What to do with an email list of non-openers?

by Matt Sullivan on August 12, 2016

While recently listening to good friend Josh Nason on the Uberflip Podcast, I was reminded about the pesky issue of non-openers in an email list. Far too many people don’t scrub the detritus from their email lists, and just continue to send messages to address that will never open your email, or may not even exist anymore.

This starts to become an issue for email marketers in several ways. First of all, it kills your numbers. If you’re sending emails to the same 10,000 address each week and only 7,500 are opening, you’re dragging down your Open Rates,CTR, and anything else down-funnel that depends on people actually opening your email. This is a huge thing when it comes to reporting, especially going up the ladder. If your Director or VP asks why Open Rates are so low, do you want to be the one to explain that you’re sending email to someone that never opens it? It’s better to send less to people that will actually engage with you than it is to have a “massive email list” that doesn’t open your messaging.

The next issue created by non-openers is that you could inadvertently get yourself blacklisted. ISPs will often take dead email addresses and turn them into “honeypots”. They do this to try to understand who the spammers are in the big, bad world. If you start sending email to one of these addresses on a regular basis, you will get blacklisted. This isn’t a “maybe I won’t get caught” situation; this is a fact. Don’t put your email marketing channel in jeopardy by sending to addresses that don’t open.

So, what do you do with these people?

First of all, make a practice each month of scrubbing your database of anyone that doesn’t open emails on a regular basis. At one firm, we used the rule of thumb that 1 open every 90 days was enough to stay on the list. If, at the end of 90 days, there are still no opens, send a final “We miss you” email that let’s them know you’re unsubscribing them from your list. Now you have a clean list!

But, just because these people didn’t open your email doesn’t necessarily mean they’re dead or want nothing to do with you. We all get so much email that maybe your signal was lost in the noise of the inbox. Maybe they marked an email as spam once, and now their email service provider automatically shuffles your messages to dungeon that is the Spam folder.

But, fear not! You can still safely use these address, but just not via email. Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram all have some version of a Custom Audience feature. This way you can upload a list of emails (usually needs to be more than 20), and then target those individuals with social advertising. As an added bonus, Facebook’s Audience Insights will give you information about this audience that you likely didn’t know before, like ages, genders, incomes, households, etc.

Turn your non-openers into social advertising targets! You’ll get more bang for the buck, get a sense of how many people on your list are on social media (all the platforms will tell you the size of the list after matching to their accounts), and turn unusable email addresses into something of value.

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post: