How to clean your email list the right way in 3 simple steps

The Goodness Squad Podcast Episode #56

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Show Notes:

By now, you should know that you only need the right people on your email list. Now you’re going to learn how to clean your email list so you can focus on the people who truly want the solutions you have to offer.

Resources mentioned in this episode:

Subject Line Blueprint

If a lot of people engage with your emails, then they're not going to send your emails to people's spam folders.


This is episode #56 of The Goodness Squad podcast. A few days ago, all four of my kids were home from school and I was still finishing up something for work. I try not to work once my kids are home from school, but this day there was just that one thing that just had to be finished. It was only going to take me 10 more minutes and I really wanted to finish it.


They all started doing the things that they were supposed to do, but one daughter came up to me and she had a real need. She had had a really bad day at school. There was a kid that was kind of picking on her who said some really mean things and she was struggling with how to handle that.


That was important. I needed to set aside my work in order to help her with that. But the problem was I had three other kids vying for my attention. One was struggling with how to load the dishwasher correctly. The next one wanted to show me a funny meme. And the last one was complaining and whining about the fact that she had to do jobs.


All three of those needs were not nearly as important as that first daughter, but they did make it more difficult for me to meet the need of that first daughter.


I know you’ve all been in this situation where multiple kids have multiple needs all at once. It is so frustrating.


How does that compare to your email list?


When you have people on your list who don’t really need and want what it is you have to offer, it makes it more difficult for you to help the people who really do need and want you.


Why? Well, the people who are on your email list who don’t need or really want your help, they’re not going to open your emails. If they do open your emails, they’re not going to click on your emails. They’re not engaging with you at all. They’re not going to be replying to your emails and engagement is the most important metric for the spam filters. It’s the number one thing they’re going to look at. If a lot of people engage with your emails, then they’re not going to send your emails to people’s spam folders.


So all this dead weight on your email list – guess what? It’s making it more difficult for those people who want to hear from you. The emails that they want and that would help them and that they need are ending up in their spam folder instead of in their inbox. And they are not being helped by you as much as they could.


In addition, this means you’re paying for people on your email list who don’t care, who don’t need what you have to offer. You don’t want to send them emails. That’s not fun. It’s not fun to pay for that.


It is really important for you to clean your email list.


What do I mean by cleaning your list? You delete people from your email list who aren’t opening and engaging with your emails.


That sounds scary. I totally get it. You’re like, “Well yeah, they may not have opened the first 15 emails from me, but what if they opened the 16th one and buy from me?”


I promise you that is very, very unlikely. What is more likely is that the person who does need that email won’t see it because it is going to end up in spam because your email list is not clean.


You’ve got to clean your list. It is very important, but I do not want you to just go delete them. Why? Because the analytics that your email service provider gives you like Convertkit or Drip or MailerLite, are not 100% accurate. Sometimes somebody may open an email and it’s not triggered as being opened to your email service provider.


This is because they put a tiny little image (that you don’t even see) in each email that you send out. And if that image loads, then it’s counted as being opened. But if it doesn’t load, then it’s counted as being unopened.


But guess what? Sometimes people tell Gmail or Yahoo, or whoever their email provider is, they tell them not to load images or it defaults to that and they haven’t told them to load images. So if that image doesn’t load, it’s being counted as unopened.


How do you figure out if people are actually opening your emails?


You’re going to give them three chances to tell you “Yes, I want to be on your list.” I am going to encourage you to do this every two months. I think that I would even consider doing it every month. Some of this depends on how often you’re emailing your list. If you’re only emailing your list once a month, then obviously you need to go out a little longer to more like four or five months. But if you’ve listened to previous episodes, you should be emailing your list way more often than once a month.


This is based on the idea that you email your list once to twice a week. Maybe three to five or four to six times a month. So in two months, they’ve gotten somewhere between 8 to 12 emails from you and not opened any of them.


I do not want you to let it go any longer than that. And if you are comfortable, you can do it even a little sooner than that. But on average, every two months I want you to send out these three emails to the people who have not opened any emails from you in the previous two months.


So every three months you are going to go send these three emails I’m going to teach you. If they open them, you need to set it up so that they are tagged. If they click on them, you need to set it up so they are tagged. So in MailerLite, this is going to look like when they open it or when they click on it, they’re added to a group. In ConvertKit or Drip, this is going to mean you add a tag to them. Something like adding them to the Active group.


The 3 steps you need to take before you clean your email list


Step #1

In the first email, your subject line needs to be super friendly but obvious what you’re asking about.


So say, “Life happens. I’ve missed you around here.” Something along those lines. Once they open this, the very first thing they need to see from you is kind of a reiteration of that subject line, “Hey, I’ve missed you around here. I’ve noticed that you haven’t been opening my emails. At least that’s what my email service provider’s telling me.”


Let them know that you know it’s maybe not 100% accurate, but that you wanted to check in on them. Something really friendly, but address why this email is being sent. It’s being sent because they haven’t opened emails. That needs to be very clear.


