why I removed 83,000 emails from my list – and you should too! – WAU

This article is a translation of ConversioXL’s blog post Why I Unsubscribed 83,000 emails (and Think You Should, Too). If you are an email marketer, chances are that most of the articles you read are about growing your email list, increasing your open rate, clicks, etc. […]

This article is a translation of ConversioXL’s blog post Why I Unsubscribed 83,000 emails (and Think You Should, Too).

If you are an email marketer, chances are that most of the articles you read are about growing your email list, increasing your open rate, clicks, etc.

But what if your list is growing thanks to all these tips but all your conversion rates and clicks are decreasing?

Are you doing something wrong? Not necessarily.

The thing is: Leads grow old. They become disinterested in their offers for a number of reasons (changing jobs, finding better products, etc.).

Or maybe they just don’t look at emails.

It is natural that the opening rate will drop over time. You continue to add new emails but as a result the number of inactive emails also grows.

So what should we do with these inactive emails? Keep them on the list, try to reactivate them or remove them all?

We removed them all.

Read on to find out how we did it.

Background: Growing pains

Pipedrive is growing fast (we recently reached 3000 paying consumers) and so is our Newsletter email list.

To tell you the truth, the growth has been so great that our credits at Mailchimp are over.

But that’s it. As much as we marketers like to see our email list grow, there are also negative points:

  • It is more expensive to send each email, even with the price dropping by email;
  • Inactive leads lower our delivery rate and end up interfering with our metrics;

Check out our post on the main marketing metrics to not get lost in the subject!

These points are more frequent with sales leads (prospects) who, in most cases in our case, were people who signed up for Pipedrive but never became paying consumers.

As they don’t actively use Pipedrive they don’t update their information either. And, of course, most of these emails are hard bounced. (emails no longer exist)

This leads email servers like Gmail and Yahoo to think that our emails should no longer be in the inboxes, but in the trash or marked as spam.

So I decided to do something about these inactive leads.

Why is clearing your list necessary?

I have three main reasons for clearing a list.

1. We are spending money

Each time we are sending a Newsletter we pay the sending server a small amount per contact.

Having weekly newsletters and a growing list causes expenses to increase rapidly, consequently.

2. Dead leads take the list’s reputation down

This is difficult to measure, but we are sure that it does. Email servers look at the hard bounce rate and the interactivity patterns (whether emails were opened or not, etc.) and assign a certain note to that.

The lower the grade, the less likely you are to be in the inbox.

Check out our list of the best digital marketing tools that will make your life easier!

Additionally when we look at the rate of complaints consumers x leads, most come from leads.

Unsurprisingly, the a higher rate of unsubscribers also comes from leads.

3. Biased statistics

Having dead leads also skew statistics. The most influenced metrics are the open and click rates.

It seems that in just one year, opening rates have fallen by 25%. WOAH

Our Newsletter probably sucks. Take it easy, it’s not like that. In fact it is quite normal.

In fact when we compare the statistics with other end time tests we can see that the drop is even greater:

There is already a sharp drop (50%) in the click rate among users with whom testing ended a month ago and between 1-2 months. However, the opening rate fell more slowly.

Looking a little deeper into our data, it became clear that during the past 3 months, only a fifth of our leads opened our emails.

Obviously there are those who we would like to keep on the list.

The rest we would like to reactivate or remove from the list completely if they are not interested in our content or product anymore.

newsletter guide

The objectives of our reactivation campaign

So our goals became very clear …

1. Transform inactive leads into active leads

Before we think about excluding anyone from the list, we should make a final effort to win them back. That was our main objective.

2. Keep the list clean for a better delivery rate

If the leads are not active we should remove them from the list. Nobody likes to keep receiving emails that are not relevant.

3. Reduce spending

And obviously we are not interested in spending money sending emails to people who are not interested.

How to do a reactivation campaign

The search

Before I even thought about the reactivation campaign, I wanted to see what the research showed. To be honest, there is a lot of good research out there. And I found some good ones.

Here are some notes I took from a Return Path blog post on the subject:

  • One email is not enough (inboxes are too full)
  • Wait for email responses for longer than usual.
  • Get out of normal calls and content to get more people’s attention.

Aaron Beach from Sendgrid has a good point too – start testing the content in the most engaged segment and only move on to the least engaged segment if that content performs better than normal.

If you think about it, this is the only way to test email headings, for example. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have enough information.

Leads Reactivation Campaign

Our campaign plan

Equipped with some research, we started thinking about the campaign with Kair, our Costumer Lifestyle manager.

In the end, we basically followed the line below:

Special content pieces

Firstly, we thought about why the user would be inactive and what content he could have already received from us.

