Shawshank Marketing

When it comes to email marketing, there is one very important thing to keep in mind; Your contacts either get busy living, or get busy dying.

It might sound counter-intuitive, but removing subscribers who got busy dying is one of the best things you can do to optimize your sales automation and email marketing efforts.

It’s pretty simple and quick to set up an automated pruning system that does this for you. Create an automation that will automatically delete contacts after a specified time period without activity. It depends on your purchase cycle, but I like 45 days. You could also use the “Engagement Tagging” automation recipes to identify various stages of engagement:

For example, if a contact hasn’t taken an action in that time period, cut ‘em. If you are working with our CRM to create deals, then after 14 days, mark the deal as lost.

So many people are hesitant to do this. It sounds extreme. “Why would you delete contacts you invested so much time and money into acquiring? Worst case scenario, won’t they just unsubscribe? Maybe they’ll end up converting later, when they’re ready?”

This line of thinking is tempting and it seems safe, but I’d argue keeping these contacts around is actually harming your marketing and sales processes. By pruning your contacts you actually give yourself chance the best chance of succeeding with the contacts who are likely to convert.

Here are three reasons why…

Better reputation and deliverability

A lot of people make the case for sending a big unsubscribe button, and asking the users to opt-out. That’s not a bad idea, you should be doing that regularly.

But if somebody is not opening your emails? These are the contacts you need to get off your list but they probably aren’t going to open your unsubscribe email.

Email Service Providers are constantly observing how recipients are interacting with your campaigns. If they are being opened, if people are marking them as spam, etc…

Read Brian Gladu‘s answer to Should I delete inactive users from my “newsletter” email list to keep my email marketing service fees down? on Quora

You know where the easiest unsubscribe button is? The big one right at the top of their inbox.

Only that one doesn’t just unsubscribe the contact that hits it. That’s the “collective unsubscribe” button. Google is watching that button closely. If that gets hit too many times then none of your contacts will end up getting your messages — including your contacts that enjoy them. Google assumes that if a certain percentage of your contacts are unsubscribing and aren’t interacting with your campaigns, then the rest probably don’t want your campaigns either. You get labeled a low-quality sender and your deliverability plummets.

Don’t let a few bad apples spoil the lot.

Pareto Principle: 80% of revenue comes from 20% of contacts

If you aren’t marking a deal as lost, then you are just keeping them in whatever stage they are in forever. “But Jordan, what if they come back!” You say.

Sure. They might. They also might not.

Meanwhile there are a bunch of people that probably will convert to a paid customer, that deserve your attention. If you don’t cut the cruft/separate the signal from the noise then it gets harder and harder to figure out who those people are.

If you must have a number to measure in aggregate, measure the total number of opens, instead of the total number of subscribers.

Imagine for example, you have a list of 200 subscribers, with a 5% open rate. The total number of opened emails would be 10. If you chop the list to 120 but your open rate improves to 10% then the total number of opened emails has improved to 12.

Cut inactive subscribers from your campaigns, continue to grow your list, and focus on providing value, the number of opened emails should increase steadily through improved deliverability and focus. More opened emails from the right contacts is how to grow your business.

Accurate measurement

You should always be trying to hold yourself to the highest standard. If you don’t remove contacts then it can be hard to measure your success as a marketer.

A bi-product of this harsh measurement is that it creates a way to hold yourself to the highest standard. This will help prevent you from becoming complacent in your marketing.

If you don’t give em the axe, then it looks like things they are always on the way up. But in reality you are just stacking a pile of folks that are getting busy dying.

Analytics as the exception

As marketers, we spend a lot of time in the top of the funnel working on simply identifying users.

Once you have a contact’s email address you can learn a lot about them. Things like where they work, what are their interests, etc… All of these things are tied to a contact record and are cookied about the user.

That’s why it can be beneficial to keep archived contacts around. You don’t necessarily have to delete contacts, you just need to make sure you aren’t sending to them. Side note, with ActiveCampaign the contacts who aren’t subscribed to a list don’t count toward your list size so you aren’t billed for them.

For example if a contact hasn’t interacted with you in 3 months, but then suddenly comes back to your website then something might have changed in their life.

Maybe they got a new job, or their contract with a current vendor is expiring.

The important thing to remember is that in the time between activity, you should consider them dormant and not be actively emailing them.

Wrapping up

In conclusion, there is a time and place to keep contacts. Don’t be afraid to remove inactive contacts from your list. Focus on providing value to your engaged customers.

It can improve your deliverability to your base, keep you accountable, and save you money on your subscription plan.

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