, list hygiene is tremendously valuable.

What is list hygiene – and why should you do it?

In a nutshell, list hygiene keeps your mailing list clean. It’s about regularly removing the dead weight – like inactive contacts, unsubscribes, and bounces.

Many people still wrongly believe the bigger your list, the more valuable it is. But many studies have shown that the engagement metrics are what matter most. Quality wins over quantity. So it’s better to have a database of 10,000 subscribers who want to receive your emails, than 100,000 subscribers who don’t.

Keeping your list clean pays off – in your monthly plan and in your email metrics. So let’s dive in and start clearing the clutter!

Here are 6 simple steps to get started.

1. Ditch the dead weight.

First, consider removing subscribers who didn’t open any of your emails in a certain timeframe. Why? Because more engaged subscribers means better deliverability.

My proven best practice is to check who didn’t open any emails in the last three months. If you’re sending emails frequently, this quarterly check is good practice. If you send updates less often, say twice a month, then aim for every six months.

Here’s how to do it:

list hygiene

2. Re-engage your contacts.

 Now you know how many contacts have lost interest, it’s time to think of a re-engagement strategy. This is different than a win-back email, used to get a contact to buy something they abandoned. It’s easy to set this up using our marketing automation abandoned cart condition. You can read more about win-back emails here.

A re-engagement email aims to entice a contact to reconnect with your emails and brand.

3. Create a re-engagement email.

Before you start the cleanup, you need to think about:

  1. Which campaigns you’re retargeting – and why;
  2. Your buyer personas.

Let’s say you’re revisiting your content campaign for blog subscribers. You’ll need to give them a reason to engage that’s different from what you offer subscribers you want to sell (or upsell) to.

In either case, a good re-engagement email will:

  1. Show why your subscribers liked you in the first place;
  2. Use a lead magnet to reconfirm their subscription.

Stick to email best practices. Keep it short, be personal, and enchant with your subject line. Your copy should briefly tell contacts how to reconfirm their subscription, and what will happen if they don’t.

4. Set up automation.

Your copy’s ready and you’re about to click send. But how will you easily see who’s engaged and who’s not? Doing it manually takes a lot of time and effort – with a high chance of mistakes.

I always use a marketing automation workflow. This starts with a link clicked condition:

list hygiene

The link is usually your call to action – your lead magnet.

If your email says: “Would you like to stay updated? Click here and we’ll keep you posted”, your workflow will look like this:

list hygiene
list hygiene

This simple two-step workflow automatically removes all contacts that didn’t click to get your lead magnet. Insider tip: to make sure the automation works, schedule your re-engagement message. Then fill out the empty spaces in the workflow draft.

5. Say thanks.

Next, you need to think about how to deliver your lead magnet. What’s the most effective way to thank your audience for their engagement and attention?

You got their buy-in, so I suggest you go the extra mile and create a dedicated landing page. I use the GetResponse landing page creator to create a simple and friendly thank you message:

list hygiene

Then there’s another call to action!

list hygiene

I’ve included an educational ecourse offer. This turns your thank you page into another landing page, with a related offer.

Let’s say your offer is an ebook. You can deliver it like this:

list hygiene

If you get another sign up, be proud because you just earned your subscriber’s trust!

Do it again!

Regularly cleaning up your contacts will keep your list quality high, without hindering your revenue. You can easily duplicate the workflows and landing pages to save time and get even greater results. Then, you can extend your workflows and include more messages in the reconfirmation process. Always start simple. Then once you feel comfortable, you can increase the pace.

What about bounces and complaints?

Remember I said you should also check your email bounces? A bounce happens when an email couldn’t be delivered. A hard bounce is a permanent block. This happens when you email a non-existent address, which is then immediately removed from the list. A soft bounce happens when we detect delivery issues such as a full email inbox, a mail server that’s temporarily unavailable, or an email account that’s no longer used. A complaint, or spam report, is also removed from your account.

Always keep an eye on these three indicators. If you regularly clean up your list, you can stop the ratios getting too high.

Over to you!

As you can see, list hygiene is as important as growing your list. Good engagement rates, like high email open and click rates, indicate your audience’s interest. But even these metrics won’t filter out unengaged subscribers. So you need to slice and dice your list – and do it often.

How do you re-engage your subscribers? Let us know in the comments below!

Read more: Clean Your Dirty Database in 5 Easy Steps

Michal Leszczynski
Michal Leszczynski
Meet Michal Leszczynski, Head of Content Marketing and Partnerships at GetResponse. With 10+ years of experience, Michal is a seasoned expert in all things online marketing. He’s a prolific writer, skilled webinar host, and engaging public speaker. Outside of business hours, Michal shares his wealth of knowledge as an Email Marketing lecturer at Kozminski University in Warsaw. You can reach out and connect with Michal on LinkedIn.