Email List Management: The Complete Guide

Written by: Chris Donald

Published on: 03-19-2020

Chris is Managing Partner at InboxArmy and has more than 25 years of experience in email marketing

No marketing platform drives as much ROI as email. With ROIs as high as $42 for every $1 spent, every marketer should be using it.

Besides commanding insane ROIs, the email also has a unique advantage over other marketing platforms – versatility. Whatever business goal you have, be sure email can play a role in its fulfilment. From building strong relationships with your customers to new product announcements, email plays a central role in your success.

But for email marketing to give you the mouth-watering ROIs others boast of, there’s one crucial element you need to master – email list management.

This article will discuss the importance of email list management and some of the best methods for doing it.

Defining Your Email Marketing Strategy

Before you embark on an email marketing campaign, it’s crucial that you always define your strategy at the outset. This involves identifying your objectives and your path to achieving them. It is from this strategy that you can then consider how to segment your email lists. Segmenting your list is a critical component of email list management that helps your campaign become targeted and thus more effective. This is because segmentation helps you send personalized emails. And yes, that is important as research shows that personalized emails enjoy 26% higher open rates than those that lack personalization.

To pull off a highly effective email marketing strategy, therefore, you need to identify and process relevant data. This is data that helps you target the right people with the right message. You should factor in everything you have learned from previous marketing campaigns while developing your strategy.

What is Email List Management?

In its simplest form, email list management is the practice of organizing and managing your email list into relevant segments and lists. It involves (among other things):

  • Segmenting your list
  • Identifying inactive subscribers
  • Re-activating dormant subscribers

If you have experienced high opt-out rates, this also suggests that your email marketing should be more targeted. People are more likely to opt-out if they do not feel the information that they are receiving is relevant or useful to them. The more you work to understand your customers, the more effective your marketing to them will be.

And that is why it’s important that you understand email list management and follow email list management best practices.

Benefits of Email List Management

Managing your email lists comes with many benefits. The main benefit being that it allows you to target your messaging more effectively. As a result, your customers will find your information relevant, thereby leading to a pleasant and more effective customer journey. Targeted messaging also leads to higher levels of personalization, which results in your customers feeling more connected to your business. Customers are much less likely to opt-out of your communications if those communications are providing them with useful information.

One of the best examples of sending targeted messages is one that is employed in e-commerce – the cart abandonment email. When a customer loads an item into their cart but don’t go through with the purchase, an email is sent out to the individual to remind them of the abandoned cart. This is a great way of providing relevant communication and encouraging customers to complete a purchase.

Another great example of targeted messaging is the recommended products email. This is an email sent to recommend similar products to the ones a customer viewed or bought. It can also be used to encourage customers to purchase items that complement those they have already purchased. For example, if a Home Depot customer purchases a set of drawers, the company may send an email about matching furniture items. This is a good way of maintaining a customer’s engagement and building brand loyalty. These kinds of personalised communications are only possible with good email list management.

If you put in the time and effort to develop an advanced email management system, you can efficiently arrange these kinds of communications. Customers will feel more valued if they receive emails targeted to them specifically rather than generic ones. If customers receive regular, generic emails, they are much more likely to lose interest or become irritated. This will increase your opt outs. Customers receiving engaging, targeted communications are far more likely to remain on your lists and engage with your company.

List Segmentation – The Pillar of Email List Management

Email list segmentation is one of the core elements of email list management. This is because list segmentation allows you to keep your entire list organized. Essentially, it helps you streamline your email marketing campaigns, thereby helping you to achieve your marketing objectives. Need proof? According to a study conducted by Mailchimp, segmented email campaigns have a 14.31% higher open rate than non-segmented ones. And more importantly, they command a whopping +100% higher click rate.

There are several methods you can use to effectively segment your list. In most cases, a combination of these methods will be more effective. You can also test different forms of segmentation from one campaign to the next. This will help you identify the most effective forms of segmentation for your marketing purposes.

Below are some of the different methods you can consider using to segment your email list, making for highly effective email marketing campaigns.

Customer Behaviour

Segmenting your customers based on their behaviour is one of the most effective methods of managing your email lists. You can gather information on your customers’ purchasing history, the amount they have spent, and their engagement with your marketing communications. Engagement with previous emails can also be useful data to use as it will help you to place them on the right email list.

You can identify if they have responded to previous types of products or particular deals in the past.

Apart from engagement with your emails and products, another great way to segment your list is by observing how they engage with your website.

  • What pages do they frequent?
  • Which links have they clicked?
  • Which channels bring them to your website?

All these pieces of data can give you a good picture of who your customer is and what they are looking for. As a result, you can easily place them on a relevant list.

