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Fall cleaning: Dust off your email list

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A clean list—one that contains only active, engaged readers—is important for a number of reasons. It provides better analytics, conversions and fewer spam complaints. It can also boost deliverability because some ISPs are now taking engagement into account when determining what email will be delivered. Still, many marketers hesitate when it comes to culling their database. “People aren't thinking, "Doing this is going to make my list better,' ” said David Fowler, chief privacy and deliverability officer at Act-On Software, a provider of marketing automation software and email marketing services. “They are thinking about how long it took them to build that list to begin with.” Cleaning often yields smaller—yet stronger—lists that contain prospects who are more engaged, Fowler said. Follow these three steps to make sure your list is in great shape for the fourth quarter selling season. 1) Remove bounces. There are two types: Hard bounces happen when addresses are bad. They should be removed from the active list. The person may have been fired or quit, or the company may have gone out of business. You won't know unless you pick up the phone and ask. If the addresses that are bouncing are new to the list, make sure human error isn't to blame. Was the email input incorrectly? Is there a space next to the @ sign? If the address was automatically added via an online form, make sure it is a real address and not something someone added to gain access to a white paper or gated content. Delete these addresses immediately. A soft bounce, the second type, may happen because someone left the company or if their mailbox is full. Place soft bounces on a separate list; go back to them at some point to see if any can be brought back live. 2) Segment by activity, location, title—or any other category that will help your salespeople sell. The more targeted your content, the more personalized it will feel to the recipient, Fowler said. “You have a lot of information on most people—name, address, email address, relevancy of engagement, expectations of engagement, past sales or financial information, and preferences. Using that information, you have to think, "How do I market to the house file better?' Segmentation can definitely help.” If you don't have a lot of information, you may need to reach out and ask pertinent questions to better segment and target to your lists, he said. 3) Extend changes across the company. Marketing owns one set of lists but, unless your company is highly integrated, sales, support or other, more remote branches or marketing professionals may have their own databases—all of which will contain the same bad addresses. Share your newly cleaned list across your company to avoid problems, Fowler said. “Having some sort of companywide policy around certain behavior, data and the use of data is a good idea,” he said. “Saying, "Our policy of mailing to a user who hasn't responded in 120 days is X,' will help reduce list fatigue.”
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