Clients, my non-profit clients in particular, often have old lists of email addresses they have had for awhile and haven’t been using. Donors who have given in the past and customers who have purchased can be a good source of referrals and good will if you approach them respectfully with communication they value.
There are a lot of steps in the process to make this happen. You don’t want to send your most valued folks content that will irritate them, but you want to be in their thoughts, and reminded how much they like you.
First Level Cleaning – Remove the duds
If your list hasn’t been updated in more than a year, I recommend running it through a list cleaning service in order to weed out the addresses that will waste your time – the ones that are no longer valid. Email addresses go stale over time – people switch jobs or change their email address and there’s no way for you to know without checking. Email providers will flag your email account or domain as spammy if you send to a lot of undeliverable addresses, so removing them before beginning is a good idea. For services where you are billed by the number of email addresses you send to, this can also save you money.
Second Level – Reconfirm your emails
From there, the best but most time consuming method to get a clean list is to email them as personally as possible and ask them to click a link in order to remain on your list. Ways to do this can vary. Some services like constant contact facilitate these reconfirmation emails. Others, like Mailchimp suggest you email them in small groups using the BCC field, sending them a link to subscribe themselves to your list. This can be cumbersome to do if you have a lot of contacts, and mail servers often have hourly limits (say 100 recipients per hour) that make this a slow process. Here’s an example of good reconfirmation email text. In general contacts who are sent a reconfirm opt-in email need to click the confirmation link in the email to continue receiving emails from you.
If your list is sectioned into groups by how you collected them, it is a good idea to send personalized emails to those groups. “Remember how you signed up to be informed of additional workshops at our workshop at the convention centre in July 2018? We are wondering if you still want to be kept informed on our work and new tools on this topic. If we don’t hear from you, we’ll assume you’d like to be removed. If you’d like to stay connected please let us know.” The folks who respond positively to this actually want to hear from you. Limits vary from provider to provider, but generally run about a maximum of 100 recipients per hour. Here’s an example of good reconfirmation email text. In general contacts who are sent a reconfirm opt-in email need to click the confirmation link in the email to continue receiving emails from you.
Spring (Summer, Fall and Winter) Touch-Up Cleaning
Go through your email sending program quarterly or biannually and unsubscribe contacts who aren’t opening or engaging with your emails. Most services will have a way to determine which users these are. You can section off these folks and send an appealing reconnection email containing a perk such as a discount with them, but if they don’t engage from there, you will do best to remove them. It may seem counterintuitive to remove addresses, after all it’s no additional work to email them, and they might open the email, right? Leaving in addresses that aren’t interested in your communications, not only increases the chance that they will greet your emails with distaste, but can increase sending costs. Importantly, it can reduce your overall ‘reputation’ which affects deliverablilty – the likelihood your newsletters will be flagged automatically as spam. Keeping track of how engaged your newsletter recipients can help you be honest with yourself about which content is valued by your most important contacts, and which is not.