CLEANING YOUR EMAIL LIST: WHY IT'S IMPORTANT AND HOW TO GET STARTED September 12, 2018 | Marketing | digital marketing , email marketing By Stepha Vesper, NPI, Inc.'s Marketing Communications Specialist Whether you’re brand new to email marketing or you’re about to click send on your 100th message, your email’s success is only as good as your contact list. You may have heard terms like “clean” and “scrub” in relation to your list and wondered what they mean and how to get started. We’re here to break it all down for you and explain why it’s important to polish up your list so it’s as “clean” and up-to-date as possible. What is a Clean Email List? In short, to clean your list means to fully verify it. This means you’re making sure that each address is not only valid and deliverable, you’re taking steps to avoid wasting funds and effort on contacts who aren’t interested in your business. Cleaning your list usually involves two stages: running your contacts through a web-based service like NeverBounce closely monitoring your open rates So what’s the big deal in the grand scheme of things if your personal list or campaign isn’t getting the best results? Shouldn’t that affect your business only? A cut-your-losses-and-try-a-different-subject-line type scenario? Well, that’s exactly the way it used to be till spammers started taking advantage of their sending freedom in a big way. If you’ve had an email address since the late 90s or early aughts, you probably remember the mountain of spam that would arrive in your inbox daily, seemingly by the minute. Now, think of your inbox today. Sure, one or two undesirable messages slip by, and a few more wind up in your spam folder, but it’s no comparison to the inbox of yesteryear. Rigorous filters and basic rules have now been put in place to protect peoples’ inboxes from spam. The main rule is pretty simple: if you don’t follow a few important guidelines, you get suspended as a sender. Luckily, the guidelines are simple to remember and even simpler to follow: obtain your list honestly (never purchase it from a third party!), clean it with NeverBounce and include an option in every email that allows people to opt out. What is a Sender Score? A sender score helps weed out spammers and other dishonest marketers by monitoring its send history. Each mail server is equipped with the ability to decide what to do with each email that is sent from an address, and sender score helps determine any given message’s course. If an email address has prompted a significant number of people to mark its messages as spam, if messages simply never get opened, or if messages are sent to email addresses that are no longer active, sender score can gradually go down. Once a sender’s score has been lowered, it’s not easy to get back into the good graces of a mail server. The majority of messages will be sent by the mail server directly to spam. And it goes without saying that this will lower the chances of your emails being seen and your campaign being successful. First: Obtain Your List from a Reputable Source Gathering valuable contacts is one of the biggest challenges of being a small business owner. As an inspector working in real estate services, you should be prepared to put in a lot of face time and do a little sleuthing on the side. You probably think that joining your local Realtor Association is your best bet when it comes to gathering the contact information that matters most. And you would be right! But the truth is that there’s a chance that even a list from this reputable and invaluable source will be less than perfect. That’s because the turnover rate for real estate agents is high. In fact, only 10 percent of new agents stick around after their first year in the business. With agents coming, going and switching groups, it’s no wonder that your list, while excellent, may contain a few discrepancies. That’s where services like NeverBounce come in handy. For just $.008 a contact, you can enter your entire list and receive a full report back on which addresses are still valid. The process usually takes five minutes or less and should only need to be completed once or twice a year. Second: Click Send and Watch What Happens Once you start sending messages, you’ll need to monitor them closely. Out of, say, a few weeks’ worth of emails, are there one or two that are performing better than the others? Are certain people opening every message, while other people aren’t even opening one? We wouldn’t advise making any hasty decisions when it comes to your list, but it’s important to monitor your analytics so that a bigger picture can start to emerge. This may take several weeks, so give yourself a deadline at which to start separating contacts and identifying areas for improvement. You’ll also want to closely monitor your email account for opt-outs. As soon as a contact chooses to opt out, you’ll need to take them off your list ASAP or risk getting marked as spam and reducing your sender score. Finally, you can start experimenting with subject lines, email content and list segmentation. About the Author Stepha Vesper, Marketing Communications Specialist Stepha has more than five years’ experience in marketing, content creation, SEO and copywriting. Her favorite part of her job is assisting franchisees with their digital marketing strategies so they reach their goals that much faster. When she isn’t at work, Stepha is going on adventures with her basset hound, Frank, and husband, Zach, perusing used bookstores, reading or writing.