The One Piece of Conventional Wisdom We Should Bury
By Ken Magill
MailChimp published the results of a groundbreaking study in February in which the small-market email service provider found that inactive email subscribers are worth more than customers who are not email subscribers.
In the study, MailChimp analyzed 60 million ecommerce purchases and 40 million email addresses.
“After crunching all the numbers, we’ve got some great news—it turns out that 1 inactive subscriber is worth 32% of an active subscriber,” the post said. “That’s a lot of revenue! We also learned that inactive subscribers purchase more frequently and are less likely to churn than customers who aren’t subscribed to your email list. This isn’t what we and a lot of other folks have said over the years, so allow us to explain a little more.”
Give MailChimp credit for saying right up front the results of the study ran counter to advice email marketing professionals had been giving for years: that email marketers should remove inactive addresses after a certain period of time of no clicks or opens, say 12 or 18 months.
Clearly, removing email addresses from a file just because they’ve shown no click or open activity for a certain period of time is a bad idea.
To give credit where credit is due, the loudest critic of folks advocating removing email addresses solely because they’re inactive has been Dela Quist, CEO of email marketing agency Alchemy Worx.
I forwarded Quist a link to MailChimp’s post, saying in the email “People are starting to come around.”
Normally, I’d have been all over MailChimp’s post. But I missed it when it was published and by the time I ran across it, it was months-old news. So I let it go.
Well, apparently I’m not the only one who missed MailChimp’s post. An article headlined “15 ways to improve your email marketing campaigns” that ran on CIO magazine’s website yesterday ended with the following quote:
“Up to 40 percent of your subscribers are inactive,” says [a digital marketing manager who I won’t name because he’s just repeating conventional wisdom]. “Sending email marketing campaigns to subscribers that do not open or read your emails can negatively impact email delivery rates. Simply remove subscribers who haven't opened up an email within the last 12 months and instead focus on the subscribers that do engage with your campaigns.”
No, no, no. A thousand times no. You don’t simply remove subscribers who haven't opened up an email within the last 12 months. Ever.
To everyone who is still advising clients and employers to remove email addresses after a certain period of inactivity: Stop. It. You’re needlessly costing them money.
MailChimp recommends identifying inactive subscribers and offers ways to treat them.
“Don’t prune them from your list, though,” the MailChimp post said. “This is the opposite of what we and many other marketing companies have said over the years, but the data backs it up: An inactive subscriber is a better customer than a non-subscriber.”
If you haven’t already, read MailChimp’s whole post here. And for cryin’ out loud, don’t trim those inactives and stop telling others to do so.