Loren McDonald calls it "list churn." I call it "list attrition." In a recent MediaPost article, Loren claimed that, "list churn may be the least-talked-about but highest-impact issue in email marketing." Whatever name you prefer, losing a significant portion of your house email file every year is not a matter to be taken lightly.

Loren's blog post continues with a startling statistic - "While every list is different, the typical rule of thumb is that about 30% of your list’s email addresses will vanish each year."

Yeah. He said 30%. Almost 1/3. Three-tenths. 30 out of 100. Any way you slice the numbers, they are staggering.

Loren compares the "stages of the email relationship" to the movement from "dating to divorce." He provides some practical tips to reduce the bleeding. I'd agree with all of his points - easy opt-in process (and subscription landing page), timely welcome message, messages that create value, lifecycle and automated message programs, easy preference updates, rewards/exclusive offers, etc etc. These are the basics - critical to successful email marketing campaigns - but still elementary.

In the email marketing community, we often get dinged for only providing the basics - "email marketing 101." The reason is that most marketers have not fully grasped the basics (see practical tips above). List attrition can definitely be combated by implementing all (yes, all) of the suggestions above. However, you'll never save them all. List attrition is a reality. You can't fight it. Subscribers will usually follow some derivation of the pattern below:

  1. Opt-in
  2. Evaluate the value your emails offer
  3. Continue to be engaged OR consider your email bacn OR opt-out (unsubscribe or mark as spam)

My challenge to all marketers is simple: Send relevant, timely email to subscribers who’ve asked to receive it. Just a thought.

DJ Waldow
Account Manager at Bronto