You have an opportunity for growth – but you probably won’t do it. We just purged 21% of our mailing list – and the purpose is growth. Seem strange? There is a valuable prize awaiting you if you have the guts to do the same.
But you probably won’t purge your list because it feels like loss. You believe those contacts are valuable (they’re really not). You are the victim of a cognitive bias and it is hard to shake. It’s called the Endowment Effect. Before you get your guard up and get feisty, understand what we’re talking about.
Understanding the Endowment Effect
Dr. Dan Ariely, author of Predictably Irrational, showed this principle in action based on the value of Duke basketball tickets at Cameron Stadium. Students camped on the lawn for a week for the opportunity to be entered into a lottery to potentially win a ticket. This was not a guaranteed ticket – just a chance to win a ticket. He approached 100 students who won tickets and asked them how much they would sell them for. The average price was $2400. Then he approached 100 students who also camped out for a week but didn’t win a ticket. The average offer price was $170. Why was there such a difference in price?
Remember, both groups of students made the same exact effort to win free tickets. Both groups are die-hard fans. But the group that won the tickets valued them 14X higher than the group who didn’t win. Why?
The Endowment Effect says we ascribe more value to things simply because we own them. There is also a secondary bias called the IKEA effect – perceived value increases after you’ve invested in it. These are the primary reasons you probably won’t prune and purge names from your email list. You’ve given these contacts more value than they deserve. Look at our criteria for purging and see if you agree these contacts are worthless:
- Has been a contact for more than 30 weeks
- Received more than 6 emails from us
- Has never opened an email from us or hasn’t opened one in the last 26 weeks
For whatever reason, these folks aren’t opening our emails. Perhaps they’re going to the junk folder. Perhaps they see them, and mass delete them with other emails. Either way, they aren’t reading them. Sending them more emails won’t bring any value to our business – and it doesn’t look like we’re bring value to their life. But, there is also a cost to keeping them on our mailing list if we don’t purge.
The cost of not purging
Yes, there is a cost of not purging the list. You are being graded and you probably don’t realize it. You have an email sender’s score. It’s a rating of the quality and engagement of your email campaigns.
You’re probably asking who’s grading you? It’s the Internet Service Providers (ISPs). Google, Microsoft, Apple, Yahoo, Time Warner, Comcast and more. Yes, the internet overlords are watching – and grading – and changing your future based on your current behavior. They are the ones assigning your email sender score.
A higher email sender score means more of your emails get delivered to the inbox. The lower your email sender score, the more likely you land in the SPAM folder or some other obscure place to never be seen by your contacts. Do you think a 21% purge is radical? How about a 33% purge?
SharpSpring is a marketing platform that studied the effect of purging email sending lists. They quit sending emails to unengaged people. Then they measured the effect across 5000 companies sending millions of emails. With a 33% reduction in total emails sent, they saw a net increase in opens and clicks. Just to be clear, not only did the open rate increase, but the total number of opens increased 12% by sending 33% fewer emails. Not only did the click rate increase, but the total number of clicks increased 6% by sending 33% fewer emails. Yes, they gained through loss.
BTW, you probably know that some of the email addresses on your list are bogus or expired. So, what are you losing? You are losing some bad data – which is good.
The paradox of gaining through loss
You can use several analogies to explain this. But any arborist will tell you that pruning is necessary to reach full potential. The same is true of your email list. To increase your opens, you need to increase your email sender score. To increase your email sender score, you need to quit sending emails to people who don’t engage on your content.
Yes, you can continue to chase down those who aren’t interested in your content. Maybe you can get them to take a phone call? But if your email marketing program doesn’t add enough value to their life for them to open your emails, it is unlikely to be a productive call.
To be clear, we aren’t suggesting you purge them from your CRM – just your email marketing list.
Do one last thing before purging them
You need to break up with them and put them in the position of power to reinvigorate the relationship. Before you purge, send them one last email telling them you’re unsubscribing them. In fact, your email subject line should read “You’ve been unsubscribed.”
Now you’ve turned the tables and they are experiencing loss. The majority won’t take any action. But some portion – maybe 2% – will realize they are about to lose access to your content and decide to reengage. They also know you will cut them in the future if they don’t start consuming content. If your content is truly important to them, they will engage more. You’ve just converted them from inactive to active.
Your breakup email script
Here is your script. Feel free to use it word-for-word.
Hi [first name],
Your email preferences are important to us. Due to inactivity, we are removing you from our current email list. No action is required on your part. Your email address will be purged from our mailing list in 7 days.
allies4me is committed to providing you interesting and relevant content. You are in control. If you want to continue to receive our content, please click on the “stay subscribed” link below and we’ll send you one of our free reports.
Thank you for your interest and we wish you the best.
Please don’t send any more emails (hyper-linked to your unsubscribe page)
Please keep me subscribed (hyper-linked to an opt-in landing page)
Your opt-in landing page should overtly and boldly say that they are going to get emails from you if they fill out that form. This is not for legal cover or “protecting yourself.” You are doing this to invoke a principle called “consistency” that increases their email engagement when you send them future emails. It also nearly nullifies the likelihood they’ll list you as SPAM.
You should do this process at least twice a year. You can also bake it into your marketing automation. Either way, you should make it a priority.
You should also want to make sure your email campaigns are structured for success. Download our free email QA checklist. This helps us achieve twice the industry average open rate and 4x the industry average click rate.
Regularly prune the dead branches from your email marketing list. This will increase your email sender score which means your emails will more likely reach their intended audience. You will gain through loss.
Beware of the cognitive biases that will try to persuade you from doing this. This is fact: someone who doesn’t open your marketing emails is not a valuable contact to email. Actually, they will pull down your whole email marketing program. Don’t ascribe more value to them because of the Endowment Effect.
Best of luck!
Great explanation! I really need to start “pruning” my list!