There is a lot of great advice around the Web on how to improve your email marketing. However, most of this advice focuses on how to increase value through different messaging strategies. An important factor that receives less attention is the quality of the contact.
While content is important for campaign performance, it is meaningless if you can’t message the user. One of the biggest variables that can erode your email ROI is invalid email data. Fortunately, there are few tips and tricks you can build into your email marketing program that can give you peace of mind.
1. Maximize Valid Form Submissions
When it comes to gathering data, less is more. Web forms can be daunting if you ask for too much information. Keep it as simple as possible and ask only for what you need. In a perfect world we’d know every important bit of information about our customers and prospects, but that isn’t realistic. At a minimum you need the name and email address to continue the conversation. If you ask for more information the forms are less likely to be completed and more likely to contain errors. For additional advice on improving your opt-in form, check out Best Practices for Optimizing the Email Opt-In Process
After simplifying your web forms make sure you perform real-time validation on the data you collect. Typos are a real problem – especially with more and more people completing forms on mobile devices and tablets. If you collect inaccurate data it is difficult to correct after it lands in your database. Real-time validation services arehelpful as they notify registrants when data entry-errors lead to invalid email addresses. By getting corrections to invalid email addresses BEFORE they land in your database you will not only improve data quality but you will alsoimprove profitability.
2. Become BFFs with your ESP
Many of our users verify their email data immediately prior to deploying a campaign. Very often we’re asked to help them understand why some of their addresses don’t make it to the inbox. Our first request is to get the delivery logs from their ESPs so we can review the data together. It’s surprising to me that reviewing delivery logs is often an afterthought to the deliverability conversation.
If you find that any of your emails are not being delivered properly find out why. Get your account rep on the phone and review the logs, row by row if necessary. Your ESP often holds the key to discovering why you may be struggling with bounces and blocks and the good ones will help find the right solutions for your business.
3. Clean Your Data with Some Frequency
In addition to getting clean data through web forms, you should alsoconsider verifying your legacy data with some frequency to remove the good data that’s gone bad. Bill Kaplan from FreshAddress recently shared some statistics regarding email attrition:
“Based on our experience and the collective experience of our many clients, which range from Fortune 50 companies to the leading nonprofits to retailers and marketers of all shapes and sizes, consumer email addresses decay at a rate of approximately 30% per year due to changes in jobs, homes, schools, ISPs, etc. This rate has remained quite constant over the years and matches a study of email address attrition that was commissioned by Return Path in approximately 2005 as well as a study by David Daniels of The Relevancy Group in November 2010.”
Just because an email address was valid at one point doesn’t mean that it will remain valid. This is a problem we all have to deal with. Using a reliable verification service to eliminate risky email addresses on a frequent basis is a simple and affordable way to keep your data clean.
One of our users recently had an experience that illustrates how important list validation truly is. This company collected email sign-ups through multiple channels including newsletter, sweepstakes, free and paid subscriptions, and partner programs. Not all of the addresses were mailed with the necessary frequency to keep the data clean of hard-bouncesand management decided to remove 3.5mm records from messaging for fear of it affecting deliverability.
The company approached asked us to clean out the invalid addresses so they could re-introduce the remaining valid data back into the messaging stream. We were able to remove 29.7% of the data as invalid, allowing the client to safely move 2.4mm records back into the delivery channel.
Email addresses can be the most important marketing asset your company has. Make sure your data is clean from inception, remains clean in your database, and work closely and frequently with your ESP to maximize your delivery rates.
About the Author: Matt McFee is founding partner at BriteVerify and an acknowledged expert in email acquisition and verification with over a decade of experience in the field. Follow BriteVerify on Twitter: @briteverify