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Updated Nov 20, 2023

Email Marketing List Management Best Practices

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Jamie Johnson, Business Operations Insider and Senior Analyst

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If you’ve been in business for any length of time, you know you need an email list. Email marketing allows you to develop a relationship with your customers and bring in more sales for your company. But building an email list is not enough on its own; you also need a way to manage and optimize your email list. This process is known as email list management. In this article, you’ll learn about some of the best approaches to managing your email list and how high-quality email marketing software can help.

Editor’s note: Looking for the right email marketing service for your business? Fill out the below questionnaire to have our vendor partners contact you about your needs.

What is email list management?

Email list management is how you organize your business’s email subscribers. It’s the process of validating email addresses, getting rid of dead ones and otherwise maintaining a healthy list. When you regularly manage your email list, you ensure it’s up to date and accurate, thus allowing you to deliver more value to your email subscribers.

Why is email list management important?

A strong email marketing strategy hinges on an active and engaged subscriber base. People sign up for your emails for different reasons, and many will lose interest at some point.

A certain percentage of people will eventually unsubscribe, while others won’t — they’ll just stop opening your emails altogether. Worse, your emails might go to their spam folders, which hurts your campaigns’ deliverability and, eventually, your sender reputation.

Email list management needs to be at the core of your email marketing strategy. By maintaining a list of engaged subscribers, you can create content and offers that speak directly to your audience and generate a response.

Key TakeawayKey takeaway

Email list management is essential because it ensures your audience is as active and engaged as possible with your email marketing campaigns. A bad list equals an unsuccessful email marketing campaign.

Best practices for managing your email list

You’ve invested a lot of time and money into growing your company’s email list, so you want to manage it well. Here are four best practices for managing your list:

1. Use the double-opt-in method.

Before your customers can begin receiving your emails, they have to subscribe. There is some debate over whether you should require them to do a single or double opt-in for this. If  you require only a single opt-in, they can begin receiving emails from you as soon as they subscribe. With a double opt-in, they must confirm via email that they signed up for your mailing list.

It can be tempting to go with a single opt-in because it allows you to grow your email list faster, and you never have to worry about losing the subscribers left in limbo. However, you could end up with a bunch of fake or spam email addresses. A double opt-in ensures you have a list of engaged subscribers, since the people who signed up have shown they really want to be there. [Read related article: How the GDPR Is Affecting Email Marketing]

2. Set up a welcome sequence.

What happens when a new email subscriber joins your list? Hopefully, that person goes into your welcome sequence, an automated email series that new subscribers receive right after signing up. It’s an opportunity for them to get to know you and start building a relationship with your business.

When a new subscriber joins your email list, they are excited and engaged with your business. But if they don’t hear from you for weeks, they’ll quickly lose interest and move on, so a welcome sequence and other drip campaigns help you build trust and engagement with your audience.

Here are a few tips for creating a welcome sequence:

  • Use a conversational tone in your emails.
  • Ask a question, and invite your subscribers to respond to the email.
  • Share one of your best pieces of content — a really helpful blog post, guide or video.
  • Don’t space the emails too far apart; send them every day or every other day, depending on how long the sequence is.

3. Segment your subscribers.

Personalizing your emails can increase your open rates to numbers well above those of generic emails sent to all of your subscribers. The best way to deliver targeted emails is to segment your email subscribers so you know who should receive what.

Segmentation can feel like a huge undertaking, so if you haven’t been doing customer segmentation already, it’s best to start small. Start by segmenting your list based on marketing demographics, like age, gender and income level. Those factors alone can tell you a lot about your subscribers’ interests.

You can also segment your subscribers based on whether they are already customers. You can segment your current customers even further based on their past purchases or total amount spent.

4. Remove inactive subscribers from your list.

The final step in maintaining a healthy email list is to remove unengaged subscribers. It may seem counterintuitive to remove subscribers, but it doesn’t matter how many subscribers you have; what matters is your overall engagement.

Inactive, or “dead,” subscribers are individuals who haven’t opened a single email from you in the past 90 days. Your email provider should have a way for you to find this information quickly. Once you’ve identified your inactive subscribers, tag them and send them one last email with the opportunity to stay on your list. Here is an example:

Hi, [name]! 

I noticed it’s been a while since you’ve opened one of my emails. I only want to send emails to people who are getting a ton of value out of them, so I plan to remove everyone on my list who isn’t engaged — and my records show that includes you. 

If you want to be removed, there’s no action needed on your part. But if you’re hoping to stay on my list, just click the link below. 

[insert link] 

This email allows you to reengage some of your inactive subscribers. At the same time, you’re getting rid of the people who don’t want to hear from you anymore.