So the content was basically split in two – what she may have missed with Pipedrive (and to remind you who we are) and content targeting different points in the customer journey.

We also continued to send our Newsletter while the campaign was underway.

Special offers for reactivation

Most of these people had already tested our software in a free trial, so we wanted to give them a special offer.

Launch of new software functions

Since they had already tested the software a few years ago, we had to show that a lot has changed.

There was already an email that talked about Pipedrive changes and updates, but we felt that the launch of new features would make the special offer (one more month free to use Pipedrive) more attractive. So we organized for the campaign to coincide with the release of new statistics.

Removing inactive subscribers

Now comes the cleaning part.

If until that time (these contacts had been receiving special content for a month) they still hadn’t reacted, then we sent a simple message saying that we were planning to unsubscribe them, but that they could continue on the list if they wanted to.

If they still didn’t respond, we removed them.

The results

1. 9,000 people reactivated

It is a little difficult to say whether this number is good or bad, since we have never had a reactivation campaign before. But we can say that we are very happy with this result.

2. 83,000 people removed

Yes, these people never responded (nor did they open emails). So we remove them.

3. Reduced costs

Emailing 83,000 people takes money. Of course it depends on your email triggering software, but eventually that number can cost thousands of dollars a year.

4. Many inscriptions

Not only did we get 9,000 people reactivated, but most of those people re-enrolled and decided to give Pipedrive another chance.

Lessons we learned from our reactivation campaign

Although we are happy with our results, there are definitely things that we could have done better.

1. Keep segments simple

One thing I did was create several segments for our leads (even with inactive leads) to measure how they reacted.

I still think it was a valid decision, but it also gave us a lot more work and a headache.

2. Have the content before

We gave the content team a few weeks to create several pieces of relevant content.

Some were planned to arrive during the campaign. In some cases, even so it was not enough.

It is best to always start the campaign when all content is ready.

3. Keep separate from product launches

Product launches mean that you and the content team are going to be very busy. In addition to the fact that releases are almost always postponed.

So dealing with that and firing newsletters regularly can make things very stressful.

4. Less is more

At first we thought we could handle paid social media campaigns (especially retargeting).

Dealing with many segments and messages did not let us coordinate the social and SEM campaigns.

So, we concluded that keeping things simple can lead to better results, since you can include more teams and channels in your campaign.

Extra tips for cleaning your lists

1. Redirect disabled emails

Something you can consider is saving the deactivated emails to retarget on other channels, such as Facebook, Linkedin and Adwords, using, for example, AdRoll.

Considering that these people disconnected from the brand, until we got a good result.

2. Automate cleaning

You probably don’t want to have to do this whole campaign every 3 months, you want it automated.

For example, if a lead hasn’t opened their emails for 3 months, send them a reactivation email and if she doesn’t react, unsubscribe her automatically.

This will keep your list clean and save you time.

sales and marketing automation

3. Send the email again to those who have not opened

Remember I told you that the inboxes are always full? So, don’t hesitate to send the email again.

But keep two things in mind:

  • Use a different title
  • Allow enough time for the first email to open

A warning: The opening of emails is only registered when the recipient downloads a special invisible image (which is placed by the email shooting software).

However if the download of the image is blocked or does not happen (when the internet is slow, for example) the email may have been opened but the action was not registered.

This means that there are always people who open your emails but you cannot see them in the statistics.

4. Reuse content

You can even reuse the content you have created. We, for example, use ours in our onboarding series.

A step-by-step guide for cleaning and reactivating

Here is a step-by-step guide for cleaning, along with comments / questions:

1. Do the research

  • Where and how did your leads sign up?
  • Why are they inactive?
  • What content do they expect?
  • What content has performed better in the past?

2. Segment your list

  • Target your inactive leads
  • Would it make sense to continue segmenting vertically, geographically, by product, title, etc …?

3. Produce content

  • Must match the segment
  • Multiply emails if possible
  • Good content, out of the ordinary

4. Validate and submit

  • Validate content quality with the most active segment list
  • Good, unusual titles
  • Give them a good time to react
  • Resubmit the same content with different titles to those who haven’t opened

5. Send a special offer

  • What can you do to give that special boost?
  • If possible, along with product updates

6. Send a reconfirmation

  • Ask permission again, politely
  • Give frequency settings and content types

7. Remove the inactive ones

8. Use inactive ones for retargeting

  • Consider using inactive emails for retargeting

9. Automate or repeat

  • Automate if your email triggering software allows, or repeat the process


Reactivating cold leads and removing those that are frozen is a great one if you want to:

  • Cut your spending
  • Have more emails delivered
  • Have better sales opportunities
  • Improve your metrics

We would like to know what you think in the comments below!

Want to learn more about email marketing? Read our Email Marketing post: Everything you need to know!