Follow these 6 tips to clean up your email database to get on a path to better email engagement.

If you’re marketer reading this blog chances are email marketing is a big part of your digital marketing strategy. And chances are you’ve recently questioned if it’s actually working? Or perhaps you’ve been running email marketing campaigns for a long time and have seen it become more challenging? It may have you thinking, “Is it my platform?” “Is it my content?” “Is email just dead?”

Email marketing is not dead. It is however becoming increasingly harder to get people’s attention, but this is actually a good thing. When an individual actually wants to receive your emails, this contact is 100% more valuable than someone that either doesn’t want it or isn’t interested in the content. Rather than worry over low open rates or continually nagging subscribers to read your content – which could be hurting your overall inbox placement – you need to be focusing on the subscribers that do want to read your content. Change your thinking from opens to overall engagement.

These 6 tips will help to get you on a path to better email performance, higher engagement and strong email sender reputation.

  1. List Cleansing

    The first step in positively affecting your email marketing results is to clean things up. You need to start with the bare minimum and perform a list cleanse through a data management provider. Try or If you have never done one of these, chances are you probably need to. In fact you may want to consider performing list cleanses annually to keep things current. Once your results are back, review your cleaned list to make sure that all “fake” email addresses have been removed (including emails that do not belong to an actual person). List cleansing is necessary and it helps, but it’s not a silver bullet. You’ll want to make sure you don’t have any obviously incorrect email addresses like spam@, info@, sales@ remaining. You will want to upload the dirty emails to your hard bounce list in your Marketing Automation Platform and create a rule for typo domains, so your sales reps can reach out to get those corrected directly.

  2. Protect Yourself Against List Bombing

    List bombing is sending a massive amount of email to a specific person or system, in some cases rendering the inbox and server unusable. The 2 ways to protect yourself from this is to use captcha or confirmed opt-in. Different levels of opt-in to consider include:

    – Single Opt-In: This doesn’t prevent fake or role-based addresses and is considered the bare minimum.
    – Enhanced Opt-In: This option is better because an auto-responder follows after the opt-in. This tactic confirms the opt-in is valid and it can introduce the contact to what they can expect from future emails. Secondly, if the email is fake, the auto-respond message will bounce.
    – Confirmed Opt-In lite: This is a process by which your platform and sender quarantines the address until a certain time has past (usually 30 days) to really determine if the contact is worthy of being added to the database. This is a manual approach but worth it to keep your database above par.
    – Confirmed Opt-in: This is really considered the gold standard. The autoresponder will contain the opt-in link meaning you cannot send an email until the opt-in link has been clicked and confirmed. If the contact does not click, clearly they are not interested in your content.

  3. Segment by Engagement for Performance

    Yes this can be a daunting task because it involves looking at the who, what, where, and when to figure out the why. Let me be more specific: this step involves segmenting your lists by 3 key areas:

    – Most Engaged
    – Emailed within the last year
    – Never emailed or not engaged

    Most engaged: Known prospects who you will continue to email your amazing content to. You should have a separate segment in your email platform or marketing automation suite that reflects this for better, clearer focus. Usually there is no need to clean these contacts.

    Emailed in the last year: Be cautious when sending to this group. Consider a reconfirmation drip campaign (3-5 emails) to get this group re-engaged. or a permission pass campaign if they aren’t totally engaged.

    Never emailed or not engaged: Segment these contacts out completely. If your lists contain contacts from a purchased list, it is best not to email them. You do not need to delete them, but drop them into a separate segment for further review. This brings me to my next point: what do you do with purchased lists?

  4. Purchase Lists

    While some North American email laws allow you to email to a purchased list, the industry says you should not. Considering that the industry sets the highest standards, you are actually damaging your reputation and are likely not even reaching most inboxes with most sends. If people do not want your communication they will opt out, they will delete the email or they will set strict filtering so they don’t see your email in the first place. That said, many organizations purchase lists for different reasons, so here is a mini do’s and don’ts list:

    – Source a company like Zoominfo for example and purchase a list simply for the list of companies (accounts) This will give your marketing and sales departments an organized starting point with good segments to start building.
    – Have eager, entry level salespeople network, call and organically build this list over time. Various tactics include:

    – Sales Navigator, InMail and networking options on LinkedIn
    – Networking at meetups and tradeshows
    – Send personalized individual email reach outs
    – Call influencers and decision makers that are part of that organization to get verbal interest and confirmation

    – Purchase a list and mail to it in any fashion. This includes opt-in mailers or permission pass emails. This process is just not accepted anymore.

    If you are thinking about purchasing a list, change your thinking from this is a quick step towards traction to this is the beginning step to “building” a quality target list. We’re here to tell you that the on-going effort is well worth it and can be less expensive than pure inbound approaches.

  5. Permission Pass and Opt-Ins

    Permission pass email campaigns need to be performed on old, stale, and less engaged segments. As well it is generally good practice to run these every 6 months. You can search lots of examples of good permission pass email templates, but a few things to point out are: move your “confirm your subscription” to the top of the email, close to the “view in browser” link. Also consider an incentive of some sort and make this clear in the header of the email. If you’re a B2B organization, consider something tangible, but related to your product versus a free consultation or demo. Lastly keep track of how, when and why contacts opt-in.

  6. Sales Teams Also Have to Help Keep the Database Clean

    When you compare your database to garbage in and garbage out, it becomes very clear on why keeping an up-to-date and clean database is so critical. And despite all of the fancy ways to automate these tactics and solely relying on software to do this for you, there is still a human element to the whole process. Most companies that get this right live and die by the quality of their CRM. Accounts are rounded out with correct and active contacts, incomplete records do not exist and segmentation nicely aligns with marketing automation efforts.

    Email marketing has changed and like most other rapid technology evolutions today, they are driven by the consumer. By shifting your thinking from a silver bullet approach, to a more holistic, longstanding approach you will see better results and higher engagement. As you move through some of these tactics we’ve suggested, always keep a few things in mind: Quality over Quantity and remember your email effectiveness is largely determined by the relationship to your subscribed and engaged lists.