It wasn’t all that long ago when they signed up for your updates. Whatever you’d put out there—a fresh blog, an amazing ebook, an unmissable deal—was what they wanted. In the moment. But then, over time, they stopped wanting what you were sending. The hard truth is that some email addresses only land on your lists because the person on the other end wanted one thing, one time. And never again.
But still…there they are. On your list.
Things are different now. They never buy, never click…never even open your emails. You haven’t annoyed them to the point of unsubscribing or sending you to spam…yet, but that day can’t be too far away. These are the shuffling deadweight on your email list. Non-responders. Not alive as prospects or customers, but they’re not totally dead, either. It’s time to get these zombie emails off your active lists before hundreds of them start bumping up against your window and…well, you know what happens then.
Get rid of the bounces
These are email addresses that never get your messages, and have a permanent reason behind the email delivery failure. This might be because the email address was never valid in the first place, but it could be that the user has blocked your domain or marked them as spam. In either case it’s not a good sign.
Soft bounces occur for far friendlier reasons, but they’re still worth paying attention to. Mailboxes sometimes fill up. It happens, especially on corporate mail servers—the ones you want because those are business addresses for potential customers.
You can go ahead and delete the emails that have hard bounces, but the soft bounces you can move into your recovery list for later.
Find the non-responders
Sending to subscribers who aren’t engaged, or aren’t responding to your outreach, will end up costing you in a couple of ways: first you’re probably being charged by the email address for your marketing automation. Second, if your emails keep getting ignored, deleted or sent to spam folders, you’re going to get onto a spam spiral.
A spam spiral isn’t just a really sad Thanksgiving. In a spam spiral, some email clients recognize your readers’ lack of response and…well, they just bypass the user altogether, dropping your carefully crafted email in your recipient’s spam folder. Then the ISP begins to recognize your domain as spam, and starts sending your emails to other recipients to spam, which creates a snowball effect.
If your recipient isn’t engaging with your content, they’re just hurting your other efforts. Put these guys in your recovery list now before your domain ends up blacklisted.
Think about your goals
Your goal isn’t to have the biggest email list, it’s to have an engaged email list that generates clicks and conversions. If your audience isn’t engaged, isn’t opening and clicking, then stop hoping they’ll magically begin engaging with you one day.
If zombies are in your A/B testing, they’re spoiling the test. It’s hard to always get a completely clean test, but if your A/B groups have significantly different numbers of non-responsive addresses, you’re effectively reducing the possibility of the test email being opened before you even start. If you want to test your emails, test them on addresses that typically do open your emails.
And it’s not just testing that’s affected. If you have a list that contains a large volume of non-responsive addresses, you’re cutting down your open rate and your CTR, and for some marketers, that might be the difference between a good or indifferent performance review.
Think about what your marketing automation goals are, and manage your lists to help you achieve them. Any email addresses that don’t help you should be moved to your recovery list, which is probably getting pretty fat by now.
Give them one last chance
Maybe your zombies aren’t actually zombies. Maybe they’re just waiting for you to send the right offer before they re-engage. It’s been months since you sent anything they considered to be anywhere close to the “right offer,” but this time will be different. This time you’ll roll out the big guns, an irresistible offer that provides so much value to the prospect that they start opening your emails.
Whatever that offer is, it should begin a short cadence that’s so unrelentingly helpful to the recipient they’d have to be obsessed with three squares a day of brains, brains, brains to ignore it.
Perhaps not everyone is meant to be your customer. Not every email address is worth the work to convert them. Sometimes you need to look at what you’d have to do to make someone your customer, look at what your value proposition is, and decide that to go get them you’d have to wander a little too far away from the camp. And that’s okay.
After your last chance email cadence, any bounces and non-responders should be finally, permanently put out of their—and your—misery.
Your email lists may be shorter now, but at least now they’re not putting your entire operation in jeopardy.