5 Reasons We Deleted 109,343 Subscribers From Our Email List

How Cleaning Your List Increases E-mail Opens And Clicks.
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It seems crazy, but we actually deleted 109,343 of our hard won contacts. Based on a rough estimate of our costs per lead over the years, we pretty much just threw away $250,000.00 worth of leads.

With a new year upon us, our marketing team decided we needed to do a few things differently with our customers and subscribers. That was when we decided to prioritize list health. Anybody can blast a list with offers and content, but only the top dogs can get that list to listen and respond.

We decided that we need to move further into the latter camp. To do that, we would have to make a decision that most marketers would cringe from. We have to clean our email list.

Who We Deleted and Why

When building our “Delete” list, we filtered for a few key criteria.

Recently, we moved all of our email marketing off Aweber and InfusionSoft and onto HubSpot. (that’s a story for another day, but in short, it was to give us more control over the messages we’re sending our readers)

So, in Hubspot, we built a list with the following requirements:

1.) The Contact Must Have Joined the List Over 6 Months Ago

We wanted to make sure we don’t delete any brand new contacts that may have not had the chance to interact with our emails just yet.

2.) The Contact Must Have Not Opened An Email In The Last 6 Months

Assuming the contact has been on our list for over 6 months, this is the key element. If someone hasn’t opened any of our emails in the last 6 months, it’s either a bad email address, or they just don’t want to hear from us anymore. Either way, we want them off our list.

3.) The Contact Must Not Be A Current Customer

If someone was a past customer, we obviously wanted to make sure we don’t delete them off our email list, even if they haven’t opened any emails for a while.

4.) The Contact Must Not Have Clicked the Unsubscribe Button on Any Email

Obviously, if someone has unsubscribed, we want to make sure we’re leaving them off our list like they asked… it would be a tad impolite to keep emailing them.

After finding everyone that fulfilled these criteria, the number of contacts came to 109,343. I have to be honest, seeing that number terrified me. I knew exactly why we had to clean our list, but it didn’t make me feel any better.

But it had to be done. The benefits far outweighed the costs.

So, what were those benefits? Let’s dive in…

Before getting too far in, we want to show you the results we saw from simply cleaning up our lists and getting focused. The image below is a large blast we did in December, you’ll notice the list size is 124,000 subscribers, take note of the stats as well.

Here are the stats from an e-mail to our "Un-Deleted" list.

Here are the stats from an e-mail to our “Un-Deleted” list.

Now, compare the above, to the image below, these are the results we saw on our very first e-mail after cleaning up our lists. You’ll notice with an audience of only 60,000, we have blown away the stats our larger list was providing, all while maintaining quality and increasing our engagement.

Here are the results of an e-mail after we cleaned out our list. Note that our Opens and Clicks outperformed the bigger list with half the distribution.

Here are the results of an e-mail after we cleaned out our list. Note that our Opens and Clicks outperformed the bigger list with half the distribution.

Not too shabby huh?

#1 – Our Open Rate Instantly Doubled

When we made this change our open rate on our biggest list was at roughly 5%, not great, but not terrible either. However, after making the change and deleting that list, our open rate has shot up 300% to about 20%.

#2 –  Our Click Through Rate Jumped 900%

Our typical click-through rate from the un-refined list hovered around .3%. We definitely needed to get that higher so that we would rate better with the E-mail services. After cleaning out our list, we have increased our click-through rate 900% to over 3%

#3 – Our Relationship With You is Improving

One of our key goals for this year is to improve our relationship with you, our loyal subscribers. And we believe that the improvement in our list health will go a long way toward keeping our reputation clean with our subscribers.  Now we can do even cooler things like segment our emails based on our reader’s interests, pages seen on our website, products purchased, videos watched, and a whole host of other things that we couldn’t before. Our lists can expect to see more relevant content because of these changes.

A lot of those advanced features our why we switched to HubSpot, but you can also achieve them with tools like MailChimp, Aweber, and others.

We also want to be talking to people who are listening, because when we put content and offers together, we pour our marketing souls into it, and it’s a bummer when our audience isn’t receptive. So by narrowing down our list to people who are engaged with us, it allows us to focus only on the people who are listening, and gives us a better measure of how valuable our content is so that we can continue to improve and offer quality content our readership is excited to see.

#4 – Our Email Deliverability Is Increasing Daily

As many of you know, one of the key factors for success in an e-mail marketing campaign is your deliverability, which is heavily influenced by your standing with the e-mail service providers your list is using (e.g. Gmail, Yahoo, HotMail, etc).

The most important factor in your deliverability, is your open rate. So for us, getting our open rates up will dramatically increase our deliverability, meaning that more of you will see our emails in your inbox, instead of the spam filter. #win

#5 – Saving Money

E-mail Marketing  is usually pretty affordable, but when your list starts to push half a million subscribers, the fees start to add up. So the fifth and final reason we did this was to save some money. It’s a win-win all around, our list is happier and we learn more from our highly engaged list than if we continued to carpet bomb our lists.


Well, there you have it, those are the 5 reasons that we deleted 109,343 of our hard won leads. We’ve already seen a great improvement in our lists health because of these changes, and we expect it will only get better as we work with our new lists to provide them with great content they want to read on a weekly basis.

