The foundation of any email marketing program begins with the health of its database. A great program with a healthy database has strong email deliverability and in turn produces even stronger customer engagement. How do you know that your database is a healthy one? Here are a few indicators:
- What is your growth rate? Are you gaining more subscribers than you are losing over time? On average, marketers lose about 30 percent of their total subscribers per year due to dead email addresses or unsubscribes.
- What is your bounce rate? Is your bounce rate below 5 percent? The industry standard is a bounce rate of 1-2 percent; anything above 5 percent is cause for concern.
- Best practices? Are you following database maintenance best practices by removing bad email addresses e.g. "spam@," "postmaster@," "abuse@," etc. and following hardbounce removal rules, i.e. removing after x hardbounces in x days.
Seasonality is another factor to take into consideration. If your business is seasonal, chances are, so is your subscriber database. Regular monitoring can help you identify how seasonality affects your database growth. It is easy to see specific seasonal trends if the collection of email addresses are at an all time high or if you are losing more subscribers than usual. This is especially apparent in retail.
- Databases tend to follow consumers' shopping patterns.
- You may collect more than the usual number of subscribers in the run-up to key seasons such as Back-to-School and the winter holidays, as subscribers are looking for discounts and sales.
- As a rule of thumb, there are always more unsubscribes after these busy seasons are over.
- If you collect more subscribers during the busy shopping seasons, this yields a higher number of unusable email addresses afterward due to:
So in order to keep your email list growing and healthy and your email marketing consistently effective, a database health report is in order. A database health report gives marketers the ability to recognize when to ramp up retention and database clean-up efforts. Here are two best practices for busy seasons to keep your database healthy and to take advantage of the surge in subscribers:
- Retain good email addresses: Implement an aggressive retention campaign to keep subscribers engaged not only throughout busy seasons, but also AFTER those seasons end.
- Capture the attention of subscribers with relevant content and rewards to keep them interested.
- Clean up bad email addresses: Increase the removal frequency of dead or bad email addresses and set a hardbounce rule.
By taking these measures, marketers can nurture the subscriber lifecycle both seasonally and throughout the year. Then you can take it a step further by implementing the following best practices to both retain more subscribers and generate strong engagement:
- Include a welcome message/series to engage subscribers right off the bat - this is your strongest opportunity for engagement. More information: Here
- Reward subscribers engagement throughout the lifecycle:
- What does the subscriber get for opening and clicking on your emails? Exclusive discounts? New product sneak peeks?
- Be aware of the tail end of the lifecycle, when subscriber engagement begins to wane.
- Launch win-back campaigns when subscriptions slow down or subscribers stop engaging with your brand. More information: Here
- Identify the seasonality of your database while establishing and maintaining best practices to help keep your subscribers engaged for the long-run and ensure you have a healthy database next time a major holiday campaign is ready to be launched.
Below is a brand that exemplifies healthy subscription growth.
Example: Family product retailer's database health (click here to enlarge chart)
Key Observations to Note:
- Overall, this database is on a steady growth trend
- This retailer's database follows their consumers' shopping patterns
- They collect a higher than usual number of subscribers in the run-up to back-to-school and winter holiday seasons, as subscribers are looking for discounts and sales during those times, and there is a higher volume of customers making online purchases
- There are also more unsubscribes after the busy seasons are over
- There is a higher than usual number of unusable email addresses collected during those times, because of the collection of more subscribers