Why to Prune Your Email Lists – and How to Do It

Ethan Beute, BombBomb, Chief Evangelist, The Customer Experience Podcast, Wall Street Journal bestseller, Human-Centered Communication, Rehumanize Your Business.

Ethan Beute

Former Chief Evangelist
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June 22, 2016

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Every year, I cut my Russian Sage way, way back. And every year, it grows in more full than ever.

Just as we need to prune and thin our trees, hedges, and gardens to keep them healthy, we need to pare down our email lists.

BombBomb already makes sure that people who can’t or don’t want to receive your email won’t. These are invalid addresses, people who opted out, and – worst – people who marked your email spam or abuse.

But there’s another type of problematic email recipient in your lists. And we’re helping you find him or her more effectively.

Here’s a new tool for you – and how and why to use it.

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Russian Sage & Honey Bee, Robert Lyle Bolton, Flickr, CC BY 2.0


Why to Prune Your Email Lists

Have you ever noticed this in Facebook? When you like, comment, or click through a post, you start seeing more of that person’s or page’s posts.

The more you engage, the more you see.

But it doesn’t always last. If you stop engaging, they start disappearing from your feed.

At a very high level, email is moving in a similar direction.

Just as Facebook tracks everything you do, every email open, link click, and video play of the people in your email lists is tracked. Real interest is demonstrated through real, tracked behavior.


Email success in the future will be increasingly based on engagement.

Successful delivery of email is based on you and on your email provider (BombBomb!).

We’re actively maintaining our white-list reputation every day. We’re one of just dozens of white-listed services in the world.

But your good name and your domain reputation also come into play.


Sending to those opt-out, invalid, and abused addresses in your email lists is bad for you – it sullies your reputation and inhibits good delivery. The Gmails, Yahoos, Hotmails, AOLs, and Comcasts of the world don’t like you to have any of them in your sends.

That’s why BombBomb automatically manages those for you in the background.

Increasingly, sending to unengaged recipients is also bad for you. The Gmails, Yahoos, Hotmails, AOLs, and Comcasts of the world don’t like you to have a high share of non-opens in your sends.

So we built you a new tool to help you prune.


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pruned rose, Bob Jenkins, Flickr, CC BY 2.0


How to Prune Your Email Lists – Unengaged Contacts

If you’ve sent 3 or more emails to a person who’s been in one or more of your email lists in 6 at least months and they’ve never opened any of them, they’re unengaged.

These people are now in your Unengaged Contacts list.

If they decide to open an email you’ve already sent, they’re automatically removed from the list. Based on these criteria, then, it’s obviously a dynamic email list.


If you have 20 or more Unengaged Contacts, an alert appears at the top of your account.

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You can see them in your Unengaged Contacts list in the “Lists” tab of your account.

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Click into the list for details.

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Go into the “Tools” for that list by clicking the gear icon.


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Use the “Opt-In Campaign” to prune your unengaged contacts.

You can use the default email copy – or edit it to be specific to your emails and email lists.

If you edit it, be sure to include these 3 details about your emails:

  • The specific type of emails you’re sending
  • How those emails can help them
  • How often they’ll get those emails

Beyond providing benefit to you, your email metrics, and your email delivery, you’re doing this as a courtesy to the people in your email lists. Offer it to them as such.


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After you “Send Campaign,” people can opt-in to continue receiving your emails and video emails.

After 72 hours, people who don’t opt-in will go to your Suppression List. If any of those people opt-in at any time after that, they’re removed from Suppression and will continue to receive your emails and video emails.

The results of your campaign will be sent to you by email and be displayed in the Tools of your Unengaged Contacts list.


1280Yard 1 1 | BombBomb
From Unsplash


Healthier Email Lists

Just as your trees, shrubs, and gardens are helped through pruning and thinning, so too are your email lists. And your email metrics.

You’ll see your open rates climb and your email delivery will improve.


If you’re thinking to yourself: I’m losing people from my email lists.

Know: you don’t “have them” – they’re not opening. Their real behavior says “your email is not important or valuable to me.”

And empathize: as easy as it is to delete emails, you don’t want to delete any more than you have to. Don’t make your recipients do it, either. Just as you’ve benefitted from others letting you go from their lists, you can benefit others with your own.


1280PinesLodgepole 1 | BombBomb
From Unsplash



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