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Tackling List Churn

List churn may be the least-talked-about but highest-impact issue in email marketing. Look at the facts. While every list is different, the typical rule of thumb is that about 30% of your list’s email addresses will vanish each year. This actual churn is comprised of bounces, abandoned/changed email addresses, unsubscribes and spam complaints.

Say you have a target to grow your list by 20% this year. But, if 30% of your list disappears every year, you actually need to grow it by 50% (your hurdle rate). To grow lists of 100,000 or 1,000,000 to 120,000 and 1,200,000, you need real growth of 50,000 or 500,000 subscribers respectively to reach your goal. Ouch.

Do you know and track your list churn/growth hurdle rate? If you don’t, simply add up the monthly address churn, multiply by 12 and add your annual growth goal — and presto, you have your hurdle rate.

Oh, and it gets tougher: there is also the percentage of your list that goes inactive each month. These are people who don’t unsubscribe, but who basically check out and rarely, if ever, open or click on your emails anymore. While I’m not aware of significant research in this area, my own and others’ analyses suggest that typically 1% to 2% of your list may be going inactive each month. This adds another 10% to 25% to your annual list hurdle rate.

So, if you are potentially losing 30% to 50% of your list each year to churn and inactivity, how do you plug the leaks? In this article, Loren McDonald offers a few tips.

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