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Conquer Newsletter Obesity

CJ Chilvers
CJ Chilvers
2 min read

Over time, your list of subscribers will become bloated with the no-longer-interested, no-longer-reading, or no-longer-with-us. This decreases your open rate, bleeds your wallet, and makes you look more like a spammer to email providers.

For personal newsletters and small business newsletters, the solution is to simply prune your list of readers from time to time, to keep it healthy and cost-effective.

For bigger businesses, pruning can be controversial, because one customer can come back after years of inactivity to provide a single, high-profit sale. There’s a balance to be struck depending on your desired open rate and the amount of revenue a single, returning customer can provide.

But for the majority of newsletters, pruning is essential maintenance.

Last year, I posted about how I had to cut 400 subscribers from my newsletter. If you hadn’t opened the last ten issues or so, I removed you from my subscriber list. I received a few emails from bewildered readers about how they didn’t know I could tell they’d opened previous issues. Apparently, this is still not widely known among email readers. Yes, pretty much every email you read reports back about whether it’s been read, at the very least.

The truth is, open and click-through rate reporting isn’t 100% reliable. There are ways to read email newsletters without triggering the open or click report. That’s why, before I cut anyone from my list, I send them an email with a button that allows them to click and stay on the list if they want (how or if you can do this depends on your newsletter host). In this case, only 5 people opened the email and none of the 400 replied or clicked the button. So, a few days later, I unsubscribed them.

The point is to not be afraid to delete subscribers to keep your newsletter healthy. This isn’t social media, where your follower count is a source of pride for some. In newsletters, it’s all about the quality of relationships you’re building. I’d rather have a newsletter with 100 regular, involved readers than 1 million readers who scan and delete each issue.

Just as an example from my experiences: a typical one-off marketing email from a big company might have a 3-4% open rate at the top end. Your newsletter should have a 50%-80% open rate, depending on when you last pruned your list. Newsletters are all about quality.

Check out the rest of this month’s posts on creating email newsletters.