Three Strategies for E-mail List Hygiene
A clean e-mail list is essential for effective e-mail marketing and fundraising campaigns for several reasons. First, if you’re sending out a terrific fundraising campaign, but 20 percent of your list is bouncing, you might hit an ISP’s ‘bounce threshold’ and end up on its blacklist. That increases your expenses, because you’re still paying for those e-mails to be deployed, and decreases your revenues, because a portion of your base isn’t aware that you’re seeking donations. Plus, it will take a lot of painful time and energy to get off the blacklist.
Second, a clean e-mail list allows you to stay in compliance with FCC regulations. The FCC is very specific about who you can and can’t e-mail, and lack of knowledge is not a justifiable defense. If you are an e-mail marketer, it is your business to know about the Can-Spam laws and suppression lists. Keeping your lists clean minimizes your risk.
Third, a clean list means member satisfaction and loyalty increase because communication is easy. You’re reaching members at an address they check regularly, so you can respond to their questions or issues efficiently, as well as notify them of promotions, special events, etc.
A good e-mail list-hygiene vendor will flag bogus and malicious e-mail addresses and put those in a separate file. E-mail addresses with simple typos can be identified and corrected. Your vendor should return your list in two separate files: deliverable and undeliverable. This allows you to continue to communicate with the deliverable ones and determine how to handle the others.
1) Start with a clean list. It sounds simple, but it requires diligence. If you’re collecting e-mail addresses on your Web site, there are some things you can do to check the validity of those registrations. You can apply ‘smart’ design to your Web pages so that online registrants are required to double-check their contact information prior to submitting it to your database. You can purchase validation software, which would need to be run regularly against your database, to flag invalid addresses for removal.
Software also requires regular version updates, as new information about bogus addresses is a daily, ongoing effort. Or you can look for a ‘real-time’ option that would capture any erroneous or bogus addresses on your Web site, before the member had a chance to submit it. A strong real-time e-mail-validation system not only prevents many invalid entries from getting into your database, but it will offer corrective suggestions or allow the registrant to change the information himself.
2) Once you’re working with a clean list, regular list maintenance is a must. Find a reputable vendor to go through your list periodically and flag any invalid or malicious addresses that got through, including e-mail addresses. Statistics indicate that more than 50 million people changed their e-mail addresses last year and that most e-mail savvy people have multiple e-mail addresses. You want to be sure you’re sending your valuable member information to an address your member is actually checking.
3) Finally, check your vendor carefully before handing over your valuable member or donor list. Your e-mail reputation is directly related to the quality of the people who work on your list. Ask tough questions about deliverability guarantees, opt-in versus opt-out files and suppression lists until you’re comfortable that you’re in good hands. And be sure to check references.
Natalie Hahn O’Flaherty is manager of marketing and communications at e-mail list-hygiene firm FreshAddress, Inc. She can be reached via www.freshaddress.com.