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Posts Tagged ‘list hygiene’

Email Deliverability: Can you spot a scrub?

January 10th, 2014 No comments

“You don’t want no scrubs,

A scrub is a subscriber who ain’t getting no mail from me.”

 

Inspired by hip-hop group TLC’s 1999 hit, “No Scrubs,” Matt Byrd, Email Marketing Manager, WeddingWire, explained list hygiene with a beat and a rhyme to get his point across to attendees at MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2013.

In this video excerpt, see how he explained a “scrub,” or disengaged email subscriber, not only affects the quality of your list, but also your email deliverability.

Matt’s wake-up call happened on the morning the soft bounce rate of his list went over 23%. After testing, educating and testing again, Matt discovered users that were inactive for four months or longer should be scrubbed from the list.

Although all of the users “opted-in,” these inactive users were far more likely to hit the delete button than open the email, let alone hit the unsubscribe button.

As a recently married bride, I must confess, I was one of those users.

When I first got engaged, I was so excited to register for newsletters on WeddingWire and other sites. Research and planning were at the top of my list and I could not read enough reviews, insights and planning tips.

But as the weeks and months went by, my plans turned into contracts and I didn’t need the help anymore.

Soon, the emails from Matt went from the top of my inbox to the trash. I didn’t need him anymore. I was likely one of the 23% of his list that was bringing him down (sorry, Matt.)

Whenever I had the chance to watch this case study presentation, I was intrigued by how Matt overcame people like me – the busy, fickle customer, quick to hit the delete button.

Although Matt’s journey with list hygiene was initially met with skepticism, the reward has been great. Deliverability rate, Matt explained, open and clicks have increased since WeddingWire started implementing this routine, and spam complaint rates have plummeted 76%.

Here is Matt’s approach boiled down to three steps:

  1. Constantly monitor bounce rate and spam complaint rate
  2. Figure out who your scrubs are
  3. Create an ongoing filter to remove scrubs from your list

 

To learn more about how scrubs are impacting your deliverability, you can watch the free on-demand replay of Matt’s presentation, “Proactive List Hygiene.”

Read more…

Email Marketing: Inactive lists and deliverability

September 6th, 2013 1 comment

I recently had the chance to speak with Ali Swerdlow, VP Channel Sales and Marketing, LeadSpend, on some of the challenges facing email marketers. She mentioned emailing inactive lists is an issue for a number of reasons.

That conversation led to a joint interview with industry experts Craig Swerdloff, CEO and Founder, LeadSpend, and Spencer Kollas, Global Director of Delivery Services, Experian Marketing Services.

 

MarketingSherpa: We’re going to be talking about inactive email and what email marketers can do about this issue. This is a challenge for a lot of marketers.

Spencer Kollas: There has been a lot of press around the fact that Yahoo! is actually shutting down and potentially reassigning I’ve heard anywhere between 7 million and 15 million email addresses that have not been logged into in the past 12 months.

It’s really important for clients, as they start looking at this, and senders, to focus on those most active users, because not only are the ISPs such as Yahoo! potentially shutting those addresses down because of inactivity, but a lot of the major ISPs are also looking at user-level engagement to determine inbox delivery.

When you look at  a Yahoo!, a Gmail, a Hotmail [account], they are actually looking at how engaged [your users are]. And that will actually help them determine whether they think that they should deliver all of your mail into the inbox, the bulk folder, or just even potentially block it.

By looking at that engagement level and focusing on those and knowing who your inactives are, and really determining what is considered inactive based on your business needs and goals, is also a very important piece.

Craig Swerdloff: Yeah, I would echo that. I completely agree with Spencer. I think marketers are faced with a tough challenge in really identifying active users, however, because at the end of the day, the metrics around activity aren’t necessarily accurate.

The best example I can give on that is there may be a lot of users who are receiving your email, for example, on a mobile device where the images are disabled by default. From a marketer’s perspective, they may never register an open [for that email] even though they may be actually engaging with that email on their mobile phone.

Furthermore, they might be taking action from that email that may not be identified in a click, but may actually result in a person coming into your store and making a purchase.

You’ve got to clean up your data and, obviously, you’ve got to remove inactives over a period of time. But you also don’t want to throw away email addresses of customers that are actually reading your email or seeing your email and who are then prompted to go into a store and make a purchase. So, you’ve got very careful about it.

