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Email Campaign Advice: How to Scrub an E-Mail List

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E-mail marketing is an essential part of doing business in the modern world. It allows you to reach a large number of people with your marketing message, and it is relatively inexpensive compared to other marketing channels.

However, creating high-converting email campaigns is only half the battle. The other half is making sure your e-mail list is clean, and a major part of that is knowing why, when, and how to properly scrub an email list.

Key Takeaways:

  • Having a clean e-mail list helps you create a better marketing strategy.
  • To have a clean e-mail list, be sure to validate e-mail addresses. Tools and software are available and can be integrated into your own website. 
  • Regularly scrub your e-mail database. Once every 6 months is ideal. 

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What does it mean to scrub an e-mail list?

Scrubbing an e-mail list is like spring cleaning for your marketing campaign. Just like you would declutter your home and get rid of items you no longer need when you scrub an e-mail list, you remove old, outdated, or invalid e-mail addresses.

financial advisor scrubbing email list


8 Benefits of Scrubbing an E-mail List

If you’ve never heard of scrubbing an e-mail list or you’re not sure why it’s important, there’s a good chance you’re not getting the most out of your e-mail marketing campaigns. There are many benefits to scrubbing an e-mail list, but these are the most important:

1. Improve deliverability rates.

Your e-mail deliverability rate is the percentage of e-mails that successfully make it to your recipients’ inboxes. This is an important metric to track because a low deliverability rate can quickly sabotage your e-mail marketing efforts.

Removing inactive subscribers and invalid e-mail addresses from your list can help to improve your deliverability rate and ensure that more of your e-mails are getting through.

This happens because when you send an e-mail to an invalid address, it often bounces back, and if you continue to do this, your IP address could get flagged as a spammer. This can cause deliverability problems for all the e-mail addresses on your list, not just the invalid ones.

2. Keep your sender reputation high.

Your sender reputation is a measure of how likely your e-mails are to be marked as spam. Major e-mail service providers, like Gmail, Yahoo, and Outlook, measure your sender reputation based on factors like the number of e-mails you send, the number of people who mark your e-mails as spam, and the number of bounced e-mails that come from your list.

Scrubbing your e-mail list reduces the chances that you’ll get flagged as a spammer. One reason is that it helps to improve your deliverability rate (as we just discussed). The other reason is that it removes e-mail addresses that are likely to mark your e-mails as spam.

3. Save time and money on e-mail marketing.

E-mail marketing is a very cost-effective way to reach your target audience, but only when you have a clean e-mail list. Otherwise, you’re wasting time and money on inactive subscribers that will never convert.

To increase your ROI, you need to make sure you’re only sending e-mails to subscribers who actually want to receive them. Unlike inactive subscribers, these people care about what you say, which in turn, makes them more likely to convert.

4. Increase open rates and click-through rates.

Open rates and click-through rates are two of the most important metrics to track for any e-mail marketing campaign. They tell you how many people are actually reading your e-mails and taking action.

Failing to scrub your e-mail list can skew your analytics and make it difficult to accurately measure your campaign’s performance. This is because invalid e-mail addresses often result in hard bounces, which are counted as failed deliveries. In turn, the data from your e-mail marketing campaign will be less accurate, and you won’t be able to properly optimize your campaigns for better results.

5. Get more active subscribers.

This may seem counterintuitive, but scrubbing your e-mail list can actually help you to grow it. When you remove bad e-mail addresses and inactive subscribers, you make room for new, high-quality active subscribers.

The benefits cascade, too. The more subscribers you have, the more people you can reach with your e-mail marketing campaigns. The better your sender reputation,  the more likely people are to open and click through your e-mails. The higher your deliverability rate, the more of your e-mails actually make it to people’s inboxes. Eventually, that means more leads, a stronger bottom line, and a healthier business.

6. Support your greater digital marketing campaign.

E-mail is just one part of your digital marketing campaign, and it should be working in tandem with the rest of your efforts. For example, if you’re running a social media campaign, you can use e-mail to drive people to your social media pages. Or if you’re running a blog, you can use e-mail to promote your latest blog post.

The positive effect of a healthy e-mail list will ripple throughout your entire digital marketing campaign, helping you to achieve better results overall.

7. Avoid landing in the spam folder and getting spam complaints.

One of the worst things that can happen to your e-mail marketing campaign is to get reported for spam. This happens when someone clicks the “mark as spam” button in their e-mail client. For instance, they may have accidentally subscribed to your list or they may no longer be interested in your content. Either way, your e-mails will end up in their spam folder.

