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The Hidden Power Of Culling Your Email Subscribers

And why it doesn't make sense to hold onto subscribers who don't fuel your business.

By Ellen "Jelly" McRaePublished about a year ago 7 min read
Image created on Canva

I'm a Substack person. I'm someone who has taken to the email platform and started growing a following there.

And it's wonderful, I can't lie. It's different from blogging. Different from anything else I've ever used before, but the closest thing I can compare it to is email marketing. 

Because it essentially it's an email marketing provider.

Now I'm marking my year-long anniversary on Substack, here comes the time to make the all-important decision. 

Do I go through and delete a whole bunch of email subscribers?

Here's the thing. Most people in my situation wouldn't even think to delete subscribers.

They probably don't even know where the button to do is. It's stupidly easy though. Select the users, hit delete, and move on. 

But when talking to people who have an email list of any description, I've never heard anyone actually say they've done this.

On social media, sure. Clearing out email subscribers? Never.

But despite how hard I've worked to gain those subscribers, I'm still going to do a cleanout. No matter what anyone says. 

Here's why.

Have you looked at your bank account lately?

Email marketing isn't free forever. And as you grow, it only gets more expensive.

When you're starting out sending emails, you generally only have a few on your list. With only a few, you can use free email services. 

But at some point that changes and you start paying for the internet equivalent of "stamps".

Yes, this is referring to traditional mail. Most programs have a limit on how many free emails you can send per week/month. And then you start paying from as little as a hundred subscribers. 

Sure, some have larger caps on the number you can send. But those programs are few and far between.

Save money by hitting delete

Why would you want to pay to send emails to people who aren't getting them? 

Or to people who aren't opening your emails?

It's not like you're getting a refund for unopened emails either. These email programs don't discount you when someone doesn't open the email. Or when it goes to junk. It's much like stamps. 

You pay with the hope it gets to the receiver.

Don't pay to send emails to subscribers who aren't opening them. It doesn't make sense for your financials. 

And think of it like this; if you were paying for anything else in your business that wasn't providing a return, you would ditch it.

Why not this?

You're buying into something that's "inactive"

If you don't know what an inactive subscriber is, here is a quick tutorial.

Most email marketing programs label your subscribers as active or inactive.

Every program has specific ways of deciding what is active and inactive. But let's talk about general rules here. 

Usually, it's subscribers who don't open the email for a certain period of time. How long? Well, that's up to the platform.

You know from your own email usage that you might miss emails. They land in your junk folder, even though you didn't request them to go to junk. 

Yet, it doesn't matter. Either way, they're inactive.

Here's the problem with inactive subscribers; they make you think something that's not real. They make you think:

  • You have more customers than you actually do
  • You have more marketing reach than what is actually possible
  • You have growth potential when you don't
  • That you're doing better than you thought

Improve your mindset

No person ever, in business, would recommend the head in the sand approach. 'Keep deluding yourself by keeping "customers" on your list who don't exist.' 


It's unhealthy for you as a business owner to surround yourself with falsities about where you are at in your business.

For your sake, and the growth of your business, don't do it to yourself.

You're inviting something you don't want to deal with

As much as it doesn't make a lot of sense, some of your subscribers suck. 

And you shouldn't keep them around for your own sanity and peace of mind.

Despite the way they've subscribed to your content, you're always going to get the trolls who respond to your emails with hate. 

They reply and tell you how dumb you are, that they don't care about you, or abuse you for their mistake of having subscribed in the first place.

Dealing with those subscribers is a waste of your time and energy. 

  • They make you feel bitter and twisted about dealing with the general public. 
  • They suck your will to do business. 
  • You can do that all on your own without anyone else participating in the process.

Delete the hate, like, now

There's culling your subscribers like a spring clean. And then there is putting them in email jail as soon as it happens. 

When a troll passes your inbox, do the latter. 

Delete them, unsubscribe them, and block them from your communications before the situation escalates.

The longer you wait, the more can happen to aggravate the situation. It also causes you more stress and eats up the precious energy that you should inject elsewhere.

You only have so much energy to give, so spend it wisely.

You invite a spiraling problem

Now, I've been doing some digging into this idea but I can't quite find anything concrete from Google, or the like, on this. 

But with enough speculation going around, it's safe to say there could be some truth to this.

Email providers, especially big ones such as Google and Yahoo, will deprioritize your emails the fewer times they get opened. 

So the more inactive subscribers you have, the harder it is for you to get your message to the active subscribers.

This makes sense to me. All platforms seem to have this popularity contest aspect to them. 

The more success you get, the more success gets given to you by proxy. If other platforms do it, the email providers surely do too. 

Think how many emails are sent a day. They have to do something to get everything out to the right audiences.

What about everything you've done to acquire your subscribers?

I know the counterargument; all the reasons why you should keep your subscribers. 

You've spent significant amounts of time, money, and effort just to gain that single email address. 

  • To spark the interest of the customer. 
  • To get to have over your details to you with trust and good faith.

Why throw that all away?

As much as it's taken you all this effort, you're not throwing away sales. You're not kicking out paying customers from your door. This isn't what this culling is all about.

You're simply removing the customers who aren't customers at all. 

If this were a shop, the customers wouldn't be in your store. They would be down the street, in another store, doing something else. They wouldn't care about you. They've forgotten you. 

And it's time to forget them.

Sure, you're going to have some financial loss, too. That's part of doing business. 

You will have spent money on things that don't pay off. Sure, this lead was expensive when you got it. 

But it's not paying off now.

Well, it's not forever

Do you know how you find yourself dipping in and out of subscriber lists? Your customers can do the same with you. They can always re-subscribe.

Removing them isn't the death of your relationship with them. It's not permanent and can always be undone.

You're like long-lost friends. You will come back together if everything works out right. But you can't hold onto the friendship just "because".

And you can always download your database of subscribers before you hit delete. If you're a hoarder, and can't pull the trigger on goodbye forever, that's your backup.

But more than likely, you will never use that backup list anyway.

Ultimately in business, we have to make tough decisions. It's going to feel counterintuitive at times, but necessary. This decision is one of those necessary times.

If you want to be bold, brave, and fierce in business, start culling the dead weight. You'll thank me for it later.


About the Creator

Ellen "Jelly" McRae

I’m here to use my wins and losses in #relationships as your cautionary tale | Writes 1LD; Cautionary tale #romance fiction |

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  • suman mohanabout a year ago

    Beautiful crafted!

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