4 basic tips for list hygiene

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List hygiene has been a concern as long as e-mail marketing has been around, and the basics are just that—basic. Opt-outs and opt-ins should be processed quickly, while internal lists should be synchronized so you don't miss anyone and risk a spam complaint. Inactive addresses or those that hard or soft bounce should be suppressed and possibly appended, while risky addresses—for example, or—should be removed immediately. But there's more to list management than the basics, said Bryce Marshall, director of strategic services for interactive marketing firm Knotice. Here are four often-overlooked list hygiene tips to incorporate into your existing best practices. 1) Don't overlook the new employee. Salespeople often bring their own contacts and e-mail lists to a new job, which is a good thing, of course. However, unless you integrate a new employee's list with your own, you may end up inadvertently contacting someone who has opted out or e-mailing that contact the same marketing message more than once. “You need to treat it like any other data source,” Marshall said. “It's incumbent on any organization to review [a new employee's] list and make sure [there are] no conflicts or overlaps with internal data. You don't want that salesperson to be firing off to his list when a mass campaign is going out to the same data source.” Of course, let that salesperson make contact first, letting his or her sources know that he or she has moved and they will be receiving messages from your brand or company, Marshall said. 2) Do due diligence on a rented list. Any company that rents you a list should check your house list against its rented list to make sure they won't be e-mailing someone who has already opted out. Even if that person has given the list rental service permission to e-mail, you'll want to respect their wishes when it comes to your brand or company, Marshall said. “The process should be part of the cost,” he said. “Any good provider will do this automatically.” 3) Mesh sales cycles with list hygiene efforts. How often do you refresh data and perform list maintenance? While once a month is probably best for most companies, Marshall said, data and list management should reflect your sales cycle. “If your sales cycle is every 12 months, the data refresh isn't going to have to happen as often as a company that has customers with needs that change frequently,” he said. “Your data should always reflect the current state of the customer relationship, so you should update your lists as often as you update your products.” 4) Bring every employee and department into the hygiene process. Companies—especially those that use outsourced customer service or contract salespeople—must scrub lists often, making sure changes and requests as well as customer additions that happen externally show up on internal marketing lists. This is why a formal CRM program can often save time and money. “You should have a centralized process to manage e-mail opt-outs and additions, and make sure every contract and on-staff employee understands that it's their responsibility to interact with the CRM application and make changes as they happen,” Marshall said. “It's all about having a global as well as a local view of the customer.” —K.J.B. Originally published June 17, 2010
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