Email List Management Best Practices


Email can be a really effective marketing tool for brands. There is so much potential to increase ROI, gain exposure, build relationships with your customers and support existing advertising and marketing campaigns. However, brands can make the mistake of purchasing lists via third-party subscription forms; with the hopes that this will expose them to a wider database of potential customers. What buyers are not always aware of is that, these lists are often passed on to multiple buyers, meaning the email addresses are being recycled and are more than likely old and out-dated. In any case, attempting to send to these lists are purely unsolicited, and causes a negative impact on your delivery.

Making sure that all the recipients on your database have opted in to receive your mail is a good start to ensuring the most positive delivery results possible.

How would this affect your campaign’s delivery exactly?

While the argument for exposure rings true to some extent with quick fixes like purchased lists, it is in fact directly related to recipient complaints and blacklisting’s. Here is what happens to your delivery in a nutshell without correct email list management best practices:

  1. Very low open rates. Purchased lists are known to have low open rates due to low quality lists that haven’t yet been cleaned-out. Meaning that some addresses are old and have possibly gone dormant, resulting in a list filled with addresses that are useless to you - wasting your time and money.
  1. Spam complaints. Recipients usually have zero patience for mail that they did not remember signing up to, and are more likely to mark your emails as spam rather than unsubscribing from your mail. There is also a spam complaint threshold and once reached, it flags regulators, causing your credibility as a sender to be affected.
  1. Flagged IPs. If an IP reputation drops, or gets flag for a particular reason, ISPs can make it difficult for you as a sender to reach your recipients by implementing delivery restrictions to monitor if your audience is reacting positively or not to your mail, before either completing the delivery of your campaign or blocking it entirely and placing your IP on a blacklist.
  1. Blacklisting. Blacklisting an IP affects deliverability entirely and can also extend to entire IP ranges and even domains causing other senders to get blocked too, which is an uphill battle to reverse.

Most Email Service Providers (ESPs) won’t allow you to send to purchased lists because of these overwhelmingly negative consequences. To ensure that your mail gets delivered, your list needs to be 100% opt in. To do this, you need to:

  1. Make sure that your sign-up process is streamlined and that you’re testing it from a subscriber’s point of view and not simply seeing if it works.
  1. Make sure your leads are capture friendly and that you have all the custom fields necessary to create a personalized experience for your users, such as addressing them by name.
  1. Make use of a double opt-in form to ensure that your readers have a desire to receive your communications, and also ensure that you do not have any misspelled email addresses, subsequently resulting in a smaller amount of inactive subscribers in your database - and an improved engagement metric because of this.
  1. Get users to add you to their address book. This is a great way to ensuring that your message lands up in the recipient’s inbox’s. The onus is on you to find creative ways to encourage them to do this.
  1. Tailor content to their interests by allowing your users to specify what their interests are, their location etc. upon registration and allow them the option to update this information at any time by including an ‘update profile’ link in your email campaign. They’ll be able to select and deselect the lists that they are or aren’t interested in, and you can tailor your content to them accordingly.

There are many benefits to correct email list management best practices when it comes to building your own database. But in short, managing your lists and maintaining a healthy subscriber base simply results in increased delivery of your campaigns. By suppressing old and inactive addresses in your database -namely those who have not engaged with your emails within the last year or so - increases your deliverability rate by 3-5% immediately according to HubSpot. A regularly clean out of your database also means you’ll:

  • Simply have more active subscribers in your database
    According to Kevin Gao, CEO and founder of Comm100, active users should form the bulk of your database, even if they are only considered active as part of a seasonal campaign. These users receive your communications and show interest in them – lending value to your marketing efforts and offering you more participants in your intended user journey.

  • Be able to target your audience with relevant content
    By allowing your users to opt in for content that interests them, you are managing your lists in a way that supports building relationships and adding value to the lives of your subscribers in relation to your brand. This means that your users are more likely to stay active and engaged.

  • Gain greater returns on your email marketing campaigns
    With well-managed, neat subscriber lists, you can ensure better engagement, greater visibility and reach and, in turn, better returns on your email marketing campaigns, as well as your sender reputation.

  • Reduce your email costs
    By maintaining your lists and regularly cleaning out inactive subscribers, you’ll save on email costs.

By getting the fundamentals right, through the use of double opt-in forms, avoiding purchased lists and bad sending habits, your other marketing and advertising campaigns will also benefit - increasing your returns as well as gaining positive brand exposure.