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7 Email Marketing List Management Best Practices

By Sam Lauron

Nov 28, 2023
Read Time: X Min
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There’s no getting around it, email marketing is a vital component of every creator’s marketing strategy. Email is the most direct way to communicate with your customers. In fact, 55% of consumers say email is their preferred digital channel for business communication. 

But with email marketing comes email list management, which can be a real pain point if you don’t have a process or email list management software in place. 

Email list management takes consistent upkeep if you want to send successful email marketing campaigns, make sure subscribers are satisfied, maintain your sender reputation, and ultimately scale your business.

In this blog post, we’ll discuss what email list management is, why it’s important, and different ways to successfully manage your email list so you can get the best ROI on the most important part of your digital marketing strategy.

Why is an email marketing strategy important?

Email marketing involves sending emails to subscribers letting them know about business updates, promotions, and special announcements. Your email list can also be used to nurture your customer relationships. This is done by sending welcome emails, introducing them to your products or services, and collecting feedback through polls or surveys. 

To get the most out of your email list, you must have an email marketing strategy. 

An email marketing strategy provides the framework for every email marketing campaign you send. Your strategy should outline your goals, identify who your subscribers are, and lay out the different email tactics you’re going to try to achieve those goals. 

Without a strategy in place, you risk sending email campaigns that don’t resonate with your target audience, never convert prospects, and may even end up in the spam folder.

The benefits of email marketing list management

In years past, it may have been enough to simply collect as many emails as you could for the sake of having an email list. But if you don’t organize those emails and pay attention to your subscriber list, your email list won’t bring much value to your business (and you might end up in the spam folder).

Instead of gathering email addresses and sending out a general mass email whenever you have an announcement, you must have a process for maintaining your email list. 

Email list management is the process of evaluating your contacts and segmenting them into lists based on factors that align with your business and marketing goals. Managing your list involves monitoring subscribers’ activity to assess their level of engagement and remove invalid email addresses as needed. 

All of these actions are done to maintain an active subscriber list, identify quality leads, and deliver relevant content subscribers want to receive.

Here are some benefits of effective email list management: 

  • Healthy, engaged email list 
  • Better customer data 
  • Personalized email marketing campaigns 
  • Higher email marketing ROI

7 email list management best practices

If you want to better manage your email list, generate high-quality leads, and deliver content your subscribers want to engage with, then streamline your email marketing with these list management best practices.

1. Provide a clear opt-in process

Subscribers should be opting into your emails. This may sound obvious, but if you’re offering an incentive to sign up, like a free download for lead generation, then people might not know what they’re actually signing up for. This can lead to a higher unsubscribe rate down the road. 

To better retain subscribers, give people the option to choose whether they want to receive your emails. You can do this through one of two ways: single opt-in or double opt-in. 

Single opt-in requires the user to opt-in one time by simply filling out a sign-up form on your website. Once they enter their email, they’re on the list. They don't have to confirm their email address. 

The upside of this method is that it’s quick and easy for the subscriber. However, this doesn’t offer many benefits for either party. On one hand, some people use fake email addresses which impacts the health and quality of your email list

Second, a single opt-in where they only provide their email address doesn’t offer any information about the subscriber that can be helpful for you. And lastly, the subscriber doesn’t have much control over the type and frequency of the content they receive from you. 

The other option is to offer a double opt-in. The double opt-in method requires a user to confirm their email address to be added to your email list. Typically, after they enter their email they’ll receive an automated email from you asking them to confirm that they want to be on the list. 

It usually looks something like this:

If you want to take it one step further, you can include double opt-in options that allow subscribers to tailor the content they receive. 

Give users control over the frequency of emails. Nobody wants to be bombarded with emails — it’s one of the main reasons why a person will unsubscribe. Let subscribers decide if they want to receive daily, weekly, or monthly emails from your business.

While a user might have originally been added to several lists, they may find they only want to receive certain information. And that’s okay! Allow subscribers to update their preferences if they change. It’s always better to have someone update their preferences rather than hit the unsubscribe button altogether.  

Keep in mind you’ll need to have these segments set up in your email marketing software *before* you can offer these options to your subscribers (we’ll expand on this more in a bit). But once you do, not only will your subscribers appreciate the customization, but you’ll also have a more organized list to refer to for future email campaigns. 

Enabling your engaged subscribers to feel in control of the amount of information they receive from you can help mitigate email churn, which can be one of the biggest challenges of email list management.

2. Create a helpful welcome email

When it comes to new email subscribers, first impressions are everything. Just think back to a time when you’ve been wowed by a welcome email.

What was it that caught your attention? A catchy subject line? Personalization in the body of the email? 

Try to keep those things in mind when developing a welcome email for your email marketing sequence. Your first email will set the tone for the relationship and make email list management easier down the road. 

Create personalized emails by writing meaningful subject lines or referring to new subscribers by their first name. They provided that information when they subscribed and it’s your job to use it. What better way to make someone feel special than by calling them by their name—just like you would a friend! This can help create a sense of connection between a customer and a small business.

Next, give clear next steps by telling new subscribers how to take advantage of your product, by showing them how to contact your company, or by asking for a follow on social media. In fact, email and social media integration is one of the best ways to create social buzz. 

Take this welcome email from The Soloist Sundays newsletter by consultant Matthew Fenton of Winning Solo. He starts by thanking the new subscriber for being here and then gives a brief description of what subscribers can expect.


You can also provide an incentive by offering customers a freebie or a discount code on your product. Not only does this create a sense of exclusivity, but it encourages subscribers to engage with your email list right away rather than leaving your emails to collect dust in their inbox.

The overarching point is to leave new subscribers feeling excited about their decision to subscribe to your emails. If you can succeed at this important first step of mailing list management, you’re off to a great start.

