E-Mail Appending Can Raise Match Rates

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E-mail marketing continues to evolve as an excellent tool for generating and developing closer relationships with existing customers at a much lower cost than traditional marketing efforts.


But the first step in communicating via e-mail is to obtain those e-mail addresses from existing customers. As a result, many companies with databases containing an extensive number of records - ideally more than 100,000 - face the challenge of finding their customers online.


Of course, you can wait for your customers to find you first and supply you with their e-mail addresses. But that information can come in dribs and drabs and take much longer than most marketers want.


What is a relatively quick solution to increasing e-mail coverage on your existing database of customers without sacrificing match rate quality and giving you the highest and best number of e-mail addresses? Use a strategic approach to choosing multiple database sources of permission-based e-mail lists to add - or append - to your internal database.


Using your existing database. Keeping in mind the value of existing customers - people who have already raised their hands and said, "Yes, I want to do business with you" - e-mail appending gets you those sought-after e-mail addresses faster. Oftentimes, companies have extensive databases full of customer information, but e-mail addresses - because of the newness of the medium - are lacking. Because you are a known quantity to these customers, e-mail appending is often effective in your marketing plan.


Doing an e-mail append on your database of lapsed customers is also effective for bringing them back into the fold. By obtaining these customers' e-mail addresses, you can then focus on specific ways to bring lapsed customers back into your store or give them incentives to purchase something online.


What are your e-mail goals? In appending an existing database, the first step is understanding that, just like traditional marketing databases, permission-based e-mail databases are not compiled the same way. Each has its own strengths and weaknesses. An e-mail database that might be good for one company's e-mail append might not be good for another. Database compilation is key, so you match your database's strengths with the strengths of the permission-based databases on the market. A good data supplier should be able to rank these e-mail files and help you choose the best one for you.


However, before deciding to do an e-mail append to your existing database, you should have clear-cut strategic goals in mind.


Do you simply want to test a certain number of e-mails and see how they work?


Do you want to e-mail only a certain demographic portion of your database?


What are your quality goals? Do you want people who have explicitly said, "Yes, I want to receive e-mails from this company," or do you want people who passively give their permission because they did not ask to be taken off your e-mail list?


Based on this information, you would then back yourself into the best database or databases based on the results that you want to achieve.


And while the number of permission-based e-mail databases that allow appending is growing daily, you want to ensure that you get the most value for your dollars. For example, one e-mail database might have only 1 percent of the names and addresses you are searching for on your file. A good match rate for e-mail ranges from 4 percent to 25 percent, typically. And unlike the more common data-appending technique to match demographics, missing mailing information and other components to a database, an e-mail append is a two-step process - and each process affects your results greatly.


After your initial e-mail append, those matched records do not belong to you until they go through an opt-in or an opt-out campaign - in other words, matched e-mail records need to give either their active or passive permission before they become part of your file.


What that means is that in an opt-in campaign, e-mail is sent to those matched records letting them know that so-and-so company has asked to use their e-mail for marketing purposes. The e-mail recipients then have to actively opt-in - click on a link and sign up to give their permission. If permission is not granted, then the e-mail is not included in the final output. In an opt-out campaign, e-mail recipients - if they do not want to receive e-mail - need to click on a specified link to not be included in the e-mail append.


Opt-out campaigns yield better results, but opt-in campaigns yield higher-quality e-mail recipients - they really want to hear from you. With opt-in campaigns about 17 percent to 25 percent of matched records end up staying on your file. With opt-out, about 50 percent of appended names remain on the file.


Some e-mail databases offer one or the other type of permission-based step; some offer both opt-out and opt-in campaigns. Some e-mail databases will even allow you to write the copy - with their prior approval - for the permission-based step regardless of whether it is an opt-in or opt-out campaign.


Every nuance in this second step is critical to your results and shapes how you rank the e-mail databases you work with.


So depending on your appending goals, multiple databases - starting with the database that will get you the most matches, then supplementing other databases in your append - can keep you from missing out on incremental percentage points on your results.


Case study. One national retailer had been using a single-source approach to e-mail appending its database. The results were dismal because the database was not best suited for this type of retailer, and the match and permission-based results were very low - less than 4 percent. Wanting to improve its e-mail coverage for an upcoming customer loyalty campaign, the retailer needed to take a different approach to fill in the gaps.


For the retailer's new approach, a better database was found that gave the retailer a higher match rate on the first go-round, or pass. Then the retailer's file was passed against supplemental databases to enhance coverage and improve the quantity and quality of the e-mail addresses that were appended.


In the permission-based step, the retailer wrote the "would you grant us permission" campaign - of course with the prior approval of the e-mail database owner to increase results. By using multiple databases to append the file and have a greater amount of control in the second step, the retailer received the desired number of e-mail records it wanted for its customer retention campaign.


Results of appending your database. From a customer retention point of view, the average cost per sale via e-mail is only $2, compared with direct mail averages of $18 per sale, so you save a tremendous amount of money.


Furthermore, with an e-mail append you pay only for those e-mails that make it through the second step of giving some form of permission. For example, if you have 100,000 records and the net result of the append process is that 25,000 of those records have matches, and then 12,000 names give their permission for marketing, then you pay for those 12,000. By paying only for what you get back, you really have nothing to lose.


Additionally, the cost of collateral and promotional pieces decreases, as marketers are able to build more effective one-to-one marketing relationships with existing customers. So, before embarking on a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign, you first should target those that got you where you are.


By appending your database to include e-mail addresses of your existing customers, you then are able to specifically target them according to their needs, saving you time and money.


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