Whatever the reason, spam complaints can ruin your sender reputation and make it very difficult to reach your target audience. Scrubbing your e-mail list helps to protect you from spam complaints by removing unwanted or inactive subscribers.

8. Avoid getting blacklisted.

Getting blacklisted is every e-mail marketer’s nightmare. It happens when your IP address or domain name is added to a blacklist, which is basically a list of known spammers and their internet service providers. Once you’re on a blacklist, it’s nearly impossible to get off of it.

Your deliverability rate plummets, your e-mails bounce back, and your sender reputation is shot. In short, it completely ruins your e-mail marketing campaign. The good news is that regularly scrubbing your e-mail list is an easy and effective way to avoid landing on the dreaded blacklist.


financial advisor checking email addresses


How to Tell If You Have a Clean E-mail List

The benefits of scrubbing your e-mail list are clear, but what does a “clean” e-mail list look like in the first place? How can you tell if your e-mail list is in good shape or needs a little TLC? Here are a few key indicators:

1. Low bounce rate

Your bounce rate is the percentage of bounced e-mails out of the total number of e-mails you’ve sent. A “bounce” is when an e-mail can’t be delivered for some reason. There are two types of bounces: soft and hard. A soft bounce is when an e-mail bounces back because the mailbox is full or the server is down. These are usually temporary problems that can be resolved with a little patience.

A hard bounce is when an e-mail bounces back because the e-mail address is invalid. This could be because the subscriber typed in their e-mail address incorrectly, or it could be because the e-mail address no longer exists. Hard bounces are permanent and can’t be fixed. Either way, a low bounce rate tells you that your e-mail subscribers are active and that your e-mails are getting delivered.

2. High deliverability and open rate

You can write the snappiest, most engaging e-mails in the world, but they’re useless if no one’s reading them in the first place. That’s why high deliverability and high open rates are the ultimate goals of any e-mail marketer.

First, you want your e-mails to land in people’s inboxes. Not in their promotional tab, their spam folder, or the black hole of their e-mail client. Reaching someone’s inbox is like striking gold: it automatically makes your e-mail look trustworthy and increases the chances that it will be read. This is what your deliverability rate is all about.

Second, your open rate is exactly what it sounds like: the percentage of people who open your e-mail out of the total number of people who received it. Let’s say you have a list of 1,000 subscribers and you send out an e-mail. If 200 people open it, then your open rate is 20%. The higher your open rate, the better.

These two figures depend heavily on how clean or healthy your e-mail list is. High rates for deliverability and opens are only possible if your e-mail subscribers are active and engaged, both of which can only happen if you remove bad addresses and inactive subscribers from your list on a regular basis.

3. Low unsubscribe rate

No matter how great your e-mails are, some people will always unsubscribe. It’s an inevitable part of e-mail marketing. However, you don’t want your unsubscribe rate to be too high. This could mean a few things:

  • Your e-mail content isn’t relevant to your subscribers
  • You’re bombarding them with too many e-mails
  • Your e-mail design is hard to read or navigate
  • Your e-mails are going to the wrong subscribers

The last one is the easiest to remedy by simply removing those bad addresses from your e-mail list. The other issues might take a little more work to fix, but it’s worth it in the long run.

4. A happier e-mail subscriber base

Last but not least, a healthy e-mail list will lead to happier subscribers. If your active subscribers are regularly getting e-mails that are relevant to their interests and that they enjoy reading, they’re much less likely to unsubscribe or mark your e-mails as spam. This can also turn them into warm leads that are more likely to convert into paying customers.

Related Read: Appointment Setting for Financial Advisors: 12 Tips to Succeed

scam emails


How to Identify a “Bad” E-mail Address

If you’ve never scrubbed your e-mail list before, it can be tricky to tell which addresses need to go. Here are some clues:

  • The e-mail address is invalid or incomplete
  • Inactive subscribers never open or click your e-mails
  • The e-mail address looks like a bot account
  • The subscriber always marks your e-mails as spam
  • The subscriber has previously attempted to unsubscribe from your list
  • The user has complained about your e-mails
  • They’ve previously reported one of your e-mails as spam
  • Inactive subscribers never interact with you in any way on other channels (e.g., social media, your website, etc.)

These are all pretty clear signs that you should be getting rid of an e-mail address on your list.

3 Useful Tools for Scrubbing Your E-mail List

Scrubbing your e-mail list is important, but it’s also a tedious, time-consuming, and technical process. There are several tools you can use to automate the process and make it easier on yourself or whoever’s in charge of identifying active and inactive subscribers.

