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    A Beginner's Guide to Email Marketing List Management

    Written By Jason Rowse - Digital Marketing Expert

    Updated: 09/06/2021

    Seeking to identify the best tools to manage your email contact list? Get started by clicking on the following button to explore our recommended list of top email service providers (ESPs). 

    You’ve taken the time to build up a database of email contacts and you’re eager to harvest the fruits of your labor.

    You know a few well-timed, well-aimed emails could win you some business, but things are in a mess. You’ve got hundreds of names and contact details, but little in the way of organization.

    Put simply, you’ve overlooked the first rule of owning an email list: management.

    In today’s world, an email contact list is powerful. It’s as important as the humble Filofax was back in the day. Having the ability to type out some text and fire it off to dozens of recipients in less than a second is fantastic. However, if you’re unable to find the right contacts at the right time, your success rate can drop dramatically.

    Although rates can and will vary, the SEO and marketing experts at Moz suggest that strong email marketing campaigns will only receive an average response rate of 10%. Of course, the response rates for personal emails (i.e. to one person) could be a lot higher.

    However, if you’re firing out emails to generate new business, the response rate will often fall between 8% and 24% if the content is well-targeted.

    Naturally, there are multiple factors to address when you’re preparing an email blast. But, they all start with one thing: preparation. Before you can even think about crafting an email, you need to know its destination or destinations. That’s where email list management comes in.

    With a few simple tips and tricks, you can learn to manage your email contact list with ease and, in turn, improve the quality of your correspondences.

    To help you organize your inbox and outbox, here are five top tips on how to manage your email list:

    1. Security is Paramount

    It goes without saying, security is crucial. Hackers are constantly trying to steal email lists so they can sell them to those with limited morals.

    For example, in 2016, cybercriminals breached LinkedIn’s defenses and made off with 140 million email addresses. Even though your list might not be as extensive, it’s just as valuable to you. Indeed, if someone can access your account, there’s a good chance they’ll start spamming your contacts before they steal any data.

    As a minimum, you should have two-factor authentication enabled, if possible. Beyond that, you should avoid leaving your account open, especially on public computers. Moreover, you should never click on links or respond to emails you don’t know the source of. Finally, a neat trick you can try is to start your email lists with a blank contact.

    Name the entry AA and it should appear first on your list.

    Bots often work in a linear fashion, meaning they start at the top and work down. If they run into an issue at the start (i.e. the first email bounces back), it can stop them in their tracks. This is by no means a foolproof method but it is another way to push back against the internet nasties.

    2. Segmentation Over Generalization


    When you’ve built an email list, you must segment it. In simple terms, segmenting an email list is the process of dividing it up into groups based on specific needs and/or intentions. Contacts in this context can be fluid, meaning it’s possible for a name to be in more than one list. To establish where names need to go, you should ask two questions:

    Who am I sending an email to?

    Your audience will determine the tone and type of language you use. For example, your list may contain a mix of CEOs, marketing executives and general consumers. When you’re sending out bulk emails, you wouldn’t address the CEOs in the same way you would consumers. Therefore, it’s important to think about the industry, age, role, location and, in some cases, the gender of each email contact.

    What does someone need/want/expect from me?

    Once you’ve grouped contacts based on who they are, you need to think about their desires and intentions.

    Again, a CEO will want something very different from a marketing consultant or a member of the public. However, within these subcategories, each person may have different needs. In some ways, you can address the “what” by thinking about the relationships you have with someone.

    If you have a close relationship with a company CEO, they’re likely to expect something slightly different to a CEO you’ve never met. Basically, think about three or four reasons someone has joined your mailing list and what they might want from you or what you want from them. Those that have similar interests can go into the same segment.

    3. Sustain A Healthy Email List


    Although we’re discussing the topic of managing email lists, it’s important to make a point about building one. To make your life easier in the admin department and avoid a ton of bounce backs and unsubscribers, never purchase an email list. It may be tempting to get hundreds of contact details for a fee, but the overall response rate won’t be worth the cost.

    The average churn rate (the number of people leaving an email list) is around 83% according to Get Response. This can be even higher when the addresses are unsolicited. People don’t tend to respond if they don’t know the author. Therefore, it’s better to grow your list organically. Once you’ve done that, you need to keep the list healthy.