3. Segment your email list

Another essential email list management best practice is segmentation. Email segmentation is the process of dividing your subscribers into groups based on patterns in behaviors or preferences. 

Segmentation is the key to maintaining a healthy list. Not only does it allow you to tailor your content and send targeted emails, but it ultimately helps increase engagement. 

For example, let’s say you set up a lead magnet to build your email list. You could create a segment for subscribers who opted in through the lead magnet. This helps you create personalized content and tailor your email communication to subscribers based on their interest in whatever your lead magnet is about. 

In addition to segmenting your email list, you can also add tags. Tagging helps you organize and identify subscribers based on certain factors. For instance, you can add contact tags for your subscribers' location if you want to target subscribers in certain areas.

4. Regularly review and scrub your email list

Scrubbing email lists is one of the most crucial email list best practices and should be done several times a year to maintain a healthy list. 

Scrubbing emails entails identifying invalid or fake email addresses and removing inactive subscribers. 

If you notice any of the following, it’s a sign that it’s time for an email list clean-up.

  • A stark drop in your click-through rates (the amount of people who click on at least one link in your email).
  • ‍When multiple users unsubscribe suddenly (examine your most recent email campaign and correspondence to evaluate and regroup).
  • An increase in spam reports (users can report your emails as spam and then unsubscribe for good).
  • ‍A high bounce rate and poor email deliverability (this can be a sign that your email list has seen an increase in invalid email addresses, so keep an eye on this important feedback and adjust accordingly). 

Sometimes people’s email service providers will mistakenly flag your email as spam, which is also something to evaluate. 

Taking the time to go through your lists and remove inactive subscribers every couple of months helps maintain a healthy email list and keep your marketing efforts up to date. 

In turn, you’ll have more high-quality contacts, improved email open rates, higher click-through rates, and if all goes well, higher conversion rates.

5. Re-engage inactive subscribers

If it’s been six months or more since a subscriber opened or read an email, then it’s time to re-think your relationship. While there can be a lot of factors that go into a user becoming inactive, it’s important to remind subscribers why they opted into your emails in the first place.

One of the best ways to reignite the flame with inactive users is through a re-engagement campaign. Implementing a simple series of emails with a strong call-to-action can help you differentiate who’s really here for your product or service and who’s ready to jump ship. 

Here are a few reasons why subscribers may become inactive:

  • They’re not interested anymore
  • They liked your competitor’s offerings more
  • They don’t understand how to use your product or service
  • The content isn’t resonating with them

Get creative when drafting re-engagement campaigns. Try to set yourself apart from previous emails by using creative language, offering users an incentive to get back on track, and by gaining information on who still wants to be subscribed.


If, at the end of the day, you’ve given it your best shot at re-engaging users, but they’re just not budging, then it’s clearly time to say goodbye and purge them from your email list. 

Don’t see this as a failure but as one of the most necessary list management best practices. How can you better position your emails in the future so people will interact with them? Going back to the drawing board can be both fun and insightful.

6. Make it easy to unsubscribe

It can feel pretty counterintuitive to make it easy for someone to unsubscribe from your emails, but it should be easy for users to opt-out. 

Making users jump through hoops to unsubscribe is not good for business for a few reasons.

For starters, it kills the user experience and damages trust. If someone’s already made up their mind about your emails, the last thing they want is to be gatekept. 

Plus, you can use this opportunity to improve your future emails. Give people the option to provide feedback on why they’re exiting stage right and you’ll gain valuable data to use down the road.

Another reason is that it keeps you from scrubbing your lists. When you have a bunch of people who are not interested in what you have to offer but aren’t able to hit unsubscribe, it makes it harder to clean your lists. If a user isn’t engaging with your email marketing campaigns, it might be best for them to go. Having unengaged subscribers doesn’t provide value to your business.

One example of how to make this process easier comes from writer and online creator, Kaleigh Moore’s newsletter. She offers subscribers multiple unsubscribe options at the bottom of each email she sends to her list. 


Finally, if you don’t make it easy to unsubscribe then you may get marked as spam. We don’t know about you, but we’d rather have a user unsubscribe any day rather than be marked as spam. Once a user says your emails are spam, it blacklists any future emails and sends them straight to their spam folder never to see the light of day again. 

People unsubscribe from emails every single day. Maybe it’s because they receive too many, don’t remember opting in, the content is no longer relevant, or emails look suspicious. That’s why it’s important to give people an out and let unengaged subscribers go. This allows you to clean up and optimize your mailing lists to improve your email marketing strategy.

7. Choose the right email list management software 

Having the right email marketing software can make or break your email list management. The best email marketing tool is the one that helps you maintain and manage your email list with as little extra effort as possible. 

When it comes to email list management, some of the must-have features your email marketing platform should have are segmentation and tagging, contact management, and the ability to set up automated email marketing campaigns

For example, powerful segmentation capabilities can help you personalize your emails to build better relationships. Tagging functionality also allows you to track your lead lifecycle and see what emails each person opened, all of which benefit the design and organization process for your email marketing efforts. 

Most email marketing tools also offer performance insights. Actionable analytics are essential to optimize and increase engagement. For instance, historical analytics help you see what’s worked in the past so you can replicate and improve deliverability with no IP maintenance needed.

With proper email list management, the sky’s the limit

As we said earlier, there’s no getting around the importance of email marketing. Solid list management is key to long-term success in the email marketing space.

By following the actionable email list management practices that we covered (and by using email marketing software), you can start optimizing your email list today. 

Remember: managing healthy email lists leads to higher subscriber satisfaction, keeps your sender reputation in good standing, and allows you to expand your business to new heights. It’s an all-around win.

Sam Lauron
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7 Email Marketing List Management Best Practices
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