1. E-mail validation tools

The first step in scrubbing your e-mail list is to validate each address to make sure it’s a real, working e-mail address. E-mail validation tools are designed to do just that. They take your list of e-mail addresses and run them through a series of tests to determine which ones are valid and which ones aren’t.

2. E-mail list cleaning services

E-mail list cleaning services are similar to an e-mail validation service, but they often offer a more comprehensive suite of features. In addition to validating e-mail addresses, they can also help you remove duplicate e-mail addresses, find and fix typos, and verify that each address is associated with a real person.

3. E-mail deliverability tools

E-mail deliverability tools are designed to help you improve your chances of getting your e-mails delivered to the inbox. They can do things like monitor your e-mail sender reputation, analyze your e-mail content, and help you avoid getting flagged as spam. These tools complement e-mail list cleaning services and can help you to further improve your e-mail strategy.

There are tons of free and paid tools out there, so it’s just a matter of finding the right one for your needs.

Related Read: 9 Ways to Improve Email Conversion Rates


financial advisors scrub email list


How to Scrub an E-mail List: Step-by-Step Guide

Finally, let’s get into the nitty-gritty of how to scrub an e-mail list. It’s actually easier than you probably think:

1. Export your e-mail list.

The first step is to export your e-mail list from your e-mail marketing software. This will give you a CSV or Excel file with all of your e-mail subscribers’  addresses.

2. Run your e-mail list through an e-mail validation tool.

As we mentioned before, e-mail validation tools are designed to identify valid e-mail addresses. The goal here is to flag any invalid or incomplete addresses so you can remove them from your list.

3. Delete bad e-mail addresses and inactive subscribers.

Once you’ve identified which e-mail addresses are invalid, it’s time to delete them from your list. Make sure to do this carefully so you don’t accidentally delete any good addresses. You can also use a tool to automatically delete invalid addresses for you.

4. Run your e-mail list through an e-mail list cleaning service.

Once the bad addresses are gone, you can run your e-mail list through an e-mail list cleaning service. This will help you to remove any duplicates, find and fix typos, and verify that each address is associated with a real person.

5. Verify your e-mail content.

After you’ve cleaned up your e-mail list, it’s also a good idea to verify your e-mail content. This will help you to ensure that your e-mails are compliant with spam laws and that they’re not likely to get flagged as spam. This also gives you the chance to re-engage inactive subscribers while taking care of newly added e-mail addresses.

6. Implement an e-mail deliverability tool.

Finally, you can implement an e-mail deliverability tool to help you further improve your chances of getting your e-mails delivered to the inbox. This can be a great compliment to an e-mail list cleaning service and can help you take your e-mail marketing to the next level.

Related Read: 10 Best Apps for Financial Advisors in 2022


email deliverability tool


How Often Should You Scrub Your E-mail List?

Scrubbing your e-mail list should be a regular part of your e-mail marketing strategy. How often you need to scrub your list will depend on a few factors, including how often you add new subscribers and how engaged your list is.

At a minimum, you should scrub your e-mail list every six months. This will help you to keep your list clean and up-to-date so you can continue to reach your subscribers with relevant, targeted content.

Of course, if you’re noticing a lot of invalid e-mail addresses or you’re having trouble getting your e-mails delivered to the inbox, you may need to scrub your list more frequently.

How to Create a Clean E-mail List in the First Place

While you can’t prevent bad e-mail addresses from getting onto your list, there are a few things you can do to reduce the number of invalid addresses. Here are a few tips:

1. Use double opt-in

When someone signs up for your e-mail list, send them a confirmation e-mail that they need to click on to confirm their subscription. This does two things: it ensures that the person actually wants to be on your list, and it verifies their e-mail address at the same time.

2. Use a lead capture form

When you’re collecting e-mail addresses, consider using a lead capture form on your website. This extra step will help to ensure that people are actually typing in their own e-mail address, rather than just copying and pasting it from somewhere else. This also helps you gather additional information about your subscribers, which can be used to segment your list.

3. Keep your sign-up forms short

The shorter your sign-up forms, the less likely people are to make a mistake. So, ask for only the information that you absolutely need and make it as easy as possible for people to sign up.

Wrapping It Up

Your e-mail marketing strategy depends on your subscriber base. Regularly cleaning up your list means you only keep your target audience – those who enjoy what you have to say, care about your brand and are interested in the services and products you have to offer them.

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