The secret to e-mail success: No 'garbage in, garbage out'

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Marketers invest time and money on e-mail content, design, testing and performance metrics but may neglect another part of the equation: the data. How can our e-mail marketing campaigns possibly succeed if we begin with bad data?

FreshAddress's experience indicates that anywhere from 5% to 25% of e-mail addresses entered on Web site registration pages are invalid. In a recent study, we registered the same 13 invalid e-mail addresses on 50 top retail Web sites. No Web site we tested offered a correction for common spelling errors (yaho.com). Also, no Web site blocked more than 37% of the invalid e-mail addresses entered, as many overlooked misspellings, syntax and formatting mistakes, top-level or “dead” domains and bogus e-mail addresses.

With the money we spend on e-mail marketing, we risk losing thousands, if not millions, of dollars by using bad data. The potential ramifications of this can include disgruntled customers or prospects, lost sales and a negative brand impact. Worse, whenever malicious and/or repeatedly bouncing e-mail addresses slip through, we risk being labeled a “spammer” and/or blacklisted by ISPs. We must continuously update our e-mail address databases, and improve e-mail address validation on our Web sites. A few possible ways to overcome “Garbage In, Garbage Out.”

Review the design and content of Web site registration pages

Are database fields big enough to avoid truncating errors?

Confirm that error messages are instructive.

Communicate the value of the e-mail relationship up front, and

reassure clients/prospects as to how their e-mail will be used.

Use technology to confirm information and ensure accuracy

Personalize the confirmation page so users recognize right away if they have made an error.

Require double-entry. (This doesn't always solve the problem as many users either cut and paste the second address or use auto-fill, which simply duplicates the original error.)

Institute a double opt-in process. (This comes with its own set of issues such as deliverability hurdles, junk box filters and user abandonment.)

Implement real-time e-mail validation technology, an effective and user-friendly way to automatically catch and correct invalid entries at the point of registration.

By initially building a better e-mail database — and by then keeping it up to date — we reap multiple benefits including higher revenues, reduced marketing expense and reduced risk of blacklisting by ISPs. Most importantly, however, we provide a better customer experience.


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