How to get better results from your inbound marketing contact database by cutting it back

Stephen Bavister, MD, Lexisclick Online Marketing, explains why your contact database is the highest value resource in your inbound marketing arsenal

So, what does an unhealthy database or email list look like? Simply it’s one where the recipients don’t expect your email. This means they’re likely to delete it without reading it or even worse report it as spam.

So, identifying these contacts in your list is where you’ll be focussing your attention.

When you first uploaded your database to your CRM or email marketing system the chances are you were asked a series of questions in regards to it. For many CRM and email marketing providers the quality of your list is essential, as they don’t want their servers blacklisted for sending spam. The questions they ask you are usually along the lines of:

  • Does everybody on this list have a prior relationship with your business?
  • Do you have an unsubscribe list?
  • Did you purchase, rent, or lease the list from a third party?
  • Will the people on the list be expecting your email?
  • Have you emailed these contacts within the last 12 months?

These questions are pretty self-explanatory. In the context of this article the first one is probably the most important. You’ll have a much healthier list if the contacts on the list know you and have a prior relationship with you.

In that way if the contacts have signed up to hear from you or have filled out a form to download your content, they have initiated a relationship with your business. This is the best way to build your database, growing it organically with people who are interested in your business and have chosen to hear from you.

At the end of the day a contact who you’ve inspired to request to hear from you regularly is going to be much more valuable than someone who is receiving your content just because you’ve purchased their details.

So to maintain a healthy list you want to be publishing regular content that encourages new subscribers to sign-up to hear from you regularly.

You can also use this content to keep in touch with your database regularly so that they get used to hearing from you and expect to receive your emails on a regular basis.

Thirdly, don’t hide the unsubscribe option away or worse still leave it out of your emails. If people really don’t want to hear from you, it’s much better to let them unsubscribe than to annoy them with emails they’d rather not be getting.

That’s covering the bases of growing and nurturing your list, how can you go one better? The answer is you need to prune it.

How to improve/update your list

As time passes, the quality of your list will diminish. People change their jobs, their interests evolve, they change email providers or unsubscribe from your list. The changes are likely to be effecting around 25% of your list every year. That’s why you need to be running regular campaigns to re-engage your existing contacts and develop new contacts. It is similar to pruning a tree, clears out the dead wood to help it bear more fruit. By clearing out your email list you’ll get better results from it.  

Re-engagement campaigns are the most effective way of pruning your database. The idea is to reawaken inactive subscribers and identify the email addresses in your database that should be removed. It’s much better to clear out inactive email addresses than kid yourself that your email database is bigger than it actually is.

You want to focus re-engagement campaigns on stale contacts. Stale contacts are the ones that have been on your list for a long time, but aren’t engaging with your emails by opening, reading or clicking through from them. Ideally you want to get into the habit of running these campaigns regularly to keep your database clear.

The first step is to create sub-list of contacts that haven’t been engaging with your content. How strict you are on this will be down to your business. If you haven’t done this before, a good starting point would be to send regular emails to identify and create a list of anyone who hasn’t engaged with your emails in the last 6 months.

When you’ve done this you’ll want to design and write an email with a well-crafted offer to attract these inactive contacts to engage with you again. We’ll cover this in more detail in a later post, just remember they haven’t been engaging with you recently – so your offer is going to need to grab their attention and reawaken their interest – make it good.

After you’ve sent your email you’ll need to assign time to study the open and click-through-rates to understand which contacts to keep and which is to be removed from your lists. The first time you do it, removing contacts will be as painful as throwing out a beloved item of clothing that you haven’t worn in two years. It’s tough, but you need to make the space for something better. Don’t worry it’ll get easier the more you do it – especially when you start seeing the improvements in your engagement rates.

Get started today

I’ve outlined what you need to do to keep your inbound marketing contact database healthy and I’m sure you’re keen to take action.

First, work out how you want to segment inactive contacts, e.g. those that haven’t engaged with your emails in the last 6 months and create the appropriate list.

Design the offer that is going to attract them back in - perhaps with exclusive content or a great offer to relight their fire. Remember it has to be good to get them to re-engage.

When you’ve decided on the offer, it’s time to craft an email that’ll stand out in their inbox and motivate them to take the next step.

Then send the email and analyse the results. Remember don’t be afraid to remove those contacts that didn’t engage – it’ll be a weight of your shoulders...