You have collected a list of email addresses, and you’re now ready to start mailing. Or so you think.

Before you rush to the finish line and click “send,” there are a few questions that you must ask yourself before you get into deep water with your Email Service Provider or become flagged as a spammer by major ISP’s. By starting at the top of the flow chart and winding your way down, you will determine whether or not you are ready to pull the trigger.

So, where have you landed?

1. Abandon your list entirely!

If you have generated a master email list by purchasing different lists from list brokers, it can often result in a large number of hard bounces, spam complaints, and unsubscribes. What you are buying is not a “clean, verified, opt-in list” that you were promised. Rather, you’re buying a massive headache of re-dated co-reg email data from 2007. Don’t underestimate the damage that purchased lists can do to your email deliverability and your sender reputation. The bottom line is, if you didn’t collect these email addresses yourself, you shouldn’t be mailing to them. Plus, many ESP’s see it as a violation of their terms of use to send to purchased lists. Start collecting your own opt-in email addresses through website forms, newsletter sign-ups, off-line events, and/or trade shows.

2. Clean and validate your list today!

If you have landed here, don’t fret. It means that you have taken the necessary precautions by asking these recipients their permission to be notified of your offers. However, in the process of sending to these recipients, you may have come across quite a few hard bounces or outdated contacts that have caused you to be temporarily shut down by your ESP. Before you mail to this list in the future, you must make a small investment in an email list cleaning & validation service to purge bad, dead, invalid, undeliverable, duplicate, and BOT emails from your database. You have not only taken action to safeguard your sender reputation, but you are also reducing your overall marketing costs due to bouncing emails.

3. You’re ready to begin mailing!

If you have built an email list from scratch and mail to your list frequently with little to no bounces, complainers, or unsubscribes, you’re in the clear and can start your email campaign right away. Just remember that over an annual period, approximately 30% of all email addresses become inactive, unused, or abandoned. As long as you continuously re-engage with your subscribers on occasion and remove unsubscribes and complainers as you receive them, you are maximizing the deliverability and performance of your email campaign.

Your best money maker is in your email list, whether you know it or not. Updating and cleaning up your email list regularly makes all of the difference.