What does every marketing guru, maven, expert, or wannabe expert always say? The money's in the list. That is true, but with some caveats. The strength of your email list is determined by several factors, including its cleanliness.
Cleansing your list, or list scrubbing is one of those details that go unseen to the wood-be email marketer. Just because you have an email list doesn't mean it holds any value. According to Return Path, approximately 71% of marketers state that list quality is a must-have.
While email lists degrade in as little as six months, it should be highly segmented. The list may have been a random collection of targets that are disjointed, unknown consumers. Even if it is a purchased list, the same holds true. Segmentation is a critical factor in ensuring your message reaches its target.
Because people change jobs, get promotions (or demotions), shift alliances, just plain quit, get fired or die, there's no telling how accurate unless you can cleanse the list with a cleansing provider. As a data scientist, I take list cleansing seriously, and won't send a single email unless the list is checked.
What is list hygiene? It's another term used for maintaining a list for its accuracy. An excellent glossary on the topic of email jargon comes from our friends at Return Path. You can download the 29-page info-guide without having to register. Get it by clicking here. It's a subscriber list that is free from bounce reasons, spam traps, never opted in addresses.
Poorly maintained lists can have some dire effects on your entire business. Sending a list loaded with wrong email addresses can get you blocked from the internet service providers as well as the CRM.
provider. "Poor Mailing List" is actually a term used by the industry to label a sender when sending too many messages that were rejected, or they bounced for some reason. It might even have an outdated email address that would cause it to be tagged undeliverable. Then there's the CAN SPAM-ACT that requires permission to send an email to them. When the recipient clicks the SPAM reporting link, it's a start to a possible long slide toward the bottom. Who wants that?
There are industry best practices that should be followed to make sure you don't end up in the email doghouse. You can find them here.
Direct Mail Challenges
The same thing goes for direct mail lists too. Although the list providers say they scrub and refine the lists continually, don't trust them unless you know them from doing successful business in the past.
We happen to like SRDS and Craig Simpson for list purchasing. More about SRDS and Craig a little later in this article.
Millennials and Generation X marketers believe that direct mail is dead and buried. No true. In fact, with the following advantages, it's a wonder why everyone has switched to direct mail as a lead generation vehicle.
Some of the rationales for that statement is that after years and years of businesses switching to digital, snail mail is considered passé. Direct response has always held high watermark for ROI when performed correctly. That's the reason few people are utilizing this media. They don't do what is needed to ensure a return.
List cleansing is one of them . Buying from a reputable list broker, list managers, list managers/brokers, and an entire litany on the various places to purchase a list. This is where Craig Simpson returns to the story. We've known and worked with Craig for the past ten years or so. SRDS – Standard Rate & Data Service, is without a doubt the best.
They provide list management and sales to some of the most significant direct response and information publishing companies in the world. Agora, the world's largest information provider and publisher is a long-term client. You can learn a great deal about lists and direct response marketing lists by picking up a copy of Craig's book, The Direct Mail Solution from Entrepreneur Press. As much as I like and respect him, enough on Craig and SRDS. As much as I like and respect him, enough on Craig and SRDS.
Some important things to remember when compiling or buying a list are:
- Make sure your list is highly segmented. Not everyone on your list is a perfect target for your offering.
- Make sure it has been cleaned just before its use. If you are purchasing a list, insist on a well-scrubbed list and that you are guaranteed at least 97% deliverability.
- When the list is finally cleansed, then identify the 12-15 common traits within the group. This qualifies the list of individuals that are the highest quality to take a look at your communication.
- Make sure before sending the majority of the list, perform several rounds of A/B testing, and test everything possible. That includes the style paper, font, size of the font, ink color, headline, sub-headline, etc. But don't stop there, test the envelope or container the direct response offer is contained in. Things like window/no window, return address written or stamped, address handwritten or typed, real stamp versus prepaid stamped. Keep following the testing step until you find what is known as the control. That's the one that generates the highest rate of positive return over all others.
- Your offer (every piece of messaging must include an offer) is sound and irresistible.
- Make sure there is a clear and evident call to action. People need to be told what to do at everything. Calls to action are critical.
If you elect not to acquire your list from SRDS, be mindful of that has notoriously occurred when renting a list from some vendor. First of all, the list you receive may not be the list you asked for. That's pretty common.
Don't take their word for anything. Place all of your parameters in writing. And demand the invoice clearly states what's been ordered and delivered.
Personal story. When I was just starting out, I made some blunders that cost me a fortune. I rented a list of 25,000 homes in a portion of a city out west. I performed the testing like I was recommended to do and sent it out. Undeliverable mail came flooding back in within less than a week. Undeliverable – no such address, moved, not at this address and the list of negatives was long. I had to take the broker to court to get a portion of my investment back. I learned the hard way.
There’s lots more to learn about lists, both email and street addresses. Keep an eye out for future articles on these subjects. They might come around some time in late August or early September.