    Monitor your response rates and cull any addresses that haven’t replied to your previous two or three emails.

    By sweeping away the dead contacts, you can spend more time focusing on those that are actually interested in your content. What’s more, you can review your responses and find out the types of content that are more successful than others.

    Moreover, you can establish the type of people that are the most receptive. Understanding this will not only help you manage your existing list of contacts but allow you to add the type of people who are more likely to be interested in your content.

    4. Subjectivity Goes a Long Way: Be Flexible

    URL: Personal Email 

    No one wants to feel like just another number. Although there’s a certain amount of generalization when it comes to bulk emails, try to be as specific as possible. This takes us back to the process of segmentation. If you can group your contacts into specific areas, topics and interests, you have a better chance of tailoring content to their needs.

    However, subjectivity doesn’t stop there. To ensure your email list is fully optimized, you need to give people options. Naturally, the unsubscribe button should be top of the options list. Don’t make people jump through hoops in order to leave your email list. If they don’t want to be there, give them a direct way to get out. This makes you look a lot more professional and may even persuade someone to rejoin at a later date.

    You should also give people the option to select the type of content they receive. This will depend on the type of business you’re using an email list for. However, if you’re sending out more than one type of message (e.g. newsletters, product updates, promotions etc), give people the ability to choose what they receive. This helps you maintain a healthy list and, in theory, should improve response rates.

    5. Sexy Subjects and Straplines



    This tip merges into the process of writing emails but it’s also wrapped up in the management of your database. There is no point in spending time segmenting your contact list, securing it and targeting your emails if people don’t want to read them.

    Make your content stand out and it’s more likely to get a response. In turn, this will lead to a more active database that you can continually analyze and optimize.

    We can’t tell you how or what to write. However, we can tell you to be creative, unique and informative. There’s nothing worse than receiving emails with generic titles that fail to disclose anything about what’s inside.

    Your job should be to give just enough information to intrigue someone but not so little context that they gloss over it.

    Email List Management Tools 

    Your contact list is the lifeblood of every email marketing strategy, and the list manager tool is its heart. Unless your contacts find interest in your products or brand values, a good number won’t even open your emails, let alone click on your CTA button. That brings us to the question, why waste your resources when you can manage contacts effectively to deliver outstanding results? 

    Do You Really Need An Email List Management Software? 

    List management is a feature used by most email service providers today to maintain and manage a healthy and accurate list of contacts interested in their brand. A sound list management solution delivers many advantages to marketers of all shapes and sizes.

    • Avoid duplicate email addresses: Using a contact management tool removes the chance of repeating the same contact address. In this way, the possibility of annoying subscribers by sending the same message more than once is permanently eliminated
    • Add subscribers to various lists: The primary function to add subscribers to one or more lists based on their interests is available across all ESPs. Suppose one list consists of subscribers who like vanilla, and the other consists of contacts interested in chocolate. The pros of list management will let you even add contacts interested in both vanilla and chocolates to another list
    • Reduce the unsubscribe rate: Contacts that unsubscribe from your email list aren’t interested in your content. List management tools can help you identify the people who delete your emails or send it to spam so that you can remove them and focus on those who value your content 
    • Maintain accuracy of results: It’s easy to track analytics like open rates, click-throughs, conversions, and other metrics easily with ESPs today. That’s why having a healthy list of subscribers will give you the most accurate results for the strategies you implement 
    • Remove errored addresses: Invalid contact addresses lead to rejection of your promotional email, and you’ll notice a high email bounce rate if this is the case. With a tool for managing your contacts, it’s easy to clean email addresses with spelling errors, mistakes, or other reasons so that you can improve your ROI significantly
    • Easy to track the open rate: List management helps you recognize subscribers who haven’t opened emails from you. You can then revise your marketing strategies or remove them from your list instead of ending up with poor results
    • Opt-in and opt-out functions: Every email list manager contained embedded functionality that allows contacts to opt-in or opt-out from your file. While opting-in is a choice, it’s vital to ensure there’s an unsubscribe button with your messages so you’re always on the safe side. This will also prevent your messages from appearing like spam 
    • Personalization options: It’s possible to target subscribers precisely with personalization features that add relevant variables such as name tag or location of the subscriber automatically in the email 
    • Maintain a good bond with prospects: The trick to create successful email marketing campaigns is by generating content tailored for your target audience. When you develop customized content in such a manner, subscribers will respond better to your messages, which leads to better relationships and ROI
    • Save resources: When you reduce invalid contacts with a list manager’s help, every message reaches the intended subscriber. Accordingly, you no longer target irrelevant users and their preferences, which saves your resources in the long run 

    Top 5 Email List Management Tools 

    Half the battle is complete if marketers use the right email software service to manage their lists. But choosing the right solution can seem daunting if you’re new to email marketing.

