23 July 2019 - Sharon Beilis

This post discusses what a suppression list actually is when it comes to email marketing, the importance of operating with suppression lists when a user has unsubscribed, as well as the other more innovative ways in which you can use these lists to create more highly-targeted email communications. 


Firstly, what is a suppression list?

An email marketing suppression list is, typically, a list of email addresses from people who have indicated that they no longer want to hear from you. Think of this group as ‘non-mailable’ - therefore, this list acts as a way of ensuring that these email addresses will always be ‘suppressed’, or prevented from being sent to, when you send out your email marketing campaigns. 

 

What constitutes a suppressed email address? 

A suppressed email address can fall into one or more of the below categories: 

 

1. The address is non-deliverable

This means that the user’s part of the email address (i.e. the part of the email address before the @ sign) is undeliverable. It could be either invalid or it no longer exists. 

 

2. The domain is non-deliverable

This means that the domain part of the email address is potentially invalid or no longer exists. It could be mis-spelled, or the company to which you’re emailing could no longer be in business.

 

3. The client has unsubscribed, opted out or made a complaint

This means that the address you’re trying to send to has previously marked an email of yours as spam, or sent your email to their spam folder. This feedback warrants this email address to be marked as suppressed, as this is an indication that this particular subscriber no longer wishes to hear from you. The same can be said for making it easy for your subscribers to unsubscribe from your email marketing and making it a choice to subscribe by implementing opt in instead of asking recipients to opt out. This is essential to comply with laws and regulations. 

 

But, suppression lists can also be manual…

There are, however, some cases within which a suppression list can serve another purpose. In some cases, it makes sense to use suppression lists in order to create more effective communications, away from the automatically-suppressed address criteria which we’ve discussed above. These would be ‘mailable’ contacts within your database, but are contacts you want to temporarily exclude just for certain reasons - not altogether.

This approach can help your email marketing operation run more efficiently for certain marketing campaigns, such as dual-sponsored communications with a Partner of yours, or for certain aspects of your lifecycle communications. 

Tom Wozniak from OPTIZMO explains suppression lists “as a form of negative targeting for various audience groups that you might want to suppress from a particular email campaign or program. Strategic email list suppression can be an effective tool for campaign performance optimization.”

Here are our three examples of suppression lists for ‘mailable’ contacts:

 

1. Existing customers

You can choose to suppress existing customers from certain areas of your lifecycle email communications to avoid email fatigue amongst this group. For example, if your numbers are down one month and you want to use your regular newsletter to existing customers to push an add-on service, you can choose to suppress existing customers of the services in question just for that one month, whilst your regular messaging has taken a change in direction to meet your business needs. As explained by OPTIZMO “Suppressing current customers can be highly effective in a variety of ways, such as precluding them from seeing aggressive customer acquisition offers that they may not qualify for, or removing them from affiliate campaigns, to ensure those campaigns are focused on driving net new customer growth.”

 

2. At risk users

You could also use this method of suppression usage to suppress ‘at risk’ subscribers, who are almost falling into your ‘unengaged’ category (and therefore your re-engagement campaign) in order to help avoid them becoming dis-engaged all together, by sending only the most-relevant of information. This is one more example of how you can apply suppression rules to your lifecycle marketing campaigns, to create an even more intelligent segmentation approach for your messaging. 

 

3. Within your sales funnel

Another example of this type of intelligent suppression usage would be within the typical B2B sales funnel, where you have a handful of standout opportunities who differ from your usual pipeline. You may want to stop these contacts receiving the standardized lead or prospect communications, so that you can send them your own, more tailored communications. 

 

In summary

To summarize, email marketing suppression lists don’t have to be the traditional thing you may think they are. Considering your use of suppression lists more strategically can help you to enhance the performance of your email marketing, by adding an extra layer of sophistication to your typical segmentation approach. 

 

Read more email marketing insights over on the Ongage blog.