Isn’t it exciting that your email marketing campaign is likely to be more successful because average open rates have trended significantly upward? According to Inbox Marketer, their North American average open rate was 19.2% in 2011 and 25.9% in 2015, an increase of over 6%! The cream on the cake is that deliverability is also up.
This sounds like great news for small businesses doing email marketing – my client base. But wait, there’s actually a scary side to all this industry success, especially for small businesses. Be careful about the latest trend that’s improving those stats – list pruning.
Statistics are quite different from people, and you do business with people. If you’re considering pruning your list, there are some things you need to know first in order to make an informed decision.
The Math behind the Pruning
Let’s say you start with 500 subscribers and your average open rate is 20%. If you get rid of 100 subscribers (who appear not to be opening your newsletter) and maintain the same number of opens, your open rate will increase to 25%. If you are an agency, I’m sure your client will be happy when you tell them this. If you aren’t, who are you fooling?
If you see an increase in your open rate without having pruned your list, you can legitimately celebrate. Otherwise you’ve likely made a trade-off, perhaps without even realizing the impact.
What You Don’t Know can Hurt You
First you need to know that identifying contacts who have not opened your emails is not as simple as it might seem. An ‘open’ is measured when an image is viewed. If your subscriber is viewing in plain text or preview mode, it won’t count as an open. The result is that you may be cutting off the wrong subscribers.
Even more important, there’s value in being seen in people’s inboxes. Sort of like driving by a billboard on the way to the cottage every weekend, your name is being seen, even if deleted. Some sales cycles are long and, while I may not need one now, I might want a custom app built in the future. Or perhaps a car, a bottle of wine, or a fitness class.
Respect Your List
It comes down to this: I believe we need to respect our subscribers. We can do this by:
- giving interesting and useful content
- being consistent with our schedule, layout, and content
- being open to feedback and suggestions
- being concise in our communications
- giving them tools to easily share our messages with their fans
If we respect our readers, they’ll learn to trust us… and isn’t that what successful small business is all about?