“We should be choosing what we want to keep, not what we want to get rid of.”

Minimalism is all the rage these days. Just ask Marie Kondo, whose fresh and unabashed guide to home organization, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, has become a #1 New York Times Bestseller and amassed a cult-like following. Rather than give a laundry list of items to throw away, she encourages us to focus on what we want to keep. The things that bring us joy.

And while the famous decluttering guru might be referring to the home, her tips can easily be applied to something seemingly unrelated: your email list.

A healthy list is non-negotiable.

Want to succeed with email marketing? List cleanup is non-negotiable.

A healthy, well-maintained email list is the foundation for any successful email marketing program. If you’re spending the time and effort on your campaigns, you want to make sure you get results.

Unfortunately, the average email list depreciates over time – nearly 25% a year, according to MarketingSherpa. This is due to a combination of things: bounces, unsubscribes, email address changes. And if you’re not bringing in subscribers at the same rate as they leave, it can feel like your business is taking a hit.

Think quality > quantity.

A big list certainly seems impressive. There are dozens of blog posts and case studies out there touting strategies to go from 0 to 10,000 subscribers in no time. But not all of these list-building tactics are legit – buying an email list, for example, might get you subscribers, but it won’t get you the results you’re looking for.

Why? Because these subscribers never opted-in to receive your emails. They don’t know who you are and they most likely have no interest in buying what you’re selling – be prepared for your emails to go straight to the spam folder. Plus, if you’re using a reputable email service provider (like AWeber), purchased lists are totally off limits.

Wouldn’t you rather have a smaller, curated list of ideal subscribers who are super excited to read your emails? This would certainly bring joy to your email list – and your open rates.

Don’t give up on growing your list just yet! Check out this video for list building ideas that won’t harm your sender reputation and this post for seven tips to grow your email list in a time-crunch.

Commit yourself to letting go.

Letting go of clutter is hard to do. The same can be said for your subscribers. Cleaning up your list means having to part with subscribers that you spent time and money to acquire.

Keeping your goal in mind is a great way to stay focused. Are you sending to attain more sales? Readers? Connections? The people on your list should be the ones who help you achieve that goal.

Keep in mind that not only will a clean list mean more attentive readers, but your deliverability and open rates will improve, too. Talk about a win-win!

Imagine your ideal subscriber.

For us, the ideal subscriber is someone who looks forward to seeing your latest newsletter hit their inbox, engages with your newsletters, clicks through to your offers and shares your emails with friends. While these are the people you want to see on your list, you might find that there are different characteristics and traits among your specific audience.

Having a visual ideal for the type of people you want to send to plays a huge part in how you plan your email strategy. These personas will make sure your content, cadence and promotional strategy are all in check.

A good way to identify these subscribers is by sending out a survey. Ask questions about the type of content they’d like to receive and how frequently, as well as what they expect from your emails. With the feedback you receive, you can learn a lot about your list.

Identify your inactive subscribers.

Inactive subscribers are people who signed up for your email list, but haven’t opened any of your emails in a long time – or possibly ever. And we always seem to make excuses for keeping these people on our lists.

There are lots of reasons why these perfectly valid subscribers go dark: they no longer need your products or services, they don’t have time to check all of their emails or maybe they just aren’t interested. Sometimes people sign up for a one-time incentive offer but have no intentions on purchasing from you again.

Fortunately, your inactive subscribers aren’t too hard to spot. Simply take a look at your subscriber stats to see who opens your emails and who doesn’t. People who open but don’t click aren’t necessarily a lost cause – they’re showing some interest in your brand, but maybe the content doesn’t completely resonate. It might be a good option to segment them out from those who don’t engage at all, and follow up with more targeted content.

Cleaning up your list from inactives isn’t easy. It’s hard to part with your subscribers! Before you remove these people from your list, try running a reactivation campaign to give them a second chance and increase engagement. If they still aren’t opening your emails, it’s time to let go.

Spark some joy.

When it comes to list cleanup, think of it like this: You’re choosing which subscribers to keep, not which to discard.

Keep your list healthy and maintained by delighting your subscribers with relevant content. After all, these are your ride-or-die subscribers. You should be showing them as much attention (if not more) than your prospects.

Need some ideas for reigniting the spark with your subscribers? Try employing one of these tactics:

1. Send subscribers a special promo code or discount offer


2. Share helpful tips or hacks for using your product or service (bonus points for GIFs)

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3. Ask for feedback with a customer survey

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4. Reward customers who frequently purchase from you with a loyalty program


So fresh, so clean.

There’s nothing better than the feeling of a clean email list. Have you employed some of these tactics in your email marketing strategy? What kind of results did you see?

Let us know in the comments or share your own ideas for keeping a healthy list!