A couple times a year, I give my email list a good pruning. Last week, I dropped 245 people.

Some might think this sounds crazy, but bear with me. I have my reasons.

1) A big email list means nothing if people aren’t engaged.

The size of your email list is nothing more than a vanity metric. I’d rather have a list of 500 highly engaged people, than a list of 50,000 people who never open anything.

2) A poor open rate means your emails are more likely to go into junk folders.

Gmail and other email service providers actively filter messages based on how well your emails are performing. If a bunch of Gmail users are simply ignoring your emails, you are more likely to be dumped into the dreaded “Promotions” tab or junk folder. It’s far better to eliminate the non-responders than have them pulling down your performance.

3) If someone hasn’t opened an email in months, they’ve clearly moved on. It’s natural for interests to evolve over time.

My personal rule of thumb is six months of nonactivity. If you haven’t opened one of my emails in 6 months, I’m going to assume that you no longer care about membership-building. If you were actively interested, surely there would have been *something* that I said in 6 months that would have led you to open an email.

4) The longer someone stays away, the less likely they are to buy/join.

Most of the time, people who actually do business with me, do so quickly. They are experiencing a problem, they see something I’m offering as a solution, and they’ll reach out. While there are exceptions to every rule, it’s very rare that someone completely disengaged would pop back up and suddenly want to work together. Someone who is just waiting for the “right time” won’t be completely disengaged. Instead, they’ll open emails periodically and will follow along, until the right program or offer is made.

I’m curious how other handle email disengagement. Do you ever prune your lists? Have you found it to be improve your open and click-through rates?

Share your thoughts in the comments.  I'd love to hear!


Joy Duling is Founder and CEO of The Joy of Membership.  Since 2005, Joy and her team have helped associations, trade groups and membership-based nonprofits run their programs more easily and deliver exceptional member care.

You can find FREE tools, tips and training to help you run and grow your membership organization in The Joy of Membership Help Hub.




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