Nurture before you “clean up”

Almost every now and then I bump into a friend or a prospect mailing list woes. The most common complaint that I hear is the “sanitization” of these lists.

Here’s the rationale — they’ve got a 100,000 people in their list of which only 5,000 people actually engage. The quarterly newsletter or monthly updates they send out are ignored by the 95% of the list! Their concern is mostly around knowing which ones in their list are actually serious and chuck everyone out.

And this makes me mad! Very much! While I believe it’s a great idea to stay on top of your lists and keep it updated, I don’t think chucking out people who’re not engaging makes sense. Especially when you haven’t actually engaged enough or worse, not at all.

Slashing people out of your mailing list is like withdrawing the maximum amount of cash you can from an ATM and then leaving it on the table. Literally.

Considering the 20-25% decay that an average mailing list goes through every year, I’d say cutting people out is absolutely critical. But there’s the right way and the wrong way.

The wrong way is to cut people out without studying the reasons for a lower engagement rate or without a proper strategy in place. More so, some marketers make cleaning up the list as their life’s mission.

One of the most ignored aspects of mailing lists is how you nurture them. Instead of focusing on value, people (especially corporates) focus on formulas or templates that make content creation easy. Without any thought or regard for value creation. And they wonder why the heck is people not listening to them.

If all you do is talk about yourself — who would care? We don’t want to know! Doesn’t matter who you are or what you are capable of; the only thing I care about is myself!

Upon studying countless corporate newsletters (yeah, studying them is one of my hobbies ;-)) I realized that marketers think a generic success story or two, coupled with a few interviews and a banner with a strong CTA to join one of their other mailing lists would serve the purpose.

Worse, some of these newsletters don’t even fulfill the BIG promise that was foundational to its launch! So much for credibility and trust!

Here’s the easy and simple way to ensure things are on track:

  • Nurture the list: share information that is super-valuable and nothing less. Remember that if it’s not valuable they would have heard about it anyway or simply just don’t care!
  • A re-engagement strategy is a must, especially if you have a massive list. Segment the non-responsive list and create a campaign for them. You’ll have some takers. Segment them further and create content that’s exclusive to them. Target the recipients who still didn’t respond. Rinse and repeat. It’s a lot of work but it’s worth the time you are investing. A simple strategy like this can boost your engagements levels from 5% to 25 or even 35%!
  • Focus on creating solid content that will swoon the audience to read more! An engaging copy, in general, is all steak and less sizzle.
  • Be specific about your calls-to-action. It’s critically important. Shamelessly ask your audience to do something. Your only objective is to push them towards your organization or community’s inner circle. Period.

Some more ideas:

  • Focus on producing highly valuable content that is engaging and evolving instead of relying on a set standard. For example, most interview articles are based out of a template. Templates are boring. If I were to prepare to interview someone, I would take out time to do some background research to get insights on the interviewee’s thoughts and beliefs. A text-based Q&A or interview in a newsletter is no different. Take the time. Do the work. Your content will shine.
  • Video content in general works great! But if we don’t feature it in the newsletter, what’s the point? We’re missing out on a great opportunity. A single snippet of a video is enough to spike up the engagement levels. If the video is valuable, subscribers will surely sign-up further. What we need is a cut out of the video with a compelling headline and short blurb.
  • Readers ought to have more control over the information they receive (and when they can receive it). If they are unsubscribing, should you not instead give them an option to stay connected while lowering the frequency of emails or the type of messages they get? Allowing them more control over what goes into their inbox helps reinforce your stance as a trusted sender who only wants to send information that’s pertinent to the reader.
  • Ask your subscribers to move the letters from the “updates” tab to the “inbox” tab just once. That’ll update the email service provider’s algorithm and ensure that emails from your reach your inbox every time.
  • We need to make the subject lines more interesting. It has to answer the most important question: “what’s in it for me?” And it doesn’t just end at the subject line, you have to share content that is valuable to the audience. Something that they would appreciate.
  • Encourage sharing! Ask your subscribers to share with a friend. All we need to do is include an “Email to a friend” button along with the social share buttons. What’s the worse that could happen? They’ll unsubscribe? Good for you! They’ll ignore you? Great! Remind them again next time.

That’s it! It may sound simple at the outset but developing quality content takes time. Nurturing your mailing list is even harder. Your audience (or list) may not be as excited about the content you are sharing but that’s an opportunity for you to scope out the aspects that are getting in the way of the audience’s engagement levels. Unfortunately, most of our marketing is quite limited to either creating content and sharing on social or pushing out mailers and eliminating subscribers who are seemingly inactive.

You can’t ever expect a 100% from your subscriber base. Unless it’s just you and your family members. (And if you happen to have a pet… forget about it!) There’s more to it than just creating, sharing and eliminating. A lot more thought should be given to what you’re sharing and why.

Bottom line: Value creation is the long game. Don’t cut corners. Put the time. Do the work. And don’t kill the list, nurture it instead.