 

MS: Actually, that brings up a great question because – what is the marketing challenge? Obviously you’re going to track open rate, clickthrough and everything else. But at the same time, you have people who are opening on mobile, they’re engaging with you in different places. How do you meet that challenge?

SK: From a straight deliverability standpoint, right, the ISPs are strictly looking at email engagement, right? So, truly understanding your customers and your business, you have to figure out – are there other ways to engage with [your customers]?

Are they looking at things on, say, social or are there other options that you can use to get them to open your emails – even by posting something through your social networks and getting them to open one of your emails, something along those lines.

Because Yahoo! doesn’t know that somebody’s coming into your business and your retail store and actually buying something. Only you know that. So, finding other avenues to reach out to those customers and getting them to engage with your email is something that I think is really important. Again, it’s all based on those particular business goals and those business needs.

It’s a careful balance. You want to work for better deliverability and better inbox placement rate, but at the same time, your ultimate goal is to optimize towards the highest ROI and the highest rate of return and revenue on your email program.

You probably want to do things in steps and do things in a gradual process. By the way, if you’re not having a deliverability problem, then you probably don’t need to really worry too much about removing inactive email addresses. But if you are, then you may want to stop and take a look at what’s causing that and which domains you might be having a problem [with].

Let’s just say, for example, you’re having a deliverability problem related to engagement at Yahoo!, then you probably want to start removing some of your inactive Yahoo! addresses.

But the best way to do that would be, for example, to start with email addresses that have never registered and opened, never registered a click, and who aren’t customers, current customers, as far as you can tell online or offline.

You can remove those folks and then kind of measure and gauge what effect that’s having on your deliverability and inbox placement at Yahoo!. And, if it is having enough of an effect, then you may want to start adding some additional email addresses into your inactive segments. So, you may want to start removing people who maybe haven’t opened or clicked in 12 months and who haven’t made a purchase in 12 months, and you can continue to sort of expand the universe, if necessary, in order to fix that deliverability problem.

 

MS: How does your inactive crowd affect your reputation score?

SK: Again, from the deliverability standpoint, when you’re talking about the major ISPs that are using engagement as part of their overall reputation scores, it can have a drastic impact on your overall ability to reach your customers.

While some [if not all] of the ISPs use engagement level-type situations, a lot of the major ones do, and so that’s where you’re going to see the effects of your inbox delivery. It’s not just about how much mail are you sending in a given time or throttle rate, or even just spam complaints. It’s all of the different levers that they can look at, whether it’s unknown users, whether it’s spam traps, whether it’s complaint rates, whether it’s engagement level stuff. They’re looking at all of those and tweaking as they go along to determine your overall reputation.

 

MS: Is there anything you want to add that I’ve not brought up that you think is apropos to this entire conversation?

SK: I think from a deliverability standpoint, one thing that has been kind of proven time and time again is in email, it’s not always about the biggest list makes the most money. It’s about the most focused list, sending the most relevant content.

Just by sending emails to people that are opening or clicking or engaging with your brand isn’t necessarily going to make you the ROI that you’re looking for on email.

While email is very cheap and easy to do, you want to make sure you’re reaching those customers that are your most active and finding other avenues. Again, be it print, phone, social, whatever it may be, how to engage those customers and possibly bring them back into the fold in email.

 

MS: You’re telling me you like segmentation and not batch and blast, right?

SK: It was probably 10 years ago, my boss would basically start every presentation, every conversation with telling people that they are no longer allowed to say the word “blast” because blast is a bad thing and that’s exactly what the ISPs look for and try to block. They are looking for segmentation. They are looking for different ways that companies are reaching out to their users.

From a deliverability standpoint, that’s how best we can understand which segments are your most valuable. By just doing the old batch and blast, you can’t really tell what’s actually making you the most money and what’s not, so you don’t know where to focus your time.

By creating different segments, you can really focus where it’s going to make you money in return, instead of just focusing and wasting your time on people that will never truly engage with your brand via email.

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B2B Marketing: Building a quality list

May 27th, 2011 3 comments

Teleprospecting, email campaigns, drip marketing, lead nurturing — all of these marketing tactics have one very important element in common. Each one begins with a list, and the quality of the data in that list has a direct influence on the success of each tactic.

Looking at the top of the funnel

“Data is so top of the funnel, yet it is so undervalued,” says Brandon Stamschror, Senior Director of Operations for the Leads Group, MECLABS (the parent company of MarketingSherpa.)

