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Secrets and lies: What's in a name?

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A name—or in this case an email address—can have real meaning, especially for marketers looking to boost deliverability and open rates, said Dave Kelly, CEO of Analytics-IQ, an analytics and modeling company based in Atlanta. Analyzing email addresses can help with segmentation, targeting and content creation, he said. “The more you mine your data, the more you can create true homogeneous segmentation and match the right offers to the right prospects,” Kelly said. Here is one secret and one lie to help b-to-b marketers fine-tune email data strategies. Secret: You can learn a lot by looking at individual email addresses.
While Analytics-IQ looks at “hundreds and hundreds” of metrics and characteristics of an email campaign, one of the simplest—an email address—can often provide some of the best information, Kelly said. He suggested looking at the address string for a few commonalities. For instance, addresses that contain the words “sales, info or junk” before the @ sign should be segmented into their own list. “The thing about those addresses is that they are highly deliverable but no one opens them very often,” he said. And unless you do an address-by-address search or dive, you're not going to identify those people. You can also identify an address as a primary address by doing a little detective work. Generally, email addresses that use real names—joea@domain.com, for example—have a greater chance of being a prospect's primary address, Kelly said, and are more likely to be opened and read. You can also compare email addresses from the same domain if you have multiple sign-ups from that company. A company may require all employees to use "first name-dot-last initial," something you can see emerging as a pattern over time. So if an address comes in that's completely different, that record may not belong in your house list—at least not initially. If you have four email addresses from the same domain and one looks very different in style or composition from the other, it may not be a valid address. Lie: There's no value in email addresses from free email service providers.
“We hear people say different things about Yahoo, Hotmail and Gmail. Some people think that they are generally bad, but we find that they deliver and open at the same rates as email addresses from corporate domains,” Kelly said. Paid consumer addresses are another segment that's overlooked or culled prematurely from an email list, he said. “AOL, Comcast and MSN are different than the free addresses and should be treated differently,” he said. They may be even better than free email addresses since they may be the prospect's personal address that's checked frequently. One warning flag, however, is the actual user name. “If an address is b1234@gmail.com or myjunk@msn.com it's probably not going to have a good open rate,” Kelly said.
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