Your email list is like the goose that laid the golden egg.As the old fable goes, a lucky farmer finds a goose that lays one perfect golden egg every day. The farmer thinks there must be even more gold hidden inside the bird, and in a moment of greed, he kills it. Sadly, there\u2019s nothing of value to be found inside — and now the farmer has killed off his only source of gold.Like the goose, your email list is your fortune. Day by day, with plenty of patience, it creates \u201cgold\u201d by converting new paying customers and delivering results.Now, we\u2019ve talked before about the importance of your email list. We\u2019ve shown you how to build your own list using enticing carrot content. How to optimize your emails for the five different types of email users. And the importance of list engagement over list size.But today, we want to talk about what can happen when you \u201ckill your goose.\u201dIf your email list has stopped delivering results, or your open rates are dwindling while your unsubscribes are skyrocketing, you may have an almost-dead goose on your hands.This is a common problem, and it usually happens when you over-message your subscribers in pursuit of more gold. They get tired of too many emails and too much selling, and they stop responding to you.We call this phenomenon \u201csubscriber burnout\u201d or \u201clist fatigue.\u201dDon\u2019t worry, though. Unlike geese, email lists can be brought back to life!What is subscriber burnout?Subscriber burnout happens when your email list becomes exhausted by your emails, and you stop getting results. It happens for two reasons:You send too much email, and your recipients become overwhelmed and tune you out.You send too many sales-focused emails, and your recipients grow tired of being sold to all the time.A burned-out list is full of frustrated, disinterested, and annoyed people. They start to wonder why they signed up for your list in the first place. They feel like you\u2019re abusing the bond of trust that was established when they agreed to give you their email address. They start to ignore you altogether.Let\u2019s take a closer look at the two distinct kinds of fatigue.Subscriber Burnout Version 1: Too much of a good thingHave you ever experienced a nagging mother-in-law?When you first got married, you were so excited to bond with your mom-in-law. You really hit it off, and everything seemed great. She would call you once a week, and you\u2019d have a quick chat to fill each other in on your lives. Every month or so, you\u2019d get together for lunch. The relationship was just the right balance: a little bit of communication, a little bit of distance.Then she started calling you twice a week.Then every day.Then multiple times a day.You got so frustrated, that you stopped answering the phone. You let it go straight to voicemail. You even deleted all the voicemails.What happened to your rosy relationship? Now, you just want her to go away and leave you alone!This is exactly what happens with the first kind of list fatigue.Your relationship with your email list starts out just right. You send out fantastic, informative, high quality emails chock full of solid content. You email about once or twice a week.Soon, though, you start emailing more and more frequently. The content of your emails is still superb, but you\u2019re over-sending.It\u2019s too much of a good thing.If we\u2019re being honest, this is the best kind of subscriber burnout you can have, because you\u2019re doing one thing right: focusing on quality.But people don\u2019t have time to consume all of that content. They begin ignoring, archiving, or just plain deleting your emails. They may never have the time (or the interest) to go back and open what you\u2019ve sent. If your emails aren\u2019t opened within 48 hours, the chances of them ever being opened are incredibly low.You may find you get quite a few unsubscribes, too. Even if your emails are awesome, people are easily annoyed by high frequency.Don\u2019t be the nagging mother-in-law. Give your list some space.Subscriber Burnout Version 2: All taking, no givingHave you ever had a friend who\u2019s always asking for a favor?They need you to help them move, they want to borrow a few bucks, and they need an emergency cat-sitter on Saturday night when you already have other plans. Oh, and would you mind picking them up from the airport while you\u2019re at it?After a while, there\u2019s too much \u201ctaking\u201d and not enough \u201cgiving\u201d for you to want to sustain that lopsided friendship. You feel like you\u2019re being used. You start wondering \u201cwhat\u2019s in this for me?\u201dYou start looking for a way out.The second kind of list fatigue mirrors this situation exactly. It happens when you\u2019re asking too much of your subscribers (usually, hitting them over the head with sales messages), and not giving enough in return (like helpful information).This is your worst case scenario of subscriber burnout, because you\u2019re sending too many emails, and they\u2019re overwhelmingly sales-focused.We had a client who fell into this trap. He averaged about 16 sales emails per month. Just sales emails alone! It was overkill, and he paid for it with a huge number of unsubscribes.It\u2019s easy to fall into this trap if you don\u2019t have an active editorial calendar to keep track of what emails are being sent and what they contain. You don\u2019t realize that you already sent two sales messages last week, or ten already this month. So you keep sending the same, boring \u201cbuy this!