Email lists naturally atrophy over time: people change jobs or companies, get acquired, alter their strategies, lose resources or budget, purchase another solution, etc. And even though you should be managing your database throughout the year to optimize your email marketing ROI – a deep cleaning is likely in order at least a few times a year. Here are 5 steps to take:
- Do a visual inspection: Simply inspecting your list should uncover easy-to-fix misspellings and typos (e.g. firstname.lastname@example.org, john!gmail.com, email@example.com, etc.), saving you from erroneously sending to invalid accounts. Also, get rid of generic, distribution or system addresses (e.g. firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com), any obvious fake addresses, or accounts containing the word “spam.”
- Set a bounce maximum: One essential way to clean your email database is to remove addresses that bounce back when contacted. Although it may be tempting to do that upon the initial return, be aware that emails may bounce back for temporary (or “soft”) reasons, such as an ISP or company email server being down for a short while, or perhaps your prospect went on vacation and her mailbox filled up to the point that it’s no longer accepting messages. As a result, you may want to set a bounce back maximum of three times; after which you should feel justified in removing them. You should, however, remove “hard bounces” (e.g. invalid email address) right away, as the problem is permanent, and the email will never get delivered.
- Honor opt-outs: If your prospect replies to your message requesting to be dropped from your email list, act immediately to do so. You will almost certainly not change their mind or bring them around to your solution. More likely, you’ll risk irritating them to the point that they’ll lodge a complaint with their ISP – putting you and your company in hot water. Last but not least, you should know that the CAN-SPAM Act in the U.S. is a law that requires you to take action on any unsubscribe or opt-out requests within 10 business days – or a fine will be issued.
- Address the disengaged: When it comes to acquisition emails aimed at prospects, you might find that some of the people on your list are unresponsive. They may not be interested in hearing from your company – at least not initially. Put these disengaged prospect addresses in a separate list and follow up with them after a period of time. For customers who are unresponsive, hold off on emails for a little while as well and give them some breathing room. If you’ve lost them as a customer, consider a “win-back” email campaign – there are a variety of approaches you can use to get them back on board as a customer.
Whether for unresponsive prospects or customers, after not emailing them for a month or two, you might send an occasional follow-up message (“Still interested in resolving XYZ…?”), create a special incentive for them to re-engage, or give them a short survey to find out why they’re not responding (e.g. off-target content? too many emails?). Find out how they want to be engaged and adjust accordingly.
- Grow your list: As you remove bad addresses, bounce backs and opt-out requests, your list will inevitably shrink over time. That’s not a problem. You can continue to grow it by offering sign up-forms on your website, newsletter, video page, blog, email signature, etc. And you can collect sign-ups or business cards at events, points of sale, or through contests or other promotions. Last but not least, you can acquire high-quality contact data from reputable, experienced providers who offer a written quality guarantee.
In closing, one thing I always advise my clients is that success in email marketing is not defined by the size of your database but instead measured by its quality and accuracy – and the actions your audience takes in response to your valuable, interesting and actionable email campaigns.
Outward Media’s accurate, targeted email data can help you achieve better email marketing ROI by targeting your best prospects – including top-level executives -- and, ultimately, converting more prospects into customers. Take a look at our case studies to find out more.