How To Grow An Engaged Email Marketing List Of Subscribers Who Pay Attention

Learn how to avoid and manage lazy subscribers who ignore or delete your emails so you can build a high-quality, engaged email marketing list.

Typewriter Keys: Freelance Email List

You join email marketing lists for brands, businesses, and people for a variety of reasons: you made a purchase, signed up for a webinar or business training, took advantage of a free offer, or subscribed to their newsletter to keep your finger on the pulse of what they’re doing. You chose to join their email marketing list and community because it fit at the time.

But over time, things change. Maybe you pivoted and changed direction, maybe they pivoted and their message no longer resonates, or maybe you simply don’t have time to look at everything you’re subscribed to. This is why over time, your inbox becomes full of emails you don’t open or pay attention to — emails that get deleted or moved into a folder, ignored, and eventually forgotten about.

Do everyone a favor and unsubscribe.

  • Your unsubscribe frees you from the burden of unread emails, cleans up your inbox, and saves valuable time.
  • Your unsubscribe also helps the brands, businesses, and people you’re not paying attention to, as no one wants a big email list of people who ignore their content. It’s expensive and it creates inaccurate reporting and unrealistic email performance expectations.

Large Lists, Low Engagement

Every business owner, whether you’re a freelancer, a small business, or an enterprise organization, wants a big email list. They dream of an email list packed with thousands of subscribers who open their emails, read their messages, click their links, and make purchases. But big email lists don’t always equal big results, especially if open rates and click-through rates are abysmal and subscriber engagement is in the toilet

Just like you, people are subscribed to email lists they ignore.

The truth is that email marketing lists of all sizes, big and small, suffer the consequences of subscribers who are either too lazy to unsubscribe or hanging on because someday they hope to have time to pay attention. This not only creates email lists that underperform but skews the numbers for critical email marketing metrics.

  • Lazy subscribers delete emails.
    They don’t open emails and they don’t unsubscribe. They stay on your email list and delete your messages.
  • Lazy subscribers save emails for later.
    They stick your emails in a “read later” folder or even set up rules to reroute all email marketing away from their inbox. Yes, they intend to read your emails at some point in the future but eventually these messages also get deleted.

Grow An Engaged Email List

List-building email marketing tactics like hosting free webinars, creating free opt-in offers and ethical bribes, providing access to resource libraries, and extending invitations to join communities are designed to get as many people as possible to join your email list and brand community. With the right offers and messaging, these efforts attract subscribers aligned with your freelance business niche or ideal client persona. Those are the subscribers you want to focus on and nurture because they are the subscribers who will open your emails, read your messages, and engage with you.

As for those who only want your free thing or who join your email list and don’t pay attention, you must plan for how those subscribers will be handled.

  • Will you remove someone from your email list if they don’t open an email for a certain length of time?
  • Will you create a goodbye campaign that invites them to unsubscribe or lets them know you’re going to remove them if they remain inactive?
  • Will you create a re-engagement campaign to try to activate and engage these subscribers?

While you think through your unengaged subscriber management plan, there are a few low-effort things you can do that will help maintain the quality of your email list:

1. Use A Double Opt-In Subscribe Process

Single opt-in email lists use a fast, simple one-step process. When someone enters an email into your subscription form, their email address is immediately and automatically added to your email marketing list. Single opt-in email lists are typically much larger than double opt-in email lists, however, because there is no extra step that requires a subscriber to confirm their email address, these lists are also often bloated with fake email addresses and people just trying to get your free gift without actually subscribing to your email list.

Double opt-in email lists use a basic two-step process. When someone enters an email into your subscription form, a message is sent to that email address that requires the owner to click a verification link. The email address is added to your list only after the verification link is clicked. While double opt-in email lists are typically smaller, they are also often higher quality.

Today, many successful email marketers use a hybrid email list-building model:

  • They grow their email list using single opt-ins to reduce friction and remove barriers.
  • They then segment and clean their email lists through automated email sequences (like a welcome sequence) that include links within the email content that both trigger a subscription confirmation and provide valuable segmentation data.

2. Provide Open Incentives

Get more subscribers to open your emails by incentivizing the open. Use value-driven tactics that create anticipation, build curiosity, foster urgency, and get people excited to open and read your email newsletter.

Here are a a few potential tactics to consider:

  • Leverage FOMO by including timely offers that expire.
  • Give subscribers behind-the-scenes glimpses into your life or business they can’t get on social media.
  • Share subscriber-only deals, downloads, coupon codes, and resources.
  • Include at least one link and call to action in every message to train subscribers to click.
  • Sprinkle in some fun and do something unexpected every once in a while.
  • Stick with a reliable publishing schedule subscribers can count on and look forward to.
  • Use enticing subject lines that grab attention without misleading or tricking people.
  • Provide unique content only available in your email newsletter.

3. Make It Easy To Unsubscribe

Publishing a quality email newsletter is a lot of work. While it would be awesome for every subscriber to stay a subscriber forever and open all of your emails, that is not reality. It’s inevitable that a subscriber will eventually want to unsubscribe.

Don’t bury or hide the unsubscribe link or make it impossible for someone to leave your list. You’ll only increase the chances that they’ll get frustrated and mark your emails as spam.

  • You want subscribers to opt-out when your services, products, or programs no longer serve them or fit their business.
  • You want people to unsubscribe from your email list when they stop paying attention and stop opening your emails.
  • You want subscribers to unsubscribe when they just hit delete upon opening your email because they are too busy to read it.

Make unsubscribing from your email list easy. It’s better for everyone if it’s easy for those who don’t want to hear from you to unsubscribe as quickly as possible. By showing subscribers they can leave your list at any time, and that is just as easy, if not easier than signing up for your list, you help alleviate the potential fear of being spammed and bypass the anger that comes with receiving unwanted email.

Plus, it’s always better to have a small list of engaged subscribers who pay attention than a big list of subscribers who ignore your emails.

Nurture Your Engaged Subscribers

While every email marketer needs to practice proactive list management to protect list quality, you should never focus more on those who aren’t opening your emails than those who are. Focus on the subscribers who are paying attention and engaging with you and your content and always remember that quality must come first. Being welcomed into subscribers’ inboxes is a privilege you must respect.

So, before clicking send on any email marketing messages, first ask yourself, “Would I want to receive this in my inbox?”