The Ultimate Email List Management Guide For Small & Medium Businesses

How many newsletters, product updates, and emails are you signed up for? Probably a lot.. a lot more than I can imagine or you can keep track of.  

Let me ask if any of this sounds familiar? 

Being a busy marketer, you don’t have time to read every email. Whenever you come across anything irrelevant, you unsubscribe from your emails. 

You didn’t unsubscribe from any of the emails to which you signed up using your work email ID from the job you’ve left years ago. But your email might still be part of those lists. 

This gives a pretty good idea of how your subscribers in your email list might be behaving. And that’s why you not only have to concentrate on building an email list but also managing it. Just like you build a team and keep checking to see that everything is healthy and going well. 


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So in this article, we will discuss 8 core things to help you manage and maintain an engaged list of your target audience. You'll learn:

  • How to divide your audience into categories and only send emails that are relevant to them. 
  • How a welcome email can help earn engagement from your list 
  • Why, when & how to remove inactive contacts from your list 
  • 3 characteristics of an unsubscribe link that saves you from getting marked as spam 
  • A/B testing framework to improve your email performance
  • & much more! 

Before we go into managing an email list. Let's see what an ideal, healthy email list looks like. 

Characteristics of a well-managed, healthy email list 

A pie gone bad can be thrown out and replaced with a new one. Can't say the same about your email list. So it's important that you continue to monitor the health of your email list before it goes bad. Signs of a well-managed, healthy email list:


  • More than 95% of your emails land in the inbox and not the spam folder

When your emails are going to the spam folder, your deliverability might be low. That can happen because of low engagement or inactive list. It can also happen if people are not able to unsubscribe from your list and are marking your emails as spam. If that's not the case, you are following the best list management practices. 

  • Your list opens your emails & clicks on links

You will find percentages over the internet or from other marketer friends if you ask them what's a good OR (Open Rate) or CTOR (Click-to-Open Rate) but be skeptical of those. That data is collected from different industries and might not apply to your business or list size. Set your benchmarks and if your metrics are usually above the benchmark, your list is healthy. 

  • Subscribers buy from you when you send them an offer

If you can rely on your list to generate revenue by sending them relevant email campaigns pitching your product or services, then your list is great. It means that they engage with your emails, your content resonates with them and they are active members of your list. 

  • You are adding new contacts to the list, regularly 

There will always be people who will churn out of your list because their problems got solved, they changed interest, or just don't find time to read your emails. To make sure that list isn’t just turning into a group of a few hundred subscribers, keep adding a fresh audience. 

  • Everyone on your list has opted-in to receive emails from you 

When everyone opts in to receive emails from you, it means they will engage with your content. And they are aware of your brand and won't mark it spam just in case they don't want to receive any more communication. 

Strategies To Manage An Email List For A Positive ROI on Your  Email Marketing Efforts

Segment Your List for Targeted Campaigns  

Even if you sell one type of product or service, people on your list will have different characteristics and behaviors. So it's only wise to not send the same communication to everyone. 

If you have stores across the country and the sale is happening only in stores of a particular city, you would be sending the promotional email to people in that location. Makes sense, right? If you send it to everyone in your list, it would not be relevant for most of your list and you might put off people, eventually making them unsubscribe. 


To execute this, you need to create buckets of your audience based on different data points such as demographics, engagement level, past purchasing behavior, interests, etc. This segregation is called segmentation. 

It's a data-driven approach rather than a 'blast and pray' technique. 

How can you segment your list? 

There are three options: 


On Signup: You can design your signup process to include some questions/fields that help you segment. Instead of just asking for an email, you can ask the city, the company they work with, the pain point they are trying to solve, etc. 

A popular way to collect this data is to design a quiz as your lead magnet. Take people through a set of questions that help them know something about themselves and you in turn get the data to sort your audience.


After signup, through surveys: If you haven't designed a process to collect subscribers’ data on signup, you can do that once people are part of your list. Send them a survey from time to time asking one key question that will help you target them with relevant messages. 


Using email marketing tools to monitor actions: Sometimes, you don't need to ask questions from subscribers but can form segments by noticing their activity on your website or in emails.

For example, if someone has not opened your emails for the last 3 months, you can segment them as a 'not-interested' audience, and someone who opened most of the links in emails you sent about a certain product, you can segment them as 'interested in product X'. 

These rules can be created in your email marketing software. SendX provides the ability to segment based on various data points. 

Send a Welcome Email to Build Connections

To keep your list engaged right from the beginning, you should send everyone who joins a welcome email. 

This email should contain what you promised them on your landing page where they signed up - link to download an ebook, discount, free course, etc. 

People expect to receive a welcome email as they anticipate what resources you will share with them after they subscribe. That's why this email gets a higher open rate and click-through compared to newsletters or promotional emails. 

So you can leverage this in several other ways too:

  • Ask about the pain point they are trying to solve 

  • Share links to follow you on social media 

  • Invite them to refer their friends for an incentive

  • Tell them what to expect in future emails from you 

Click here to read a post breaking down 12 examples of welcome emails from top brands. 

