Append: Strategy to Boost Your Database, Part 2

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The first article in this series explained how e-mail append can help marketers build their database assets. Now I'll review best practices for marketers to respond to specific challenges, such as:


How does one deal with CAN-SPAM compliance when using the e-mail append approach to build their database?


The statutory specifics of CAN-SPAM require e-mail senders to secure and demonstrate affirmative consent before mailing to a rental list. "Affirmative consent," with respect to a commercial electronic mail message, means that:


* The recipient expressly consented to receive the message, either in response to a clear and conspicuous request for such consent or at the recipient's own initiative.


* If the message is from a party other than the party to whom the recipient communicated such consent, the recipient was given clear and conspicuous notice at the time the consent was communicated that the recipient's e-mail address could be transferred to such other party for the purpose of initiating commercial e-mail messages.


Database managers are smart to familiarize themselves with the standard CAN-SPAM compliance practices and follow best practices such as:


* Pick a reputable list rental company that can provide a detailed audit of how and when each e-mail address was acquired with explicit permission to send third-party offers. I suggest incorporating this into the rental contract.


* Provide your suppression list to ensure that no e-mail goes out on your behalf to anyone who opted out from your e-mail marketing programs.


* Ensure that the "from" address clearly indicates that you are the e-mail sender.


* Provide a clear, conspicuous explanation of the e-mail's purpose.


* Provide an easy-to-access opt-out link in the e-mail. Ensure that the link is valid up to 30 days after the mailing is sent and that all opt outs are added to your master suppression list within 48 hours (under no circumstances should this period exceed 10 days).


* Provide your mailing address in the footer of the e-mail.


Could there be a backlash from customers for whom you are appending the e-mail addresses? Potential always exists for limited backlash. The amount you'll bear usually depends on the e-mail content and copy. Monitor your opt-out rates and spam scores closely. Adjust or modify e-mail copy and creative elements to keep the spam score as calculated by SpamAssassin lower than 4 and the opt-out rates lower than 0.5 percent. If you stay within these thresholds, you're probably doing fine.


How should you select an e-mail append vendor? How many should you use? Be prepared to test at least three list vendors. Also, be prepared to execute test campaigns with each vendor. We suggest that you give at least 35,000 customer names to each vendor for testing. This sample size will generate significant results for the conservative scenario that the vendors will match only 15 to 20 percent (they usually do better) of the names and the matched names will generate only a 5 percent open rate (for a well-designed offer the open rate is normally higher).


Compare the following metrics across the e-mail append vendors for identical test campaigns:


* Match rate: measures how comprehensive the list is.


* Bounce rates (for the top five to 10 major ISPs): measures the quality of the list. Speaks to the method of collection of names. High bounce rates (more than 25 percent) indicate that the list was not updated recently or that the marketing programs by which the names were collected didn't attract good addresses.


* Open rates: Again, open rates measure the quality of the list. Users often have more than one e-mail address. If the open rates from one vendor are markedly lower than those from another vendor - for an identical campaign - it indicates that the first vendor's list quality is not as good.


Remember that high match rates can be offset by high bounce rates.


What offers or incentives should you consider to motivate customers to opt in? In the mind of every recipient, the argument for joining your opt-in e-mail program should far outweigh the nuisance of additional mail in their inbox. Obviously, this hinges on your offer, which must be compelling and credible enough to overcome any fear of nuisance, let alone fraud.


If you have a loyalty program, then you can offer additional points or rewards to join. Exclusivity offers also work well, such as special interest rates or fares that are communicated only through e-mail. If it's a business-to-business list, consider offering a white paper "only to subscribers to our e-newsletter," etc.


Have the offer complement the value of the marketer's core offering. Generic offers that have no intuitive association with your core product or offering may get you some extra names, but they will have a higher propensity to opt out as well as a lower propensity to consider or respond to your e-mail marketing. These extra names may even dilute the value of your e-mail database asset.


Does it make sense to do e-mail appends repeatedly? If so, how frequently? Given that open rates are often 5 to 15 percent, more than 80 percent of your matched names will not see or consider your offer to join your opt-in program. We suggest setting up triggered campaigns with at least two follow-ups within five to 10 days with those who did not open the e-mail invitation to join your e-mail program.


If the economics of the e-mail append program work in your favor (i.e., payback is six months or less), then two to three campaigns (each with multiple follow-ups as described here) a year are a good idea.


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