List Churn - why you need to tackle this NOW

List Churn – why you need to tackle this NOW

This week I have had a lot of clients really starting to see the impact of their list churn – it is a thing that creeps up out of nowhere. While we spend so much time addressing customer churn we forget about list churn (and we REALLY need to focus on list churn).

If you think about it, great email programs start by getting great people into the programs. As things go, we lose a percentage of subscribers along the way – some bounce, some opt-out, some go radio silent – it’s just life. It is important to continue to bring in good quality leads while doing the best you can to keep those on your email list engaged. 

What is list churn?

As it relates to email marketing, list churn refers to the percentage of people unsubscribing or being removed from your list every week, month, quarter, or year (depending on how you track it).

Here’s a simple calculation: Churn Rate = (Subscribers at Beginning of Period – Subscribers at End of Period)/Subscribers at Beginning of Period

According to a report by Getresponse, list churn cuts down about 25-30% of the average email list every year. 


That’s HUGE! I find that a 2% churn rate is considered to be a safe place based on industry standards. As an email marketer, your list churn rate is important to understand so that you know how many people are leaving (or being removed from) your email list. This helps you understand whether or not your content is resonating with your audience, which then allows you to test and improve your email marketing efforts.

How can you reduce list churn?


1. Consider using a double opt-in 

Collecting quality email addresses for your database is a dream of every email marketer. But, are you following the best practices while building this database? Probably not! 

What typically happens is data is pulled from all sources without targeting simply to increase the quantity of their database, which of course comprises the quality. 

A low-quality email database will have a higher churn rate, ultimately affecting the email deliverability, and maybe even landing you in SPAM traps. 

In order to collect quality email addresses, it’s essential for marketers to go for a double opt-in approach. Let the people think twice before they subscribe to your emails. This will make sure that you have a genuine database, and will reduce your list churn rate. 

Another approach is to have them opt-in via email & SMS on the same form – that shows high-intent for sure!

2. Attempt re-engagement emails with incentives 

For those subscribers that go radio silent, you can move them into a re-engagement flow to get them to start engaging once again. Adding incentives are a bonus and can help entice these users to come on back – and maybe even purchase!


3. Build the best preference center ever 

When you design a preference center, you give options. And people love options. With your emails, if you let your recipients choose their preference, your list churn rate will automatically reduce drastically. Create a preference center, and let the users decide what they want to receive based on their interests. Give them options!


4. Send triggered emails through segmenting and targeting 

Try to segment your database into subgroups based on their interests – WINNER – then send a trigger-based email relevant to their interests. So, if a set of people in your database is interested in receiving health & wellness related items, there is no point sending them an email related to sports. Remember, the more irrelevant and badly timed the email is, the higher your chances are of increasing your list churn rate.


5. Ask them what they want 

I love feedback loops that live organically within email. Understanding the cadence & content your subscribers are looking for is key. You can tuck these feedback surveys into email a variety of ways, but make sure once you get the feedback, you look at the averages and adjust your strategy.


So today, go into your ESP, calculate your list churn rate and put some of the tips mentioned today into action! I’m always free to answer questions, and you can read more helpful email marketing blogs here. 

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