How to create a list-cleaning automation

Regular contact list maintenance is essential to achieving great results in your email marketing. A key aspect of that process is removing inactive contacts from the list.

We explain how to do that manually in this article, but you can also use our automation tool for that purpose. Thanks to this approach, you won't have to repeat the process every few months.

The idea is to check if your audience interacts with emails at predefined intervals and send them a re-engagement email if they don't. If the re-engagement email doesn't win them back, they will be automatically unsubscribed from your list.

In our scenario, we prepared automation with four 90-day intervals, covering one year of contact activity.

List-cleaning automation for new contacts

All contacts should be included in the automation, so we'd use the "Contact added to list" trigger. In the first step after the trigger, we added a 90-day wait step. During this period, the contacts are supposed to receive and interact with your campaigns and automated emails. After the 90-day wait, they will be moved to a "Condition" step.

In this "Condition" step, we'll check if contacts were active or added in the last 30 days (or any other number up to 89) or if they opened any of the last five campaigns sent to them.

If contacts are active, they'll be directed to the "Yes" path, where we place them in a new 90-day wait step before checking their activity again. We repeat this process four times for a total of 360 days.

If a contact was directed to a "Yes" path in all the "Condition" steps, it means they remained active for a whole year. We recommend adding a tag to such contacts so you can identify them easily. This will allow you to send them exclusive content or focus on sending to a segment of those contacts to build up a good sender reputation with ISPs.

If a contact isn't active after the 90-day wait, they'll be directed to the "No" path, where we send them a "Re-engagement" email and wait for seven days before checking if they opened that email or any other email during the waiting period.

If the contact were active at that time, they'd be redirected to the "Yes" path, where they are tagged as "reactivated". They will then enter a new 90-day wait step before we check if they are active again.

If they still don't interact with any emails, they'll enter the "No" path, where we send them a last email letting them know we unsubscribed them and providing instructions on where they can sign up again if they'd like to come back.

List-cleaning automation for existing contacts

If you want to clean your existing list, you'd need to use a different trigger to include those contacts in the automation. We recommend the "Tag is added" trigger as it allows you to quickly include all existing contacts by tagging them within the list using the Actions feature.


Since we're adding existing contacts, there's no need to add a long "Wait" step to give them time to engage with your emails. Instead, we can add a "Condition" step after the trigger to check if contacts either opened any of the last five campaigns or interacted with anything in the last 30 days (feel free to use a different limit here, if you want, too). From that point onwards, the rest of the automation should look the same as the one for new contacts.

For a more in-depth presentation of list cleaning automation, we recommend watching our "Automate your email marketing" webinar, where we showcased this and many other scenarios.

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