Give Your Email Data a Good Spring Cleaning

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Give Your Email Data a Good Spring Cleaning
Give Your Email Data a Good Spring Cleaning

Ah, April – ‘tis the season for spring-cleaning. But scrubbing the floor and reorganizing the pantry at home shouldn't be the only tasks included in marketers' cleaning regimen. In the spirit of good tidyings, marketers need to dust off their email data sets before the only thing tarnished is their reputations.

Chris Kolbenschlag, director of deliverability for marketing platform provider Bronto Software, says having an unclean data set, one containing email address that bounce, contain spam traps, or include typos, puts marketers at risk of being black listed or blocked. He adds that using an old, contaminated data list can cause marketers to be viewed as spammers and fall victim to spam traps.

“Spammers will typically have a higher bounce rate,” Kolbenschlag says. “What ISPs do is they tie anybody, legit or non-legit, that has a high bounce rate…into a spammer category because you're not cleaning your lists.”

Here are six tips to help marketers spruce up their data sets – no mop or broom required.

Categorize the bounces

For hard bounces, Kolbenschlag advises marketers to remove the invalid email address after one or two attempts. However, he allows room for five to seven soft bounces, which may have resulted from temporary issues such as domain issues or throttling. Nevertheless, deciphering between hard and soft bounces is critical.

“Our biggest challenge is making sure that the ones that we're removing on the first try are indeed just bad addresses versus just a temporary [bad address] where, [when] trying again later, it may go through,” Kolbenschlag says.

Provide a double entry or double opt-in

Kolbenschlag says having customers enter their email addresses in twice can be a cheap and effective way to avoid invalid email addresses or unsolicited emails caused by typos and fat thumb syndrome.

Give customers an incentive

When in-store, employees can lure customers into providing their actual email addresses, instead of fake addresses or ones they never check, by providing customers with an incentive. However, make sure that both the customer and the brand benefit from this inducement. For example, Kolbenschlag says that offering customers 10% off their current purchase rewards customers whether or not they provide a valid or invalid address. Instead, marketers should entice the customer to provide a legitimate address by offering future sales or deals, such as a 10% discount on their next purchase for signing up.

In addition, Kolbenschlag discourages incentives that solely reward employees, such as rewarding employees who accumulate the most email addresses. He explains that this incentive can motivate employees to fulfill their own agendas rather than the brand's, such as by inserting faulty email addresses to bulk up their numbers. Kolbenschlag also suggests allowing customers to enter their own email addresses via an in-store laptop to avoid employee typos or having employees distribute cards with a registration link so customers can share their email addresses at their leisure.

Send a confirmation email

Success! The customer has shared his email address, but how do marketers know it's the right one? Kolbenschlag says sending out a confirmation email can help marketers sniff out invalid addresses that bounce and identify spam traps from customers who don't confirm a sign-up. He also recommends sending a confirmation email to thank customers for signing up, verify that the customer is who he says he is, and confirm that the customer actually wants to hear from the brand.

“It gives you a choice if you want to hear from [the brand],” Kolbenschlag says. “It's like [asking], ‘Would you like to go to dinner?' ‘Yes.' ‘Are you sure you want to go to dinner?' ‘Yes, I really want to go to dinner.' Versus ‘Would you like to go to dinner sometime?' ‘Yeah,' but it's really a blow-off.”

Remember, it's quality, not quantity

In Kolbenschlag's opinion, the best time to buy an email list is never.

“When you buy an email list, you don't know who these people are, [and] you don't know where these addresses came from,” Kolbenschlag says. “Again, trap addresses can be in there, and they're not going to get picked out because they don't bounce.”

Kolbenschlag reminds marketers that it's the quality of the list that matters, not the quantity. He adds that prospects acquired through list building are more likely to engage than prospects obtained through list buying who may have never even heard of the brand.

Don't be afraid to cut the cord

After slaving over growing their lists, marketers can be hesitant to remove any prospects. However, Kolbenschlag says it's important to remove unengaged prospects who could otherwise view the sender as a spammer and hurt the brand's reputation. Rather than sending more emails, Kolbenschlag recommends sending a one-time email notifying the prospect that you've seen a decrease in engagement.

“They're ignoring you for a reason and you need to listen to that,” he says. “The misconception is, ‘If I remove people from my list, my ROI is going to go down [and] those people could potentially buy'....We have to get rid of the ignorers.”

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