    1. ActiveCampaign

    As one of the most recommended tools for small businesses, ActiveCampaign lets you do many things with its contact management tool. Marketers can create or import email lists from CSV files easily here. But the best thing is its ‘Segment Builder’ that’s effective for creating tags, lists, and custom fields. 

    ActiveCampaign is excellent for customizing, deleting, merging, and updating contacts too. Another perk of this tool is its ‘Advanced Search’ function that lets you perform granular searches. You can also use the List Cleanup Tool on this service and get notifications when contacts subscribe or unsubscribe. The cost of plans start at $9 and go up to $229 per month. 

    provider Site
    • Marketing Automation
    • Personalized Email Marketing
    • Dynamic Content
    • Contact & lead scoring

    2. Mailchimp

    Referred to as audience management, Mailchimp’s list manager is holistic. It can help you add insightful information about contacts using one or several tags for sending highly-targeted messages. Even better is its ‘Groups’ feature generated via the form field entered by subscribers when they sign up. 

    Mailchimp is ideal for building simple and complex segments that automatically update based on the most recent data generated. If you want to start free, this email service provider comes with a forever-free plan for up to 2,000 subscribers. Paid plans start at $10.31 and range up to $307.97 each month. 

    provider Site
    • Flexible Plans
    • All-in-one pricing
    • Lots of guides to learn from
    • Extensive marketing platform

    3. Constant Contact

    This platform offers advanced list management tools to allot tags to contacts, assuring you always send messages to the right segment without fail. The best advantage is it’s easy to ensure relevancy when you segment addresses using targeted lists. It’s also easy to store extensive attributes of contacts without any limits here.

    Marketers can import list details via Excel, Outlook, Salesforce, and ecommerce sites on Constant Contact without hassles. Their automatic contact list cleaning feature makes it easy to eliminate duplicate and unsubscribed addresses with too. There are two plans offered for $20 and $45 per month here.

    provider Site
    • Mobile responsive email
    • Feedback with surveys and polls
    • Tracking donations by a custom landing page

    4. Campaign Monitor

    From viewing subscriber profiles to accessing their geolocation data, Campaign Monitor allows you many contact management functions. Marketers will find it easy to create custom fields, merge subscribers, and even exclude them individually from promotional campaigns. 

    You can import contacts from files, personalize pages, offer single and double opt-in features, and send unsubscribe surveys to contacts in just a few clicks. Furthermore, it’s easy to track where your subscribers originated, merge multi-value fields, and trigger subscribers with ease. The cost of plans start at $9 and extend up to $149 per month.

    provider Site
    • Create smart segments
    • Transactional emails
    • Marketing resources hub

    5. Mad Mimi

    One of the very best tools tailored for email list management, Mad Mimi brings advanced functionalities to marketers. It’s lauded for its excellent email newsletter designs as well as list management tools. 

    Admins will find the feature of unlimited lists useful, especially if you run a popular business or site. The best merit of this ESP is the automatic suppression of unsubscribes and bounces. It’s easy to import audiences and move them between the list too. It has four plans, with the lowest starting at $10 and the highest costing $1,049 every month. 

    provider Site
    • Quick Email Support
    • All Competencies Welcome
    • Easy To Categorize Email Contacts

    Make Your Email List Work for You

    Time is precious, especially in business, so don’t waste yours or other people’s. By following the tips in this guide, you should be able to manage an email list and, in turn, get the most out of it.

    Optimization can only happen after the organization. Because of that, it’s important to get on top of your contacts and stay there.

    As long as you can segment your list, keep them healthy and give people enough options, you should be well on your way to owning a strong, effective and productive email list.