Five types of customers you should remove from your email list


Christina Farley

Email is easy to send, highly effective and – for better or for worse – is often the marketing channel we call upon to save the day when we need to close that end of month gap or boost sales for an under-performing product. 

We’re down $8000 from our target. We have 80,000 subscribers. Let’s send an email!

Sound familiar? 

Go ahead and send that email. You have our blessing. Create a killer email that addresses your audience’s needs (and benefits your business). 

But don’t just “select all contacts” and send that email to everyone.

As much as your manager or CEO would love to blast 80,000 contacts, don’t do it! It’s for your own good. 

(For starters, some of them are unsubscribed! And it goes without saying that you shouldn’t be emailing them, unless it’s a transactional email).

Why you shouldn’t email every single contact you have:

  1. Deliverability, deliverability, deliverability. Your ability to land in a user’s inbox (i.e. not the Spam folder) depends on your sender reputation. And if email service providers like Gmail or Outlook start noticing that people aren’t regularly engaging with your emails, your reputation takes a hit and you could potentially have your emails blocked or land in the Spam folder. It’s not a nice place. 
  2. Keep your metrics clean. If 30% of your list hasn’t opened an email from you in over six months, your numbers are going to look a little low. Cleaning your list gives you a more accurate picture of how the average customer is engaging with you (plus you’ll see a boost in your metrics!). Cutting out inactive users also makes for clearer AB testing results. 
  3. Respect for the user. If someone has shown they don’t want to hear from you (or don’t have the time to hear from you by not opening your emails), the kind thing to do is remove them from your list. 

If you’re not already cleaning your list, it’s time to get on the bandwagon for the sake of your email marketing health! 

Hint: You can automate this! Get in touch with the Scalero team for expert advice on how to set up suppression lists. Shoot us an email at

The 5 types of customers you should clean from your list 

Read them all – but don’t miss #5. 

#1: Users who have bounced

There are 2 kinds of email bounces, hard and soft. 

A hard bounce occurs when someone gives you an invalid email. There’s no reason to keep pinging an email that doesn’t exist (in fact, this can really hurt you) and many email platforms will automatically clean these addresses for you. 

A soft bounce occurs when someone’s mailbox is full, due to server issues or the content gets blocked for a number of reasons. If a user has one soft bounce there’s no reason to fret, but after two or three it’s a good idea to remove them from your list. Remember, many ESPs will attempt to resend an email that soft bounces within 10 minutes – so soft bounces can easily add up. 

#2: Users who reported you as spam

These are people who opened your email and clicked the dreaded “report spam” button. They found your content unwelcome or spammy or were just too lazy to scroll to the bottom and unsubscribe. If they complained once, they could do it again and it’s safer to just remove them from your list. Too many complaints can really harm your sender reputation. 

Pro tip: Never hide your unsubscribe button! If people can’t find it, they’ll mark you as spam instead (way worse than an unsubscribe!). 

#3: Escalated users 

Remove any disgruntled users from your email list. If anyone ever replies anything nasty to your emails, make sure to flag it for a customer support specialist and remove them from future marketing emails (unless they let you know otherwise). 

Similarly, keep the lines open with your customer support team so they can flag any potentially problematic users (i.e. people bad mouthing you on social media, people who left poor NPS ratings) and you can remove them from your list proactively. 

#4: Fake emails and spam traps

Ever take a look at your list and notice emails like or People sometimes accidentally (or purposefully) misspell their email when signing up for your list and you don’t want to be emailing people who don’t exist. 

Even worse, you could be hitting a spam trap. ISPs create brand new email addresses and embed them in websites to catch spammers in the act of scraping websites to build their contact lists. As long as you stay away from purchasing lists and ask users to opt in to hearing from you, you should be safe. 

It’s still a good idea to periodically check for suspicious looking emails to make sure a user’s typo doesn’t land you in a spam trap. This is something you can periodically check for by searching for phrases like “fake,” “test” or “” in your users’ emails and deleting those contacts. There are also a ton of services out there that do this – search “list scrubbing” or “email verification” to compare your options.

#5: Inactive users 

Don’t keep emailing people that aren’t engaging with you. Let’s say it again for the people in the back: Don’t keep emailing people that aren’t engaging with you!

This can wreak havoc on your deliverability. It’s better to email 65,000 contacts who actually want to hear from you than blast all 80,000 every week, ruin your sender reputation and end up in the spam folder. 

How do you know when a user is inactive? This varies from business to business. What’s considered normal email engagement for a B2B SaaS business with year-long contracts might be alarming to see from an e-commerce subscription user base. 

If you’re just starting out, use your gut. If you’ve emailed someone 12 times over the past 4 months and they haven’t opened any of the emails, that’s probably a good sign it’s time to say goodbye. 

What should you do with your inactive users? We recommend creating an automated email win back series. This is a last ditch effort to capture these users’ attention (Bold subject lines! Playful humor! Tempting offers!) before respectfully removing them from your list. 

Read all about how to set up a winning win back series here → 

This is for your own good

It can be discouraging, even sad, to see your list dwindle the first time you clean your list. But remember: Not cleaning your list can be dangerous. 

And if you’re just starting to think about cleaning your lists and nervous about justifying this new concept to your manager (Why are we only sending to 65,000 when we have 80,000 contacts?), walk them through this blog. These are best practices widely accepted by the email marketing community and now that you know, you’re staying ahead of a potential future problem!

More resources to keep learning about email deliverability (and the dreaded Spam folder):

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