We deleted 202,837 subscribers from our email list

How big is your email list?

Well, it’s smaller than you think.

I used to be blown away whenever any of my fellow entrepreneurs told me about their 100k+ email lists. 100k subscribers? This guy made it! He clearly owns a fleet of private jets.

4 years later we decided to delete 202,837 subscribers from our email list at DOYOUYOGA.COM.

Why would anyone in their right mind do that?

Well… couple of things.

If you’ve been growing your email list for more than a year and haven’t deleted any of your subscribers, you’re an idiot. Believe me, I know, I was that idiot for the past 4 years.

Let me ‘splain it.

I know that letting go of your hard earned subscribers might seem odd, but the truth is that your subscriber count doesn’t matter what so ever.

The only thing that matters is the amount (or percentage) of people that perform whatever call-to-action you send them. Most likely we’re talking about clicks here. On rare occasions it could also be responding to your emails.

Now, we don’t want to be too harsh to ourselves and even though the real goal is an action, let’s just say that simply opening an email would be enough for us to assume that this subscriber will click at some point in the future.

Okay, so let me rephrase that question I asked at the beginning of this post. Since we don’t care about list size. How high is your open rate?

If your answer is less than 100% and your email list is older than six months AND you haven’t deleted any of your subscribers yet, you’re making a mistake.

Let’s me tell you a story that makes clear why…

We use Mailchimp for email marketing (not a fan, by the way).

Three years ago the open rate for the weekly DOYOUYOGA newsletter was above 40%. Two years ago we were getting a solid 35% open rate, which is still insanely high, considering that we had over 200k subscribers back then.

By late 2016 our open rate had dropped down to 25% without us ever having changed any major variables in our email marketing. Minus 10%. WTF?

We get 2 spam complaints per 100k emails, so we knew that wasn’t the problem.

We started digging into this. We surveyed hundreds of subscribers, asking them why they didn’t open our newsletters anymore and if there’s anything we could do better.

The result of our survey was a massive surprise to me.

Almost everyone who responded said that they loved our newsletter. They’d love to open it. But they couldn’t, because they stoped receiving it.

What. The. Fudge?

So I talked to my buddy Brian Dean during a game of Magic the Gathering. He told me that he removes over 30% of his subscribers within a few months if they don’t open any of his emails. If you don’t open his emails, he basically punishes you by removing you from his list.

I was pretty stunned.

It took me a few months of messing around with our email deliverability to realize that Brian is not only handsome as fuck, but also 100% right about this whole email thing.

If you don’t keep your email ist clean, you’re actually getting fucked two ways.

Every subscriber that rides along on your list without ever opening any of your emails lowers your overall email list deliverability. The reputation of your email list dwindles with every in-active subscriber.

So not only do you not get opens from the people who are in-active, but more and more of those who would actually love to see your emails stop seeing them because your email list is on the shit list of more and more email providers (like Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo, …).

If you have 5,000 subscribers that probably doesn’t really matter, but as your list grows this aspect becomes very relevant.

And that’s how we ended up deleting over 200k subscribers from our list.

I’m gonna add one more thing.

Many of those who clean up their lists on a regular basis run re-engagement campaigns to try and get those lost subscribers back. It might be worth trying this with subscribers as they flake out, but if you’re considering to run a big re-engagement campaign with 50k subscribers that have accumulated over the past years, you probably won’t see much of an effect.

Instead, you could consider automatically adding everyone who hasn’t opened the last 4-5 emails to a separate list, then try to re-engage those a bit more aggressively. This second list will serve as a layer between active and deleted subscribers.

Happy cleaning.

By the way, once you’ve cleaned up the list, I highly recommend checking out G-Lock and SendForensics (I’m not affiliated with them what so ever), which are both killer tools to help you figure out if and why your emails don’t make it into your subscribers’ inbox.

Why I bootstrap (because data)

Aaah, the world of startups. Angels, unicorns, and people pivoting. While I’m a big fan of pivoting, I’ve always been a skeptic when it comes to building businesses by the classic silicon valley startup formula. That is: Create business idea – Get VC funding – Fuck around – Fail.

Hardly any startups ever make it. Their products suck. I mean, I understand that it’s part of the game. Lots of little losers and a few big winners. From a VC standpoint I totally get it. But I don’t understand why an entrepreneur (whatever that means) would want to build a business this way.

I try to make decisions based on data, especially when it comes to building something that is used by many people. A business decision that’s not backed by data or experience is almost always a gamble. Thus, considering a business or product successful before having generated any data is somewhat irrational. Which brings me back to the rate of failing vs. successful startups.

It seems to me that most startups fail because they are built based on theory. Not data. Not experience. Not organic growth. A successful pitch to a VC doesn’t validate an idea. Throwing money at an early stage idea doesn’t make it more feasible in practice. At the same time, it seems that raising capital and spending it creates the illusion of validity. Yet, the underlying economics don’t change. As long as there is no data, any decision will automatically lack reason. Instead, it will be based on hope.

Bootstrapping a business is different. You don’t have any money. You don’t have any believers. You don’t have any fake validation. Nobody cares about you. In fact, many people will look down at you. And that’s exactly what I like about bootstrapping. Building a business in a hostile environment like this makes you strong. You’re not being pampered. Nobody tells you what to do. You’re forced to focus on what really matters to make your product more successful.

And the only thing that matters is data.

Books

I’m the world’s slowest reader. I mean, it’s not just that I read really slowly, I also re-read every other sentence. It takes me ages to finish a book. In order to get some books done nevertheless, I separate my reading into two categories: casual and functional. Most of my casual reading is fiction stuff that I read on my kindle. It helps me switch off my brain. My functional reading, on the other side, is purpose-driven. And since I don’t want to spend three months reading a book on productivity, I use Audible.

So granted, I don’t technically read a lot, but I do absorb a few books every month. I especially liked these ones recently:

Pitch Anything by Oren Klaff

The Obstacle Is The Way by Ryan Holiday

The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien

I’m hooked to synthwave

I listen to music all day. Up until a few months ago there were only two genres on my playlist: heavy metal (Iron Maiden, Dio, White Wizzard) and classical (Vivaldi, Dvorak, Grieg). I found a third one recently.

I came across synthwave through a band called Power Glove. Their album Blood Dragon blew my mind. Here are some other bands that did: Kalax, Moondragon, Mitch Murder.

Oh yeah, and then there’s this.

I use a pair of Bose in-ear noise canceling headphones and Spotify or Soundcloud to discover and play my music.

Going to concerts

I don’t like large accumulations of humans. I avoid long queues and music festivals like the plaque. I do like to see my favorite bands live though. So while I do not enjoy the masses of people, I go to concerts quite a lot. Especially when I’m in Berlin.

In the past couple of months I had the chance to see a few concerts that I loved: Iron Maiden, Major Lazer, Battle Beast, Helloween, GammaRay, to name a few.

Go to concerts. Spotify is great, but it’s nothing compared to seeing a band live. It’s also better than staring at a screen or doing nothing.