Deleting Cold Subscribers from Your Email List Using ConvertKit – Smart Passive Income


Welcome to the thrilling conclusion of our three-part series where we guide you through deleting cold subscribers from your email list. If this feels like a scary decision, fear not! Trust that you’re making a good choice for the health of your email list.

First, a Quick Recap

In the first blog post and video, we walked you through the thought process behind deleting a whole bunch of your email subscribers. In the second post and video, we guided you in setting up the automations and reengagement email sequence to identify the cold subscribers on your list.

In this third post and accompanying video, we’ll show you how to delete the final list of cold subscribers.

We’ll go through the process of looking at and interpreting the results of the reengagement email sequence, and then deleting the people who need to be deleted.

Mindy’s video walks you through the process in detail:

Reviewing the Results of the Reengagement Email Sequence

Let’s start by looking at the results of the reengagement email sequence you built in ConvertKit.

Open up your sequence, and you should see something like this:

(You might find a small number of subscribers are “stuck,” and didn’t complete the sequence. Check out this part of Mindy’s video for detail on what to do if that’s the case.)

Next, we’re going to review the reports from the email sequence.

Click on the middle icon in your sequence (Email Maintenance: Cold List Pruning 2021-08 in the screenshot below), and click on Reports at the top. 

Here you can review how your reengagement sequence performed. 

You’ll see a list of the emails in the sequence, as well as their open and clickthrough rates and unsubscribes. You can click on each email to get more detail on how it performed.

Next, click into the individual emails to see the click rates for the incentives you offered in each email. This will tell you whether any incentive performed better than the others, which may be helpful in the future.

In our case, all of the emails’ open rates were very low—all less than 5%. For us, this was validation for undertaking the whole project.

Yes, we could keep these 91,000 people on our email list for vanity’s sake because it makes us feel good to have a big list. But we’re paying a lot of money for that vanity. And it’s dragging down our engagement. It makes it harder for us to predict how people will react to our emails. And it’s ruining our sending authority with Gmail, Apple Mail, Yahoo! Mail, and other email services.

Deleting vs. Unsubscribing

A side note: What’s the difference between deleting and unsubscribing someone from your list?

The difference between deleting and unsubscribing is that when you unsubscribe someone, they stay searchable in your list of subscribers so you can go back and access their data. When you delete somebody, though, you’re removing them entirely, so you won’t be able to look them up and see their history with you.

And why are we choosing to delete these subscribers rather than unsubscribe them? 

Perhaps the biggest reason is that ConvertKit doesn’t allow you to bulk-unsubscribe people; you have to do it manually. If your list is large, that would be an onerous task. Deleting subscribers, however, can be automated.

Subscribe to our companion email series for more detail on deleting vs. unsubscribing, including when you want to unsubscribe someone instead of deleting them.

Deleting Your Cold Subscribers—Almost!

Once you’ve reviewed all of the individual emails on the sequence overview report, let’s move on to the deletion process!

A Little Validation Doesn’t Hurt

If you want to make sure you don’t delete somebody who’s asked to stay on your list, Mindy goes over how to do that in her video.

This step helps you identify if you made a mistake anywhere in setting up the sequence. For instance, you might find some subscribers who got tagged to stay on the list, but also got the Email Maintenance: Cold List Pruning Complete tag. If that’s the case, you can make sure people have the correct tags before you move to the deletion step.

Once you’ve done that (or chosen to skip it), you can move on to one more optional step—exporting a backup list of subscribers to delete—before you actually get rid of them.

Backing Up Your List of Deleted Subscribers

This final step is optional, if you want to keep a record of who’s been deleted, just in case. ConvertKit offers the ability to export a CSV file with the names and addresses of those deleted subscribers.

Keep in mind you’re taking on some liability by having a spreadsheet with this information saved on your computer. We recommend only storing the file for a short period, maybe a few months, then deleting it. You also want to be diligent in how you secure the data, so someone can’t access the list if you lose your laptop or get hacked.

How to Exclude Subscribers from Your Backup

You should also consider excluding subscribers in areas with restrictive email marketing rules, such as the European Union, from your export list. Thankfully, ConvertKit makes it easy to do this by creating a segment and excluding it from the export.

  • Create a new segment and name it.
  • Under Select your subscribers, add the list of people subscribed to the Email Maintenance: Cold List Pruning Complete tag.
  • Add another filter Matching none of the following.
  • Select Within a country or region and type European Union.
  • Click Save.
  • Now you can export your backup list!

    Once the list loads, check the Subscriber box in the top left to select everyone, go to Bulk Actions, and select Export.

    ConvertKit will email you a CSV. If you’re exporting a large list, it will take a while. Do not move on to the next step until you receive that CSV. 

    Deleting Your Cold Subscribers—Finally!

    Here we are—the final step! Once the CSV arrives, it’s time to delete those subscribers. 

    You may feel some trepidation, but that’s okay. You know that you’re doing the right thing for the health of your email list.

  • Open your list of subscribers tagged for removal.
  • Check the Subscriber box in the top left to select everyone.
  • Click the link below the Subscriber checkbox to select the entire segment.
  • Go to Bulk Actions, and select Delete.
  • Fill out the form to confirm you want to delete these subscribers.
  • Whoa!

    This process is going to take a while. This is a “start at the end of the day and walk away” sort of process. 

    Once it’s done, reach out to ConvertKit to let them know you’ve deleted a substantial number of your subscribers. This will help them make sure that your bill is properly recalculated.

    Congratulations! You have made a healthy choice for your email list, weighing performance over vanity. It’s not an easy choice to make, but it’s the right one. And remember, we have a companion email series that will provide you with extra support through this process! Access it at smartpassiveincome.com/cold.



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