What Is List Churn - And What To Watch Out For
Oh, list churn, a.k.a the silent campaign killer. One thing we never remember to watch closely is list churn, the percentage of subscribers we are losing from our email list. This can happen when recipients unsubscribe, mark your emails as spam, bounce, or simply just get radio silent. In this episode, I cover the types of list churn and ways to triage them but more importantly, ways to keep an eye on your list churn percentage.
As mentioned in the episode:
- How to calculate list churn: Churn Rate = (Subscribers at Beginning of Period – Subscribers at End of Period)/Subscribers at Beginning of Period
- Resource: Email Marketing List Churn: The Silent Campaign Killer -https://60secondmarketer.com/2017/11/17/list-churn-silent-campaign-killer/
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What Is List Churn - And What To Watch Out For
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Onto this episode, you brought in a bunch of new names into your email list this month, did you? You notice that your list did not grow. It got slightly smaller. You can thank list churn for this. It is important and a silent campaign killer. We're going to geek out a bit and help understand as much as we can about list churn. If you think about it, great email programs start by getting great people into the programs. As things go, we lose a percentage of subscribers along the way. Some bounce, some opt-out, some go completely radio silent, which I like to call our email zombies but it comes with the territory.
If you let your recipients choose their preference, your list turn rate will automatically reduce drastically.
I've said this before but it's so important to continue to bring in good quality leads while doing the best you can to keep those in your email list engaged. What exactly then is list churn? As it relates to email marketing, churn refers to the percentage of people unsubscribing or being removed from your list every week, month, quarter or year, depending on how you track it. Here's a simple calculation. Your churn rate equals your subscribers at the beginning of the period minus your subscribers at the end of the period divided by the subscribers at the beginning of the period.
According to a report by GetResponse, list churn cuts down about 25 to 30% of the average email list every single year. I find that a 2% churn rate is considered to be a safe place based on industry standards but as an email marketer, your list churn rate is important to understand so that you know how many people are leaving or being removed from your email list, which can help you better adjust your user acquisition targets, not to mention your lead quality gauges. This helps you understand whether or not your content is resonating with your audience, which then allows you to test and improve your email marketing efforts.
Let's dig a little deeper. First, we have transparent churn. Transparent churn includes the set of recipients who have unsubscribed from your email list on their own. It also includes those email addresses that have reported your emails as spam. Also, all the hard bounces are considered transparent churn. There isn't too much you can do for this one but having a clean database and considering a double opt-in may help. Collecting quality email addresses for your database is a dream of every email marketer. That is what we dream about but are you following the best practices while building this database? Probably not.
What typically happens is data is pulled from all sources without targeting simply to increase the quantity of the database, which comprises the quality. A low-quality email database will have a higher churn rate, ultimately affecting the email deliverability and maybe even landing you in the spam traps. To collect quality email addresses, marketers need to go for double opt-in approaches. Let the people think twice before they subscribe to your emails. This will make sure that you have a genuine database and reduce your list churn.
Another approach is to have them opt-in via email and SMS on the same form, which also shows a higher intent value there. These are some ways that you can potentially reduce transparent churn. The last thing to consider is to try not to make your emails spammy. The better the quality of email, the fewer chances we will have to get into a spam trap or mark it as spam. That was transparent churn.
Next, we have opaque churn. These are the ones that recall the emails zombies, the ones we have to keep an eye out for. This includes the set of recipients who are not opening your emails due to a variety of reasons. To mention some, users might no longer be interested in your emails or your emails are going to their spam or promotion folders. This is the part of list churn that you have some control over. Some common causes here usually are irrelevant content, poor send timing, sending cadence, whether that be too many or too few emails.
Gone are the days of email blasting. Move your database to a path geared towards educational and timely content.
Here are a few ideas on how you can triage this area of your list churn. Number one is, you can run a re-engagement or a sunset email automation campaign that typically will include incentives. For those subscribers that go radio silent, you can move them into this re-engagement flow to get them to start engaging once again. Adding incentives are a bonus and can help entice these users to come back and maybe even purchase but one thing is certain for a re-engagement program.
