How to Clean a Messy Contact List in 5 Easy Steps
Raise your hand if your email list is neat and tidy.
Yeah, that’s what I thought.
For busy small business owners, there is nothing worse than a messy, disorganized, outdated list of email subscribers.
Especially if you’ve inherited this list and have no idea how to fix it.
Just the thought of tackling it makes you want to slam down your laptop screen right now.
Well, don’t do that. I’m going to show you how to organize, purge, and clean your subscriber list so it’s easier to work with and gets you better results.
Step 1: Face the Facts
Take an honest, hard look at your contact list:
- Do you have lists you’ve never sent to?
- Do you have a consistently high bounce rate every time you send out an email campaign?
- Is your list messy and confusing?
- Does it stress you out?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, proceed to Step 2.
Step 2: De-Clutter
Sometimes your contact list contains unused lists that just create clutter. At one time they may have been created to segment your contact lists, but they may no longer be relevant or make sense for what’s going on in your organization today.
In that case, they should be consolidated to your main email list or deleted.
To determine if a list should be deleted:
- Identify all the lists you hardly use
- Determine if the contacts in these lists also appear on more active lists
- Determine when you last sent an email to these lists
This should help you determine if the list can be deleted and the contacts rolled into more appropriate, active lists.
Step 3: Deal With Your Bounces
If you haven’t been keeping track of your bounced emails, start doing so by using tags.
Create a tag to manage all of the contacts that bounce back when you send an email. After you send a few emails, you’ll start to see that some of the same contacts bounce with every campaign.
Here’s how to stay on top of email bounces:
- Identify contacts that consistently bounce with each sent campaign
- Salvage any email addresses you can by correcting obvious typos
- Ask for updated information from anyone who you have additional ways to reach
- Remove those marked by Constant Contact as ‘Recommended for removal’
Step 4: Deep Clean Your Contact Lists
If you’ve been with Constant Contact for a while, or you inherited an account with us, chances are you have some outdated contacts.
In order to maintain a high deliverability rate and consistently reach people who are engaged with your content, you’ll want to do some deep cleaning to bring your list up-to-date.
- Age your list – If you’ve started to get spam complaints or high bounces, consider aging your list by sign-up date. You can export a .csv file and sort the sign-up date category chronologically to determine the ‘oldest’ contacts on your list that are more likely to be disengaged. Then, send them an email asking them to update their profile.
Here’s how our customer, Mother Earth Pillows, encouraged their email subscribers to update their preferences to make sure they were grouped into the right list.
- Remove role addresses – Role addresses are emails like ‘email@example.com’ or ‘firstname.lastname@example.org.’ Reach out to these businesses to see if you can update these generic emails with a specific name and point of contact.
- Use a Permission Reminder – This appears as a little message at the top of each email that explains why someone is receiving your email and how they can unsubscribe if they no longer want to receive your emails. This simple reminder can cut down your spam complaints and ensure that only the contacts that want to receive your emails stay on your list.
Step 5: Launch a Re-Engagement Campaign
Most marketers have a group of people who are not opening emails or engaging with your content regularly. See if you can awaken their interest by sending a re-engagement email.
Here’s a great example from Socially Sorted founder, Donna Moritz.
Her email got my attention with the subject line: Is everything cool? I’ve missed you…
Donna had tracked those of us who weren’t opening her emails very often (Yes, I’m guilty!) and reminded us what her newsletter was all about and why we should opt-in to keep getting it.
In addition to her thoughtful message, she gave us one call to action in the form of a giant green button in the middle of the email to opt-in again to stay on her list.
I clicked the link and, lo and behold, there was a digital gift waiting for me to download. Score!
Try something similar to reengage those dormant contacts on your email list. You don’t have to offer an incentive, but definitely provide an easy way for your subscribers to tell you whether or not they’re still interested.
What comes next?
Once you’ve cleaned up your existing list, go out and get more!
We have tons of resources for growing a healthy contact list:
- Not sure what to say? Here’s a simple script to help you ask for email addresses anywhere.
- Want to try something new? Check out these 3 simple apps and integrations you can use to grow your list online.
- Need even more ideas? Our Ultimate Guide to Growing a Massive Email List has 61 list growth ideas to cover all your bases.
And leave us all your contact list questions in the comments below.