Maintain a Healthy List (Text Tutorial)

A healthy list is the key to a successful email marketing program. You can come up with clever subject lines, write dazzling prose and illustrate it all with the prettiest pictures around, but you won’t be getting the most from these efforts if your mailing list isn’t in good shape.

Adding an address to a list is just the first step in an always ongoing process of cultivating a relationship with the subscriber. But - for many companies - collecting the address is often both the beginning and the end of the cultivation process. This is unfortunate, since subscribers must be treated properly in order to keep them actively engaged in an organization’s email marketing. You aren’t their grandmother, so they’re not going to keep opening your emails forever if you don’t give them a reason to do so.

Let’s take a look at the steps you can take to cultivate relationships with your subscribers and maintain a healthy mailing list.

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Signing up is the beginning of the process and it should be as easy as possible. If it isn’t easy, then you’re losing out before the relationship has even started. Here are some ways to make it easy for people to join your list:

Opt-in Form - If you don’t have an opt-in form on your website, you need to get one up pronto as there is no reason to not ask website visitors to sign-up for your list. VerticalResponse provides free opt-in forms to help you get started.

If you do already have a form, you should make sure it is easily accessible from every page (either through a prime spot on your main navigation menu or by placing it in a sidebar that appears on every page of your site). You should also give a brief explanation of what people will receive as a subscriber: a newsletter, special deals, tips, etc. An explanation shows that you’ll be providing value of some kind, which makes people more likely to sign-up.

Guestbook / Fishbowl - If you have an office or storefront that accepts visitors off the street, then you need to provide a way for those visitors to subscribe to your list.

Phone - Do people call your office to place orders or to get help? Then ask for their address! However, don’t just say, “Can I get your email address?” Say, “Can I sign you up for our newsletter?” or “Would you like to get more information or access to special offers via email?” Asking someone if you can send them something is always going to get a better reaction than asking if they will give you something.

Also make sure that other employees in your company know the value people will receive if they sign-up. That way it doesn’t feel like they’re “up-selling” by asking for an address - they’ll feel more comfortable asking for the address and the potential subscriber will feel more comfortable giving the address to them.

A welcome email following sign-up, especially if that sign-up came from somewhere other than your website, is a good way to immediately engage your new subscribers. As an example: waiting three weeks to send a newsletter to people who came by your tradeshow booth could mean that many of those folks will have forgotten why they were even interested in your company by the time you’ve written them. Which means you’ve already lost them after only a few weeks. But sending a welcome email within a few days of the sign-up thanking them, explaining who you are as a company, and the kind of value you provide (and that your emails provide) will get them immediately in the loop and prep them to start receiving your regular messaging.


Don’t mail subscribers sporadically once or twice a year and expect them to take action with your emails. How often is too often? How sporadic is too sporadic? Twice a week to once every two months is a good range to keep in mind, depending on the type of messages you're sending out. A newsletter probably doesn’t need to go out twice a week, but special offers and event invitations certainly don’t need to be limited to once a month.


The more relevant your email is to a recipient, the more likely that recipient will be to continue opening the emails. The less relevant the messaging is, of course, the more likely the recipient will be to stop reading your emails.

Avoid treating your emails the same way you would treat a print ad or a billboard. If you use the same content again and again, then recipients will have no reason to open your email. If a magazine kept sending you new editions with the same articles then you’d probably quit reading that magazine, and the same thing is true with email subscriptions.

Instead of sending out blanket emails that try to say everything to everyone, try sending out messaging to different groups of people that focuses on their interests and then also references other services / items you’d like to see them buy in the future. When most of your message is at least somewhat relevant to what a recipient has done in the past, they’ll be more likely to assume other items you’re referencing are also relevant to them since you’re making an effort to speak directly to them.

How do you get information in what people are interested in? Ask them at sign-up or pay attention to their most recent purchases.

And how can you more easily stay relevant? By using:


Segmentation enables you to target emails to recipients based on their history or interests (so long as you’ve collected this information, of course). You can use the Segments tool to create targeted lists using any data in your account. That means you can search based on any info you’ve collected and uploaded.

A winery, as an example, could set-up lists based on a customer’s favorite kind of wine. So a list of Merlot lovers and a list of Gewürztraminer lovers could be created and each list would receive a message that was tweaked to what they like.