Conventional wisdom always taught that businesses don’t change very often, so you do not need to clean business-to-business data very often. When email marketing took off, the same wisdom dictated that, since it is so inexpensive to transmit email, why would you need to clean email addresses?
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Well, we all know that in today’s economy, businesses are changing rapidly; their locations and employees are also changing.
Wise marketers have discovered that cleaning b-to-b data, especially physical locations and/or email addresses is well worth it because you can save money. You can make better decisions using clean data, and you can make a better impression with customers when they see you take good care of their data. You can even personalize offers, making them more relevant and increasing sales.
For example, if you mail or email 10,000 pieces of direct mail or email and get 10 leads, and if only 7,000 of them were deliverable, you paid 30% more (almost one third) for those leads than you needed to.
Brenda Matheson, director of business development for Anchor Computer, helps her clients clean their b-to-b postal and email data. She recommends they use the National Change of Address (NCOA)process, coupled with the DSF2 or Delivery Sequence File postal file to find and reach customers at their new address, and help identify undeliverable addresses.
Matheson says the DSF file can flag addresses that have been vacant for 90 days or more, closed PO Boxes, or no new address provided addresses.
For those customers who want to save money by cleaning their email addresses, Matheson gives these five tips:
1. Verify domain names, fix typos and eliminate profanity.
2. Use suppression files your vendor has built to weed out known bounced emails, opt out requests, and known spam traps.
3. Have your service bureau contact the internet service providers to confirm the email addresses are valid. This is called “pinging” or “handshake.”
4. Best practices dictate you should send out an email to confirm the address, welcome the recipient and get permission for future emails.
5. Use only reputable service bureaus to clean your data and only pay for the deliverable email addresses.
As Matheson points out, there are always vendors who will append email addresses if yours are missing or incorrect, but beware that many b-to-b appends are constructed, or email addresses that attempt to follow a given email address pattern for a company.
Matheson says these email addresses typically result in over 50% of the email addresses being undeliverable as appended.
Finally, make sure you take every touch point with your business-to-business customers and leads as an opportunity to confirm postal and email addresses, keeping your data as clean as possible. You need to build this capability into your operations and your budget.
Plus, make sure your employees know how important clean data is, because businesses do change and do move, and you can save more than just money.
Mary Ann Kleinfelter is president and owner of marketing consultancy Marketing Solutions Today.