Managing Your Email List Washing Hands at Sink

6 best practices for managing your email list

10 min read
Derek Miller

Email marketing is the third-most influential source of information for B2B brands and is often considered just as valuable (if not more) for B2C marketers. Email marketing has been around for a few decades, proving its staying power against the test of time — showing why managing your email list is so important.

Throughout these years of growth and change, one thing has remained constant: your brand needs to send its email content to the right people.

If your email list is full of irrelevant subscribers, then you’re not going to see the marketing results you want. How do you identify the top subscribers in lists with thousands of addresses?

By managing your email list. And we're going to show you how it's done.

Related: Beginner’s guide to starting an email list

6 best practices for managing your email list

Whether your email marketing reaches a few dozen people or a few million, you can have a clear, curated subscriber base who is interested in your content. Below are the steps for managing your email list, which we will discuss in greater detail throughout the article.

  1. Research your desired audience
  2. Focus on quality content over the number of eblasts
  3. Look for advanced segmentation options
  4. Allow audiences to self-manage their email preferences
  5. Don’t sweat over email unsubscriptions
  6. Remove disengaged subscribers periodically

Let’s get started!

1. Research your desired audience

Audience research is at the core of any email marketing campaign. Some companies do this through high-level practices to create a style guide for email content, while other companies conduct hours of research to create detailed audience buckets that allow for improved segmentation, automation, triggered emails and hyper-niche targeting.

The best option for research is really whatever your brand is able to handle.

Throughout your audience research project, there are several characteristics that you can identify. These will determine the type of content that your audience is interested in and how they want to consume that information.

Some of these demographic insights include:

  • Top email open times and the number of times users check email each day
  • Email etiquette or expectations based on culture or demographic makeup
  • Products or services that your customers are interested in
  • Customer location within the sales funnel
  • Prospective versus loyal customers
  • How the audience first heard about your brand

Some of the research will focus on static features, while other characteristics will be more dynamic based on the user or your marketing efforts.

For example, while 75% of consumers say they are most likely to check their email messages on their smartphones, 55% of consumers over the age of 56 ever do — preferring to use a desktop or tablet instead.

If you are targeting an older audience, then your email messages should be designed to accommodate these needs — they should be desktop-focused, with an email-friendly option that appeals to older users. This is a static demographic.

From there, you can add information about your customers based on their behavior. The same company targeting older customers might build their email list at a community health fair. The customer emails they collect will be top-funnel, new customers, who are interested in health-focused content.

These are dynamic features that will change about your audiences over time as they engage more with your brand.

Once this research is complete, you can make sure that your messages tie back to the needs of your audience. You have the right people, now you need to start managing your email list to present the right message.

2. Focus on quality content over the quantity of emails

If you want an engaged audience that opens, reads and clicks your email content, then you need to create content that people want to read.

One way to do this is to focus on the quality of your content, rather than the number of emails you send.

Many brands have found that by improving the content of their emails, they can convey the same information while sending fewer messages. As a result, these messages have more value to customers who appreciate the information and tune in more.

As you’re managing your email list, here are a few ways you can cut back on the quantity you send:

  • Look for information that can be condensed into one message
  • Develop a newsletter-style email campaign where multiple stories are included
  • Identify low-performing email messages and pause those campaigns
  • Send fewer alerts and updates that reiterate an earlier message

You can also A/B test email send rates (where one group gets fewer emails) and compare the results of the test. This allows you to see for yourself how your customers respond to the change in email frequency and determine the best course of action moving forward.

3. Look for advanced segmentation options

In the early days of email marketing, brands had to segment audiences themselves. They had to develop specific segments and determine when to send emails to customers. However, as technology improves, so do our brand options.

More email providers offer segmentation tools that tap into machine learning.

When a customer hasn’t visited the website in a few months, an email will auto-trigger to bring them back.

This segmentation has done wonders for eCommerce brands that can offer a compelling coupon in their email promotions.

AI-based segmentation also allows for email triggers based on behavior.

Email notifications will be sent to customers who abandon carts, need to refill their items, or who want to get a good deal with a price change.

The best part is that these email triggers pay off.

Some marketers have found that abandoned cart emails can have a 21% click-through rate and a 50% conversion rate for those who clicked.

