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The Cost of Bad Email Marketing Data

Date: April, 2010 --

Many companies treat e-mail addresses like physical addresses, but in fact they need a much more complex process to verify and use. The reasons are many, but the complexity arises from the nature of the email delivery system. In short, unlike postal mail, there is no “human intervention” between hitting SEND and arrival, or not, of the message in your client’s email box. The consequence of being wrong is also potentially very painful, because unlike the post office, who doesn’t really care who is sending badly addressed mail, with e-mail you can end up with a spammer’s reputation and the delivery channels can close on you, even with innocent mistakes.

A prospect or customer’s physical address has three characteristics that make it a more “forgiving” tool than an email address. First, the last link in the delivery chain is a human being, the letter carrier. If you write “Brown” instead of “Browne”, the letter carrier will sigh a little bit, but he’ll deliver the piece. If your message is to Ms. Judith Browne at 1433 East Anglesy Boulevard, and the proper address is “1344 East Angelsee”, chances are the letter carrier, or the last sort station, will quietly take care of it. In fact, in some postal systems, the sortation machinery may do this. .

Second, if Ms. Browne moves away leaving a forwarding address for her mail, your letter will follow her, too. Mail forwarding services in the physical world are pretty reliable, and in most developed markets automatic. An advantage there is that once engaged the forwarding system won’t be turned off by an employer’s IT department who is cleaning out the email mailbox system of departed employee addresses.

Third, Ms. Browne doesn’t have to do anything to get your letter and, presuming she’s an adult, no one at her address can lawfully prevent her from receiving your promotion piece. ISPs and webmasters can lawfully stop what they suspect is spam.

In short, keep in mind that while you are concerned about delivering, you must be most concerned about delivering to real people who really may have an interest in you. Unlike in the postal world, someone might be watching what you do, and you do not want to labeled a “spammer”.

First, there is no “close enough” with an email address. There is no human intervention of any sort. If your file entry is Josephine@oponline.net, it won’t get anywhere. The domain name is properly written “optonline.net”. A letter to Josephine in Watertwn, Masachusetss would arrive. (Although Data Services would clean that up, also.). And while you may think, “Well, it doesn’t cost anything to mail that.” you are actually wasting money and your statistics will be off.

And while “oponline.net” won’t get you banished, if the misspelling results in a domain name that you shouldn’t be emailing in any case, you risk being labeled a spammer, and ISP’s may not delivery ANY of your emails. Read on.

Second, there are a lot of phonies out there who give phony addresses to get something off your website and they aren’t viable prospects. SClaus@northpole.org is a frequent scam. These should be cleaned out because sending to these phony names, assuming the domain is legitimate, could get you labeled a spammer by the webmaster of the domain. And your statistics will be off.

Third, there are domains in addresses hidden in your file that you most definitely do not want to mail because being blacklisted is a real possibility. For example, you should flag international domains, especially to those where opt-in is very, very definitely the law. With real addresses you may get real angry people and a spammer reputation; with phony addresses and real domains, for sure you get a spammer reputation, and the blacklists that especially European organizations create of suspected spammers are often used by webmasters in the US and elsewhere. You do not want that.

Fourth, you need to weed out what are called “Distribution list and Undesirable ” addresses. These are email addresses that are intended to receive messages only from a central server containing that “distribution list” and addresses like “Abuse” or “postmaster” which you should never mail except for reports of abuse or to reach the postmaster for the domain. These are unique to those purposes. Your using them raises suspicions you scraped them off a list, for no one would use them to register with you. Also, there are “temporary” or “throw-away” addresses that are used for short-term or one-time use and which you generally would not have in the normal course of business.

Finally, it is really critical to tag, and not email, cellular phones. Nearly everywhere in the world emailing a mobile phone (an email to a phone results in a text message) requires positive opt-in, and fines can be hefty. Data Services has a domain list that will capture those.

There are many other things that can go wrong with email addresses, all tending toward wasting your money, resulting in misleading data, and in the worst case ruining your reputation. Data Services can help you avoid these results by assuring you are engaging in professionally executed email marketing exercises.