Managing List Chaos in Your Email Automation Tool

Posted by Graham Lambertson

If you’ve ever managed an email automation tool, you are among those who know two things to be true:

  • Building a responsive email that’s worth reading is no small task
  • Managing subscriber lists can very quickly spin out of control

We’ll come back to building responsive emails in a future Compass post. But, for now, let’s talk about unruly, chaotic subscriber lists and how to tame them.

Reasons Subscriber Lists Become Hard To Manage

For various reasons, keeping subscriber lists clean and accurate can feel like an impossible challenge.

  • Your business and subscriber base grows organically. The focus is on growth and send-out volume rather than accuracy — “quantity over quality” paradigm.
  • In the event of staff turnover, existing or new staff inherit the email automation tool and list grooming gets deprioritized, while the focus is on getting up-to-speed with the tool.
  • For clients that use agency services to build and manage their email audiences, the idea of “grooming” or “trimming” a list down is counter-intuitive. A smaller list implies a lower level of client service or audience engagement – feels like stepping backward or losing ground.
  • And maybe the biggest reason: A lack of thoroughly discovering how an email automation tool can best serve business needs and, as a result, lack of strategy.

When A Poorly Maintained Subscriber List Becomes Problematic

Keeping a well-groomed subscriber list is ALWAYS important. And, events such as the GDPR Compliance mandate back in May make it especially important.

Seventh Scout was involved in several GDPR Compliance initiatives earlier this year. I’m sure you remember getting around 500 emails telling you, “We’ve Updated Our Privacy Policy.” One of the most unfortunate set of circumstances we encountered was a client’s subscriber list that had ALL of the problems, like:

Duplicate Records
The list had been passed around, inherited, and mismanaged. Subsequently, the subscriber count in the list was falsely inflated to double the actual count.

Missing Data Attributes
For GDPR Compliance, it’s required to know the country where a subscriber lives. In this case, there was none of that information. The list wasn’t structured to capture City, State, nor Country information.

No Audience Segmentation
Audience segmentation has a utility function – Digital Marketers are able to send communications to audience segments based on various factors: The context of the email, where that segment is in their conversion journey, that segment’s interests, etc. But audience segments also function as a metric. Digital Marketers can look at the different segments of a well-maintained subscriber list and monitor them – getting an accurate reading of their various audiences. They can see how their U.S. segment is growing as compared to their E.U. segment, for example.

The Fix: Actively Manage Your Lists

Managing lists in your email automation tool is paramount to the success of any and all communications sent from that tool. Seventh Scout has experienced dozens of email automation flavors and, in fairness to our fellow Digital Marketers, each one is different from the other and they all seem to bring with them a different set of solutions. That is to say, there is no “silver bullet”.

Regardless of the email automation tool you select, you need to practice [actively] managing your lists. Segment your lists as it suits your business needs. If you’re running drip campaigns, you’ll want either segments or attributes that map to the various stages of that journey. If you’re sending communications to various markets/audiences, it’s probably a good idea to create segments for each. One thing is for sure: if you manage and segment your lists actively, you won’t have to manage a bigger problem later – chaos.

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An Austin-based, full-service marketing agency, Seventh Scout is a HubSpot partner that works with growing businesses to develop and implement solutions that deliver results. We are experts in email automation, strategy, list management, and audience segmentation. Feeling challenged by your email lists and tools? Give us a shout.

Topics: Marketing Automation, Email Marketing, Optimize, Inbound Marketing, Demand Generation, Marketing and Sales Technology