Email Marketing and Data Hygiene: 5 Questions with FreshAddress
It's not surprising that "big data" has taken the marketing community by storm. The more marketers can understand about customer needs and behavior by aggregating, analyzing, and acting upon a growing deluge of data, the more relevant, timely, and effective their campaigns will be.
Amid the hype of big data, though, it's important not to overlook fundamentals, such as data hygiene. Case in point: email marketing, where low deliverability and high list churn continue to plague many marketers.
I turned to Neolane partner FreshAddress, which provides a suite of email database services-including a new SafeToSendT Email Deliverability Solution-to help companies build, clean, and update their email address lists. Here's a Q&A with Mark Rafferty, Manager of Account Services at FreshAddress.
Q: Let’s start with the opt-in process, where even minor typos can prevent marketers from reaching otherwise willing recipients. What are some best practices for dealing with these inevitable, yet unintended errors?
The old saying “Garbage in; garbage out” absolutely applies to email collection processes. There are several best practices we recommend to ensure the addresses you collect are accurate, deliverable, and non-toxic. First, be sure your customers are aware of the value exchange involved in providing a correct email address. In other words, give them an incentive to provide you with their accurate and primary email address by offering informative newsletters, order confirmations, sweepstakes, etc. Also, make it clear how you’ll be using their email address and what security and privacy precautions you have in place. Real-time email address correction, validation, and screening tools are also a great way to ensure the emails you’re collecting online, at the point of sale, or in call centers are deliverable and won’t lead to blocking or blacklisting. In addition to catching and correcting typos, it’s important to screen out bounces and flag damaging email addresses, such as spamtraps, for removal - before they enter your database.
Q: A lot of people have secondary email addresses that they use for commercial email, site registrations, etc. How can marketers get subscribers to opt-in with their “best” address?
Well, you always want their primary, not their secondary address. Again, this comes back to the perennial question: “What’s in it for me?” If you are offering the customer what they consider to be a strong value exchange, you’ll get their preferred email address every time.
Q: What are some examples of toxic email addresses that should be immediately removed from a marketing database? How can marketers identify them?
We define toxic email addresses as those that are deliverable but damaging. The most high-profile culprits are spamtraps and honeypots. These are “valid” addresses that can result in blacklisting and blocking - potentially putting your email program out of commission for a considerable period of time. Legitimate marketers can end up with spamtraps in their databases as a result of improper email hygiene or even malicious entries. Spamtraps and honeypots are constantly changing, making them difficult to identify and remove. FreshAddress has amassed a vast knowledgebase of toxic addresses over the last 12 years, which helps ensure our clients’ email address files are safe to send.
Q: With subscriber engagement playing an increasingly important role in email deliverability, how do you recommend that marketers handle inactive addresses?
Managing inactive addresses has become increasingly critical in the past year or so, with many ISPs assessing a marketer’s reputation based on the percentage of inactive or non-responders in their list. The first step in addressing inactives is to determine what constitutes an inactive, as it varies by industry and by product offering. Once you’ve created your inactive customer file, you’ll want to run a re-engagement campaign with an attractive offer to see what you can do to win some of those people back. For the inactives that remain, we recommend running Email Change of Address (ECOA) processing. On average 30% of your email address list will change their email address in any given year due to typical life events (e.g. changing jobs, schools, ISPs, etc.). Therefore ECOA processing - similar to NCOA for postal records - is a critical maintenance item to keep your list up to date and reconnect with those ostensibly “lost” customers.
Q: I recently contributed 3 tips for increasing email ROI to the FreshAddress newsletter. Are there any tips you would add to the list?
Yes, you had some great suggestions regarding personalization, event-triggered messages, and deliverability. I would add that it’s important to allow the recipient to be in the driver’s seat when it comes to what information they opt to receive from you and how often. Every marketer should offer their subscribers a preference center. The size of your list is important, but that needs to be balanced with what your customer feels is relevant. In addition, I’d stress the importance of maintaining email data quality. We find that clients can achieve deliverability rates of up to 99% with proper front-end and back-end technology.
To learn more about the crucial role of data hygiene-and other factors-in email deliverability success, join Neolane and FreshAddress on Thursday for a free web event, “Taking Charge of Email Deliverability: 3 Manageable Means to Reach Recipients and Increase Email ROI.”