These segmentation changes occur based on behaviors and changes every day – if not every hour. There’s no way for a human to keep up.

However, with these tools, an email marketer can focus more on strategy and less on moving customers into different segmentation buckets.

The best part is that many of these machine learning-based options are built into existing email tools or are affordable add-ons. This means that even small businesses and companies with limited marketing budgets can invest in smart segmentation and watch their email marketing efforts improve.

Editor’s note: GoDaddy Email Marketing takes on routine tasks for you, like password reset emails, birthday discounts, and more, so you can focus on your business.

4. Allow audiences to self-manage their email preferences

While there are plenty of AI tools that will adjust customer email preferences based on their behavior, you can also set up a system where your audiences decide what content they want to receive and when.

Creating a customer-facing email preference management system is becoming an increasingly popular option for brands who want to keep subscribers but aren’t sure how to adjust their frequency.

With this email preference system, managing your email list is easier because customers can adjust their preferences through a link you add to your email body. They can opt to receive fewer emails (like weekly updates instead of daily newsletters), or change the content to focus on specific topics.

Additionally, your brand can look at the type of content that your customers opt for and adjust your email rates appropriately. You might find that more people prefer weekly updates, which means you wouldn’t have to send out a daily newsletter if it wasn’t needed.

5. Don’t sweat over email unsubscriptions

Managing Your Email List Worried Covering Face

If you’re managing your email list with all of the practices mentioned so far, then you shouldn’t have to worry about your unsubscribe rate.

An email unsubscribe notification is a sign that someone didn’t need to hear your message at that time. It also means that they weren’t likely to convert anyway.

Stop treating it as if you just lost a valued customer.

With email marketing, you are always going to lose audience members through unsubscribes, but that doesn’t mean your marketing efforts are less healthy or that your future revenue is at risk.

That being said, you should track your unsubscribe rate over time.

Make sure this number either stays consistent or drops. You only need to panic if there is a dramatic spike in your unsubscribe rate that you didn’t plan on.

Finally, remember that email marketing isn’t your only communications channel. If you’re worried that potential customers won’t follow your business updates, keep in mind that there are multiple social media platforms out there that they likely follow. They might just want to connect with your brand that way.

Related: Make social media and email marketing work together

6. Delete disengaged subscribers

For many email marketers, the size of their email list is a point of pride. The larger the list, the more people they think are going to buy their products.

In actuality, a large list could actually be hurting your brand and lowering your revenue rates, no matter how many people sign up.

The concept of graymail is used to describe email that isn't necessarily spam, but also isn’t email that you want to receive.

If you think these emails are harmless, think again.

When customers start ignoring your email, they are more likely to ignore important messages in the future.

Plus, email providers like Gmail and Outlook watch the behavior of users as they interact with email campaigns. When emails from a particular service are ignored, then the email providers will start automatically sorting those emails as junk.

The first step to take in this process is to look for customers who aren’t interested in your brand — they aren’t clicking on your email messages and haven’t for several months. Some email providers will also offer an “engagement score” where you can identify disengaged customers and delete them.

Once you have pruned your list, stop adding low-quality subscribers.

Instead of having an instant opt-in policy on your website, ask customers to actively subscribe and even confirm their subscription via email. Your brand will reach fewer people, but your conversion rate will be unaffected — and might actually improve.

Keep your email list as organized as your home

Managing your email list can become a project if your company has been collecting email addresses for several years without maintaining their quality or keeping them organized. However, you should be left with a healthy list of customers and a strategic plan to reach them.

It is important to note that managing your email list requires regular upkeep once you have an organized system in place.

In many ways, this is just like your home. You can’t wash your dishes just once — you will have to wash them again the next time you eat. With email, you might be able to set up some best practices to maintain subscriber quality, but you will want to conduct regular “health checks” to keep your list from growing out of hand again.

Essentially, treat your email list like a home that Marie Kondo would be proud of. Keep the subscribers who bring you joy, and throw out anything that creates a mess and prevents you from having a clear view of your marketing strategy.

This article includes content originally published on the GoDaddy blog by the following authors: Kate Chittenden, Michelle Ward and Tom Ewer.

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