Why Your Email List May Be Hurting You

This blog discusses the most common mistakes marketers make unknowingly that hurt their email list and tips to reverse and prevent further damage from happening.

Robbie Fitzwater
Updated on

As an email marketer, one of the most common questions that I get asked all time is, “Why isn’t email generating the results I wanted to have?” 

Now there are a lot of variables and factors that contribute to this. 

Before getting into all the complexities, you first need to learn that your email list is a business asset, and you should treat it like one. It generates revenue every time you send somebody an email. But the mistake that most businesses make is that they keep sending more emails and burning out their lists.  

By doing this, you’re on the path of destroying a business asset. In such cases, I always ask marketers if they would take their office furniture and light it on fire. Probably not. So why do you have to burn out your email list? 

Chair on fire

You, as a marketer, need to take care of this asset, nurture it, and you will see it generating mind-blowing results for you. If you don’t, then you’re going to see setbacks that will be harmful to your business.

This is because when you don’t take care of your list, people will start disengaging with you and unsubscribing to your list. And this is bad in the eyes of your email service providers because they are trying to ensure you’re not some Nigerian Prince scam. 

In this article, we will walk through all the ways to help you keep your email list healthy and focus on this particular goal; that you don’t become a Nigerian Prince scam. 

  1. How To Maintain Your Email List? Be a Farmer…
  2. Factors that can be Hurting Your Email List
  3. Ways to Improve Your Email List
  4. What Can Marketers do in Email Marketing to Avoid Spam Folders?
  5. Why Buying an Email List is a Bad Idea?
  6. If you do buy a list…
  7. Final Takeaways

So let’s get started!

How To Maintain Your Email List? Be a Farmer…

When thinking about how to maintain your email list, think about it like a farmer. How a farmer would treat and take care of his crops. I will use some farming analogies here to explain this concept. So let’s walk through it. 

Grow And Nurture Your Crops

When you’re growing your crops, it’s like you’re building a house on a land you own. It is your responsibility to take care of those crops and nurture them so they thrive in the future. Similarly, you should nurture your email list well to help it grow and prosper.

Direct Communication Channel

Marketing your brand through email provides a direct connection between you and your customers. This is different and way better than posting and updating the audience on Instagram and Facebook because, in this way, you’re about three steps closer to the cash register than most other channels, which raises your chance to have a high-intent audience. 

Cost-effective Marketing Tool

It is also a cost-effective tool because sending more and more emails to your audience on hundreds of email addresses doesn’t cost you much.

Build Relationships and Loyalty

Building loyal relationships in e-commerce businesses is very important. This is one area where marketers struggle because marketing is a constant battle to earn and maintain customers’ attention. 

Attention is one of the scarcest commodities in our world. As a business, you have to earn it because your customer already has many other brands in their inboxes, constantly trying to gain attention. So earning and maintaining their attention should be one of your top priorities. 

Data Collection and Insights

Further, building this kind of trustworthy relationship with your audience allows you to earn the right to ask for more data. Getting that data allows you to connect more intimately with your customers to understand their use cases and serve them better.

These are some ways in which you can maintain your email list to help drive sales, drive transactions and grow your businesses. You should try to see everything from this strategic lens.

Factors that can be Hurting Your Email List

 A poor-performing email list is equivalent to growing crops that have the potential to harvest better. So if that becomes the case, as a farmer, you start thinking, what must you do to improve the growth of your crops? 

If you last updated or receded a while ago, you may need to start planning to update it again. So let’s walk through some ways in which you can do that. 

  1. List Hygiene

Your list hygiene is one of the main things that affect your email list. Poor quality of email addresses is very harmful to your list, and those need to be changed and cleaned out very consistently. 

For instance, if there is a person or an email that hasn’t engaged with you or hasn’t opened your email in two years, get them off your list. 

This ensures you’re not directing all your energy to the wrong places and email audiences. If you have an unengaged audience, cut them loose quickly because they’re hurting you in ways you can’t imagine.

For example, Gmail monitors everything, and if it sees that this brand is not keeping its list engaged, it starts viewing it as the Nigerian prince scam, which you need to avoid at any cost and need to get them back engaged.