This one has a very formulaic approach and also is intentional on our goal. Our goal is to get these users to open/click one of our emails again. If they do, we also want to allow them to make a decision. “Do you want to continue to hear from us? Do you want to opt-out? Maybe you want to purchase?” We're looking for these specific gauges and giving them blatant opportunities to do so in this re-engagement program. This is typically about three emails. We're saving some of our best incentives but at the end of the day, we want to know, “Do you want to hear from us still? Can you please opt-out?”
Typically, at the end of a re-engagement or a sunset flow, those that have not done anything, haven’t clicked, open or opted out, you would tag those in your database typically as dead or cold. You would export them out of your ESP, move them into a drive folder so you have them for archiving purposes and delete them out of your database. This then will ensure that you're starting over with that clean slate but this is less churn, so we are taking people out of the database, so when you do remove a group like that, you need to go back and reconfigure those user acquisition numbers.
Another way that you can triage the opaque churn is by building the best preference center ever. When you design a preference center, you give options and people love options. With your emails, if you let your recipients choose their preference, your list turn rate will automatically reduce drastically. Create a preference center and let the users decide what they want to receive based on their interests and give them some additional options. You can gauge if they are looking to hear from you once a week or once a month. You can give them different parameters like, “Do you want to be subscribed to our newsletter? Do you want to have educational content?” You give them the ability to make a choice.
With preference centers, a lot of people are scared because they think that people are automatically going to unsubscribe. That's not the point of a preference center. It's to deter people from unsubscribing. You can include this at the bottom of emails to encourage that people keep their profiles up to date. It's great and they love options. Another way you can triage, which I probably bring up every few episodes, send triggered emails through segmenting and targeting.
Decrease your churn rate by setting benchmarks, testing the content your audience wants to receive, and iterating them based on what you learn.
You try to segment your database into subgroups based on their interests, total winners, then send a trigger-based email relevant to their interests. If you have a set of people in your database interested in receiving health and wellness-related items, there's no point in sending them an email related to a sport. Remember, the more irrelevant and bad time the email is, the higher your chances of increasing your churn rate. It is so important to look for opportunities where you can move your database into these subgroups and send them on a path that's geared towards educational, timely content in which your product is a natural progression in those emails. Gone are the days of email blasting.
That's what we want to remember when we think about this type of approach. Lastly, if all else fails, ask them what they want. I love feedback loops that live organically within an email. Understanding the cadence and content your subscribers are looking for is key. You can tuck these feedback surveys into an email in a variety of ways but be sure once you get the feedback, you look at the averages and ingest your strategy. In some cases, you can get a survey that's connected directly to the user's profile.
When they update their cadence, for instance, they tell you in the survey they want to receive emails once a month, that can then populate a field inside your email service provider, which then allows you to pull groups based on frequency in your email service providers. If you're using a tool like Klaviyo and you have your lists of people that want to hear from you once a month, once a week, every day, you can start to get those folks organized. For your once-a-month, make that email super impactful. Make sure you are taking in a secondary layer of interests so that you're sending them the content that they want because you only have that one chance but you're also acknowledging the answer that they gave you that feedback. It's so important.
Don't be discouraged. Everyone's always like, “Everybody hates surveys.” They don't. They love giving feedback, especially the younger generations. Make sure you do this but ultimately, the best way to decrease your churn rate is to set benchmarks, test the content your audience wants to receive and iterate based on what you learn. It's easier said than done. I do have a resource or two that can help you flesh out your list churn strategy a little bit more.
One other thing to consider is oftentimes, one of the quickest ways to reduce list churn is by understanding your send times. If all else fails, go ahead and do your testing across every single day of the week and figure out what is your prime time sending times. That alone is going to help you so much because you're going to be getting to the people when they are telling you they want to be opening emails and that can shock you. A lot of times, we assume that we know exactly the best time to send an email. I will tell you time and time again that it is often wrong. My most send time test had a day of the week where 3:00 AM was the best open time. You don't know if you don't test. Get out there and do some testing.
I challenge you to go into your email service provider, whatever tool you're using. Calculate your list churn rate and put some of the tips mentioned into action. Lists churn is the silent campaign killer. Don't lose sight of it. Please let me know how I can help. Shoot me a message over to Conversations@EmailGrowthSociety.com. Until next time. Happy emailing, everyone.