Email List Hygiene

How to Explain Email Sunsetting to Your Boss

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Though it might seem counterintuitive to some, email sunsetting is the process of removing addresses without engagement for a specified length of time. Removing email addresses can be a hard pill to swallow for supervisors who may believe you need every address possible to increase ROI, but it’s essential. There are a few key things to highlight to your boss to help them understand why this is a can’t-skip best practice.

First of all, there is no prescriptive time period for which you need to consider an address inactive, but be aware mailbox providers are watching engagement, too. While you might consider two years of inactivity acceptable, Gmail might not, so keep this in mind when determining when you start culling old addresses. If you email addresses a mailbox provider considers unengaged, they’re more likely to deliver your email to the spam folder. This won’t be reflected in a delivery rate, so this is a great time to use advanced metrics provided by a tool like Everest to ensure your email is performing the way you believe.

Traditionally, best practice was to suppress sends to subscribers without engagement for a year, but looking at some of our data, one year is probably too long for most senders, as most conversions happen in the 30-day engaged segment of customers.

Knowing this, here is our best recommendation to make a case for your boss: Gather the necessary data to convince them some addresses simply need to go.

To do this, spend time dividing up your lists based on engagement bands:

  • 30-day engaged
  • 31- to 60-day engaged
  • 61- to 90-day engaged

And so on in 30-day bands, until you get to anything longer than one-year, as those can be lumped into one segment.

Armed with this data, you can show your boss how much revenue potential there is for recent segments and how relatively little revenue potential there is for segments holding sizeable amounts of unengaged contacts. For any segment where you are seeing single-digit open rates, you have a significant indicator your mail is landing in spam. Once mail starts landing in the spam folder, it is increasingly likely the volume delivered to spam will grow over time. This can deeply damage your email sender reputation, both landing in the spam folder and emailing people who make it clear they don’t want your mail by ignoring it, and your email performance will reflect it.

If you absolutely must contact every email in the list, remember you can vary the frequency of outreach based on the user’s engagement. Some subscribers may be amenable to outreach every single day, while others it is better to reach out to on a weekly or monthly cadence.

But the fact remains, you shouldn’t be emailing unengaged recipients because any unwanted mail is considered spam. Using data from the bands outlined above, you can make a compelling argument to the decisionmakers in your organization to help you build, rather than erode, your sender reputation.