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Going Postal

  |  October 13, 2003   |  Comments

E-mail append: Crafty, or just plain creepy? Will a patchwork of spam laws encourage marketers to mine more customer data? One marketer argues what you don't know about e-mail recipients can hurt you.

If I've learned one thing from the American patchwork of 37 state email laws, it's that knowing where your customers reside is no longer a luxury, it's a necessity. So the question is: how can I unearth this information, then what can I do with it?

E-Mail Appending

In May, at the FTC Spam Forum's email marketing best practices panel, the FTC moderator asked me to describe email address appending. Thankfully, I wasn't heckled by anti-spam advocates in the audience when I described how marketers are extending pre-existing business relationships from off- to online. While the success of appended addresses varies, depending on the offline relationship, what the industry has found is very few recipients opt-out or respond negatively to the relationship transfer.

Data aggregators have fine-tuned appending service processes and added numerous other data points to ensure recipient match is accurate and elicits response. Marketers who employ append services are not only trying to reach offline customers without email addresses. They also match to determine the accuracy of their existing email data, bolster customer files, and obtain changed email addresses.

Reverse E-mail Append

Following good experiences with email append, some providers are now in a position to offer the reverse. They append postal or telephone records to email addresses.

Again, the issue revolves around knowing where the email recipient resides. If you've read about the new California email law, you know its intent is to significantly limit, if not eradicate, email prospecting. The law's strict liability wording makes it clear it doesn't matter whether or not a marketer knows a recipient is in California in order to be held liable.

What you don't know about email recipients can hurt you.

There are 36 other states with email laws on the books. Most have yet to be enforced, but the key word is "yet." Any marketer, regardless of whether or not they prospect, is encouraged to review these laws soon. States are hungry for revenue, and are exploring ways to further deter spam. California could serve as a precedent for other states to rapidly follow suit.

If you haven't been living under a rock for the past month, you've noticed there are 50 million Americans who do not want to be telemarketed to. They've added their numbers to the national Do-Not-Call registry. There's been no study tracking the propensity of do-not-call enrollees to press ISP spam complaint buttons, but potential correlation is worth considerng. As you consider building stronger relationships with your email recipients, the practice of reverse appending telephone data to further segment or suppress against recipients enlisted for do-not-call may be worth some thought.

Bottom Line: It's Still About ROI

In my consulting days, I had a client who was a commercial printer. I spent months devising optimal scenarios for direct and email integration. Here are a few of those scenarios, each of which could utilize reverse append and further drive ROI.

As email addresses are subject to frequent churn, a marketer could trigger a direct mail piece requesting the new email address following a specified number of bounces. The direct mail piece could be as simple as a postcard, or include an incentive for continued loyalty.

Another method that's received attention is to synchronize direct and email to optimize response. There are no magic bullet methodologies that will lift response via synchronization. Many methods will increase response. Techniques depend on timing, creative and offer.

A third option is to re-acquire customers using direct mail that were suppressed via email. While a smart emailer knows that an unsubscribe is forever, that doesn't necessarily mean that the recipient can't be re-approached through the use of an effective direct mail piece. There are many scenarios for seasonal timing, sales or product life cycle re-engagement, and market relevance to gauge and drive response.

Many recent studies note that email response rates haven't dropped as much as people might assume, given the deluge of spam. What's more important than concern about decreasing response rates are the ways emailers increase response as the channel gets cluttered. Multichannel is one way to do this. Will it be yours?

Are reverse append and multichannel marketing the ways to go? Send me your thoughts!


Ben Isaacson

Ben Isaacson is the privacy and compliance leader for Experian, overseeing Internet and advanced technology privacy and compliance affairs across Experian Marketing Services products including CheetahMail, Digital Advertising Services, and Hitwise. Mr. Isaacson's previous roles include serving as the executive director of the Association for Interactive Marketing (AIM), a former DMA subsidiary. He regularly blogs at EmailResponsibly.com.

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