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

April 15th, 2011
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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

Email Marketing: 6 steps to re-engaging subscribers and cleaning your list database

April 22nd, 2016
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With spring now upon us, are you ready to “spring clean” your email lists?

It’s a hard task to take on. No one likes to see their list decline. However, list hygiene is an important part of any email strategy.

List-cleaning-graphic

“Blasting your emails to an unqualified list could result in account suspensions from your email platform, penalties, or even fines, not to mention dismal marketing results,” according to the Salesforce article “How to Keep Your Email Lists Sparkling Clean.”

If many of your email addresses are undeliverable or people are marking you as spam, your email reputation suffers. You could be causing yourself to be flagged as spam in your customer’s inboxes — and that won’t get your campaigns very far.

To get your list back to a healthy state and stay that way, we’ve outline six steps for your team to take.

 

Step #1. Delete fake, role-based and misspelled email addresses

To start your email spring cleaning, examine your list for the addresses you won’t hope to win-back. This includes those that don’t actually make it to someone (and probably never have).

For various reasons, consumers don’t always provide the correct information online. As an initial step into cleaning your list, you’ll want to delete all the bogus email addresses. These could include emails like:

  • test@gmail.com
  • 123@company.com
  • asdf@asdf.com (This address even has a fake website to go with it.)

You’ll probably want to eliminate role email address as well. These are typically groups, not individuals, where no one will actually open, read or click your emails. A few examples include:

Read more…

Email Marketing: Cleansing your list of inactive users

July 28th, 2015
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One of the most difficult aspects of list cleansing isn’t always the drop in numbers — it’s convincing senior leadership why it’s necessary.

During MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2015, Courtney Eckerle, Manager of Editorial Content, MarketingSherpa, sat down in the Media Center with Jeffrey Anderson, Digital Marketing Manager, A Place For Mom. The company is a for-profit senior care referral service.

Anderson explained why it’s important to cleanse your list of inactive users and how you can convince the senior leadership of your organization that list cleansing is imperative to staying relevant in today’s ecommerce marketplace.

How does a marketer know when it’s time to start cleansing their lists?

I would think that anyone with a list that’s significantly old should look at removing subscribers that are inactive and not engaged. Definite indicators include really low open rates. If your open rate is just below benchmark despite having consistently good content, there’s probably some dead weight.

Read more…

Email Data Hygiene: When you know it’s time to break up

October 10th, 2014
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I still get emails to the email address I created in middle school. This was back when having cutsie screen names was awesome, DSL was the latest and selecting your Top 8 on MySpace was the most stressful part of the week.

Although I haven’t sent or opened an email in that account for probably 10 years, the emails still come through.

It had been a while since I had actually gone to that inbox, though I needed to reset my password before I was even able to scroll through the pages upon pages of unread mail. Not one of them was a personal email. As I kept going through pages years back, I noticed that they’re all marketing emails – often from the same few companies.

I have not engaged after nearly a decade of sends. I have not read a single subject line. I have not opened any emails. I have not clicked any calls-to-action. Yet these companies keep sending.

How is marketing to that email address helping the marketers’ campaigns (other than contributing to list bloat)?

 

The importance of list hygiene

At Email Summit 2014 in Las Vegas, Laura Mihai, Email Marketing Specialist, 3M Canada, spoke on the integration of list cleansing as a regular element of its email marketing campaigns.

Laura opened her session by reflecting on a time when deliverability rates started to affect campaigns.

“We really wanted to focus on eliminating those who don’t engage with our communications,” explained Laura. The team at 3M Canada had the idea of running a campaign with the incentive of a contest to stay on the list and update contact information.

Using this campaign, the team trimmed their list by an impressive 64%. Now, they can be in touch with people who want to engage with them.

Read more…

Customer Relationship Management: 5 steps for finding the right vendor for your data hygiene

October 21st, 2013
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Originally published on B2B LeadBlog

The quality of your database represents the quality of your customer and prospect relationships.

