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Let’s say your client approaches you to send a campaign to Old Faithful, their house list that’s slowly grown over the years but hasn’t been contacted in 12 months or so. Hell, 12 months doesn’t sound that long. You put together the creative and start sending.

Things start to get ugly

The campaign’s sent. 40% of your list hard bounce right from the word go. Another 25% unsubscribe immediately. Old Faithful aint what it used to be.

Problem 1: 30% is a big number

Here’s a scary fact. Email address churn averages about 30% every year. This means that each year almost a third of your subscriber list will have moved on to a new email address. If you haven’t sent to your subscriber list in a while, you can see how quickly they can become out of date.

Problem 2: Permission doesn’t age well

Even if an old subscriber hasn’t changed their address, they might not even remember being added to your list. As web designers, we often forget that registering on a web site isn’t always a particularly memorable experience for most people. If you haven’t been in touch with a subscriber for more than 12 months, chances are the permission they once gave is now worthless.

The solution – a permission confirmation campaign

If your list hasn’t been contacted for at least 12 months, you should consider a permission confirmation campaign. This is a simple email that includes:

  • An explanation of how, when and where they subscribed to your list.

  • A compelling list of the benefits of continuing their subscription and a preview of what you’ll be contacting them about in the future. If you can’t say anything compelling then you shouldn’t be contacting them in the first place.

  • A confirmation link the user must click to confirm their subscription. The best approach is to link to a subscribe form for a brand new list. Make life easier by using personalization to automatically populate the form with their existing details.

Any subsequent campaigns should only be sent to the new list. Many will argue that this method will lose you a lot of subscribers. I say that if a recipient can’t be bothered to confirm their subscription, their unlikely to be opening, reading and responding to your campaigns anyway.

  • Scott Sanders

    The confirmation link scares me a little. There are many lists that i subscribe and enjoy that i wouldnt want to be bothered by having to confirm or re-subscribe. While i think its a good idea i think you’d lose a considerable percentage of real subscribers.

  • Mark John B.

    I agree with the confirmation campaign style. In my experience we have about 200,000 e-mails on our lists, and as far as I can remember almost 60% of that bounced! And I am sure a lot more are ignored or moved directly to junk or trash folders. Most of our subscribers have subscribed to our lists during our better days, a few years back. All of them have not explicitly subscribed (clicked on an subscribed link or send us a message to remove them from the list), but the fact that we haven’t sent them any message last year, might have given them the idea that they have unsubcribed already, and/or have forgotten entirely that they’re subscribed, worst thought that we’ve gone south already! And when we send them an e-mail recently, they have probably turn into a different person, or perhaps have moved their interests somewhere else.

    I would suggest a confirmation campaign, in fact we’re doing that next week. It saves you the resources, it’s takes a lot of toll to the servers and the bandwidth with all the bounced messages coming back and forth, and it will also give you a clearer estimate on the effectiveness of the campaign. You wouldn’t want to calculate your 3% click rate from the entire lists (our case 200,000), only to realize that you have gotten only 0.03% from the gross count?

    I think regarding the chance to lose subscribers with this step is also a risk, but can be remedied by making sure the e-mail shows your sincerity to re-ignite the lists and perhaps throw in a few goodies if they confirm, and not something that’s hastily done to check if they’re still up for it — spammers do this all the time, to check if your inbox is worth sending to. :)

  • CNBC

    I think that a good old idea of creating a privilege status (false or real) for recipient still works well. Ex: “As a Gold VIP member, please be informed that… etc”. It’s important that customer gets feeling that it is something he might not want to miss or loose. But it never must be declared directly! This feeling a person should “get” by itself.


This blog provides general information and discussion about email marketing and related subjects. The content provided in this blog ("Content”), should not be construed as and is not intended to constitute financial, legal or tax advice. You should seek the advice of professionals prior to acting upon any information contained in the Content. All Content is provided strictly “as is” and we make no warranty or representation of any kind regarding the Content.
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