Email lists inherently shrink, fight the trend with analysis

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Subscribers are undoubtedly your best assets. Yet, most marketers are so focused on getting their next email out the door that they don't take the time to give their subscribers all the attention they deserve.

With a little time and analysis, your subscriber and website data can uncover loads of invaluable information about your email content and programs and point you in the right direction for future growth.

With so many possible routes on the list management path, it's best to initially focus your efforts on addressing attrition. It's inevitable that you will lose some subscribers over time. To grow your email base, understand your attrition problem and focus on minimizing it. It's more cost effective to keep subscribers than to find new ones.

Attrition is addressed through a relatively simple reporting and analysis process, allowing the data to answer some important questions along the way. Ultimately, the analysis will drive your minimization strategy and answer the question, “Why are subscribers leaving, and how can I minimize it?”

It may sound odd, but to minimize an activity that happens at the “end” of a subscriber's “lifetime,” you must look at the beginning. Setting reasonable expectations and properly communicating your value proposition to the consumer can set the course for a decline in your attrition rates. Gaining permission is not enough.

Test how your capture form conveys the value exchange to come. Always tell subscribers exactly what they will receive. Give them examples and let them decide whether your content is relevant for them. This produces a highly engaged, revenue-driven subscriber.

Encouraging subscribers to periodically provide feedback and update their preferences conveys that they are in the driver's seat, you are listening and responding with relevant communications and actions.

Of course, engagement plays heavily into the attrition equation as well. For best results, optimize the subscriber front-end experience, then you can begin to move your subscribers up to the next tier of engagement.

Lora Downie is a senior email analyst with Catalyst. Reach her at


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