Email append—the action of matching up email addresses from an outside source with contacts already in a database to market to them—has taken a beating in the press recently. For instance, the Messaging Anti-Abuse Working Group in September came out against the practice, saying it was in direct violation of its values. The practice, MAAWG said, “results in a large number of spam complaints and message rejections associated with senders who participate in email appending. In addition to complaints, email appending creates significant risks of violating consent requirements in privacy and anti-spam legislation.”
However, other experts maintain that, done correctly, email append, or e-appending, can provide benefits for both marketers and their customers. Bill Kaplan, CEO of FreshAddress Inc., and Mitch Rubin, president of email and database marketing company Applied Information Group, identified one “secret” and exposed one “lie” that will help marketers gain traction with an email append strategy.
Secret: Email addresses secured via appends will never perform as well as those on a house list.
While it might take a month or two to bring new subscribers into the fold, Kaplan said, addresses that come from email appends often provide better open rates and higher revenue than those on existing house lists. “The logic behind it is that at times, house lists can be tired,” he said. “They are used to hearing from you weekly or monthly, and might not be excited. But when you reconnect with a former customer and start to tell your story again, all of a sudden it's fresh. They are excited to hear your story. The one drawback, according to Rubin, is that it can take a lot of work to get those new subscribers. “You might only get a 15%-to-20% match, so for b-to-b marketers, it might not be that significant.”
Lie: Email append doesn't involved permission.
Some people think that e-appending is similar to buying a list: The recipients don't know you or your company, so there's a good chance they will view it as spam. As long as a marketer is using a reputable list, this is untrue, Kaplan said. “The way we and other ESPs offer email appending is a three-step process,” he said. “A reputable ESP will only perform appends for clients for their customer and donor [in the case of a nonprofit] records. The client has to have a relationship with the people they are trying to append.” Rubin agreed. “We wouldn't recommend [doing] an email append for someone you don't have a business relationship with,” he said.
When there is a relationship, however, the ESP will match a client's databases with a carefully vetted, opt-in email database in which someone has registered; provided their first and last name, postal address and email address; and said they would be willing to accept emails. The final step involves sending out a confirmation email on behalf of the client that includes a very visible opt-out link. In the end, the client receives two files: one with guaranteed email addresses and one with a list of people who opted out.