So list hygiene will be very important in maintaining the quality of your relationship with your customer.

  1. Low Engagement Rates

It is important to make sure you barrier messaging to keep people engaged. You don’t want to be a used car lot, i.e., if you say the same thing repeatedly in your emails, everything becomes white noise.

So you should limit your messaging, and filter your content to make sure that will be engaging and fun and keep people wanting to receive more messages from you.

  1. Sending Too Frequently Or Not Frequently Enough

Another thing that can hurt your email list is sending too frequently and trying to get a positive response. It is like you sow seeds for your corn and try to harvest it the next day, without giving it enough days to grow well. You’re trying to get more out of your crops than you should. It is important to know that this is not going to work.

Similarly, it would help if you didn’t do this in your email marketing. Give your audience a break between the emails. Let them respond to the ones you have already sent. But if you’re thinking about sending one daily, be sure each one provides unique value and insight. It isn’t only about promotions. 

At this point, you need to become a media company rather than a transactional business so your audience doesn’t burn out and finds your content valuable.  

You have to make sure that you have enough sense to be relevant, and they don’t forget who you are because of your too frequent or too less and irrelevant sending.  

Learn more: How Many Emails To Send?

  1. Lack of Permission

Lastly, not having permission from people to send them an email can also hurt your email list. If you repeatedly send them something they haven’t actively opted for, they will unsubscribe quickly, affecting your email deliverability. 

And that isn’t good for your business. You must ensure you don’t compromise your deliverability by sending to an audience that isn’t ready for your content. That is very harmful to your crops.

Ways to Improve Your Email List

To improve your email list performance and email deliverability, you use the idea of content creation. This is where content fits well with email marketing.

  1. Add Value Beyond the Transaction

Adding content to your emails allows you to add value beyond the transaction. You must try to add value that will help serve your audience uniquely rather than just trying to sell your product to them. You can leverage this content strategy to keep them engaged and coming back.

In the farmer’s language, this would be equivalent to using fertilizer for crops.

The fertilizers help you grow your crops better and quickly. Similarly, using content is a way to nurture your audience, take care of them and ultimately see them grow due to your content marketing. 

  1. Segment Your List

When talking about fertilizers, farmers also consider what kinds of crop needs what kind of fertilizer. 

For example, corn and basil crops need different things. Not every fertilizer is for every kind of crop. Just like that, only some content is for some audiences. Different content is useful for different customers. You must segment your list according to different features to send relevant content to every segment.   

Segmenting helps you understand which content to send where. For example, you segment your audience according to their use case, like whether your customer is buying your product as a gift giver or an everyday user. You, as a marketer, then think about how you serve the gift-givers differently than those everyday users.

Use cases for different email list segments
Use cases for different email list segments

That’s where the nuance comes in. A farmer determines which crop needs more sun and which needs more fertilizer. Similarly, you as a marketer need to figure out how you approach a customer, who they are, and what they need. And then that’s where you can earn the right to ask for more data.

  1. Collect and Connect Data

Collecting more data about your audience allows you to create a more human connection with them. With that, you earn the right to get a bit personal and friendly with them because, in the past, you’ve added enough value to their experience with your brand. In their eyes, you are now a homely brand, and they won’t mind your friendly ways. 

Reaching that level with your audience allows you to create some real magic. When your content is connected with the context of the audience, that’s where the real wins lie. And we all know that one way to create that magic is through automations and campaigns.

If you’re interested in learning more of strategies of collecting first-party data, check out our blog post

  1. Vary Your Format

Varying your email format also adds to the value for customers. It could get boring if you keep sending your audience in HTML. You can introduce a pattern interrupt to make things unique and different for the audience. 

It could be an email from a person or a plain text email. These can help in varying that monotonous messaging. Moreover, Gmail or any other email service providers prefer that plain text emails because they can be read easily, and it can be ensured a certain email is not a Nigerian Prince scam.

