Over time, the quality of your marketing list diminishes. Some experts report that email lists degrade at a rate of more than twenty percent each year, which isn’t that surprising. People change jobs or email addresses; businesses move, merge or shut down. Additionally, errors in the data entry and verification process can lead to duplicates and bad addresses in your databases.
Dirty data can derail your marketing efforts, negatively skew your email marketing metrics and harm your reputation as an email marketer. Your undeliverable and bounce rates will increase, as do spam complaints, while your open rates and click-through rates decrease.
Maintaining a clean list isn’t a luxury for industrial marketers—it’s a requirement for success. So how do you do it?
Clean your list
Data cleansing is the process of identifying outdated, incorrect or incomplete contact records and correcting any typographical errors and eliminating duplicate entries.
Sometimes you can clean your list manually, depending on your list size. You could review your list to catch common data entry errors such as misspellings of domain names, for example, imb.com instead of ibm.com, or gmial.com instead of gmail.com, and to look for duplicate entries.
Other options for cleansing a list include working with a vendor that offers list hygiene services. If you contract with an email marketing service provider, they often have tools to help clean your lists.
Append data to your list
For lengthier lists, you might use a service that both cleanses and appends data. The process matches your list against already verified lists from a vendor to replace outdated or incorrect data in your list with new, up-to-date information. Examples would be swapping a contact’s business email and title from their old job with their new title and email at their new company.
However, a service that appends email addresses to other user data you already have (such as name, title, and company) is a controversial practice in the email marketing world. Sending an email to people who have never explicitly opted-in is against best practices and sometimes against the law. Be sure to ask any vendor you might work with how they handle this situation. Find out if email addresses they append are from subscribers who have agreed to receive emails from companies such as yours.
Control points of data entry
Another way to ensure a cleaner list is to control the points of data entry. These typically consist of conversion forms on your website or data entered manually, such as transcribing an email address and other data from a printed form.
In these situations, you can take steps to reduce the potential for errors. For web forms, it’s a good practice to request that a user input their email address twice in order to ensure accuracy and reduce typos. You can also implement a process in which you send an email to the user and they must click on a link to confirm their opt-in. For company names or postal addresses that are typed in, you can use an address-matching service to check for accuracy. You can also do this for data entered manually.
Maintaining an opt-in list
Another important list hygiene practice is purging email addresses of those who no longer want to engage with your company.
To weed out unengaged subscribers or to spot potentially bad email addresses, create a sub-list of subscriber email addresses that bounce and of subscribers who have not opened your emails over an extended period of time.
Users that don’t download images or that use a preview pane to view emails still might be reading your emails, but it won’t hurt to have them on a sub-list that you email to promote engagement with your company. You just have to word your email appropriately. For example, you might tell subscribers you hope they find value in your emails and ask them to confirm their email address to ensure they continue to receive your emails.
Subscribers who don’t respond to several attempts at re-engagement should be removed from your list.
A final word
List hygiene isn’t a one-time task. It’s an ongoing process that should be embedded in your marketing workflow. Put checks in place during data entry, cleanse your lists of errors and duplicates, and conduct engagement campaigns to weed out bad addresses and unengaged subscribers. If adding another task to your revolving to-do list sounds daunting, find a trustworthy media partner that can help. The result will be an improvement in email marketing metrics and better results on your campaigns.