In a rather interesting case study, the marketing team behind it details how they reduced their email database by over 95%, while doubling their Online sales in the process.

The marketing team behind the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra decided to launch a re-engagement effort coupled with a new email marketing strategy.  They asked every subscriber in their database to declare they wanted to continue receiving emails from the Orchestra and specify the type of content they wanted.  Those who did not reply were removed from the database.

The team wanted to boost subscriber engagement and decided to segment their users based on varying interests to send relevant content to.  The team established several database segments to send personalized newsletters that had similar templates with unique content and subject lines.  The team then set a schedule to send newsletters every two weeks, hoping that by establishing these segments and setting a schedule, it would ensure that subscribers would receive content they wanted on a regular, predictable basis, which the team hoped would keep subscribers more engaged.

The team then enlisted a full-on re-engagement campaign to clean up its database.  They wanted to send an email to all subscribers asking them to opt-in to receive one of the new newsletters.  The first to be mailed were the database’s most active subscribers — those who had opted-in, contacted or purchased within the last year.  The team sent an email which included an offer of a free ticket to a performance.  Those who clicked “no” were automatically removed from the team’s database.  Those who clicked “yes” were brought to an account preferences page which listed the seven available newsletters they could subscribe to.

The team then planned to send the re-engagement email twice more to reach the remainder of its database.  The second send targeted a portion of subscribers who had not yet received the re-engagement email, as well as those who did not respond to the first.  It went out approximately six months after the initial email.  Using this process, the team sent subscribers three emails over the course of 18 months.  Those who did not respond were removed from the team’s database, which ended up cutting approximately 95.9% of its database.

The team then put in place a practice of good “list hygiene” by consistently delivering targeted content that helped keep re-engaged subscribers continually engaged over the long-term.  In addition, the team regularly scrubbed its list to remove duplicate and non-working email addresses.  This ensured there was no dead weight in its database which would drag down performance metrics and efficiency.

While in the end, the team initially cut 95.9% of its list size, it has grown the list by more than 500% from that low point.  The list is now approximately 24.8% of its size from when the team started — but it’s far more responsive.  Online sales have more than doubled to 35% of all the company’s purchases since the re-engagement started, and 40% of all subscribers have purchased tickets from the Symphony.

This case study proves once again that having a large database doesn’t mean it will be a successful one.  A heavily engaged, well optimized list of subscribers should be the number one goal of any email marketer.  As the saying goes, it’s always more important to have quality over quantity.