My Email Insider column last week reviewed three major disagreements over basic email practices within the marketing community, but the one that sparked the most conversation was the debate over whether to remove or retain nonresponders—subscribers who haven't opened or clicked on your emails in a set time.
I’ll discuss the other disagreements that I outlined: single vs. double opt-in and using checked vs. unchecked boxes in subscription forms, in future blog posts.
In the column, I lined up with the crowd that believes removing “inactives” enables marketers to focus greater energy on actives so they can allocate more time and resources on retaining subscribers and minimize ISP filtering or blocking of messages sent to known inactive addresses.
A few commenters agreed with me, but others said that the “remove” position disregards the brand value of email. Others said they believe the deliverability argument might be overstated.
I was glad to see the dissenting opinions because they expanded the conversation about dealing with inactives beyond the simple, "I'm going to send my email to them until they bounce, unsubscribe or complain," vs. the, "Six or 12 months without clicking and they're gone!" debate.
Here's my take on those viewpoints:
First, we at Silverpop are big believers in email as a brand-awareness vehicle and a vital ingredient in multi-channel marketing. Silverpop CEO Bill Nussey wrote an entire chapter on Email Brand Value in his book “The Quiet Revolution in Email Marketing.”
Second, I emphasized a gradual approach to removing people, and then only after putting them through a strategic reactivation program. Also, you have to know your own sales cycle. For some marketers, it might make sense to keep nonresponders on their lists if the typical customer purchases only every few years.
However, just keeping old and inactive email addresses on your list ignores the realities in the modern deliverability ecosystem. As ISPs increasingly incorporate response rates and level of individual activity into their filtering algorithms, retaining too many truly inactive addresses has a good chance of hurting delivery rates.
Where do you stand? If you’ve had any interesting results from either retaining or removing old and inactive email addresses, we’d love to hear about it below.