Email Marketing: Improve deliverability by deleting subscribers?
One of the key takeaways from last year’s MarketingSherpa Email Summit was that improving engagement with email subscribers could improve deliverability. Email service providers now consider all the positive and negative interactions with your messages when deciding whether to mark your messages as spam.
This means subscribers who rarely open or click email messages can drag down your emails’ reputation. What can be done about this?
Remove unresponsive names
First of all, as noted in the MarketingSherpa 2011 Email Marketing Benchmark Report, the effectiveness of tactics used to improve deliverability varies significantly. However, one marketer told our researchers:
“Removal of non-participating subscribers has had the most influence on improving deliverability and email performance rates in all aspects of email marketing. In other words, get rid of the deadbeat email addresses and everything improves, and the spam companies leave our email alone.”
Deleting unresponsive subscribers might seem extreme. A typical rationale is that they have not unsubscribed and they might convert some day. Since email costs nearly nothing to send, why not hold on to the names?
My assumption, based on years of interviewing all types of marketers, is that regularly emailing subscribers who’ve not acted in six months or longer is more likely to hurt your email program than it is to help it. The good news is that you do not have to delete them outright — at least not right away.
Win them back or kick them out
You can try to reactivate unresponsive subscribers with a win-back or re-engagement campaign. This way you can hopefully salvage some good names from the trash heap.
A more radical tactic is to ask all subscribers to re-opt-in. This was done in one instance by an email marketer at the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra who had a mostly unresponsive database. Although he eventually cut about 95% of his subscribers, it gave his team a solid foundation from which to build an effective program and helped double online sales.
The hardest part about these strategies is the last step: deleting the subscribers who do not respond. You might be persuaded to think that these names cannot be worthless, that they must have some value. And they do have value: negative value. Continuing to email them is only going to hurt, so let them go.