Building out your contact list is vital if you want to reach new, interested prospects while keeping your current clients engaged and informed. However, since there are so many different crucial elements which go into crafting a successful content strategy, email list management can quickly become one of those tasks that is perpetually placed at the bottom of your priority list.

Sure, putting off list management won’t effect you much in the short term, but over time you will slowly lose email ROI, your post campaign reporting will start to slip below your KPIs and eventually you’ll be at a point where yelling out of a bus window will garner a larger audience than your email campaigns.

Don’t sweat it though, since maintaining your contact list is not as hard as it sounds. Use these tips, carve out some time in your week and scrub that list of yours squeaky clean so you don’t have to worry about it moving forward.

Manage bounces

Email bounces are a frustrating, but consistent, aspect of email marketing which every email marketer has to confront at one time or another. Here you are, creating a beautiful email even your mother would be proud of, but once you send it out and check your reporting, you see a big, ugly “Bounce” notification. What gives?!

Well there are several reasons why an email might bounce – the recipient’s mailbox is full, the email doesn’t really exist, you were blocked, the recipient has an auto-reply, etc. – but the most important question to ask up front is whether the bounce was “hard” or “soft”.

As the name implies, a soft bounce is less serious than a hard bounce, and can typically be remedied. Soft bounces usually occur because of temporary problems like downed servers or full mailboxes, so its a safe bet you can resend your email to those addresses and trust they will get there eventually.

Hard bounces, on the other hand, are permanent bounces which tend to occur when the email address in question isn’t real or out of date. In these cases you want to scrub these email addresses from your list pronto since they’re currently acting as dead weight as far as your post-campaign reporting is concerned.

Regardless of the type of bounce, it is critical to the integrity of your contact list to monitor these bounces and respond accordingly.

Scrub inactive subscribers

The old adage, “you can’t please everybody, all the time,” has never been more true than when applied to email marketing. There are bound to be recipients on your contact list whom have never reacted to a single one of your emails and are therefore consistently acting as a drain to your post campaign reporting numbers. It may seem counter-intuitive to actually make your list of subscribers smaller by removing these inactive recipients but, the more you’re sending them emails they are declining to interact with, the less likely they will suddenly decide to interact in the future. Therefore, dropping them from your list can only help you build a more valuable list of fully engaged contacts.

Since it may be easier said than done to give your list a proper trim, it’s a good idea to run a re-engagement campaign before you drop the hammer once and for all. In order to re-engage the never engaged, your best bet is to offer them some sort of attention-grabbing value or incentive which will get them on the hook. If this tactic works, great. If not, its time to move to the direct approach.

Ask the subscriber directly if they wish to continue receiving your emails and include an easy way for them to opt-out. Based on their prior behavior, this will most likely not prompt a response, in which case you can remove the inactives with no guilt.

Segmentation is key

One of your primary marketing goals should be to identify exactly what your clients want from your correspondence and delivering whatever that is to the best of your ability. After all, what’s the point of collecting post-campaign data if you’re not going to use it to improve your marketing efforts? Part of this continual optimization is realizing not everyone in your audience wants the exact same thing and actively working to adapt around those complex needs.

Establishing customer profiles and segmenting your prospects and clients in accordance with their previously established interests is a great way to improve user engagement and loyalty. Start providing your contacts with information exclusively on the topics they’re interested in and your post-campaign engagement numbers will undoubtedly reflect your efforts.

Practice proper list hygiene

When you give your list a thorough review, you may be surprised to find how many typos, clearly fake addresses, or system email addresses that are littering your otherwise beautiful list. Just by performing a cursory sweep of your list and purging these obvious fakes and correcting any mistakes, you can potentially yield higher engagement rates.

Be on the lookout for any missing periods, @ symbols or possibly misspelled email domains (gmial, yhoo, aoll, etc.) as those will be the easiest to fix. It should also be noted that “role” or “system” email addresses (support@blank.com, marketing@blank.com, info@blank.com, etc.) should be scrubbed as well, since its they often haven’t opted in and will therefore become a drain on your reporting metrics.


Take these tips and go forth to purge your list of dead weight dragging down your engagement scores. For more tips and info on maintaining a healthy contact list, try the following: