The effectiveness of any email marketing plan relies on how receptive your mailing list is. Engagement is highly dependent on whether or not your subscribers are still willing to receive and interact with your messages. Alas, there comes a time when some users become inactive, and with it, your open and click-through rates go down. In a proverbial sense, the sun is setting on these accounts as their days of engaging with your brand are concluded. When this happens, you must revisit your list to remove inactive accounts. This is what it means to have an email sunset policy.
Why sunset automation is important
Email sunsetting is the practice of taking measures to prune your mailing list, clearing out the contacts that no longer actively interact with your messages in any way. Think of it as maintaining the best possible email list hygiene, because:
- It boosts your engagement rates.
Inactive subscribers that are still a part of your mailing list are still taken into account when computing the engagement rates of your emails. The more they are, the poorer your engagement rate is. Some of the subscribers on your mailing list will inevitably become inactive, as discovered by Hubspot. Their study found a 22.5% decay rate for mailing lists annually, and that’s plenty of inactive subscribers to hurt your engagement rates. Removing them from your list leaves you with a fresh email list of subscribers that still interact with your content regularly, keeping the open and click-through rates as high as they’ll ever be.
- It improves your email domain reputation.
Internet service providers assign scores to businesses based on their email sending habits and the reactions of their subscribers as a result. This score is famously known as a sender reputation, and it actively impacts the overall email domain reputation and how well the emails you send eventually reach their intended recipients. Constantly ignored emails reflect poorly on your sender reputation, and so do high bounce rates, meaning emails sent to accounts that are no longer valid.
Clearing your mailing list of inactive and invalid accounts prevents the open rates from being so low and effectively stops bounce rates from becoming so high. The result is a good sender reputation for you and high email deliverability rates for your intended subscribers.
How do you implement a sunset automation policy?
Step 1: Segment your list.
It is always important to group your mailing list subscribers based on how they engage with your content. Not all users are the same. Some will only sign up for a specific thing and never interact with your emails again, and they are the people you need to put together in a list. You can configure most email marketing software to collect the contacts of all subscribers that haven’t interacted with your emails over a specific period.
Step 2: Try to re-engage
It is still possible that the users on your mailing list have only just forgotten about you and still wish to remain in contact. However, you have no way of telling who these users are from this newly segmented list, so it is best to create a re-engagement campaign to gauge their interest in remaining subscribed. A captivating re-engagement campaign could entail special offers in the form of discounts and free items to recapture their interest and urge them to continue interacting with your brand. There will still be subscribers that don’t respond to this campaign, and these are the contacts you should clear out of your mailing list in the following step.
Step 3: Automate the unsubscription of inactive accounts.
Whichever marketing software you use, there is most likely a setting to automatically unsubscribe completely inactive users at your request. It saves you lots of time to manually unsubscribe each contact, especially if yours is a long mailing list. Apply this setting after you conclude your re-engagement campaign since now the remaining subscribers will be the accounts that did not interact with your messages at all. The recommended targets for automatic unsubscription are those that have been inactive for between 2 and 3 months. If you have no intention of running re-engagement campaigns, you could keep this setting on at all times to automatically keep your list fresh without much effort on your part.
Setting up a sunset automation policy should be an integral part of your email marketing strategy, given how badly your campaigns could potentially perform without it. Thankfully it is not difficult to set up and only requires thoughtful list segmentation, a captivating re-engagement campaign, and the reliance on the automated systems of your preferred email marketing software.