With the new year upon us, you may be mulling over what your New Year’s resolutions are going to be in 2019. Maybe you’re committing to hitting the gym 3 times a week. Maybe you want to learn a language, deepen a skill, or make a new friend.

If you’re raising money through email – and you definitely should be – I have another suggestion for you: resolve to practice better list hygiene.

First: What is list hygiene?

List hygiene is a series of practices that you use to keep your email list healthy – that is, to make sure it’s populated with high-quality subscribers. A healthy list will have better KPIs and a stronger sender reputation. This ensures better inbox placement, improved deliverability, and fewer compliance issues.

Put another way: To keep your body healthy, you brush your teeth, eat your veggies, and go to the gym. To keep your email list healthy, you reactivate inactive folks, clean out dead weight, and test to optimize engagement.

Step 1: Set your benchmark

Start by figuring out what “inactive” means to you. That might mean setting a threshold based on recent campaigns (ie, didn’t engage with the last 10 emails), behaviour (ie, opened but didn’t click) or a period of time (ie, didn’t engage in the past 30 days).

Then, calculate what proportion of your list falls into that Inactive category. That’s your starting point. Your goal is to decrease that segment of people, either by reactivating them or cleaning them out of your list.

A word of warning: list hygiene can, and should, mean that your list size decreases slightly. But it’s because you’re getting rid of folks who had already emotionally unsubscribed to you – they just hadn’t done it physically yet! I wrote about the beauty of unsubscribes here if you want to learn more.

Step 2: Reactivate inactive subscribers

Next, send an email (or develop a drip campaign) to your inactive subscribers. You can take a variety of strategies here: you can tempt subscribers with a super-appealing value-add, give them an opportunity to manage communication preferences, or straight-up ask them if they want off your list. Either way, this email should be completely focused on getting them to re-engage, so don’t dilute it with multiple asks.

Now, wait and see what happens. Folks who re-engage (and that will mean different things, depending on how you defined the Inactive segment) should be fed back into your broader list. But folks who don’t should be removed for good, so you aren’t sending to dead addresses and compromising your sender reputation.

Step 3: Enter list hygiene maintenance mode

Just like brushing your teeth and going to the gym, you have to keep doing list hygiene. Check in on your benchmark and see how much this first attempt as moved the needle. Then, develop and implement a regular reactivation cycle, so you’re constantly cleaning out dead weight.

At the same time, keep on testing each and every email. Identify what topics resonate well with your list, optimize your template for clicks and conversions, and don’t be afraid to try something new. A strong testing plan will help you improve your overall email quality, which in turn increases engagement and reduces inactivity in your list.

Those are our three steps to a healthy, clean email list in 2019! Are you going to take the list hygiene challenge? Let us know!