Learn more: 3 Essential Ecommerce Email Templates To Grow Your Business 

  1. Create Consistency in your Sending.

Think of this concept as receiving your newspaper regularly. It is a type of product that subscribers would regularly want to stay updated with worldly affairs, but if first it is coming every third day and then suddenly every other day, you don’t know when to expect it.

If there is no consistency in how you get your daily newspaper, you will unsubscribe from the company because they have no consistency in dealing with you. Similarly, if you as a brand are inconsistent in your emails, your audience will unsubscribe from your company.

You need to create a drumbeat of consistent emails that add value to the customer’s experience so they are used to regularly seeing you in their inboxes, when you create that kind of drumbeat, that primes your audience to expect those. 

This means that when you send in a regular pattern, they will anticipate your emails but miss you if you don’t send them for some reason. And that is a strong place to be; your audience feels your absence when you’re not too active. That should be the ultimate goal for any email marketer. 

  1. Use a Double Opt-in

Suppose your list is building up fast with quality engagement customers. In that case, you can add a double opt-in option or segment your audience further by adding more segmentation categories in your form.  

So by doing this, you are making that varied entry a little higher so that only the higher intent audience you know will convert or at least engage with your content signs up to your list. 

  1. Offer a Valuable Incentive.

Offering incentives is like lead magnets. Good and reliable offers provide your audience a reason to join your list and get into your email ecosystem and thus help build the kind of relationship between both of you that enables them to give you their accurate email list for further interaction. 

  1. Maintain List Hygiene

Create a list of hygiene parameters so you know whom to cut off your list when you clear it once a quarter or whenever you like to do that consistently. 

You can automate this through an unengaged sequence where you can take those people off the list who last engaged with your emails a while ago. You first send them an email reminding them of your brand and tell them exactly what they need to do. Then you can cut them off your list if they still don’t engage with your emails.

You must be strategic and thoughtful about this because you’re increasing your brand’s reputation. When you exclude those unengaged members, you don’t have to not worry about Gmail reminding you about your unengaged lists and unengaged sending segments, whose spam folders you have been sitting in for a long time. Removing those members help you improve performance and become a reputable sender in the eyes of Gmail or other email service providers. 

  1. Use a Clear and Compelling Call-to-Action

To have a healthy email list, make sure your calls to action are clear and compelling. Only then would you have an engaging list.

It is also important to know that the engagement metrics differ for different actions. Let’s talk about email engagement. If you send an email and the audience opens it, that’s a nice indicator, showing that they are interested in what you send. 

If, after opening it, they click on it and visit your page or site, that’s a bit stronger indicator that they’re engaged with your brand. And if they go further and reply to you or fill the cart and even purchase something, that’s a very strong indicator of engagement.

This could be understood using the concept of social media engagement. These three things could be equivalent to Like, Comment, and Share. So if someone likes something you post on social, that’s a soft indicator. 

If they comment on it, that’s a stronger indicator. The website algorithm is going to pump it further to more people. And if they share it, that will be a stronger indicator that what you posted is community-engaging content. It is going to be shared with more people.

So these metrics will give you insights into how you need to strategize your call-to-action plan. Whether you scale replies or get further ahead and ask for replies directly. That’s a really powerful way to start to get that feedback loop built because that helps you have some really good customer insights coming in. 

Farm House TackPacking guide

So as evident, it is important to give compelling actions to your audience that they could take because this will be the direct indicator of your brand’s repute as a sender and proof of its value among customers.

  1. Optimize for Mobile

Optimizing your site for mobile is a fundamental expectation from every business in this era. You should know that about 60% or more people will open your emails on mobile. So your emails should be designed for them.

  1. Monitor your Metrics

Keeping a check on metrics is crucial to track your emails’ open and click rates. Doing this helps you understand how your emails are performing and your business’s reputation in email marketing. 

However, knowing that these open and click rates are not the most accurate indicators of your email performance is important. That’s why you shouldn’t take any big or harsh decisions depending on these matrices only because if you’re not getting opened, you’re not getting clicks and thus not getting sales and then ultimately seeing a drop in the email performance in the long term. That’s why you should keep a close check on these matrices.

What Can Marketers do in Email Marketing to Avoid Spam Folders?