\u201d email.Another way it happens? You forget that people entering your evergreen sales funnel are also on your newsletter list, getting both sales emails and newsletter emails at the same time. If the newsletter has unique information to offer, that\u2019s no problem. But if both sets of emails are all about selling, you\u2019ve got a redundancy problem.You might also slide into \u201call taking, no giving\u201d mode if you\u2019re feeling desperate to sell your products. When you get desperate, you lose focus, and you end up frantically emailing over and over. You\u2019re throwing the rules of email marketing out the window trying to make a quick buck.Remember that your relationship with your list has to be balanced.Don\u2019t break the cycle: Trust \u2192 Engage \u2192 PurchaseIf your list is healthy, you\u2019ll see it follow a cycle of Trust (people opting in to receive emails) \u2192 Engage (opening and engaging with your emails) \u2192 Purchase (buying the products you sell in your emails).You might not realize it, but each new person who joins your email list is signing a sort of \u201ctrust pact\u201d with you. Every one of them experiences a thought process along these lines as they\u2019re signing up:The Email Trust PactHey, I like you.I like you enough to give you my email address — the most important piece of personal data after my Social Security number. The email address that\u2019s a direct connection to me, anytime, anywhere, because I check my email multiple times a day…sometimes a LOT of times.I\u2019m happy to give you my email address because I care about what you have to say, and I want you to deliver your opinions and products right to my inbox. I know that when I give you my email, you\u2019ll treat it with respect:You won\u2019t sell my information to third parties.You won\u2019t send me too many sales emails.You won\u2019t message me a million times a day.You won\u2019t send me stuff I don\u2019t care about.That\u2019s because I believe that you like me as much as I like you. I believe that we have a mutual agreement of trust, and that we\u2019re on the same page. So, here\u2019s my email address.I can\u2019t wait to see what you send me.Signed, Your New SubscriberThe Email Trust Pact is part of the reason why email lists are so effective. People WANT to hear what you have to say. They are eager to open your emails. They are excited to click the things you tell them to click, and buy the products you tell them to buy.But when you violate any part of the Email Trust Pact, you immediately begin to lose your subscribers\u2019 confidence in you. That\u2019s what can turn a group of engaged, active people into a useless collection of email addresses emails with no one on the other end…no one picking up the phone, so to speak.You don\u2019t want that.You also don\u2019t want unsubscribers. It\u2019s a mistake to assume that once someone is on your list, they\u2019ll stay there forever. A study by Merkle, a CRM agency, showed that 73% of people who opted out of email subscriptions did it because they received too much email. They were fatigued! A disinterested list can be re-engaged some point down the line, but the odds of getting back an unsubscriber are dismal.Subscriber burnout really starts hitting home, though, when you start losing revenue. How does this happen, exactly?Let\u2019s say you have a list of 10,000 people. You\u2019ve been sending high quality emails with really great content, and your efforts are paying off. Your open rate is 35-40% per email. That means that you have around 4,000 people reading any given email, with probably around 6,000 people who are generally engaged on the list.Then, you start to email more frequently.Because you\u2019re having a harder time coming up with interesting content to fill each email, you start including more and more sales messages. All of a sudden, you\u2019re asking too much of your list. They stop responding.Slowly, your open rates decrease to 30%…25%…20%. Now, you\u2019re only reaching around 2,000 people per email, only 50% of the people you were reaching before. So even though your overall subscriber numbers may be growing, the number of people who are paying attention to your message is shrinking.It\u2019s a logical progression from decreased open rates to decreased sales. The fewer people who open your email, the fewer people will buy.We\u2019re going to go through some math here. And if you\u2019re like us, it\u2019s way too easy to get confused trying to keep too many numbers in your head — so we\u2019re going to break it down step by step.Let\u2019s say you have a rather healthy purchase rate of 10% from opens on your sales funnel. With a 40% open rate on your 10,000 person list, that means 4,000 people are opening your emails. If 10% of those openers buy, you\u2019ll be making around 400 sales.Those are some great numbers. Now, let\u2019s consider what happens if your open rate drops in half, like we showed it would when you start to bombard your subscribers with too many emails. Now, with a 20% open rate instead of 40%, your sales are cut in half — only 200 customers will purchase.Yep, you read that right. Same size email list, but lower open rates = lower sales.If your list is unhealthy and your open rates are declining, you\u2019ll see your subscribers follow this progression: Trust (people opting in to receive emails) \u2192 Disengage (getting too many emails or too many sales-focused emails, no longer opening) \u2192 Broken Trust (feeling their trust was violated) \u2192 Unsubscribe (opting out of the list for good).Diagnose your list: Healthy or unhealthy?There\u2019s good news! It\u2019s easy to diagnose the health of your email list. Here are the five symptoms of subscriber burnout. How many are have you experienced?Your email open rate has declined over the past six months.You\u2019ve noticed an increase in unsubscribes.More than 25% of your emails are sales-only. That means less than 75% of your emails are content-rich, information driven emails that build a connection with your list.You\u2019re consistently sending more than two emails a week to your full list. (It\u2019s okay to send more than that if your subscribers are experiencing a short-term campaign or a specific sales funnel on top of your regular newsletter emails. But don\u2019t let it