The Seamy Side of List Marketing
While many list vendors are conscientious, using only clean data in their lists, the industry is bursting with others that engage in seedy practices and leverage ancient information that promise to not only tarnish your brand, but also drive the industry itself into the ground. In many cases, these vendors' lists may comprise addresses that have been acquired without the recipient's permission, or invalid email addresses for people who have moved on from them or switched jobs. Some of these addresses may even be to a secondary account set up by the user in an effort to avoid unwanted emails.
Each of these instances sets in motion less-than-desirable results, ranging from hard bounces, in the case of invalid email addresses, or emails that are never opened, in the case of the secondary account. But the result likely considered most destructive to a brand name is abuse allegations from angered recipients, as in the case of non-permission-based email. It goes without saying that this scenario is especially dangerous, as it could besmirch the brand's reputation. (And by the way, regardless which scenario is played out, the marketer's or brand owner's ROI is never realized.)
Frustrated with the results (or lack thereof) and the threat of a sullied brand reputation, marketers and brand managers often withdraw from the industry altogether, opting instead to spend marketing dollars on more reputable lead-generation tactics such as search engine marketing or display advertising. But by tossing aside list marketing for good, marketers and brand owners are passing up incredible potential that could have yielded fruitful results.
Clean Data Contribute to Brand Success
However helpless marketers and brand owners may feel to make a difference in the industry, the truth is that they can, in fact, help turn list marketing around. By outsourcing to only trustworthy list-rental vendors, they have the power to set new industry standards for clean data. Specifically, they should look for list owners that offer permission-based lists, so the recipients will be more likely targets. Alternatively, they can contract with a platform that offers good data hygiene practices and has the capability to remove bad or invalid email addresses and non-permissioned addresses and spam traps. (In addition, clients of these companies get the added bonus of more targeted results.)
Making sure records are clean before a campaign is executed means a higher level of in-box delivery and increased open-and-click rates. Recent data from Harte-Hanks also supports this. According to its Postfuture Index, overall delivery rates across all industry sectors increased from 93% in 2009 to 95% in 2010, and bounce rates averaged only 5%, compared with 7% in 2009. The company attributes these numbers partly to list owners maintaining clean data.
All is not lost, but to ensure list marketing is not the downfall of your brand, marketers and brand owners must demand cleaner lists. For their part, vendors must commit to the cleanest data practices possible. With these steps clearly outlined and followed, the list marketing industry will return to its former luster, and subsequently ensure a stellar brand reputation remains intact.