Position in Sales Funnel

Identifying where your customers are in the “sales funnel” will help you to market to them effectively. By segmenting your list according to your customers’ position in the sales funnel enables you to tailor messages that specifically address them according to where they are in the customer journey. This will make it easier for them to convert into a paying customer or move further along the funnel.

Source of Sign Up

Some companies segment lists based on where customers have visited their website from. It is possible to track where visitors have accessed your website. For example, you can see if they have visited from a social media advertisement or from an affiliated website. This can give you useful information on their online behaviour and an insight into their interests and preferences.


Surveys are a great way to get information about your customers. And you can use this data to know how to segment your list. This is because surveys can help you identify what specific customers want from your business. While not everyone may respond to your surveys, the ones who do will give you a wealth of data that can be used to manage your email list more effectively.


Knowing where your customers are physically located can help you have a good email list segmentation strategy. For example, if you have customers in different time zones, segmenting them according to geographical location will help you increase the chances of your emails being seen and opened. This is because you will be able to send your emails when your recipients are awake as opposed to sending them at a time when they’ll be asleep.

Geographical location can also help you market products that are relevant according to:

  • Season
  • Terrain
  • Culture

For example, Adidas market different kinds of products depending on geography. They will promote heavy outdoor wear in locations where the weather is colder at the time. In areas where the weather is warmer, they promote lighter wear.

Brands can also promote different products based on regional preferences. You can track which products do well in which regions and promote them accordingly.

Age and Gender

Some of the most common methods of segmentation are also among the simplest. Two such are age and gender. These demographics can help you ensure that you not only market the right products to certain demographics, but also helps ensure you craft the right message. To pull this off, you’ll either have to gather this data on sign up or through a survey. Knowing a customer’s age and gender can also help you understand their interests and preferences.

Email List Cleaning – The Necessary Evil of Email List Management

Another aspect of email list management that you need to take seriously is list cleaning. Sure, having a huge email list is great for bragging rights, but keeping inactive subscribers will cost you as you will experience high bounce rates and low open rates. This is dangerous as it can adversely affect your sender reputation. In essence, list cleaning will help you to run an efficient, targeted campaign.

Apart from segmenting your email lists, you should thoroughly clean them. Yes, as much as you may want to have an email list that is bursting at the seams, email list management best practices demand that you clean your list regularly.

Email list cleaning involves (among other things) identifying and removing:

  • Duplicate email addresses
  • Inactive subscribers
  • Defunct email addresses

Removing these kinds of subscribers is important as it helps ensure that you to avoid spam complaints and reduce your bounce rates. It will also help to maintain the efficiency of your marketing strategy.

How to Deal with Inactive Subscribers

An inactive subscriber is one that has not engaged with your emails for:

  • A certain period
  • A number of emails

For this type of subscribers, you have two options. First, you should try to re-engage them with targeted emails and incentives such as discounts or deals. Some will respond to your re-engagement campaign while others won’t. For those who don’t respond to your re-engagement campaign, you can take the second route – removing them from your list.

Defining Objectives for Each Segment – The Key to a Wildly Successful Email Campaign

When segmenting your email lists, it is important to consider your objectives or desired outcome of your marketing campaign – particularly for each segment. The strategy for each section should also fit in with your overall marketing strategy. You should consider the type of customer in each segment and what they need from your company. Some common objectives you can set for your segments can include (but are not limited to):

  • Inform
  • Engage
  • Drive sales
  • Onboard new customers
  • Re-engaging inactive subscribers
  • Scheduling a demo

Defining your objectives will help you create an effective email marketing strategy and craft a message that will inspire the right response.

Using Data for Future Campaigns

Every time you send a marketing email, you can use it to gather the information you can use to fine-tune future emails. You can learn a lot of very useful information that you can then use to improve future marketing communications. If you carry out effective segmentation for one campaign, you will gather more information that you can use to segment future lists even more successfully. If you get disappointing returns from one campaign, you can still use the data to build a better campaign.

This is why email list management is crucial to the success of your email marketing campaigns.

Email List Management – The Lifeblood of Every Marketing Campaign

A healthy email list is essential to achieving your business goals and increasing your ROI. Therefore, never, under any circumstances, send run an email marketing campaign on a stale list. Proper management of your email list will ensure that your business enjoys a healthy growth and an increased bottom line.

So, go ahead and start implementing email list management best practices.

About Author

Chris sent his first email campaign in 1995. He’s worked directly with Fortune 500 companies, retail giants, nonprofits, SMBs and government agencies in all facets of their email marketing and marketing automation programs. He’s also a BIG baseball fan, loves a good steak, and is mildly obsessed with zombie movies. For more information follow him on linkedin

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