Next, three things I want you to remind them:

  1. the freemium they signed up for
  2. what result they were hoping they would get from that freemium
  3. the concern they wanted to avoid


For example, if you had signed up for the Subject Line Blueprint, I would say something like, “Hey, awhile back, you signed up for the Subject Line Blueprint because you were hoping to increase your open rates without being a spammer.” So I reminded them of the freemium, what they were hoping to achieve (increased their open rates), and what they’re hoping to avoid (feeling like a spammer).


Once you’ve done that, I want you to remind them that they will be able to achieve that result in less time if they use you. So saying something like, “I get it. I know that sometimes emails fall to the end of the list because we just feel like we don’t have time, but if you still want to increase your open rates, I can help. I can help you do that in far less time than you would be able to otherwise.”


You’re encouraging them and helping them see that if they want what you offer, they need to open your emails. And if they don’t want you to, if they don’t want it, then that’s fine. They can keep ignoring your emails, but reminding them if they still want that result then they need to open your emails.


Next, I want you to link them to a resource or an article that is going to help them to achieve that result. So this could be a podcast episode or a YouTube video, or a blog post, but you’re going to link them to something. This is one way you’re really going to be able to tell if they’re still engaged if they are clicking on that link. 


Once you’ve linked them to that, I want you to tell them how to unsubscribe. I know it sounds scary, but I promise you it’s for their benefit and for your benefit and for your pocketbook’s benefit. 


But when you do tell them how to unsubscribe, I want you to emphasize the bigger picture. So for someone who wants to increase their open rates, the real reason they want to do that is that they want to make money from content marketing. That’s what I’m really doing. That’s the bigger picture problem that I solve.


So you might say something like “if you’ve decided that you no longer need my help to make money from content marketing, no worries. Unsubscribe right here.” You give them that unsubscribe, it should be very obvious, but you also tell them in that sentence what it is they’re going to be missing out on. That way they can really decide, “do I need to stay on this email list or not?”


Now, what’s really cool about this three-step process is that the second two steps are really, really easy.


Step #2

You are going to send the same email to the people who did not open the first one. And you’re just going to change the subject line.


Now, a little caveat here. Remember how we were tagging people if they opened or if they clicked? You know that there are some people who are engaging with your emails and it’s not being shown that they are truly interested in your emails because there’s that image, that little secret image, that your email service provider is putting in there isn’t opening.


So that’s why we’re tagging these people. If they click and they have been tagged or added to a MailerLite group of Active, then the second email is not going to be sent to them. So the second email is going to be sent to those who did not open the first, or at least who did not look like they opened the first and who do not have the tag Active.


All you’re going to do on the second email is to change the subject line. And this subject line is going to be a little bit more direct. I want this subject line to be, “do I have your correct email address?” So this is going to call them out a little bit harsher, and then they’re going to get the same nice, friendly email. They can click on the same thing.


Step #3

Same thing for your third email. You’re going to send a third email, and this is going to be the exact same email that you wrote the first time. It’s going to be sent to those who did not open or who did not seem to open email one or two and who do not have the tag Active. The title of this is going to be, “do you want to keep getting my emails?” Extremely direct.


How far apart are you going to send those emails?


I would recommend that you send them each five days apart, not a full week, but you want to give people enough time to open those emails and to click on them before you send them the next one. That way you’re not annoying people and they’re not getting the exact same email over and over and over again. So I would put five days in between each of those emails and then I would add five days onto the end of that last email before you go in and delete.


Anybody who did not open any emails and who does not have the tag active, you’re simply going to delete them from your list.


You’re very likely going to get some responses to this email.


“I don’t know why you think I’m not opening your emails. I actually am.” You’re going to get these types of responses. If you get one of these responses, I want you to manually tag these people in some way. I use the tag Permanently Active.


These are people who I now know that my email service provider is going to show that they’re not opening my emails that they took the time to respond to. They’re worried about the fact that I might delete them. They’re panicked about it. These are the people that I know I want to keep on my email list. So I add them to a group or a tag called Permanently Active.


Then two months later, when I start this process over, I keep the people in the permanently active group. I don’t send them this series, even if it looks like they haven’t opened my emails, I don’t send them the series.


The bonus step – but you actually need to do it


The last step you need to take after those five days have passed and you’ve deleted everybody, you need to go back in and remove the Active tag from everyone. That’s why I have a Permanently Active tag. Because the Active tag, it only applied to the people that were getting that exact series. But if those same people, if they go another two months without opening your emails, we’re going to resend them that series and try to re-engage them again.


Coming up


If you have any questions about cleaning or scrubbing your email list, send me a DM on Instagram. I am happy to help. 


In addition, in episode #57, I am going to be diving into four additional tips that will help you to increase your email open rates. It’s not all just about your subject line. There are four additional things that you can do. I hope to see you there.

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