I’ll get right to the point.
I wanted to save $1,500 a year by shrinking my database and removing unresponsive subscribers. But Professor Ben talked me out of it.
If you want to understand the issues I debated, read on. Then you can decide what’s best for you.
I explained in Bye, Bye Mindaugus (still one of my favorites) why I deleted ‘Mindaugus from Lithuania’ last year. He hadn’t opened a single email from me in 2½ years.
By then, I’d invested a whole 32 cents(!) in our relationship, but it was unlikely Mindaugus would ever hire me, so I let him go.
Now, 16 months later, I’m confident Joseph Hage is no worse off having deleted him. I even saved 16¢.
But is Mindaugus better off? I thought so when I deleted him. Now, I’m not so sure.
Spring Cleaning 2019
According to my subscriber dashboard, 44% hadn’t open my last 12 emails. I was thinking of giving them the ol’ Mindaugus treatment.
So I sent this out:
Then Professor Ben wrote me
Ben Bentzin is tall. And very smart. (For proof, see my “CEO Interview with Ben.”)
Anyhow, Ben was on the “Mindaugus list,” but he didn’t deserve it.
Joe – Just reconfirmed my subscription. I have automatic downloading of images turned off in my email clients. As a result, your emails to me appear to be unread, when in fact they are read, I just didn’t download the images,” adding, “I don’t always click through, but I do read your messages.”
That gave me pause.
I wrote back, “I think it’s fair to unsubscribe subscribers who opened the mail and didn’t click the link to stay, right?”
Below, I have at 641 people who opened (therefore, read?) the ACTION REQUIRED and did not click on the link. Surely, these should be deleted, yes?”
He didn’t reply right away. I got antsy and deleted these 641. Now I regret it.
Seeking a second opinion
I have 15,000 subscribers who – at least – never click on my emails. At 10¢ a year each, I’m spending $1,500 a year to carry them. Back in 2001, Peppers & Rogers would have called them “Below Zeroes.”
I wrote DRIP: “I deleted subscribers I thought were unresponsive. But now I see 133 people opened the very next email. I didn’t expect that. What do you recommend?”
Gabe replied, “I would ask does someone who opens 1 of 13 messages truly bring you value?”
And I answered, “Me value? No. But am I bringing him value?”
Those 133 subscribers who opened my 13th email? That group had a meager 0.9% open rate.
And those who clicked on my 12th email so they could “stay?” They opened the very next email at an 8.4% open rate.
Lesson: You can’t trust open rates.
At this point, you may be thinking, ‘Why are open rate statistics so unreliable?’ Here’s my understanding: Only HTML emails can be tracked. To confirm an open, one of the following must happen: The recipient (a) has images enabled; (b) clicks on a link; or, (c) white-listed you as a safe sender.
All those delicious corporate customers with firewalls? If they use a preview pane (as I often do), they’ll appear as Professor Ben did to me – as an unresponsive subscriber.
In fact, an overwhelming 99 percent of unresponsive subscribers with “big medical device company” domains (such as @medtronic.com) show as not having clicked on my ACTION email. But did they really not open? Who knows. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Which pretty much leaves me where I started: Should I delete ‘the Mindagui’ or not? They are costing me $1,500 and, at a minimum, never clicking.
I wrote Ben, “I can’t see how emailing a name in perpetuity, despite never clocking an actual open makes sense for the advertiser or the member; only the company getting paid for list storage.”
It led to this conversation:
If you’re not in a listening mood, Ben’s unwavering advice was don’t delete them. “You’re valuing those subscribers as zero but they are not zero. They may refer someone to you one day and isn’t that worth keeping them on?”
Mathematically, one successful referral would more than cover the annual $1,500 charge.
Another perspective is, even if they never get further than FROM: Joe Hage and SUBJECT: Whatever ¦ there’s a parallel universe happening on Google now. Hat tip to Rand Fishkin for illustrating 57 percent of Google mobile searches result in zero clicks.
Here's the percent of searches in Google that result in no clicks (on mobile vs. desktop) pic.twitter.com/M9zslJaF5T
— Rand Fishkin (@randfish) January 23, 2018
Conclusion and next steps
- Fine! I don’t like the answer, but I’ll keep non-responders, looking for reasons to delete them. Like the 20 who (a) don’t have a first name, (b) haven’t opened 20, and (c) have an archaic aol.com email address. You know, people like that.
- Flex. I plan to offer flexible subscription plans similar to this one.
- What time? I’ll continue testing optimal delivery times for remails (to those who don’t open the first time). So far and unscientifically, Sunday vastly outperforms Monday. (I’ve tucked this article about underperforming emails away for more study on this.)
For more on this topic, I recommend “Your Email Open Rate Is Higher Than You Think“
I’m going to talk with Martyn about this article, “How To Track Email Opens With Google Analytics Pixel Tracking.” I’m unclear if this will buy me anything.
- 19 Email Testing Tools; and,
- How Email Open Tracking Quietly Took Over the Web,” if you want a good scare.
Finally, this catch-all, “48 Reasons Why Your Emails Have Low Email Open Rate.”
Just For Fun
My email problem weighed on me for three weeks. Now it’s time for a break.
This one-minute clip will give you a smile.
Button or link? In ACTION, I split-tested the call-to-action design: Link versus button. Link won. (I didn’t know what to expect, which is why we test.)
How does Amazon stay at Day One? The article started with obvious notions and, just as I began to dismiss it, the article shared this nugget you’d might consider. Before getting too far with your innovation, first deliver: 1. A press release (one page). 2. FAQ list (six pages). 3. A portrayal of the customer experience.
If it all ties together, only then start building.
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Thank you for joining me on The Journey.
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P.S. Have you considered attending my three-hour live workshop, “The Essentials for Medical Device Marketing Success,” at 10x in a few weeks?