He explains that creating a quality list begins with an organizational philosophy that places a high value on data quality. This might require a philosophy shift in some companies, and it will likely require leadership support in the idea that data quality is important and that this importance might need to be proven by testing.

“A lot of times I see that marketers think they have this really robust, large database, but soon find out that because of data quality issues, they only have a small segment of their actual ideal customers that they wanted to be focusing on,” says Stamschror. “They are kind of getting lost in the quagmire of trying to manage untargeted data.”

Pay more, gain more

Stamschror says the solution may be to spend more on data to reap the benefits of higher-quality lists.

He explains you want to:

  • Be specific about the data you need to focus on
  • Don’t collect more data than you really need on your ideal buyer profile or persona

If you don’t do these two things, it can become overwhelming to manage a very large list. And if your data quality is low, you might have a list of 50,000 contacts, with only 10,000 who are relevant to your business.

Data hygiene is an ongoing process

Looking at data quality isn’t something you can do once and be satisfied that you’ve completed a task to take off the “to-do” list. Stamschror recommends data remediation projects every three to six months if there is no other data hygiene process in place.

Even though it’s not cost effective having your lead generation and prospecting staff spend time tracking down bad entries in the list, or engaging in a wholesale data update, it is beneficial to create a process where your team is regularly updating and appending account information as part of their day-to-day activity. There is little, to no, additional investment for staff to update contact fields as they discover missing, or incorrect, items. Stamschror adds if controlling data quality isn’t feasible as an internal process, you should find a data quality partner you can trust.

He explains, “It is always important to have someone who has some distinct responsibility for data quality.”

Stamschror says that as many as half of all lists he’s encountered contain duplicate information because there is no data hygiene or remediation process in place to keep the database clean.

“It really gives you a false sense of security,” he says. “You think, ‘I have all these contacts that I can run email campaigns or teleprospecting campaigns off of,’ and then you find out once you get into it that your list isn’t really as big as you thought it was, or as robust as you thought, and worse yet, you are spending a lot of time just wasting time (with the bad list).”

Less can be more

Stamschror says it is much more important to have a very clean, but smaller, prospect list, as opposed to a bloated list full of bad and/or irrelevant data. He states this is particularly important for B2B marketers who should be focused on a smaller group of highly targeted prospects.

Stamschror offers a piece of final advice, “You know the companies that you really need to be focused on. So focus on the right one.”

Related Resources

(Members library) CRM and the Marketing Database: Data hygiene, behavioral analysis and more

(Members library) Cause Marketing: Marketer builds email list with 20% conversion rate

New Chart: Most effective email list growth tactics

Email List Hygiene: Remove four kinds of bad addresses to improve deliverability

B2B Marketing: The 7 most important stages in the teleprospecting funnel

Photo credit: Donovan Govan


Email List Hygiene: Remove four kinds of bad addresses to improve deliverability

April 15th, 2011 2 comments

Your email database is the foundation of your email marketing. Haphazardly adding names can invite irrelevant subscribers and invalid email addresses — which weaken your foundation.

Inspired by our upcoming Optimization Summit, I went back to my notes from our recent Email Summit to reinforce what I learned about email deliverability. I found some great information on bad email addresses and list hygiene from an expert panel.

Soap and towelJack Hogan, CTO and Co-Founder, Lifescript, a women’s health website, presented his team’s work with FreshAddress, an email list hygiene provider. Austin Bliss, President, FreshAddress, was also on hand and noted:

“People make typos all the time… You want to keep that address out of your list because it’s not going to help you. And no amount of deliverability tweaking later is going to help you if the initial email address is bad.”

Hogan and Bliss highlighted four types of bad email addresses removed from Lifescript’s database. Take a look to see if your list has any of these:

Role Accounts

These email addresses are maintained by a website or company for specific purpose. Examples include:

  • info@example.com
  • admin@example.com
  • press@example.com
  • abuse@example.com

These addresses are often maintained by a group, not an individual. So if you send an email to one of these addresses, it will not likely be relevant to all the owners and can make your message susceptible to being deleted or marked as spam.

Furthermore, these addresses are often publicly available on websites, which means they’re easily picked up by spammers. Email services are aware of this trend and monitor emails sent to role accounts. Emailing a high number of role accounts in your campaigns will likely harm your reputation among email services.