Here’s why: Effective marketing depends on relevant messaging, and relevant messaging depends on how well you know your customers.

For instance, at best, your email will be tuned out, ignored or lost. And, at worst, you’ll be labeled a spammer if you:

  • Use the wrong name in the salutation or send to someone who has left the company.
  • Send emails that detail tactical how-to’s while the recipient has long been promoted to a position that requires more strategic, bigger-picture knowledge.
  • Offer solutions that are obviously unaffordable for the recipient.

The problem is cleaning and appending databases — making sure they’re accurate and contain all of the information you need to send the most relevant information — isn’t as glamorous as branding or content strategy. So, it’s easy to overlook. But no matter how beautifully you decorate the house, if the plumbing doesn’t work, you can’t live there.

It would be great if cleaning and appending data was something you only needed to do once. However, much like the plumbing I mentioned, the things we rely on eventually need maintenance to uphold that reliability.

When you consider there will always be changes in buyer behavior at play that will likely result in the need for rapid changes to your B2B marketing efforts, it becomes apparent that effective data hygiene is an ongoing process. Conceivably, if you avoid cleaning data for a year, 60% of your database could be obsolete by the end of those twelve months.

Receive help with your data

With all of the demands made of marketers, keeping data clean can be almost impossible to do on your own.

That’s why I’m involved in hiring a vendor to support MECLABS with this monumental task.

There’s a multitude of data vendors and sometimes it can be easy to go with whoever is the cheapest. But, cheaply acquired data is often the most expensive — it can be rife with inaccuracies.

You want to make sure the vendor you choose can live up to its marketing. This is why it’s wise to invest the time and effort to test prospective vendors before hiring them.

Step #1. Compile a list of vendors

So, where do you begin to search?

For us, the ideal place to start was by compiling a list of vendors recommended to us or have been used previously for smaller projects.

Step #2. Determine what information is most important

In our case, it was:

  • Contact name
  • Job title
  • Company name and company address
  • Contact phone number and company phone number
  • Industry/SIC
  • Revenue

Step #3. Weigh each record field by value

Assign weighted values to each of the appended items depending on your needs. For instance, if job title is most important, then give it a higher weight than company address.

Here’s a weighted version of the list from the example above:

  • Job title: 5
  • Contact name: 4
  • Company name and address: 3
  • Contact phone number and company phone number: 3
  • Revenue: 2
  • Industry/SIC: 1

Step #4. Use a large enough list to sample test vendor accuracy

We started by taking a list of 100 records we knew to be highly accurate and stripped out some of the data.

Next, we added those 100 records to a list of 900 additional records to create a test list of 1,000 total records that we sent to each vendor.

Once a vendor finished appending, we then pulled the 100 records we knew were accurate from their work and cross-checked them for accuracy.

We also used additional verification sources like LinkedIn to help double check the data in the samples to make sure each vendor’s quality was accurately assessed.

Step #5. Add up the scores and consider any other factors

The vendor with the highest score from your testing will likely be your best choice, but there are factors of completion time, size, cost and complexity of data to consider in your overall decision.

Selecting a vendor can be difficult, so I hope these steps will help put you on the path to having the cleanest and most relevant customer information possible.

One more thing…

How do you handle data hygiene?

If you have any other data cleaning recommendations, I would love to hear about them in the comments section below.

Related Resources:

Do You Expect Your Inside Sales Team to Practice Alchemy?

How to Build a Quality List and Make Data Drive Leads

Webinar Replay: Teleprospecting that Drives Sales-Ready Leads

List Buying: 6 tips for buying the most effective lead list

Email Marketing: Inactive lists and deliverability

September 6th, 2013
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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.

Read more…

Email Deliverability: How a marketing vendor with 99 percent delivery rates treats single opt-in lists vs. double opt-in lists

July 8th, 2011
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Yahoo! Mail, Gmail, AOL and similar providers track senders’ reputations by IP address. This is partly why sending emails from dedicated IPs (instead of IPs you share with others) is the most effective tactic for improving deliverability, according to the MarketingSherpa 2011 Email Marketing Benchmark Report.

