Here in the UK (as in many other parts of the world) we’re pretty glued to the weather forecasts at the moment, watching those storms roll in from the Atlantic, day after day. We take it for granted that those wonderful weather maps are accurate and up to date.
Imagine what would happen if they didn’t get updated. What good is last week’s or last month’s weather report to us?
It’s a little bit like this with your email list. For most businesses the list isn’t static. People join your list (by signing up for your e-newsletter or when they buy from your business, enquire about your services or attend a talk or workshop you’ve given).
It’s not just additions, changes happen as well. Members may lapse, enquirers may become guests and of course now and then people want to get off your list.
How do you keep track of changes in your email lists?
If you’re using a programme like MailChimp, some of these changes occur directly in your MailChimp email lists (sign ups via your MailChimp web form and unsubscribes via the button in your email campaigns) but other changes occur in an external database, maybe your booking system, in Google Contacts, Mac Contacts or in another type of database.
If your MailChimp list does not reflect these changes and additions then it will hamper the success of your campaigns.
So how can you keep your MailChimp email lists up to date?
Knowing your external database has the most accurate data, you may be tempted to just create a new list in MailChimp every time you import, deleting the old list. This isn’t ideal.
When you delete the old list you delete important information:-
2. Cleaned emails
3. Subscriber activity
There are reasons why this information should be kept:
1. Unsubscribes – these people have opted out and by law you must stop sending them marketing emails. By deleting your old list, you risk losing track of who has opted out.
2. Cleaned emails – these email addresses aren’t working for some reason and have been automatically cleaned from your list. There may be errors or the emails are defunct or some other problem.
3. Subscriber activity – this gives you details of opens, clicks and subscribers accumulate star ratings. You can segment by this rating which can be useful to reward your best customers or entice back your least engaged subscribers. If you delete your old list, all this information goes with it.
Best practice would be to find and export all this information before you delete the old list and then manually clean and unsubscribe any relevant contacts from the new list.
Of course in reality you may not get round to doing these tasks and then you risk having an unclean list. This could get you into trouble. However there is a way to deal with this in MailChimp.
Using Groups and AutoUpdate function in MailChimp
MailChimp allows you to add Groups to your list. This is a great way to segment your data. It allows you to send different campaigns to different groups or the same campaign to different groups at different times.
For instance you could set up a group for say, Enquiries and another for Guests. Find out more about MailChimp groups.
There is another great little feature in MailChimp called Auto-update
This neat little feature means MailChimp will update information about the subscribers on your list. It can add people to new groups; it can update or add other information like birthday or purchase history. Each record is tied to the email address.
It does have one flaw though. It cannot remove people from a group. So if say your contact is no longer an enquirer but has become a guest, you would end up with the contact in both groups. For membership organisations in particular, this can be a major headache. You don’t want lapsed members getting member only goodies via email.
The good news is, there is a work around that allows you to keep all the subscriber history but have people in the correct groups. It’s a little bit clunky but less work than exporting all the subscriber information and creating a new list each time.
Let’s run a little scenario:
You send monthly emails. You have a database of enquiries & customers. New people get added every month and some of the enquiries become customers.
In MailChimp, you need your list set up like this.
Main Mailing List
Group Title: Status
Currently you may have your enquiries and customers in two different lists. Change this. Have one list and use the group function, you’ll see why later on. Here’s a reminder on how to set up Groups.
So when you export your data from your external database to a spreadsheet like Microsoft Excel, you want to split the export into the two groups. You can often do this in the external database.
Use two different worksheets on your Excel spreadsheet. Say your first work sheet is Enquiries. Lay out your columns as in the screenshot with a column with the same title as your group title, in this case Status.
Put the Customers on the next sheet and use same column headings.
￼Before you import these two worksheets of data into MailChimp you have two steps. This is the workaround.
1. Delete existing groups
2. Set up your groups again
How does that work?
1. Delete existing groups
You simply delete the group information, but the subscribers remain on the main list which means you retain all the unsubscribe, cleaned and subscriber activity data.
2. Set up the groups again
Using exactly the same group names as you have on your spreadsheet. Now you import your data group by group using the Auto-update feature. Here’s the instructions.
So to keep your email lists clean, up to date and working hard for your email marketing, make sure your updates give you the most accurate picture, it sure helps with the weather forecasts. Keep safe and warm.
Have you found any other neat workarounds for managing email lists?