How to clean up a messy contact list in 5 easy steps

Raise your hand if your broadcast list is clean and tidy.


Yeah, that’s what I thought.

For busy small business owners, there’s nothing worse than a messy, disorganized, and outdated list of email subscribers.

Especially if you inherited this list and don’t know how to fix it.

The very thought of tackling it makes you want to slam your laptop screen right now.

Well, don’t do that. I’ll show you how to organize, purge, and clean up your subscriber list so it’s easier to use and you get better results.

Step 1: Face the facts

Take an honest and serious look at your contact list:

  • Do you have lists that you have never sent?
  • Do you have a consistently high bounce rate every time you send out an email campaign?
  • Is your list messy and confusing?
  • Does it stress you out?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, go to step 2.

Step 2: Declutter

Sometimes your contact list contains unused lists that just create clutter. At some point they may have been created for segment your contact listsbut they may no longer be relevant or logical to what is happening in your organization today.

In this case, they should be consolidated into your main mailing list or deleted.

To determine if a list should be deleted:

  • Identify all the lists that you use little
  • Determine if contacts from these lists also appear on more active lists
  • Determine when you last emailed these lists

This should help you determine if the list can be deleted and the contacts integrated into more appropriate active lists.

Step 3: Manage your rebounds

If you haven’t followed your rejected emailsstart doing it using tags.

Create a tag to manage all the contacts that bounce when you send an email. After you send out a few emails, you’ll start to see some of the same contacts bouncing back to each campaign.

Here’s how to stay on top of email bounces:

  • Identify contacts who consistently bounce back with every campaign sent
  • Recover all the email addresses you can by fixing obvious typos
  • Request updated information from anyone you have other ways to reach
  • Delete those marked by Constant Contact as “Recommended for deletion”

constant contact email bounce report example

Step 4: Thoroughly clean your contact lists

If you’ve been with Constant Contact for a while or inherited an account with us, chances are you have outdated contacts.

In order to maintain a high deliverability rate and constantly reach the people who interact with your content, you will want do a deep clean to update your list.

  • Age your list – If you started having spam complaints or high bounces, consider aging your list by signup date. You can export a .csv file and sort the join date category chronologically to determine which “oldest” contacts on your list are most likely to be unengaged. Then send them an email asking them to update their profile.

This is how our client, Mother Earth Pillowsencouraged their email subscribers to update their preferences to ensure they were grouped in the correct list.

sample constant contact update profile form

  • Use a permission callback – This appears as a short message at the top of each email that explains why someone is receiving your email and how they can unsubscribe if they no longer want to receive your emails. This simple reminder can reduce your spam complaints and ensure that only contacts who want to receive your emails stay on your list.

Step 5: Launch a re-engagement campaign

Most marketers have a group of people who don’t open emails or interact with your content on a regular basis. See if you can pique their interest by sending a re-engagement email.

Here is a great example of socially sorted Founder, Donna Moritz.

Socially sorted re-engagement email

Her email caught my eye with the subject line: Is everything cool? I missed you…

Donna had tracked those of us who didn’t open her emails very often. (Yes, I am guilty!) and reminded us what his newsletter was all about and why we should sign up to continue receiving it.

In addition to her thoughtful message, she gave us a call to action in the form of a giant green button in the middle of the email to re-subscribe to stay on their list.

I clicked on the link and, oh surprise, a digital gift was waiting for me to download. Goal!

Socially sorted re-engagement landing page

Try something similar to re-engage those inactive contacts on your mailing list. You don’t have to offer an incentive, but definitely provide an easy way for your followers to tell you if they’re still interested or not.

What happens afterwards?

Once you’ve cleaned up your existing list, get out there and get more!

We have tons of resources for building a healthy contact list:

And leave us all your contact list questions in the comments below.

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