Smart marketing: Prospect your prospects, not your customers

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Many companies will use e-mail this year to prospect and uncover new sales leads. This is no real surprise given e-mail's unmatched ROI and targeting capabilities. What I wonder is how many of these companies and their agencies will actually remember to scrub out their customer lists before launching their prospecting efforts?

It seems obvious enough; don't send acquisition messages to your current customers.  For example, a restaurant won't try and sell you a steak as you're sitting in their establishment eating a steak.  As silly as it sounds, marketers do it all the time. Think about how many times you've opened up the mail to find incredible benefits simply for activating a new credit card account.  The problem is you are already a credit card member. Don't they already know this? After all, you are sending them money every month. And don't get me started on how many times my cable company has offered me incredible new customer deals despite being a customer for over ten years.

I'm constantly amazed by these imprudent marketing tactics. How do you think it makes your customers feel?  They don't want to feel like just another name in a giant database. They want to feel special and appreciated. The difference between an unhappy customer and a loyal customer is how you interact with them. Unfortunately, sending acquisition campaigns to current customers is all too common and is the type of marketing strategy that could end up costing you clients. The good news is that it's easy to avoid.

For lack of a better term, my team calls this smart marketing. Smart marketing is easy – scrub your prospect list to remove current customers, opt-outs or unsubscribes, and any other list of individuals that doesn't meet your target criteria. It's incredibly simple and the benefits include:

·         Improvement in response rates.  I'm willing to guess your customers are highly unlikely to respond to an offer for something they've already purchased.

·         Not upsetting your customers and thus protecting your business and brand.  This is critical: have respect for your customers and know who they are.

·         Removes duplicates.  Scrubbing your lists can also remove duplicates. Bob@yahoo.com shouldn't receive the exact same offer five times in his inbox.

·         Reduces costs.  Depending on the medium and payout structure (CPM, CPL, etc) you'll likely save money by sending communications to those you intended them for.

Perhaps you're utilizing third parties, ad networks or affiliate networks to help expand your marketing reach, and you don't want to share your sensitive customer data.  That's very smart - both utilizing third parties and worrying about your data.  The good news is you can use third parties and networks and never share your sensitive customer data. 

E-mail compliance companies offer a range of email list security options that protect your data as well as help comply with federal data privacy laws like the CAN-SPAM Act.  The primary means to protecting e-mails lists is list scrubbing or list hashing.

List scrubbing is the practice of uploading one's e-mail file to a neutral third party, who then scrubs the list against a partner's e-mail list to remove customers, opt-outs and duplicate e-mail records. List scrubbing is considered the most secure way to distribute e-mail addresses as no addresses are actually shared.  MD5 and SHA-256 are one-way hashing algorithms that convert plain-text email addresses into 32 or 64 character alphanumeric hashes. Advertisers can hash their e-mail lists before sending to third parties. Third parties then do the same to their mailing list and compare the MD5 or SHA-256 hashes in their list against the hashes in the e-mail files.  If matches are found, the mailer removes the corresponding e-mail address in their list. 

Whichever option you choose you can rest assured that your data is protected and can't be compromised by your marketing partners. Be smart, scrub your lists.

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