Got people on your e-mail address list who don't open your messages? They probably aren't generating spam complaints or bounces. So why stir things up?
Given that at least half of your e-mail address list can probably be classified "inactive," the question of what to do with this silent faction is highly relevant to e-mail marketers, especially in these tough days when you're being asked to make more sales with less budget.
This issue came up at the recent Email Evolution Conference, where attendees were asked to vote whether purging or retaining inactives should become the e-mail industry's best practice.
However, the solution goes much deeper than "always purge" versus "always retain."
I support removing some classes of inactive addresses after identifying and attempting to reactivate them (details in my earlier ClickZ column, "The Right Way to Trim Inactives").
This doesn't mean you should dump anybody who hasn't acted on your first few e-mail messages, or even everyone who hasn't opened or clicked in two years.
Presumably you collected those addresses through reputable means, so they represent a considerable investment. Replacing them can often cost more than you spent to acquire them.
Why Target Inactives?
Your inactives probably aren't generating spam complaints or bounces. So why stir things up? Here are four reasons:
Three Tactics for Managing Inactives
Whether you choose to segment out inactives or let them slumber in peace, these three tactics will help you manage inactivity to improve list performance:
One Final Thought
If your goal as an e-mail marketer is to send your messages to as many people as possible because you believe your messages have value whether your recipients act on them or not, then by all means, never remove an inactive e-mail address.
However, if deliverability is important and if you want to ensure your active recipients get the opportunity to engage with your e-mail, then list pruning should be a ritual.
Until next time, keep on deliverin'!
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Stefan Pollard, who started his career in online marketing in 1999, was considered a selfless mentor and champion of best practices in e-mail marketing. He held the position of senior strategic consultant at Responsys where he was responsible for developing e-mail marketing and lifecycle messaging strategies to increase clients' ROI. Before that, Stefan led the e-mail consulting program for Lyris clients, frequently speaking at industry events on best practices. Prior to that, he managed the audit process and consulted with clients to improve their e-mail delivery challenges for Habeas. As an e-mail marketer, he spent several years building and executing acquisition and retention campaigns at E-Loan and Cybergold.com. He died May 14, 2010.
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