Email Deliverability: It's not the size of your email list, it's how engaged it is!

It’s not about the size of your list, it’s how engaged it is.

Sep 27

It's all in the list... If you do nothing else, grow a big list... If you don't have a big list, you can't make money.

I am sure we have all heard the talk about the need to have a huge list.  I mean look anywhere online and you see all the "experts" talking about building your list.  We all want a massive mailing list of prospects and customer wanting to do business with us.  I'm guilty there as well.  

The truth of the matter is that it's not the size of your list that matters, it's how engaged that list is. 

In working with over 5,000 small businesses, I see this obsession with having a large email list. There is a sense of pride they carry with the size of the email list. That obsession with list size 9 times out of 10 though is to the detriment of the business. You may be asking yourself, what’s the problem with a large list?

Let me explain. I was on the phone with a prospective client with some email deliverability challenges who claimed they had a list of 95,000 and they were starting to notice a dip in email opens. So, we dug into that list. It turns out that the 95,000-person list wasn't 95,000 when you excluded the opt-outs and bounces. That brought their list down to about 58,000. That nearly shocked my prospect when they realized that was their actual number.

But it didn't stop there, when we dove deeper into the list and looked at engagement, we found that over 20,000 contacts have not engaged with their content in over a year. Now that 95,000 list is actually down to about 38,000 contacts. Needless to say, there as a bit of shock at that point. After the shock wore off, they responded ”well at least I have 38,000 potentially good contacts to market to”.

Here in lies the problem, 20,000 unengaged contacts that are being marketed to that have zero interest in your marketing. Now if you have done any research on email deliverability, you know that engagement does play a role in email deliverability, and that lack of engagement was a hinderance to this client landing their messages in the inbox and not in the spam folder. But wait...there's more.

But, I didn’t stop there! As it turned out, this list has never been cleaned and the potential client has relied on their Email Service Provider (ESP) to manage the list. They thought what many small businesses owners think- my ESP controls deliverability. They thought that all bounces were handled (and a good amount were) and that’s all they had to worry about. Here now lies the bigger problem: not knowing they had to pay attention to list hygiene and email deliverability, how to do it and what to look for!

The fact for them, as with most every client I’ve been speaking too recently, is there’s a very high likelihood that a major portion of that list (38,000) is dirty - I mean toxic! It is that toxicity that is causing their email deliverability rates and inbox placement (yes there is a difference) to steadily decline.

So how do beat poor deliverability?

It’s said that the easiest way to beat poor deliverability and ensure that your messages actually reach the inbox is to remove people from your list that haven't been opening reading or licking your emails. But, list cleaning by itself isn't enough even though we all wished it was that simple.

To help you in the fight to reach the inbox and avoid having an unengaged list, here are 6 strategies to help you reach the inbox and avoid the spam or promotions folder beside the obvious of cleaning your email list regularly.

Ask Permission To Market - Beyond Can-Spam, CASL, and GDPR laws governing the sending of email, your subscribers see their inbox as a private place. You must consider the perspective of the customer.

Set Proper Expectations - Clarifying what you are sending and how often one is likely to receive an email. As you look at your email frequency, it is important to note that 49% of email subscribers opt-out because they receive too many emails!

Avoid Deception - Stay away from using unethical practices such as deceptive headlines and hiding the unsubscribe link. you may bypass the spam filter, but you will diminish your credibility.

Segment Your List - Segmented email marketing campaigns get almost 15% more email opens and nearly 60% more clicks compared to non-segmented campaigns. You can create customer segmentation by interests and behavior with the emails (creating a dialogue with your prospects rather than a monologue) as well as segment by engagement and yes there are tools that will enable you to do that automatically.

Let Contacts Unsubscribe - Do not hide your Unsubscribe link, remember it's not about the size of your list, it is about how engaged it is. Let contacts that want to go away just go. Making it hard for them to go will only hurt you and your sender reputation as they will only delete future emails or mark them as spam, both if which have a negative effect on email deliverability!

Regularly Scrub your List - Dormant email accounts (emails that are not logged into) can turn toxic extremely quickly. ISP's convert dormant accounts to spam traps at varying rates anywhere from 60 to 180 days. If you ever wondered how a clean list can have a spam trap and turn bad, that's how. At the very least, you should be scrubbing your list bi-annually. I have other clients that scrub every three months and some that segment their lists based on engagement and scrub the unengaged monthly and immediately remove any bad contacts from their lists.

If your emails don't actually make it to the user’s inbox, they are useless. You have to take a proactive approach to the deliverability of your emails, you must pay attention to the basic fundamentals of email deliverability and those are to maintain a clean and engaged list, not just a big list.

If you would like to dive into your email hygiene and deliverability, schedule a free consultation and assessment here.


About the Author

Evan Samurin is a third generation entrepreneur with a passion for helping business move from transactional to transformational. Having worked with entrepreneurs over the last 9 years, Evan is a wealth of knowledge. Evan leverages passion, compassion and wit to help entrepreneurs thrive.