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Money and Lists Sizes Aren't Everything

  |  May 11, 2011   |  Comments

It's time to cut down your list to consumers who are truly engaged with your brand and want to receive your message – now if only you could convince your executives.

Money and list sizes aren't everything. OK, maybe money is everything and here's hoping you get lots of it, but the size of one's email target list size doesn't indicate how successful you will be now or in the future. Last week, I had the pleasure again to speak at the famed Email Insider Summit; not on the topic of email best practices, but on the security of customer data and the brands and service providers who are entrusted with it.

I'm not here to give you another lesson about data governance and security. However, a very interesting, but all too well-known issue I heard from marketing managers at the event roundtables was "I'm blocked and when I looked into it, it turns out we are hitting spam traps or other problematic accounts/issues." We panelists simply suggested that if people are not interacting with your brand over a few months, then you either survey them to get them to reengage or flat-out drop them. (Sorry Dela Quist - my U.K. friend hates the dropping idea.) Now, I'm not talking about suggestions like decrease 50 percent of a list or confirm opt-in everything, but we suggested it would help cut down their list to individuals who were truly engaged with the brand and wanted to receive the message.

To our delight, many of the marketers had already had similar ideas to improve list inbox penetration, but to our horror it seems that their high-level executives freaked out when such programs were suggested or introduced. I began to ask myself "why" at the conference that afternoon.

Honestly, I don't have a full-on answer to this perplexing battle between the higher-ups and those in the trenches looking at the terrible delivery data in these situations. Is it possible that the folks in the trenches are not doing a good enough job of presenting the whys? The costs possibly associated with bad data? The higher-ups not taking enough interest in what is going on below them daily? I did tell those at the conference that this process is a hard one to sell to many executives, and to be honest, it's not the first time I've seen this problem or even been through it myself. It requires a lot of data and comparison matrixes, flow charts, many blacklistings, etc. to illustrate the need to cut down an email target list. This isn't typically a proactive thing for many companies. It is an unfortunate reactive situation.

To my point here, does anyone else have this issue with convincing executives that list size doesn't prove anything? Of course. My suggestion to everyone in this situation is this: sit down for a few weeks and capture the costs of reacting to junking at the ISPs, time down due to blacklistings, and any other negative situations that dirty lists put you in to illustrate where the company is losing time and money. This includes also looking at all your delivery statistics (failures and successes) with bounces, feedback loops, and unsubscribing. Take all this data and create an easy-to-understand and attributable chart that shows the downside of your current actions. If you can, figure out how many emails are not getting through and how much more "easy" money you could make if you only delivered to those addresses you know are not giving you a hard time.

I would even suggest bringing the executive team into some of your daily squabbles so they can see just how bad lists are in reality and how they are wasting employees' time and the company's money.

Let's make email lists successful by using them the right way. What is your company doing to address this problem?


Dennis Dayman

Dennis Dayman has more than 17 years of experience combating spam, security issues, and improving e-mail delivery through industry policy, ISP relations, and technical solutions. As Eloqua's chief privacy and security officer, Dayman leverages his experience and industry connections to help Eloqua's customers maximize their delivery rates and compliance. Previously, Dayman worked for StrongMail Systems as director of deliverability, privacy, and standards, served in the Internet Security and Legal compliance division for Verizon Online, as a senior consultant at Mail Abuse Prevention Systems (MAPS), and started his career as director of policy and legal external affairs for Southwestern Bell Global, now AT&T. As a longstanding member of several boards within the messaging industry, including serving on the Board of Directors and the Sender SIG for the Messaging Anti-Abuse Working Group (MAAWG), Secretary/Treasurer for Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial Email (CAUCE), Certified Information Privacy Professional (CIPP) Advisory Board, Dayman is actively involved in creating current Internet and telephony regulations, privacy policies, and anti-spam legislation laws for state and federal governments.

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