Many people say that the welcome email is your first impression but I would disagree and say that their first impression has already happened on your website. Your welcome email is your first communication after someone becomes aware of your brand's presence. 

As observed in this post where we've listed 12 best welcome email examples, here are the things that make a great welcome email:

  • Sent immediately on signup 
  • Warm & 'welcoming' subject line
  • Personal greeting
  • Delivers what was promised
  • Quick introduction of your brand 
  • Engaging visuals
  • Cheerful sign-off

Here's a template you can use for your welcome email:



Hi [name],

I’m [name], the founder of [company name]. Welcome to [brand name/newsletter name]!

I’d like to personally thank you for signing up. 

As promised, here is the link for your free [lead magnet promised on landing page].

[call to action]

If you need more helpful tips on [topic], visit our blog or check out our resource pages: [link]

Let's also connect on socials? We are here: [Social media links] 

If you have any questions about [topic/product] simply reply to this and I will get back to you in 24 hours.


[your name]



Run A/B Tests to Find What Your List Prefers

A/B testing in email marketing is the process of sending one version of your email (A) to a subset of your broadcast list and sending another version (B) to another subset. 

Based on the metric that will define the success of your test, you will find which version out of A & B is better. And finally, you roll out that change across all your emails and that becomes your best practice. 

To determine what to test, three things are important: 



You have to create a hypothesis. Here's a formula to do that: Changing ____ into ____ will _____ e.g. Changing email to text-form will improve the deliverability. 


You should know what component of email marketing influences which metric e.g. Subject line influencers open rate.


Check if your email marketing tool allows you to test the component you choose. Most ESPs allow testing Subject lines, but some may not allow testing email content. 

Some components of an email will contribute more towards your goal than other components. For example, changing your greetings might not have a huge effect on the click-through rate but changing the placement of your CTA can help boost conversions. 

So spend time testing the most effective components and ignore the rest. 

Here are the components you can test: 

  • From-name 
  • Subject Line 
  • Preview Text 
  • CTA -- copy, placement, type (text vs button) 
  • Time & Day to send
  • Email format (text vs graphic) 


Use Contact Tags to Manage Your Audience  

While segments help you filter an audience, tags are labels that help you organize contacts. 


Few characteristics of tags: 

  • People with different tags can be added to one segment. 
  • Tags can be removed and added with each campaign based on conditions you define in your email marketing software. 
  • Tags work across your account. When you assign a tag to a contact, that contact is tagged in all of the lists you might have. 

Let's understand tags with an example.

You want to send a campaign to your audience to promote a new collection of dresses in your store. You have three segments based on the age group: 

Each segment will have messaging personalized to their dressing style. 

However, you want to be able to send a different email within those groups to those who have purchased from your store in the past. To do this, you set up ‘contact tags’, and tag each contact who has downloaded a specific piece of content.


You end up with 6 emails, one for each segment for those who have downloaded, and one for each segment for those who haven’t.

An overview of those ideas: 

  • Create retargeting campaigns 
  • Run a re-engagement campaign or clean your list
  • Send personalized product recommendations 
  • Run automated email flows without disturbing the broadcast list
  • Create segments to get insights about your audience


Clean Your List, Regularly 

Cleaning your list means removing any invalid, inactive, spam traps, or catch-all email addresses. 

Doing that will give you 3 major benefits:

  • You will avoid being marked as a spammer as you will be sure that you are sending emails to a valid list and people are engaging with your emails. Your deliverability will improve 
  • You will also save money by removing irrelevant addresses that were anyway going to bounce. 
  • You will get a true picture of the engagement level of your list. 

You can use an online service to do so. They provide 99% accuracy. Check out the list here. 

Here is why you should clean your list: 

  • People might subscribe multiple times to your newsletter or you might end up creating duplicates when exporting lists from your files to your email service provider. 
  • If you don't have double opt-in enabled on your signup form, people might subscribe to your website for a free coupon or PDF with invalid, catch-all, or role-based email addresses. 

Duplicate contacts mean an email is being sent multiple times to the same person. 

It will show that your open rate and click rate percentages are low or not true. It will reduce the sender's reputation. Different records might have different subscriber data and preferences. That will create confusion while personalizing the experience for subscribers.

If you use SendX to handle your list and send emails, it will automatically take care of removing any duplicates while sending the emails. This will ensure that you don't overpay for duplicate emails sent and your list that gets the email stays clean. 


Remove Inactive Contacts

Your email list might have subscribers who haven’t opened your emails in the past 6months or even a year. Bigger the list, the higher the chances of a bigger inactive audience.  

Inactive subscribers generally don’t remember signing up for your emails and thus tend to mark emails as spam whenever a forgetful email of yours catches their eye. Removing such email IDs beforehand will help your sender reputation as you will get fewer complaints and high engagement.


List engagement (% of subscribers who open your emails or click on links) is another factor inbox service providers look at when determining whether to send your emails to spam or not. If the engagement is strong, your emails are more likely to reach the inbox. 

You can send one last email to inactive subscribers asking them if they are still interested. 

