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4 Simple Steps to a Clean Email List

When you’re staring at a bunch of goldfish in a tank, you can’t blame just one of them for making the tank so dirty. The same thing goes for best practices in email list management.

Multiple factors can contribute to sinking email deliverability and response rates. So once you understand these reasons, the better prepared you’ll be to improve overall list health and keep your tank clean!

Not sure what to do? Here are four simple steps to get you started:

1. Frequently monitor email deliverability

  • Use a service like Return Path, 250ok, or MultiRBL to see how your emails are landing in (or getting blocked from!) inboxes. 

  • Make sure you have the reports you need to keep an eye on your list growth and new supporter records. You should be able to quickly and easily see if there’s a spike in your new signups, and you should be able to identify where they came from. 

  • Make it a habit to check your deliverability and signup reports ideally at least once a day. 

2. Verify new supporter email addresses... immediately!

The very best way to improve your deliverability and email performance is by making sure that you have a clean email list and that no spam trap emails have accidentally made it onto your list. 

3) Officially welcome new supporters to your list in an engaging way

Make sure you’re following best practices in opt-ins for your list. Just because someone emails you to ask about your program or hands you their card at a conference, doesn’t mean they want to receive your weekly newsletter. Start by sending an email that says, “It was nice to meet you,” and add “sign up for more information, if you’re interested.”

And remember why you’re sending an email in the first place. When emailing your supporters, you’re doing more than sharing information: You’re trying to start a conversation. 

4) If they don’t bite, throw ‘em back. Remove the most “inactive” supporters from your list.

Finally (and this is often the hardest part), keep your fish tank clean! If your supporters haven’t “participated in a conversation” with you in the past six months, you should stop emailing them. 

  • A list that you imported in 2009 is almost certainly not good data anymore.

  • What you choose to remove is up to you, but a good rule of thumb is that they should have taken action in the past six months. What is an action? Query to find who signed your petitions, who submitted donations, who has opened or clicked an email in the past six months and so on. A query for active supporters through Salsa’s Cosm could look something like this, for example:

    Query your list in Salsa


    • If six months feels too soon, start with a year. Your goal is to find your supporters who are not engaged and then stop emailing them. Whether you actually remove them from your list is up to you. You could also consider a short re-engagement campaign to re-activate those lapsed supporters using particularly enticing incentives or other forms of creative content. 

The quality of your email list is more important and more valuable than just having a bunch of records. With a well-planned routine, you can make sure your list is performing at its peak. By improving the quality of your data, you can leverage your good email reputation to grow your list and increase donations.

Topics: Marketing