Many smaller companies, though, cannot manage a dedicated IP well enough to build a strong reputation and are better off using shared IPs, says James Thompson, Email Systems Manager, Infusionsoft.

“What we found is that most small businesses really don’t have the resources to be able to dedicate the kind of attention and maintenance required to maintain a good status on a dedicated IP,” he says.

Thompson oversees the sending of about 40 million emails each week for clients at Infusionsoft, a marketing automation software provider that caters to small businesses. He is tasked with maintaining the email architecture and deliverability for clients across the system.

Thompson has been through the trenches of email deliverability and helped to pull the company’s average delivery rate from the mid-90-percent range two years ago to consistently above 99 percent today.Email Three Funnels

Thompson shared several stories on how his company handles deliverability. His examples can help email marketers of all sizes understand how their reputations can extend beyond webmail providers and ISPs and begin to affect their relationships with agencies and vendors.

Three tiers of email IPs

One of many changes Thompson’s team made to improve deliverability was to shift its email architecture onto a message management platform. The new platform allowed the team to establish three groups of IP addresses to send from:

Group #1. Transactional emails

This first group of IP addresses was used to send invoices, order confirmations and other transaction-based emails for Infusionsoft’s clients. Thompson’s team wanted to isolate these emails because they had some of the best performance metrics of any email type, and because getting them delivered was critical to Infusionsoft’s clients.

Group #2. Single opt-in lists

This group of IP addresses was reserved for client lists that were built using unconfirmed- or single-opt-in tactics. The team isolated this group because its lists generated a higher number of spam complaints. Grouping them would prevent the complaints from hurting the reputations of IP addresses that sent emails to more qualified lists.

Group #3. Double-opt-in lists

This final group of IP addresses was reserved for email lists that were generated with confirmed- or double-opt-in tactics. These lists generated fewer problems than single-opt-in lists, and therefore benefitted by being associated with each other rather than with lists of lower quality.

Why this matters:

Thompson noted that the delivery rates between Group 2 and Group 3 originally differed by as much as 5 percent, but is now down to about 1 percent.

“However,” he says, “we are talking about averages here on millions of emails, so that does add up.”

So even if your company is relying on a shared IP address from a provider, it can still be in the best interest of your deliverability to build high-quality lists with confirmed opt-ins.Baseball batter

Three strikes and you’re out

Thompson’s team realized it had a few bad apples in the barrel when it began work to improve delivery rates. The team reached out to clients who were hurting the sender reputation of Infusionsoft’s IPs and tried to enlighten them on the issue.

“What we have come to find is that most of our customers who generate these spam complaints don’t necessarily understand or aren’t aware that their practices are abusive,” he says. “So essentially what the solution has been is to work with them, give them a set of criteria to meet, and then the problem is usually resolved.”

Unfortunately, not every situation was resolved. Some clients were unable to make the necessary changes and the team had to let them go to protect the reputations of other senders who used the system responsibly, Thompson says.

Now the team has a three-strikes system for handling clients that generate a high number of complaints.

“AOL, Yahoo!, MSN and those types of companies want to see average complaint rates of about 0.1 percent,” Thompson says. “So that means for every 1,000 emails we send, they only want to see one person complaining.”

Thompson’s team uses this same guideline when monitoring its system. Senders who regularly generate two or three complaints per 1,000 emails sent (0.2% or 0.3%) are given suggestions to improve their practices. Clients who fail to respond or make changes can be asked to leave (though this is rare).

So if you’re using a shared IP address to send email, the impact of a complaint can extend beyond your email program and even begin to impact your relationship with your marketing vendor — so keep those rates down!

