To this day, email remains one of the most powerful marketing channels. Compared with other channels, it ranks No. 1 in ROI, with a $39.40 return on every dollar invested[i]. Yet, in order to reach these high levels of success, marketers must ensure that their email first be delivered to their customers’ inboxes. This is where good data hygiene comes into play.
In its simplest form, data hygiene is the practice of making sure your email lists are “clean” and active. Dirty data can be caused by a number of factors, such as duplicate records, stale or incomplete data, and improper data collection methods. Because errors can be introduced at any stage during a campaign, it’s critical that email marketers practice good data hygiene on a quarterly basis. Those who don’t can potentially be blacklisted.
Steps to Good Data Hygiene
Clean up your email collection process
The first step to practicing good data hygiene is employing “sanitary” collection practices. The source of data bears significant influence on its utility. For example, some retailers’ employees may routinely ask for customers’ email addresses to send them promotions at the point-of-sale (POS), and if this information is entered in the system incorrectly, the brand may face a staggering percentage of lost opportunities. To help mitigate this issue, make sure to verify email addresses in person, as well as send a verification email welcoming the customer to your program, newsletter or other offering. It’s also important to implement an email address validation check at the point of collection that will prompt your customers to re-enter their address if it’s not a valid domain.
Sweep out your email bounce backs
While processing bounce backs may seem like an obvious best practice, email service providers and marketers may overlook this important step in the rush to deploy and test email campaign content. This is a critical step in the feedback loop – bounce backs signal erroneous email addresses and/or deactivated accounts. Marketers should ensure that their email solution provider can remove invalid addresses after the first hard bounce. By continually emailing these dead addresses, marketers are likely to be flagged for spamming their lists and can suffer damaging consequences, including being blacklisted. To avoid this, marketers should invest in an email service that is able to both parse the bounce code (which begins with a number) and the text (because a message comes with the bounce code), which enables the removal of the bad address prior to the next email.
Use the right cleaning tools to deliver personalized content
When creating email marketing campaigns, it’s important to consider the stage of the customer relative to the customer life cycle. One-size-fits-all approaches like blasting your email list must be put in the dustpan in favor of campaigns that treat recipients as individuals, not members of a herd. Have they converted and become customers? Are they active, repeat customers? Are they loyal customers and brand evangelists? Have they stopped interacting with the brand? Each stage requires a different approach and content.
Regular list maintenance
On a quarterly basis, assess the level of consumer engagement on your email file. Define the “clean” or active segment, as those who regularly open and click your emails. From there, create a re-activation series to entice those who have not clicked or opened in the past 6-12 months to engage again. Those who haven’t been active within the past -two years should be sent a reconfirmation email, advising them that if they don’t click, they’ll miss out on incredible offers because they’ll be removed from future emails. And finally, create a drop-off point because those who haven’t opened or clicked in two+ years are likely uninterested, and should be cleansed form your email file.
These efforts is all for not if the email is ignored or worse – never delivered. By keeping up with regular cleaning maintenance with your email list, you’re accomplishing two important objectives: 1) maintaining an ongoing dialogue with the customer and 2) verifying his/her contact details. If an email address suddenly produces a bounce back, you have a record for how often the customer has been engaging with your brand and the last point of contact to troubleshoot the issue. This record of regular engagement also protects you from being flagged for potential spam.
Good data hygiene is not for the faint of heart. With email playing a critical role in cross-channel campaign management, it’s important campaign managers employ these best practices to make the most of their email messages. After all, what’s the point of a stellar email campaign if it never makes it to the consumer’s inbox?
Alyssa Nahatis is Director of Deliverability at Adobe Campaign
[i] The Power of Direct Marketing. Direct Marketing Association, 2011–12.