Subscriber Management: How to Start, Maintain, and Break Up


For 2022, Webbula is launching a series of blog posts about email deliverability topics. We have a variety of esteemed authors from the email industry lined up to participate. 

  • Email Opt-Ins: It's All About Consent In the End by Matthew Vernhout. Read it here. 
  • Email Authentication 101: What It Is And Why It Is Important For Brand Reputation by Yanna-Torry Aspraki. Read it here. 
  • Why Blocklists Make Us Better Email Marketers by Andrew Kordek. Read it
  • IP Warming - Do It Right or Do it Twice by Amanda Jackson. Read it

Watch the discussion! 


Your subscribers are everything when it comes to your email list. After all, without them, you have no email marketing program. So why do we often forget that our subscribers are everything after the onboarding or acquisition of subscribers?  

Maintaining a solid email subscriber relationship with proper subscriber management practices is critical, and we need to treat our subscribers with the respect they deserve. So how do we go about keeping that healthy subscriber relationship? It starts with acquisition. Someone provides you with a bit of insight into their life by giving you their email address. 

You start with a clean, healthy subscriber relationship if you follow good data collection practices. But it goes beyond that. 

Think about your email welcome series the same way as giving your phone number to someone for a date. You want the person to call. 

The same is said for someone who has given you their email address and subscribed to your emails. Your new subscriber expects to receive something and something soon and begin their relationship with your brand. It also helps you weed out those just checking you out vs. those genuinely interested in your brand.

The relationship brands have with email subscribers takes time to build, needs to be maintained, and sometimes breakups are the healthiest thing for both parties.


Starting the relationship

A welcome email and a welcome series are some of the best ways to ensure that you set the stage for a good relationship with your subscribers. If your subscribers don't engage with you at the start of the relationship, chances are they never will. A welcome/onboarding series should always be about brand introduction, why a subscriber should continue to follow your brand, and why they should purchase from you vs. one of your many competitors. 

Your welcome series is your moment to shine, the first impression. We all know you can't ever make a second first impression, so treat your welcome/onboarding series that way. 

Additionally, take time to get to your subscribers. This can help you when working on that long-term engagement strategy. 

After the welcome/onboard series, marketers often get so caught up in the email creatives and strategies and forget it is really about our subscribers and what they want. 


Maintaining The Relationship

Your list is made up of many different types of subscribers. You have new subscribers, loyal/engaged subscribers, and unengaged subscribers. You also have subscribers in different time zones. Each group has a different relationship with your list.

Treating each type of subscriber differently is the best way to maintain that relationship. Subscribers are smart and they know what they want and expect brands to understand that, too. Relationships aren’t always easy, especially the ones with your subscribers.


Here are two easy tips to help with maintaining the relationship

  1. Utilize the data you have. At a minimum click, data allows you to see what interests your subscribers if you have purchaser data even better.
  2. Get to know your subscribers. While location data will be more challenging to infer with MPP, you can attempt to get your subscribers to share this data with you through a survey or preference center. This way, you aren’t sending them emails about the snow while it is 80 degrees at their location.


The Breakup or Maybe Just a Break

One of the debates I see among both brands and email marketing professionals is when to purge or if you should purge email subscribers from your list. A lot of this depends on the nature of your business. Whether or not you choose to break up with your subscriber is entirely a business decision. 

If you are a retail business, you might not want to purge subscribers, especially if there is seasonality to your business. If you are a restaurant, there is something to be said about just being seen in the inbox, whether or not there is subscriber engagement. 

However, remember that not purging unengaged email subscribers likely is costing you with your ESP, and that budget might be better used elsewhere. If you aren't ready to break up with unengaged subscribers, consider segmenting and doing frequency testing to see if that will help. There might also not be a good reason to keep subscribers who are silently telling you they don't want to hear from you even if they aren’t taking the action of unsubscribing.  


The Bottom Line… 

Respect your subscribers no matter where you are in the relationship. 

Ensure that your strategy considers all phases of the relationship. Showing your subscribers that you respect them and their engagement with your brand is the best way to maintain a healthy relationship.


Meet the Author

Elizabeth Jacobi,

Digital Marketing Email Strategist, and Founder of MochaBear Marketing

Elizabeth Jacobi brings over 20 years of email marketing, digital marketing strategy, and program management experience.  She is the founder of MochaBear Marketing at a small boutique consulting firm that successfully works with clients to design and execute strategies that consider all areas of digital marketing (email, social, web). At the core, it is still about email marketing, as that is the most effective marketing channel to retain a customer. However, with the complexities of the digital space today, an email strategy must work with all areas of marketing.

 Before starting MochaBear Marketing, Elizabeth led the marketing technology efforts for a CRM agency, spent 8 years at CheetahMail, and launched the email marketing program for Paramount Digital Entertainment. 

 Elizabeth served on the Board of Directors for the Pacific Palisades Chamber of Commerce and is an active member of the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce and LAX Coastal Chamber.   Most recently, Elizabeth joined the OI Email Metrics Project.


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