Should You Ever Delete ‘Dead’ Email Subscribers?

Should you delete “dead” email subscribers from your list?

Subscriber Jason is pondering the pros and cons.

He asks:

What’s your view on culling inactive subscribers from your list?

On the one hand, culling reduces costs, and increases open/click rates. But I’ve heard of research done which suggests that inactive users may still be valuable, since they may one day click through. Or, they may be more likely to buy your product just because they see your name pop up in their inbox regularly.

Do you cull all, none, or some but not all, inactive subscribers?

In February I trekked out to San Diego for Traffic & Conversion Summit.

One of the more lightly attended presentations was by a soft-spoken guy who’s one of the world’s leading experts on putting emails into inboxes. (He used to work for Aweber, and has since moved over to Marapost, an email service you’ve probably never heard of because they mainly serve companies with millions of subscribers in their databases.)

After the presentation I asked him about this exact question.

He confirmed what I’ve said for a long time:

Many of those “dead” email boxes are valid but inactive—their owners have long since abandoned them and moved on to a new address.

Gmail, Yahoo and their ilk know this, and they monitor those inactive accounts.

Blasting messages to hundreds or thousands of inboxes where no one will ever see them means you’re hurting your reach with the subscribers who DO want to hear from you.

Inactive subscribers is one thing I track on the Simple Programmer list.

Drip makes it easy to see who’s paying attention with their excellent “lead scoring” feature.

Right now, 21.25% of our subscribers haven’t opened or clicked a single email I’ve sent in the last 6 months.

(This is normal, by the way. Your list will accumulate sludge too over time.)

Those subscribers probably cost us $50 to $100 a month to keep around.

Because it’s not smart to send a lot of emails to those subscribers, I simply segment those subscribers out when I send out broadcasts.

Why not delete them and save a grand or so per year?

Jason hinted at the dilemma—as a whole this segment isn’t *completely* dead.

They’re MOSTLY dead.

Occasionally I will send a “wake up, sleepyhead” broadcast to this segment.

Last time I did this was a couple of months ago.

That email got a dismal 5% open rate.

When I checked back later though, 60% of the subscribers who “woke up” were still active.

So my recommendation is to NOT delete “dead” subscribers.

A small percentage may someday come back to life.

Instead segment by activity level—and only mail your inactive subscribers once in a blue moon.