If you are reading this post because it was e-mailed to you, we’re glad you are here, and we look forward to an exciting 2015 together. If you don’t get our email, but would like to, you can sign up on our homepage (we’ll keep you up to date with the latest Facebook marketing tactics…and some general marketing tricks too).

Thanks for reading, if you have any comments or questions about what we did and why, please leave a comment below and we’ll respond asap.


About The Author

Brian Moran

Brian started Get 10,000 Fans back in November 2010 after figuring out how powerful facebook marketing could be for his baseball training website, trainbaseball.com. Brian focusses on helping entrepreneurs and business owners how to attract news leads using facebook.

  • Don

    I recently did the same and it felt good. Also remember that the more contacts you have with services like AWeber, the more you pay. Why pay for people who never read the emails?

    • Brian Moran

      Exactly. Paying less was certainly a bonus, we are already noticing dramatic improvements to our deliverability as well.

  • Excellent post, Brian!
    I operate an email marketing service in the french market and from experience, I totally agree that having higher open rates on each specific domain will also improve deliverability to that domain. The trick is that I have to educate my customers a lot. Most of them usually hold on tight to their inactive subscribers, and even to their bounced emails (they want to reactivate them! Which of course I do not allow!) You are a living proof that cleaning up can be very rewarding. Thanks for sharing with so much detail!

    • Brian Moran

      Definitely! I even understood the problem, but foolishly held onto “big numbers” rather than address the issue.

      We have seen better results instantly, and expect them to continue to improve. Highly recommend every take the leap.

  • Hi Brian, great post and I’m sure it’s a great decision!

    I have a question tho. Is it worth to keep a copy of those suscribers that are going to be deleted, for remarketing purposes? For a re-activation campaing maybe?

    Thanks a lot!

    • Brian Moran

      Absolutely. We have the CSVs of every single person who has ever opted into our list to use for that exact reason.

      Upload those names into Facebook to create custom audiences, look-a-like audiences, etc.

      • Ingrid

        Hi Brian,

        Thanks for the fantastic post.

        We are contemplating the same right now. Can you please elaborate on how you will use the inactive subscribers emails on Facebook?

        Thank you!

        • Brian Moran

          Hey Ingrid,

          Thanks for reading. This post from Facebook explains what “Custom Audiences” are and how you can use them. We will basically use these lists, upload the to facebook, and use them as a keyword for future advertising >> https://www.facebook.com/help/341425252616329

  • Matthew

    Hey Brian,

    How can I cancel my subscription for FB Conversions? Thanks.

  • Definitely a very interesting read, thanks for sharing…:-)

    Why do you think the jump in open rate happened? I find that intriguing, since the individual recipient doesn’t know if you’re mailing to 10k or 100k. Do you think it was a hike in delivery? How does the chicken/egg play out for deliverability/open rates?

    Also interested in what you think caused the increase in clicks – were you targeting the email content to an identifiable interest group in the subscribers you had left, or was it something else?

    • Brian Moran

      Great question, of course there was a jump in open rate, because we are now sending to less people. Same amount of opens to less people = higher open rate.

      However, more due to a change in how/what we are emailing, overall number of emails being opened is also increasing. But that has less to do with these deletions, and more to due with a change in the content and us telling everyone what we’re doing with this new focus.

      Clicks, also a case of what I mentioned above, and yes, we are now targeting and segmenting our list much more closely. Which has led to the right content in the right inboxes.

  • Hi Brian,

    No, reactivation attempt first? When I used to manage a big list we tested sending postcards out to people who hadn’t opened in over 6 months letting them know we were sending an email (or that we had sent an email) and to look out for it. The email contained a reactivation offer.

    It was successful both in terms of livening up that list and generating revenue. If they still hadn’t opened after a couple reactivation attempts then we deleted.


    • Brian Moran

      Hey Jason,

      We have attempted (and will continue to) reactivation stuff before. These are people who have been with us for up to 5 years, receiving plenty of communication. And several attempts to re-grab their attention. The hump for us was realizing that sometimes you just need to let go.

      So I’m sitting here, eating ice cream, listening to love ballads getting over the breakup 🙂

      Very good point though. We don’t cover ALL details, but anyone reading this, removal from the list should only be done after attempts to re-engage. Thanks Jason!

  • Nick Jago

    Hey Brian good morning,

    Thanks for sharing this, I bet this have given a lot of confidence to people to spring clean up their lists and not be so protective over their larger list size!

    All the best
    Nick Jago

    • Brian Moran

      Morning Nick!

      Thanks for the kind words! We’re glad we did it.

  • Hi Brian,

    Clicked on your link to sams cart and was unable to join the waiting list. Don’t know if the problem was on my side your yours?? The fields were unable to be accessed. Thanks for all you do….

    • Brian Moran

      Thanks for reading! Glad you enjoy what we put out.

      Try http://beta.samcart.com/. Waiting list right there should work just fine for you.

  • Marianela Felan

    Great writing ! Talking of which , if anyone needs to rearrange some PDF files , my husband found article here http://goo.gl/YiWbbN