Manage your opt-outs for clean lists

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These days, mailing “clean” – that is, ensuring that data, such as opt-outs, are up to date – is essential. Four experts share tips on how to keep your lists as spic-and-span as possible.

Mark Trombetta
VP of IT and interactive services, MeritDirect

For opt-out management in the Web 2.0 world, your best option is a hosted opt-out solution (HOOS). A HOOS is a centralized data repository that can collect unsubscribe activity across an entire organization.

This provides your organization with a simple way to ensure that you provide a compliant, easy-to-execute mechanism for immediate removal from your list.

A HOOS makes it easy for you to manage opt-out activity, both inter­nally and externally. By providing access to service bureaus and other partners, you eliminate the collection effort, as well as the data-exposure risk inherent in more traditional approaches.

Furthermore, the cost of a HOOS is easily justified with a quick review of the effort and risk associated with today's approaches to opt-out manage­ment and suppression.

A typical HOOS will have two cost components: a one-time set-up fee, and a monthly hosting fee. It will usually pay for itself in less than six months.

A HOOS can also help minimize risk. Blacklisting and DNS blocking are debilitating to an organization. A HOOS will go a long way toward mitigating much of the risk associated with non-compliance, by offering your audience an easy and immediate way to unsubscribe.

Coordinating all marketing activity across an organization is a real chal­lenge, with multiple departments, dis­parate offices and various projects all needing to share the same information in real time. A HOOS can help solve this problem, as each department in your organization will benefit from an accessible and complete solution that is just a few mouse clicks away.

When you are ready to implement a HOOS for your organization, be sure that you work with an experienced and reputable service provider that can deliver secure and scalable solutions with multiple levels of user access.

Consider a hosted opt-out solution to collect unsubscribes

Michelle Volpe
VP of sales and marketing, Media Source Solutions

Do-not-mail legislation keeps rearing its ugly head, and has thus far successfully been defeated. Yet, the reality of a do-not-mail list may not be far away if we do not take measures now to police ourselves.

One way is to make sure we are mail­ing cleanly. With so many data hygiene products available, it just doesn't make sense not to use them. Nothing is more irritating to a consumer than receiving two or more copies of the same catalog; nor is it cost effective for the mailer. More than ever, with growing pressure on direct mailers to be “green,” now is the time to mail “clean” — in order to stay on the good side of consumers.

New CAN-SPAM opt-out regulations recently took effect and e-mail market­ers are now required to provide a one-step opt-out solution. In today's fast-paced e-marketing environment, it can be a challenge to create suppression files and make sure e-mail names have been removed from promotion files.

Being responsive to consumer prefer­ences while also staying in compliance with the opt-out time frame allowed by CAN-SPAM is a balancing act that savvy list managers execute carefully. If you can get the e-mail message deliv­ered, you should have the technology at your fingertips to comply with the opt-out request.

The key is to create a database environment to route incoming requests to a do-not-promote suppres­sion file for future use, and delete the name from the existing database. You don't want to risk being reported to the various reporting agencies that could blacklist you.

With clean lists, you not only comply with legal regulations but, more impor­tantly, you are complying with your subscribers' wishes.

Clean lists help comply with regulations and improve customer service

Gretchen Littlefield
EVP, Triplex

As with any new industry, the early days of e-mail marketing were filled with both success and failure. Some organizations quickly found a new stream of revenue, while others found themselves struggling to get out of the black hole known as the spam filter.

To avoid being relegated to the spam filter for all time, you must manage your opt-outs and have a good under­standing of the ethics requirements. Do you really know what it means to be CAN-SPAM compliant?

Make sure you are giving your cus­tomers the chance to opt out. Your mes­sage should include a working return e-mail address, and the “from” line should accurately and clearly reflect the sender of the e-mail.

If you are doing an e-mail append, ask your vendor if they use the DMA do not e-mail list. If you work with a vendor that has an aggressive suppres­sion file, which takes out those who hit the spam button or complained on e-mail appends for other clients, you may get down to your best customers.

Consider running monthly or quar­terly e-mail append updates to your file — the average CPO will be stabi­lized and will result in cost savings over time. The key is to continuously update e-mail addresses for your most recently acquired customers.

Today, most reputable e-mail append vendors send welcome e-mails on your behalf – on their own servers – and only return the valid e-mail addresses that did not opt-out of e-mail communication. If anyone offers to slap some e-mail addresses onto your file and then hand them back to you, run like the wind. A welcome message protects your server score with the ISPs and ensures that you only add valid permission-based e-mail addresses to your file.

Manage opt-outs with a strong under­standing of the ethics requirements

Chris DeMartine
Director of business development, NextMark

Are you embracing customers and prospects who are looking to opt out? The DMA has taken a proactive stance on consumer choice with its Privacy Promise, which involves the commit­ment of all of its members to provide customers with opt-out information and to honor their requests.

If your Web site is already search-engine optimized, you can add a unique privacy page containing key­words that will make it easier for con­sumers to opt out.

As an experiment, try running a Google search on “Remove my name from (catalog or publication title) mailing list.” Where does it lead you? Depending on the catalog or magazine title you choose, you'll end up with a top-ranked Web page for the company's privacy policy, several pages of irrel­evant URLs or somewhere in between.

First, do some research on your competitors' sites to understand how they support their customers online with tools for opting out.

Next, create your own privacy policy with search engine-optimized pages to help your customers opt out in a manner that increases your knowledge about them. Opting out should not be an all or nothing deal for you or your customers. There are actionable opportunities that can deliver attitudi­nal insight and interest data that will improve your direct marketing efficien­cy, but you must get these customers and prospects to visit you first.

Once these “opt-outers” find you, there will be an opportunity to learn more about their interests, attitudes and desires.

What's most important is that you allow “opt-outers” to make their choices and gain permission to use that information in a manner that will improve the relevance of offers they receive. If you believe in making it dif­ficult to opt out — think again.

Making it difficult for consumers to opt out will only hurt you in the long run

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