SMS List Cleaning: 4 Effective SMS List Cleaning Methods to Maximize ROI

Kaleigh Moore

Reading Time: 5 minutes

When you notice cobwebs in the corner of your kitchen, you clean them out. Call it “kitchen hygiene.” The cleaner your kitchen is, the better it functions.

List hygiene works in a similar way: it refers to removing old or unengaged subscribers from a marketing list. The result? More engagement, more responses, and more sales. List hygiene means curating your list to create maximum engagement with the people who most want to see your messages.

 But why is list hygiene so important, and how can you practice in a way that grows your list?

Why is list hygiene important?

In a word: engagement. You want the people on your list to be real—or potential—customers. 

You may have read statistics suggesting SMS open rates are typically 98%. But what if your own results don’t bear this out? It may have nothing to do with the quality of your campaigns or the creativity of your marketing. It may simply be because you haven’t cleaned out your lists in a while.

Your goal with your list has always been to create more engagement. But if you end up sending messages to dead numbers or end up on “blocked” lists, you can’t even get your foot in the door to attempt to make the sale. 

Even worse, lists with poor “hygiene” are often disorganized. If you have a customer segment list of “engaged customers,” but 50% of whom are dead numbers, something’s awry. Every text blast will feel like throwing marketing at a wall and seeing what sticks. You can’t tailor an SMS campaign for a specific audience if you don’t have the measurements first.

Good list hygiene, like any hygiene, involves two basic steps:

  • Clean out the bad stuff first.
  • Start practicing better hygiene habits.

Here’s how to do it.

4 ways to clean your SMS list

We start with cleaning out the bad stuff first. If you have a large list that’s full of cobwebs—or in this case, “cold” recipients and dead numbers who no longer read your messages—it’s a sign of worse things to come.

1. Always send regulation-compliant texts.

For instance, let’s say you make your opt-out too difficult to find. Not only might this be against SMS regulations, but it can turn customers away. 18% of customers say one reason they sign up to a list is a clear opt out method. That doesn’t only mean you’re violating the regulations, but failing to do so might create a list full of people who don’t want to hear from you.

2. Integrate with your business data.

For instance, Postscript can work with Shopify data to automatically update a list with new customer information. Compliance and opt-in are automatic, as well. Think of this as the robot vacuum working for you, automatically cleaning up the dirt and cobwebs from an outdated list.

3. Start customer segmentation.

This is the divide-and-conquer approach to good list hygiene. The more organized your customer segments are, the better you’ll be able to understand where the problems lie. If, for example, you know that customers from a specific demographic have fallen off because of a change in your offering, then customer segmentation makes it easier to selectively remove the customers who don’t want to hear from you.

4. Watch your unsubscribe rates as they compare with your campaigns.

Does a particular campaign just seem to rub people the wrong way? The only way you’ll be able to tell is if you watch your unsubscribe rates. Try to stay detached from the data. Instead, treat unsubscribe rates as critical feedback that will help inform your future campaigns.

3 expert opinions on SMS list hygiene

If you want to learn something quickly, the best way is to ask an expert. So we asked three! Listen to what some of the top minds have to say on SMS list hygiene:

“Start thinking about channel strategy early on and ensure customers know exactly what they’re signing up for. Continuously keep an eye on unsubscribe rates and segment, segment, and segment some more.” -Eli Weiss, Olipop

“Make sure to segment your list by frequency, engagement, historical spend so you can focus on Revenue Per Message (RPM). Sending SMS marketing to customers who click links or order frequently has a higher RPM than those who don’t respond or order, etc.” -Dennis Hegstad, LiveRecover

“SMS list hygiene is arguably more important than email hygiene for 2 reasons. First, SMS is an inherently intimate channel; continuing to ping someone’s phone who is clearly no longer interested can lead to really unhappy contacts. Second, SMS is more expensive to send than email, so leaving unengaged contacts on the list will cost you, dragging down the ROI of the program.” -Mandi Moshay, Common Thread Co

Our takeaways: examine your customer engagement. 
What is driving the most engagement from your subscribers? Focus on what they’re actually doing: responding, placing orders, avoiding unsubscribing. These are the core “tells” that will let you know if a campaign is working—or if your efforts need some serious hygiene improvement.

SMS list growth 101

If all you did was start with a robust list of 100,000 phone numbers and did nothing else, you’d be off to the races. But over time, poor list hygiene would eat away at your response rates. Customers will drop off. Others might start to ignore you. Without a good SMS list growth strategy in place, the worst could happen: customers could disengage entirely.
Staying on top of list growth will help keep your list fresh with new subscribers. But you don’t want to lose new subscribers, either. Here are some tips for ensuring that you build sustainable list growth and make people want to stay connected:

1. Offer exclusives.

Discounts, landing pages no other customers can see, sneak previews of upcoming sales—whatever it is, a customer should feel like a “VIP” because they’re signed up. Not only is that an incentive to subscribe, but it’s an incentive not to take themselves off your list. Otherwise, they might miss out.

2. Give, give, give.

Run the occasional contest. Give out a helpful tip with the occasional product promotion. Tell an interesting story about a customer. If you become too predictable—and too uninteresting—your SMS list won’t give customers a reason to recommend you to others.

3. Personalize.

This is why customer segmentation is such an important habit for list hygiene. As many as 60% of customers reported in one survey that brands weren’t doing a good enough job making customers feel as if they knew them. If you’re going to be just another SMS list that doesn’t offer that personal connection, it could stifle your opportunities for growth.

SMS list cleaning services

Want an SMS list cleaning service? Then you’ll need something that integrates with your current marketing tools. Postscript, for example, integrates with Shopify. This means you’re constantly up-to-date with your ecommerce customer lists to maintain a perpetual state of good list hygiene.

This is important: rather than wondering why your engagement is so low, a list with good hygiene will be easy to monitor. You can track customer use, segment customer lists, and drive more engagement because you’ll have a clearer understanding of who you’re talking to—and what they want. With the cobwebs safely out of your way, you can focus on the original goal: driving customer growth.

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Kaleigh Moore

Kaleigh Moore is a freelance writer for ecommerce companies.