No matter how amazing your email newsletter may be, a certain percentage of people you send it to won’t open it. Maybe they’re too busy that day and their inbox is overflowing. Maybe they forgot that they signed up and don’t recognize your email address. Or maybe they no longer use that email address at all. If those same people aren’t opening your emails week after week it’s a good idea to see if they actually would rather be removed from your list entirely.
Why remove inactive subscribers? There are several reasons. First, an email newsletter is only as good as the number of people who actively engage with it. Active engagement means opening the email at least once to read it and click on at least one link. My goal is that at least 50% of the people on my list open and engage with my email newsletter each time it goes out. That way I know that my message is being read!
And you don’t want to annoy people. Receiving an email you don’t want, week after week, is annoying! People often just delete those emails without taking the time to unsubscribe. What they might not realize, though, is that there’s a financial consequence for you when they do that. Once you have over 2,000 subscribers you begin paying Mailchimp for their service.
I had over 9,000 people on my list before I cleaned it this week (now I have just over 7,000) which means I’m paying Mailchimp $75/month ($900/year). It’s worth every penny as long as my subscribers actually open, read and click on my emails! Paying the bill every month motivates me to let go of my ego and keep the list lean. Once my open rate begins to dip below 50% I know it’s time to clean my list. I do it at least twice a year, but sometimes as often as every quarter.
Here’s how to clean your list:
- Sign into your Mailchimp account and create a new campaign.
- Select “Regular Campaign.”
- Choose the list you’d like to clean and select “Send to a group or new segment.”
- Select “Subscribers match ALL of the following conditions.”
- Now you’re going to set up two conditions. The first one is “Date added” + “is before” + “a specific date” and then select a date. I like to target subscribers who have been inactive for at least two months. It’s January now so I selected November 1. The second condition is “Member rating” + “is less than” + “three stars.” Member rating refers to open and click rate. This will segment out all of the people who have never opened or clicked on an email.
- Check how many people this is! You’ll be able to see the total number of people in the segment. If it looks way too high or way too low you can play around with the date until you’re satisfied.
- Click next. Now confirm that “Link Tracking” is checked. You can also check the box for “Track Plain-Text Clicks.”
- Now you’re ready to create the first of three reactivation campaigns. You’re going to let this segment of subscribers know that you need them to renew their subscription. The goal is for them to open the email and click on anything. Once the do they’ll automatically be removed from the segment because their Member Rating will go above three stars. What should you give them to click on? I created a nice thank you page on my website. The text of my first reactivation email goes like this:“Hi! You’ve signed up to receive my free weekly email newsletter, While She Naps. I’ve noticed that you haven’t opened it in a while. Is a weekly email too much? I totally understand! If you’d rather not receive it anymore please click here (unsubscribe link). If you still want it, that’s awesome! Please click here (link to my welcome page). Thank you so much, Abby” Now hit send!
- A few days later you’re going to go back into Mailchimp and follow all of the instructions again. Your segment should be somewhat smaller this time. Here’s my sample text for the second reactivation campaign:“Hi! I haven’t heard from you yet about whether you’d like renew your subscription to my free weekly email newsletter. I don’t want to clutter up your inbox! If you’d rather not get it anymore, you don’t need to do anything further. If you would like to continue to receive it click here (link to my welcome page). Thank you so much, Abby” Now hit send!
- For the final reactivation email follow the instructions one last time. The text should say something like this:“Thank you for your interest in receiving my free email newsletter. Your subscription has expired and you’ve been removed from my mailing list. If you’d like to renew your subscription at any time click the link below (sign up form link). Thank you so much, Abby” Now hit send! It’s a good idea at this point to email MailChimp and let them know that you’ll be unsubscribing a large segment of your list soon. If you don’t give them a heads up there’s a chance they’ll put a freeze on your account.
- Right after you send your third email you need to go to your list and remove that segment of subscribers. Go to list. Click “Manage Subscribers”<“Segments”<“Create Segment.”
- Create a segment using the same conditions as before. Export the segment as a CSV (spreadsheet) and open it on your computer. Copy all of the email addresses. While in the Mailchimp list you were working on, go to “Manage Subscribers”>”Unsubscribe Addresses.” Paste the addresses in and click “Unsubscribe.” Done!
The next time you send out an email newsletter your open rate will be much higher than before which is awesome.
It can feel hard to delete hundreds or thousands of names from your email list, but remember that your goal isn’t to have a hugely inflated list full of people who never open your email. Your goal is to have a lean list full of actively engaged subscribers who look forward to hearing from you. Cleaning your list periodically will help you achieve that goal!