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Is it time to Spring Clean your email list?

When was the last time you scrubbed your email list?

If your answer is, “Wait, I should be doing that?” you’re not alone. But not doing it could be costing you marketing dollars and efforts.

We recently did an audit of email marketing metrics for one of our strategic retainer clients. When we started looking around, we realized that the list hadn’t been given much attention in a long time. 


  • Of the over 100k subscribers, close to 50k hadn’t opened a single email in over 2 years.
  • The audience was spread out over 20 different lists, causing nearly 7k duplicate addresses – which the client was paying for.
  • About 3k subscribers had only been emailed 1-2 times since 2018, because they hadn’t been properly tagged to get the regular emails.

On the surface, presenting this to the client felt a bit grim. But the good news? Lots of room for improvement! We knew there was an opportunity to make a significant impact for the client with a simple, but strategic approach.

Through this process, we were able to:

  • save the client money ($130+/month on MailChimp subscription)
  • improve open rates (~30% to ~47% YOY)
  • set them up for more targeted emails in the future

We developed a 5-step plan to help clean the list and improve segmentation.

1. Unsubscribed anyone who hadn’t opened an email in 2 years.

With an average email cadence of 1/week, that was around 100 (!) unread emails. They were clearly not “our people.” 

We probably could have made that time frame even shorter, but we erred on the conservative side to account for some of the nuances of emails being deemed “read” or not. (For example, Outlook doesn’t always designate an email as read if the images were not downloaded.) We wanted to make absolutely sure that we weren’t removing anyone who was just being fickle and only remove those who truly were no longer interested in our client’s emails.

2. Eliminated duplicates by combining the 20+ audiences into 1 audience.

Some people were in multiple audiences, and for an email service that charges based on the audience size, it was money wasted. We also archived all unsubscribed contacts. 

By taking these actions, we retained the data and history, without paying for duplicates or unsubscribes. Our client dropped to a lower pay tier due to reduced audience size, saving them a sizable amount of money.

3. Re-engaged subscribers who hadn’t heard from us in awhile through a 2-email series, in an attempt to win them back. 

As we mentioned above, around 3,000 subscribers had accidentally been mis-tagged, and therefore had only received 1-2 emails in 2 years. We didn’t want these potential customers to out-of-the-blue start receiving newsletters that they didn’t remember signing up for. It’s confusing AND a turn-off.

So we re-initiated contact with an email asking if they’d like to continue hearing from us and giving them the chance to opt-out if they didn’t.

4. Created a 2-email welcome campaign for a list of nearly 9k subscribers to reduce the SPAM reports and unsubscribes. 

For context, our client had recently acquired a new location that had an existing customer-base. Rather than immediately merging email lists and catching these new contacts off-guard (or worse, having the emails immediately flagged as spam), we crafted a 2-part campaign introducing our client and nurturing the new relationship through relevant, useful content. 

5. Standardized the nomenclature for tags to allow for better segmentation. 

When we consolidated our audiences from 20+ down to 1, we didn’t want to lose the distinguishing information related to each of those specific audiences. (For example, they attended a certain event or were interested in a certain type of product.) 

We created tags in lieu of audiences, and standardized the way we named those tags. 

The next time our client hosts another comparable event or runs a sale on that particular product, those tags will allow us to target our emails more strategically. This also helps future staff use tags better.

Convinced that a Spring Cleaning could benefit your email marketing?

Take Action:

→ Establish a cadence of regular, scheduled clean-ups at least 2-3 times per year.

→ Send a re-engagement campaign to those who haven’t opened emails since the last clean-up. Remove anyone who does not opt back in.

→ Smile knowing that you’ve improved open rates, stopped paying for cold contacts, and ultimately are reaching more of the right people with your message!

Not interested in the DIY approach? Set up a discovery call to see how we can help.

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