become a consistent thing.)Or, you don\u2019t have a solid grasp on how many emails you\u2019re sending and\/or the percentage of sales vs. informational content.Okay, how many symptoms did you check off? Tally them up:0 symptoms: Congratulations! Your list is healthy. Keep up the good work.1-2 symptoms: You are in dangerous territory, and your subscribers will be fatigued soon if they isn\u2019t already. Take action now to prevent any further damage to your list.3-5 symptoms: Uh-oh…your subscribers are burned out. Take immediate action.5 steps to reducing subscriber burnoutThe simple way to solve the problem is to increase the quality and decrease the quantity of your emails.Here\u2019s how to put that plan into action.1. Review your editorial calendarTake a long, hard look at your editorial calendar and strategic plan, where you should be outlining all of the content you release across all of your channels: your website, new products, email, social media, blog, etc.Your calendar should be planned three months into the future so you have an eagle-eye view of what you\u2019re promoting and when. Whether you\u2019re launching a new course, doing an affiliate promotion, or sending a weekly email, it should be in your calendar.This is the perfect place to spot content overlap. Is your evergreen campaign running over your editorial calendar? Will you be pitching two things at the same time to your list? Are there any other conflicts that might cause your list to feel overloaded?Maintaining a current calendar will help you spot those issues and resolve them before your list gets bogged down.2. Evaluate your email contentYour subscribers have mentally signed the Email Trust Pact. They\u2019ve made a choice to join your list, and it\u2019s because they expect great things from you. How are you reinforcing that they\u2019ve made the right decision? How do you demonstrate your value?With value-packed content, of course.Your email funnels should be about 75% content-driven, and 25% sales-driven. Even in a sales campaign that includes eight emails, only 3-4 of those emails should be solely about selling. The other 4-5 should be content only (or at least a mix of the two).Newsletters should be all content, all the time. Prove to your newsletter list that you can provide value by sharing, teaching, helping — anything but selling.3. Pace your email frequencyIt\u2019s time to change up your email deployment schedule. Here\u2019s what it should look like:Newsletters: Send 1-2 per week. Never more than 2 per week. 3-4 days between each newsletter.Sales campaigns\/funnels: Send 8 emails total over 1-2 weeks. At least 2 weeks in between each sales funnel. Make sure you aren\u2019t putting any one person through more than one funnel per month. (This doesn\u2019t apply to upsells, down-sells, cross-sells, and other purchase-dependent funnels. Learn more about those here.)Sequel Sales: When a student is in the second-to-last week of their course, it\u2019s time to sell them on the sequel to that course. Maybe they\u2019re finishing up Beginner\u2019s Spanish, and you want to recommend Intermediate Spanish. Whatever the sequel is, make sure you aren\u2019t sending them sales emails about it until they\u2019re nearly done with their current course.4. Check your statisticsAlways keep tabs on your subscriber activity. We recommend that you start by taking a snapshot of your averages now vs. your averages six months ago. This wide time period gives you a better view of subtle changes that happen over time. It\u2019s hard to spot trends (either positive or negative) if you\u2019re only looking at stats from the past week or month.You should be pulling reports that include:Unsubscribe rateOpen rateClicks within the emailConversions from the emailOne thing to keep in mind: All email reporters tell you the rate of clicks against the amount of email you\u2019ve sent, not the rate of clicks against the amount of actual opens. You can do a little math to give yourself a clearer view of the percentage of people who opened your email and then clicked.For example:You send 100 emails. You have 36 opens and 12 clicks. Your open rate is 36%, and the click rate you\u2019ll see from your email reporting is 12%. But the percentage of people who clicked after opening is 33%. Not too shabby.Another thing to check is how many people opened your emails after 24 hours of receiving. If you have a high number of after-the-fact opens, you might be sending too much email, with your subscribers playing \u201ccatch up\u201d later on.Also, check yourself against industry standards. Current industry-wide benchmarks are:Typical Open Rate: Somewhere between 18%-30%Typical Click Rate: Somewhere between 1.5%-6.65%Check out the detailed benchmarks specific to your industry at MailChimp.5. Sign up for your own listIf you aren\u2019t getting your own emails, how can you understand the experience your subscribers are having?Put yourself in their shoes. Create a special email address just for this purpose (either an alias inside your regular email, or a separate account). Then sign up for your own list, and monitor how often you\u2019re getting those emails and how it feels:Overwhelming, with too many emails?Like you\u2019ve been forgotten, with not enough emails?Or just right, with about 1-2 emails per week?Do the same thing with your evergreen sales funnels. Whatever communication you\u2019re sending, you should also be receiving.Your list is everything. Keep it healthy!Keep up your end of the Email Trust Pact. Treat your list with respect, never taking advantage of their time or asking too much from them. Show them your value by sharing advice, tips, and news that can help them grow. And pace your communication so that your subscribers aren\u2019t exhausted.Only when your subscribers are happy and healthy is it time to make a sale. And you\u2019ll find it easier than ever to sell when your list thinks you\u2019re awesome!