How Marketers Can Benefit From Email Database Services
When you work and live in the email world, email marketing becomes the prism through which you look at life — and the news! That's why email marketers were so eager to analyze the recent presidential campaigns. Based on statements made by their strategy teams, President Obama's email database entries and outreach efforts outnumbered that of Mitt Romney's by 20 to one. Yes, 20 to one! With mere percentage points separating the winner from the loser in "all or nothing" electoral vote swing states, it's easy to see the impact email marketing had on the outcome of this election.
StrongMail's crystal ball
This certainly makes it look like email service provider StrongMail had a crystal ball earlier this fall when it authored the widely circulated assessment that Obama would be able to leverage email to his distinct advantage. StrongMail not only pointed out that Obama's email list was significantly larger than Romney's, but also stressed that his aggressive use of the medium could usher in a victory more easily than Romney's old-line tactics.
The numbers don't lie: bigger is better
Working by the numbers, be it number of recipients or number of times to email, is nothing new for email marketers who every day face the same daunting challenge of list growth that political teams face every election cycle. Similarly to the candidates’ teams, the list growth strategies email marketers employ are creative and increasingly sophisticated, including search engine optimization campaigns, social acquisition and loyalty programs, email appending, sweepstakes, etc. Furthermore, with collection points and real-time validation employed at all the key points of online collection and engagement, email marketers are clearly awash in big data.
Once the presidential race was over however, and the votes and spent dollars were counted, the size of the underlying email database proved to be the most significant variable in the final results.
With the election now over and the holidays knocking on our door, the lesson should be clear: enhancing your customer database needs to be on the front burner for marketers. One of the simplest and most cost-effective list enhancement strategies at your disposal is email appending.
Email appending is one of the more polarizing strategies available to email marketers, but if performed in a careful, conscientious and professional manner by an experienced provider, it might get you elected president, too.
Engage, engage, engage
Email appending isn't an acquisition strategy, it's an engagement strategy. You've already acquired the customer database you'll use as the basis for adding email addresses. This is one of the most valuable assets you have — buyers, donors, hand-raisers who have already proactively engaged with you through one of your marketing channels. Email appending allows you to broaden the communications you have with your customers in the most cost-effective, ecologically sensible and timely manner available to you — i.e., through emails.
4 easy pieces
Here are four easy steps to take to make sure your email append goes well.
1. Find a reputable provider. There are so many fly-by-night providers in the industry these days, and each of them claims to be the better than the next. They'll entice you with ridiculously cheap pricing, but can you trust them with your customer database? Furthermore, much of their data will be scraped or purchased and thereby contain spamtrap or honeypot addresses, which lead to blocking and blacklisting issues. There's a reason why it's so cheap. Self-registered, opt-in data doesn't come cheap, but it's the only way to go. Unfortunately, these "providers" give email appending the black eye it doesn't deserve.
Don't Google to find your email append provider; seek out providers from other trusted sources. Then ask for case studies and be sure to speak with previous clients. If they're unwilling or unable to provide real, live testimonials, run, don't walk away.
Ask about their data sources as well. Make sure the data is licensed and they're providing opted-in emails from the start. Additionally, make sure any prospective provider has date, timestamp and source code information. This will all help to alleviate any future problems if someone does happen to question how you acquired their email address. You'll be able to provide them with all of the information necessary on when they volunteered their email address.
2. Make sure there's an opt-in permission pass. This should seem like a no-brainer, but many providers in the appending space don't come close to promising this. The opt-in permission process will confirm deliverability of all the email addresses on your list and cut down on the bounces you receive back. In addition, it gives the recipient the choice to opt in or opt out, thereby minimizing the risk of complaints.
3. Make sure the data is cleaned. Some companies on the market will provide you with a list that they say has been permission passed, but they won't perform basic hygiene on the list. Thus, there are a lot of undesirable and even toxic email addresses that may slip through the permission process. What if the email address is on the Direct Marketing Association's e-MPS suppression? Even if it's deliverable, do you really want to buy the email address firstname.lastname@example.org? What about email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org or some other malicious address? And by the way, spamtrap and honeypot addresses, the bane of every email marketer's existence, are deliverable!
Email hygiene is arguably just as important as the permission pass. Don't just take a company's word for its hygiene processes; do your research to determine if it has the history and expertise to back up its claims.
4. Work only with your customer file. This goes back to the point about using email as a list engagement strategy. Some marketers think they can run an email append on a prospect list and they'll get a great ROI. What will happen is your program is opened up to spam complaints and blocking and blacklisting issues. Work with those customers, members, donors, etc., who have already done business with you. Appending only those who have an existing relationship with you is a great way to make your email append work and stay within compliance.
And the next president is ...
Performed by an experienced and ethical provider in the most conservative fashion, email appending can provide the highest ROI of any marketing program you undertake. Use a reputable provider with sophisticated technology and expertise to hygiene your results backed up by an opt-in permission pass to confirm consent. Even if you don't make it to the White House, you might have a better shot at the executive suite, and you'll be sure to win the race to the email inbox!
Jeremy Laverdiere is account manager at FreshAddress, and Suzanne Shaughnessy is senior account executive at FreshAddress.
Related story: How to Grow a Successful Email List