Related resources:

Members Library – Email Marketing: How Publishers Clearing House uses “blacklisted” words yet achieves a 99.2% delivery rate

Members Library – Webinar Replay — Improve Email Deliverability: Tactics for Handling Complaints and Boosting Reputation

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

Email Deliverability: Riddles answered on spam complaints, feedback loops, and dedicated IPs

Message Systems – the message management platform used by Infusionsoft

B2B Marketing: Building a quality list

May 27th, 2011
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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


The Most Shared Articles from MarketingSherpa Blog in 2016

January 9th, 2017
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While the jury may be out on 2016 as a whole, marketers have had a very exciting year, and MarketingSherpa (if we may say so) has hopefully shown a spotlight on it through our content.

In light of celebrating the good of 2016 as we’re all madly planning what 2017 will bring, we’re revisiting the most popular articles from the past 12 months. Looking back at top content helps us see what our readers found to be the most helpful and valuable content, and it helps you to know what your peers are looking for.

Below, see where we’ve been this past year using the nine most popular articles to find what elements you might want to bring with you into 2017…

#1. Six Places to Focus to Make your Website a Revenue Generator

We have more digital marketing channels than ever before, but it’s become even harder to connect with customers.

One thing’s become clear, that there is a growing divide between those who are fully engaged with digital marketing and those who are still figuring out the fundamentals. This interview with Kristin Zhivago, President of Cloud Potential, goes over her report on “revenue road blocks,” as a deep dive into what she’s discovered to help marketers quickly close this digital marketing gap and do better.

If marketers directly address getting the six key focuses covered in this blog post right, you can move forward and close the gap between digital and customers.

Read more…

Content Marketing: How to serve customers when they shouldn’t buy from you

January 14th, 2014
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You have a great product to sell. So you pour time, creative ability and life’s energy into making sure customers know just how great that product or service is.

But, just between friends now, that product isn’t right for everyone, is it?

If you answer that question honestly, it naturally brings up another question.

 

How do you give your customers what they want even if you don’t have it?

Content marketing is about serving customers, not pushing product. Only once you serve those customers (and build up trust) can it become an effective vehicle for selling. And oh brother, can it ever be effective.

Here are two ideas for serving customers when your product isn’t right for them.

 

Idea #1. Help customers decide not to buy your product

Limited shapes and designs: Because fiberglass pools are built from a mold, the consumer is limited to the shapes and sizes offered by the various fiberglass pool manufacturers.

The above line is from a blog for a company that sells fiberglass pools.

What? Why?

“Fiberglass might be too skinny, but if you’re looking for that size, it can be good for you,” said Marcus Sheridan, Co-owner, River Pools and Spas. “We tell potential customers, ‘You know what, fiberglass might not be for you. And that’s OK, we’re going to figure it out together.’”

The results? The “problems post” garnered 176 comments, 396 inbound links and 43,867 page views. For a small pool company. In Virginia.

You can read more at “Competitive Messaging: Tell your customers what you can’t do.”

 

Idea #2. Help them get what they want

Sometimes customers can’t find what they want from you because it simply doesn’t exist yet.

Since the best marketing messaging is based on how the customer expresses what they want, hopefully you’ve been:

  • Listening in on social media
  • Engaging with customers service
  • Learning from Sales
  • Doing research in relevant target audience-focused newspapers, magazines and websites
  • Testing value proposition expressions using A/B testing

In doing customer research, you will naturally come across these gaps of unfulfilled customer desire.

When you do, it’s a chance to work with product development and business strategy to test your company into new products and services to better serve your customers’ unmet needs.

But sometimes, you simply can’t produce that new product or service.

What to do? Check out this brilliant idea from Eventful, the Best in Show in the E-commerce category in MarketingSherpa Email Awards 2014, sponsored by ExactTarget.

Here’s how the event Web service handles an unfulfilled customer desire.

I’ll be the example. I go to Eventful.com to search for a Pearl Jam concert in Jacksonville. But Pearl Jam doesn’t have any concerts planned for Jacksonville (really, Eddie, really?), so I’m greeted with this pop-up that states, “Would you like to be notified when Pearl Jam comes to Jacksonville?”

 

The other option I have if I close the pop-up is:

“Bring Pearl Jam to Jacksonville! Demand it!”

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