When Size Matters: Managing List Hygiene

Recently I was speaking at the Online Trust Alliance’s Cybersecurity Forum. At the event, policy makers, government, law enforcement, and businesses came together to discuss the tactics to deal with cyber-attacks and foster trust online. At the forum, one thing was immediately clear: ISPs will block senders that mail to too many dormant email accounts. In a survey of 1,001 consumers conducted by my firm, we found that 31 percent of consumers stated that they changed or created a new email address in the past year. This would indicate that there are potentially tens of millions of dormant email accounts, particularly at free webmail providers such as Yahoo, Hotmail, and AOL.

Marketers must not only look at click-through rates but also use click-through data as a segmentation attribute to target subscribers that are not engaged. What is alarming, however, is that less than half of email marketers actually segment lists by email click behavior. In an executive survey to 368 email marketers that my firm conducted earlier this year, we found that 41 percent of marketers have used email click behavior as a segmentation attribute in the past six months. Clearly, most marketers are sending the same message to every customer regardless of their engagement, without even understanding if this subscriber or email address may be dormant. Our study went on to find that the number of marketers that cite email delivery as a challenge was over two times greater for those marketers that were not segmenting than those that were segmenting their lists. List hygiene is important, and the failure to remove non-responsive subscribers from your list is wasteful and potentially creates delivery issues.

I was thrilled to have Nicole Delma, chief data officer at RCRD LBL on my panel at the Cybersecurity Forum because RCRD LBL is a great case study on how to responsibly manage list hygiene. RCRD LBL provides highly-curated free music downloads delivered to subscribers via email newsletters and personalized email alerts. RCRD LBL takes proactive steps to honor stated and passively expressed preferences for content and frequency, meaning that it will downgrade frequency based on behavior that offers the subscriber the ability to opt back into higher frequency emails. Beyond ensuring that the emails are highly relevant and based on user-defined preferences, it will also remove non-responsive subscribers after three months. This aggressive approach has lead the company to maintain a list of highly engaged subscribers and it regularly has open rates that exceed 80 percent. Since RCRD LBL’s email offering is ad supported, it is much more important for the company to deliver an engaged audience to its sponsors rather than a big gigantic list where maybe two-thirds of the list is inactive. If you are an advertiser, ask your publisher how many subscribers on the list actually are engaged and how many are actually opening or clicking? RCRD LBL knows just how many subscribers are active for one month and their behaviors and music preferences.

Whether you are a publisher looking to improve ad CPMs and defend your list engagement or simply any email marketer that is seeking to improve email delivery and the relevance of your mailings, then begin with looking at email click data and develop reactivation win-back emails as well as a list hygiene plan.

Until next time,

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