TipTip

Avoid common email marketing mistakes, such as failing to optimize your sends for mobile devices and using too many images.

Email marketing software that can help manage your list

A crucial component of successful email marketing campaigns is targeting the right people. To do this, you need to use proper list management strategies and segmentation tools. This combination ensures you are sending emails to those who want to receive your messages while also making sure those who want your emails are getting messages that appeal to them specifically. Here are four of the best email marketing software providers that can help you on both counts.

monday.com

monday.com is a project management tool designed to streamline the tasks involved with email marketing list management. You can store large amounts of email contacts in the program so you can easily keep track of all your sales leads.

Through monday.com’s customizable opt-in forms, you can ensure the software’s innovative features meet the needs of your business and your potential subscribers. The company offers automated email marketing campaigns and detailed analytics that track email open rates, conversion rates and bounce rates, among other tools.

With lead categorization, you can organize your subscribers based on factors such as location and customer preferences. This can complement your segmentation and personalization approaches.

Although the monday.com interface is user-friendly, users with little or no project management software experience may face a learning curve. You can check out our detailed monday.com review to learn more about this platform.

HubSpot

HubSpot is a leader in marketing software, and its email management solution is one of the best out there. You can use the software to create and track personalized email campaigns.

The email editor is incredibly comprehensive, with a wide range of templates for various purposes. You can add content blocks, like images and buttons, and edit the design to meet your vision.

One of HubSpot’s most useful aspects is that it lets you personalize emails based on where your customers are in the client life cycle. You create an email, and HubSpot will adjust details such as the subject line to fit that subscriber’s customer journey.

The platform also gives you access to extensive analytics about your campaigns. You can track your open rate, unsubscribes and spam reports. HubSpot will show you which subscribers are the most engaged and which links get the most clicks.

The only real downside to HubSpot is the price; it isn’t the most affordable option for small businesses. You can learn more about this vendor in our review of the HubSpot CRM, which has email marketing capabilities.

Constant Contact

With Constant Contact, you can manage your email list, set up a website and monitor your ad campaigns, all in one program. The software is incredibly functional and offers many advanced email marketing features.

Constant Contact has hundreds of email templates with many editing options. You can customize the fonts and brand colors for each email by entering your website URL, as well as add contact blocks, videos and social sharing options. The software’s drag-and-drop tools make it easy to design each email exactly the way you want it.

If you switch to Constant Contact from another email service provider, you can automatically import your contacts. You can also use the software to grow your subscriber list, create sign-up forms and access advanced reports.

The software is relatively intuitive, so it’s a great option even if you don’t consider yourself particularly tech-savvy. However, the vendor doesn’t provide 24/7 customer support, which could be a downside for some users. To learn more about how your business can use this email list management platform, read our full Constant Contact review.

Mailchimp

Mailchimp is one of the best email marketing services for novices. The software is easy to use, but it provides plenty of advanced reports that let you take a data-driven approach to email marketing.

When you sign up, Mailchimp walks you step by step through the process of setting up your first email campaign. You can choose to use an email template or build your own email from scratch. Mailchimp will even spell-check your emails for you when you’re done drafting them.

Mailchimp stands out for its advanced reporting features. The software gives you insight into the results of each email campaign, showing you which ones had the most significant impact on your bottom line. [See what email marketing metrics you should track.]

Mailchimp’s functionality and ease of use make it an excellent option for beginners. However, its customer service options are limited on lower-tier plans.

Key TakeawayKey takeaway

There are many email marketing platforms, so choose the one that best works for your needs and budget. monday.com, HubSpot, Constant Contact and Mailchimp are some highly rated options that can help you manage your email list.

Making email management simple and profitable

Managing your email lists is a large part of keeping customers engaged with your business. Several email marketing software platforms can make the process easier and more beneficial, and various factors will determine which is the best service for your business. When you invest in effective email list management practices, you build stronger customer relationships and expand your customer base. That, in turn, can help secure some additional revenue for your business — and fuel your continued growth.

Shayna Waltower contributed to this article.

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Jamie Johnson, Business Operations Insider and Senior Analyst
For more than five years, Jamie Johnson has been guiding business owners on financial matters both big and small. This includes investment advice, insights on business loans and funding options, recommendations on insurance and more. Johnson excels at delivering easy-to-understand direction so entrepreneurs can make the best financial decisions for their businesses and, as a solopreneur herself, she regularly tests business strategies and services. Johnson's expertise can be found in a variety of finance publications, including InvestorPlace, Credit Karma, Insurify and Rocket Mortgage. She has also demonstrated a deep understanding of other B2B topics — including sales, payroll, marketing and social media — for the likes of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, U.S. News & World Report, CNN, USA Today and Business Insider.
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