How can growing a list be bad?

More isn’t always better when it comes to your email list if it means it’s filled with stagnant or spam-filled contacts, which is worse than having no list at all. Everyone continues to talk about how and why you should grow your email list, so this may seem contradictory. However, if you have undesirable contacts on your list, it may actually be costing you more money and negatively affecting your email sender reputation, IP score, or other email metrics. (If you want to learn more about sender reputation, see

Managing your list can save you money

Most email management tools charge according to the size of your contact list. Why pay more, when not all of your contacts are potential leads? Some of the emails in your list may be spam, some may be misspelt, or some may be bouncing and never even received. Cleaning your email list and managing your number of contacts will help you better manage your email marketing budget.

How do you clean your email list?

A great place to start cleaning up your email list is to check your bounce rate on emails you have sent. This will show how many emails never found the address that they were intended to go to. Where some of the emails misspelt and causing you to actually be missing out on potential leads? Maybe some are old emails and simply need to be updated to the new contact or replacement at the organisation. Some bounces may be caused by what is referred to as a soft bounce, which is caused by temporary issues such as the contact may be out of storage or being unable to receive the attached file.

The best practice is not to delete all the emails that bounce but to clean that list first. Read through and look for any spelling issues that stand out to you. Delete any emails that look suspicious or could be spam. Then keep an eye on the rest for a few weeks, tagging them if you can for easy reference. If they continue to bounce, then delete them.

What to check for when cleaning your list:

  • Misspelt emails
  • Spam emails or those with very strange domain names
  • Newly added email addresses that don’t look like your intended audience
  • Newly added emails with foreign domains
  • Bounced emails

Segment your list

Segmenting your list can make a world of difference and allow you to engage with each group differently. It can help you to know more about your customers and keep them organised. Once you have cleaned your list, divide your list into three groups:

  • Segment 1: Those who open your emails a lot are good, so leave that list alone. You are doing exactly what they are looking for.
  • Segment 2: Those who open your emails occasionally are a great group to practice sending variations of the same campaign to see which performs the best, or test sending the original email at different times of the day to each half of the group. Maybe time is the issue for some of these contacts and you can narrow in on a preferred time to send. Sending out a survey asking this group what they are interested in, products they want to know more about, time of day and number of emails they prefer are all great ways to engage more with these contacts. Another great tip is to ask this list to add you to their contacts to prevent your incoming emails from hitting their spam box.
  • Segment 3: Those who rarely open them are not very engaged.

Keep an eye on this list. Try adding them to any test you do for those occasionally engaged and watch if it makes any difference. If they still are not engaging at all, then it might be time to delete them from your list and look for better leads instead. Why pay to have them on your list if they aren’t engaging with you?

Perhaps try sending an email stating that you have noticed that they are not opening your emails and that you plan to remove them from your list unless they notify you that they would like to remain subscribed. Provide a goodbye email with the subject line ‘My last email to you’ which will hopefully inspire more people to open it and reconsider if they want to continue or unsubscribe.

Another way to re-engage the occasional or rare contact is to try to offer an exclusive discount or incentive, provide a survey or offer an option to opt down instead of unsubscribing. These options all will show who is still interested in your content and provide them with an option that may work better for their needs. Re-engage the contacts that rarely open your emails!

Your list is clean. Now what?

Focus on adding contacts that have the most potential to grow your business. Make sure to keep a call to action on each and every email sent as a way to keep the engagement going. Pay attention to what your audience is asking about on your other forms of social media and keep your content fresh and engaging. Don’t forget to schedule routine cleaning of your email list and remove those who are not potential leads. Think of spring cleaning as a good reminder.

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