Because email marketing is a big focus of mine, I’m often asked about my best advice on this topic for small businesses. Recently, at the Integrated Marketing Summit (IMS) event in Kansas City, I sat down with Bernie Borges, host of the “Social Business Engine” program, to discuss tips to consider when it comes to email data quality. While the interview was a fun part of my participation at IMS, the event reaffirmed my top guidance to email marketers:
- Be Accurate – or Face the Consequences: Any marketer worth their salt these days knows that bad email addresses will lead to poor campaign results and even worse ROI. Some even accept this premise as just the cost of doing business these days. But what they don’t know is the consequences for bad data quality can be much more severe than a negative review from their supervisor: their company’s outgoing email campaigns can actually be shut down due to spam and the influence of data watch dogs. And once an offending company gets on the watch dogs’ list, it can take 6 months to get off of it. That means no email campaigns for as long as half a year. Can your marketing efforts afford to be offline that long? And this is not a potential threat aimed at small, fly-by-night operations: large, Fortune 1000 companies have been placed on this list – and have struggled to get taken off of it.
- Get a Written Data Quality Guarantee: To cast a wider net with their marketing programs, most small businesses need outside help building their email lists – and many don’t have an email list at all. But with the above in mind, it’s more important than ever for marketers to do their homework before selecting an email data provider, as opposed to learning about their bad data after the fact (or after the campaign). The reality is there are many shady vendors out there willing to significantly undercut their competition, but with accompanying accuracy rates of only 70 or 60 percent (or even significantly lower). Reputable email vendors will not hesitate to provide a written guarantee of 90 percent or higher email address accuracy. On top of that, they’ll also offer a credit if, for whatever unforeseen reason, the data falls below this rate. If your vendor balks or refuses to provide a written data quality guarantee, run!
- Stay Informed: Email marketing is alive and well. Despite some bad publicity about the relatively few offenders and potential negative consequences, it remains the top digital channel for marketing ROI and a cost-effective method for converting prospects into customers. Companies large and small have embraced email marketing as a cornerstone of their overall marketing initiatives – over 70% of organizations now count email as their primary communications channel. But knowledge will remain the key to success. For example, most marketers know that corporate email addresses are easier to deliver to -- depending on how their company firewalls are set up -- than ISV (independent service vendor) addresses, such as AOL, Hotmail or Gmail. If your target audience uses mostly ISV email addresses, selecting the right, experienced email data provider will be even more critical to your ability to effectively reach these customers and prospects.
As a small business, you can’t afford the consequences of not doing email marketing right. Even better, when you apply best practices for data quality, you’ll see a better return on investment and earn praise for the quality leads you’ve generated.
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