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And if you're on the hunt for some top-notch email marketing strategy and conversion copywriting tips - you've come to the right place!
Riddle me this…
What is one big, BIG factor in email marketing that is often overlooked, yet it directly impacts your list engagement data (aka your open and clickthrough rates) and could tank your deliverability?
That’s right: your cold subscribers!
What is a “cold” subscriber? It’s someone who is no longer active on your email list. They don’t open your emails, click your emails or fully engage with what you’re sending out.
And while it’s all well and good that they’re on your list (how nice was it that they opted in in the first place, right?), keeping cold subscribers on your email list has its downsides.
Dud email messages on your list could be affecting your overall list deliverability.
If mail servers see that a load of your emails are going unopened (or hard bouncing, say, if the recipient’s email changed), they’re going to think you’re sending spam no one wants. Mail servers don’t want to be part of any spam scam, so they’re going to make it harder and harder for you to show up in the inboxes of the people who DO want to hear from you.
Deliverability is an issue all unto its own, and I’m not a total expert on the ins-and-outs, but I do know that removing cold subscribers reduces the number of red flags that can show up on mail servers.
If people are not engaged with you and aren’t opening your emails — let alone clicking through to your amazing content or offers — then that drains your overall stats/data on list engagement.
If your open rate is typically low, say 13% — but your emails are being sent to hundreds of cold or inactive subscribers — you could see a huge jump in open rates after cleaning up your list. If your open rate can make a big jump of an average 5-10%+, simply by cleaning out cold subscribers, that shows more of your true list engagement.
Note: Open rates are not a phenomenal or trustworthy stat to measure, since there are lots of factors based on individual inbox servers that impact what’s considered “opened.” Don’t base your whole strategy on open rates changing by small, incremental percentage changes.
No offense to you (or me!) and what we offer our email subscribers, but if they’re not interested in the content you’re sending, it’s clear they are no longer interested. And while you could hope that will change in a few months, it’s best to let them go and focus on keeping your current, most engaged subscribers happy.
If you pay for subscribers based on the size of your list, you could reduce the cost of your monthly email platform subscription.
(Especially if you use MailChimp, keep your list super clean! They charge you for every subscriber on every one of your lists, even if it’s a duplicate subscriber. Thus why I don’t love MailChimp — but that’s another discussion for another time .)
If I preach anything about email marketing, it’s that you do not have to do it ALL and you do not have to do it all RIGHT NOW.
If you’re new to email marketing, there’s no sense cleaning up your list even in the first 18 months. It’s more important that you’re getting in the rhythm of sending emails, finding your writing voice or style, sorting out what you want to teach or share (or what your audience wants to hear from you), and building email marketing into your calendar as a consistent task.
So if that’s you, hang tight and revisit this strategy once you’ve got those things on lock-down and you’re making money in your business or blog. THEN spend time worrying about minor changes in email marketing like open rates (those are small potatoes compared to you paying the bills!).
But if you’ve been in the email marketing game a bit longer, it’s time to look at how to re-engage cold subscribers and then remove the people who aren’t interested anymore.
First things first, determine who has not been engaged with your email list!
Parameters you might consider:
Subscribers who have not opened an email in the past 6 months
Subscribers who have not made a purchase in the last 12 months OR opened an email in the last 6 months
Subscribers who open emails but have not clicked or engaged in any way in the last 6 months
Some email platforms make it easy for you to find out who is relatively “unengaged” or inactive. Details on this can be found below.
In many cases, it will be simple enough to add a temporary tag to these subscribers, like “TEMP: Cold Subscriber.” Make it easy for yourself to easily pull a list of who needs to be re-engaged.
If you can, create a segment you can re-reuse when you do this process again in the future (I vote for every 3-6 months, depending on your list size).
For more on tags and segmentation strategies, check out this free resource!
Write a 2-3 email sequence you can reuse when you repeat this process in the future. After you send the first email, the second should go out 5-7 days later.
This strategy can look a lot of different ways, but the goal is to do any of the following:
Get people to unsubscribe on their own
Get people to click within an email or take some other action, like purchasing a product, (thus removing them from your cold subscriber list)
So your emails could include things like:
Asking them to click what kind of content they want most to hear from you (this is also helpful for segmenting and learning about your audience!)
Link to a resource or other free offer that would get their attention
A special, limited-time offer (like a discount code)
A clear statement of “Click here if you want to keep hearing from me”
The links you include need to also trigger another action — if someone engages by clicking, the temporary “cold subscriber” tag needs to be removed and they need excluded from any “cold subscriber” segment you have set up.
Most email service platforms (ESPs) recommend you download a list of these cold subscribers for safe-keeping before you unsubscribe them from your list.
Before you unsubscribe or delete anyone: check with your ESP to ensure these subscribers can re-subscribe later. Some have tricky rules around that (looking at you, Klaviyo), and the last thing we want is for anyone to NOT be able to join your list again if they want to.
After sending a few more emails to your list over the next weeks or months, see how your new open and clickthrough rates compare with your pre-cleaned list engagement.
In these pages, you’ll find tactical how-to’s for identifying your cold subscribers and how to remove them.
You’ll ALSO find some strategies offered in a few of these posts, including copywriting examples you can use in yours! So even if you are on MailChimp, see what ideas Flodesk or MailerLite have to offer too!
How to Prune Cold Subscribers from your List << a copywriting example can be found here!
Also this free automation you can duplicate and use in your account (yes, free!) << copywriting examples in here too!
Re-engage inactive subscribers with a win-back email campaign << copywriting examples in here!
How to clean up inactive subscribers (or prefer a video? Here’s a short one.)
How to Make a Killer Re-engagement Email Sequence and Win Back Lost Subscribers << copywriting examples in here!
Track contact engagement with Engagement Tagging automations
Selecting and managing subscribers in bulk (you’ll filter by “activity”)
E-Commerce people, here you go:
Klaviyo: Guide to List Cleaning
Drip: Email List Pruning 101: When and Why to Delete Subscribers
Thanks for sticking around! If you found this blog post helpful, consider sharing it with a friend so they can keep their email list nice and tidy too!
But before you go, leave a comment and let me know: Have you ever taken the time to go through your cold subscribers before? Did you notice a boost in your open rates afterwards?
If you’re not welcoming new subscribers and pointing them in the direction of your best, most beloved content — or you feel like the one you have isn’t doing the trick — it’s time we fix that. Use this free 5-part framework to make a meaningful & lasting first impression as you write your first welcome sequence for new email subscribers!
FYI : I sometimes talk about and link to tools, sites, books, and resources that I LOVE. Sometimes those companies give me a little gift for sharing if you choose to purchase something through my affiliate link. I promise to be straightforward with you and to only share things I personally use and would vouch for 100%.
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We’re Duett, an email marketing agency specializing in email strategy, email copywriting, and email automation setup with a special place in our heart for bloggers (especially those who make delicious food). If you’re a content creator craving to authentically connect with your audience so you can build lasting relationships, increase site traffic, and put your best offers forward — Let’s Duett!