Syntax Errors and Typos

These invalid addresses are genuine mistakes. People frequently mistype their email address. Even if they are asked to write the address twice, it is very easy for someone to type it incorrectly the first time and copy-and-paste the mistake into the second form field.

How bad could this problem be?

“I saw 500 different ways yahoo.com was entered into our address book,” Hogan says.

The problem with these addresses is that they are often from people who are legitimately trying to subscribe to your newsletter — and they never receive it. This can create a bad impression with your brand. Furthermore, email services do not like receiving a high-volume of emails sent to invalid accounts and can mark-down your reputation in response.

Fake Addresses

These addresses are entered by people who do not want to give a valid email address. For whatever reason, they wanted to complete the signup process without providing a personal email. Instead, they made something up, such as:

  • nope@gmail.com
  • null@void.com
  • asdf@yahoo.com
  • nowaybuddy@getlost.com

One reason you might receive a high number of fake addresses is by requiring people to provide an address to complete an unrelated task, such as to enter a contest. The person is not interested in a newsletter or promotions — they just want to enter the contest, so they invent a fake address.

Lifescript mainly collects email addresses from people subscribing to its newsletters — but it still saw these bogus addresses in its database. Even though this does not make sense, it happens.spam trap

As mentioned above, sending emails to a high number of invalid addresses can tarnish your reputation.

Spam Traps

Email services and other companies create these addresses and publish them online as bait for spammers. Then they wait for someone to find the addresses and start sending unsolicited emails. This helps the companies identify spam.

Emailing one or more spam traps can hurt your reputation. The trouble, though, is these emails can find their way into legitimate company’s lists via:

  • Poor sources — such as a purchased lists from a disreputable company
  • Poisoning — a malicious competitor or an upset customer can identify a spam trap and sign it up for your emails.

Some spam traps are obvious, such as abuse@example.com, but most are kept secret. Otherwise, they would not be effective. This can make them difficult to identify. However, they’re not likely to be active, responsive subscribers, so you should be targeting them for removal based on inactivity anyway.

You can find out more about email deliverability at our upcoming webinar:
Improve Email Deliverability: Tactics for Handling Complaints and Boosting Reputation
(Thursday, April 21, 1:00 to 2:00 p.m. EDT)

Related resources

MarketingSherpa Optimization Summit 2011

Email Deliverability: Always test emails that link to third-party sites

Email Deliverability: Getting into Gmail’s ‘Priority Inbox’

Email Marketing: Improve deliverability by deleting subscribers?

Email Marketing: Your deliverability questions answered

Members Library — Webinar Replay: Top Tactics to Improve Relevancy and Deliverability

Members Library — Third-Party Links and Email Deliverability: 4 Tips to protect your reputation

Soap Photo by: Horia Varlan on Flickr

CompuServe Is No More — But Will Email Addresses Remain Active?

July 7th, 2009 2 comments

CompuServe, the pioneering online service, quietly ended its 30-year run on June 30. Current owner AOL made the shutdown announcement via email to its dwindling ranks of subscribers, prompting blog eulogies from nostalgic fans — and a little bit of snark from the peanut gallery (“CompuWHAT?”).

The news caught my eye, not only because I’m a former user.

I remember logging on to CompuServe to check stock market quotes and search a Lexis-Nexis-style periodical database during my first reporting job out of college. I also shared one of those now-ludicrous numerical email addresses with about four other reporters.

More relevant to the here and now is the notice that current subscribers can retain their existing CompuServe Classic email addresses.

The process requires subscribers to migrate their old accounts to a new, Web-mail service through an online registration form — but how many of those address will, indeed, remain active?

Subscriber apathy, user error, or technical glitches could cause many of those addresses to stop functioning. And if you’ve got CompuServe address in your email database, that could mean more bounces in the coming weeks.

So take a look at your database. See how many @compuserve.com addresses you’re currently mailing, and watch for bounces or other signs of inactivity in future campaigns. You don’t want to purge those addresses from your list immediately, but you also don’t want the ghosts of past ISPs threatening your list hygiene.

CompuServe Classic Mail Migration:
http://member.compuserve.com/mailcenter/default.jsp

CompuServe Eulogy from The PaperPC
http://paperpc.blogspot.com/2009/06/compuserve-classic-so-long-old-friend.html