Here's how Realmac does it very elegantly:


Make it Easy to Unsubscribe

If your unsubscribe button is invisible or not present, subscribers will mark your emails as spam. All email clients give that functionality. 

Your email might have extremely valuable content or it might contain an irresistible offer but if it's not relevant to the reader, they should have the option to opt-out of it. If that’s not given, they will mark your email as spam. Nowadays, they have shifted their definition of spam to include any unwanted email

The more spam complaints you receive, the lower your sender reputation will be. This will trigger spam filters to send your future emails to the spam folder. Even for the subscribers who might not have marked your emails as spam. 

That was a horror story you can avoid by letting people unsubscribe easily. How?

Make the unsubscribe button easy to find and easy to use. 

Here's how to make an unsubscribe link useful: 

  • Put your unsubscribe link in the footer - that’s a standard place where everyone looks for it. 
  • Make the color contrast with your footer to make it stand out.
  • Don’t hide it in long sentences or behind images. 
  • Don’t require any log-in or reply to unsubscribe.
  • Enable one click or a maximum of two clicks to unsubscribe.
  • Of course, ensure that your unsubscribe link is working properly.

Check out this post to see examples of some of the best ways to show the unsubscribe link in emails. 


Use an Email Marketing Software 

Managing an email list can sometimes seem tougher than building one. But you don't have to do things manually or feel overwhelmed because email marketing softwares these days have all of the functionalities to help you organize, clean, and store your email list. 

You just have to find the software that's right for your business goals and use the features helpful for email list management. 

Here are the top 5 email marketing software we recommend: 




SendX is a cloud-based, email marketing tool suitable for managing bulk email lists without compromising on the deliverability of emails or struggling with complicated tools. 

Pricing: Pricing is based on the number of contacts & you can send unlimited emails. 14-day free trial, paid plan starts at $7.49/mo for 1000 contacts. 

Suitable for: Small & medium businesses, industries that are unfairly banned by other tools (gaming, crypto, casinos) 

Features useful for list management: 

  • Landing page & signup forms to grow the email list 
  • Segmentations and tagging to organize contacts into categories 
  • A/B testing capability 
  • Automate list cleaning with customized rules 
  • Import CSV or migrate from other tools, easily and quickly. 




ActiveCampaign is a tool that focuses on helping companies create great customer experiences through email marketing, marketing automation, and CRM.

Pricing: 14-day free trial with $7.50/month as starting price for 500 contacts. 

Suitable for: Small and medium businesses that need powerful automations 

Features useful for list management: 

  • Tags and lists to segment contacts 
  • Visual automation builder to create rules for adding tags to contacts 
  • Import list of contacts, individual contacts or download a list in format you want 
  • Delete, merge and edit lists 
  • Capability to add custom fields and tags to any contact or a full list 




HubSpot is more than list management or email marketing tool. It's a full CRM pretty useful for enterprise clients. And that's why its list management capabilities are robust.

Pricing: The email marketing tool is free for up to 2,000 emails sent per month. Paid plan starts at $45/month.

Suitable for: If you have a strong marketing strategy to cover the costs of your investment in an expensive tool. 

Features useful for list management: 

  • Building list based on contact properties (company, location, activity, etc.) 
  • Assigning lifecycle stage to each contact 
  • Concept of smart & static list. Smart list updates itself automatically
  • Exclude parameters to remove certain contacts from the campaign
  • Export and import functionality 




Mailchimp is an email marketing software suitable for beginners as well as experts. It's easy to get started with because of its intuitive interface & visual builders. 

Pricing: Forever free for up to 2000 emails. Paid plan starts at $10/month 

Suitable for: Bloggers, agencies, eCommerce companies, businesses needing CRM, landing page builder, Email platform all in one place 

Features useful for list management: 

  • Easy to read dashboard for list growth, list engagement with your emails 
  • Possibility to archive your contacts instead of deleting them 
  • Automatically removes addresses from your audience that hard bounce
  • Opt-in form, strict implementation of CAN-SPAM rules 
  • Option to A/B test subject line, from-name, content, send time 




ConvertKit is a simple tool focused on helping creators connect to their audience via emails. Optimized for deliverability with text-based, HTML emails. 

Pricing: It's free for up to 1000 subscribers. Paid plan starts from $49/month. 

Suitable for: ConvertKit is a tool meant for creators (bloggers, musicians, artists, and vloggers).

Features useful for list management: 

  • Each Subscriber is only counted once in your account
  • Tags and segmentation capabilities to organize contacts into categories 
  • Easy export and import of contacts 

Here's a detailed guide diving deeper into the tools mentioned above plus 3 additional tools to help you understand if which one would be right for your business. 

Wrap Up

New people are getting added to your list every day, some people are leaving, and for some other preferences are changing. A list is a very dynamic entity of your email marketing strategy so it's difficult to manage it manually. And that's where email marketing software can help you.  

SendX is one such email marketing software. It helps you do all the things necessary for list management such as segment your list using tags, create automated welcome email sequences, provide easy unsubscribing options, A/B test your emails and track the engagement and bounces. 

But these tools can help you as long as you send relevant content to your target audience and follow the best practices we mentioned above.