Now that we have discussed all the good and harmful things for our email list, let’s look into what can marketers do in email marketing to avoid spam filters and, in our farming terminology, avoid killing your crops. 

Have a reputable email service provider

Having a reputable email service provider is very important. Those reputable providers who can be strong and helpful in your email marketing journey are crucial, and there are millions of them now. For example, we like to use Klaviyo for our e-commerce clients.  

So there are plenty of options to opt from. You can also decide whether you will have a shared or dedicated sending domain. Both of which are getting easier to build and create.

Avoid trigger words

There are some trigger words you need to avoid when you’re sending an email. Some examples could be “offer,” “act now,” “free,” and “free money.” 

Its a scam gif

These examples are the words used in Nigerian Prince Scam emails, and you are suggested to avoid using verbiage from such scam emails. Such words trigger the algorithm, and your emails could get reported. 

Authenticate your email

Be sure to update your SPF (sender policy framework), DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail), and DMARC (domain message authentication reporting & conformance) to avoid spam and email spoofing. This ensures that the nut and bolts of your email deliverability and the other technical issues of your emails are buttoned up.

Use a clean list

Ensure you clean your list and run it through Kickbox before setting up a new ESP. When you have a new email service provider, ensure you have hygiene standards in place. 

Be sure to have a clear unsubscribe link too, so it is easier for the people who don’t want to be on there to get off your list. This makes the list-cleaning process easier for you.  

Test your emails

Before introducing new automation and campaigns, test them first. It is better to run these through litmus tests to ensure they render properly across platforms.

Rewarm your list

If you think you’re in a doghouse regarding your emails and are very close to being sent to spam folders, then one way to avoid that is to rewarm your list. This is where you would have to cut off your crops completely and start growing from scratch. 

You could start re-warming your list by only looking at the opens and clicks for 30 days or 60 days, or 90 days, even just like you warm up for an ESP to prove that you’re not a scam. 

So if you think your brand’s reputation is at stake, you’ve got to change it and adjust things accordingly to improve it.

Why Buying an Email List is a Bad Idea?

Sometimes I hear people saying that they bought an email list, and it stuns me, knowing how much of a bad idea it is to approach and build an audience in this way. There are several reasons why this is a bad idea.   

Low-quality leads

Firstly, because it has very low-quality leads, such emails don’t have any intent. Also, the audience you’re sending to they don’t know who you are, and you will be some random person emailing them out of the blue. 

This is a classic example of spam. They haven’t asked to be emailed by you, so you shouldn’t be hitting up their boxes with a large pile of emails.

Violation of privacy laws (double check on this)

Secondly, in many cases, this is a violation of laws. There are privacy laws in the United States that require you to receive consent from the individuals you’re consistently sending to allow you to approach them. So you should ensure you email them properly and receive that consent explicitly.

Harm sender reputation

Sending to big lists we don’t know can also largely harm your sender’s reputation. That can make you look extremely bad in your industry, labeling you something like a Nigerian Prince Scam.

Waste of time and money

Buying such lists is a total waste of time and money. It will not be fruitful in email marketing

as it won’t bring any value to your customer’s experience or your business. So it’s a really bad idea to pull some audience through this.

If you do buy a list…

However, if you have bought a list, put it to better use. Rather than email, you can use it for Facebook ads for a custom audience on Facebook or Instagram. That would be a great way to use it. 

For example, you can target them through ads to get them into your funnel and then go on further to contextualize content for them. Doing this won’t violate any laws and will probably match 50% or more or around that.

You can communicate with them through ads easily and efficiently to get them on your list. But don’t just blast their inboxes out of the blue. To do that, you must have some level of context around it.

Final Takeaways

To sum it all up, the crux of this whole article was that you should imagine your email list as your crops that must be nurtured to grow and thrive. 

Similarly, this is how you maintain a healthy list. Ensure you don’t burn out your list, take care of it, nurture it, and it’ll grow. It will be a thriving resource you will harvest every year.

So hopefully, this article was helpful and gave you the insights you needed to understand how to have an engaged and active audience.

If you have questions, let us know in the comments below, and don’t forget to give feedback!

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