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Enhancing E-Mail Databases With Reverse Append

  |  March 22, 2004   |  Comments

E-mail less, get higher returns? The hows and whys of reverse append.

With spam unabated and the potential for marketers to pay postage for email looming, now’s the time to look long and hard at your database. Plan to mail less. Generate more revenue from fewer email campaigns.

It may sound paradoxical, but it’s true. An additional consideration is decreasing unsubscribe rates. Judging from responses to previous columns on database segmenting, more education is warranted in this area.

It’s time you, or someone in your company, become the chief slice-and-dice officer, the person responsible for analyzing your database and figuring out how to carve it into meaningful subsets with higher response rates than the list as a whole. The primary tools at the Slicer/Dicer’s disposal are reverse email appending and data enhancement.

Top-Level View

Here’s how it works: Send your email database to one of many companies with gargantuan databases loaded with data from numerous sources. The company matches your email and/or postal addresses against its addresses. When there’s a match, it adds information to your records. You get back data-enriched records you can use in e-marketing efforts, both consumer and business-to-business (B2B). It’s called reverse append/data enhancement.

As you may know, reverse appending is a common practice in direct mail. In the email universe, some believe reverse appending is as unethical as appending email addresses to a postal database (inadvisable for a variety of reasons).

In this day of existing and pending legislation, the best approach is to request permission to email offers you feel are appropriate, based on data you’ve appended. With permission, you’re on the right side of the issue.

Fees for reverse append usually apply only to matching records. For databases between 500,000 and a million records, you can typically expect to pay anywhere from $0.08 to $0.20 per match, depending on volume, plus $20 to $30 per thousand for up to 10 enhancement data points. Pricing can be lower for larger databases.

Several factors (volume, type of data points, etc.) go into price, so determine what information you need to calculate final cost. No sense paying for valueless data. Expect anywhere from 20 to 50 percent of records to be matched. This is an efficient way to add a lot of potential value to your database if the cost makes sense for your business.

Why Reverse Append?

On the surface, investing over $100 per thousand may not make sense, especially if you send email now and take in only $5 per thousand. After discussing this with three vendors -- Equifax, infoUSA, and Omni Point Marketing -- the following justifications emerged for at least testing:

  • Effective CPM may increase, perhaps two to four times as much as now, because you’ll email less frequently to a highly targeted group. Response rates should rise due to better targeting.

  • Obtaining postal addresses from the reverse append process means you can test direct mail. Additional revenue from mail promotions make the proposition more attractive. You may have direct mail list rental potential.

  • Lifetime value of a customer responding to a personalized, targeted offer may be greater than those responding to mass mailings.

If you sell a wide variety of products, reverse append is worth testing. If you have one or only a few products, it doesn’t make sense. In either case, now that you know the value of data points, ask for relevant ones whenever and wherever you collect email addresses.

Information to Collect

How can you enhance your email database with reverse email append? In addition to adding first and last name, there are two major categories of additional information:

  • Basic demographics: Home ownership (own vs. rent), household income, number of credit cards, gender, education, marital status, age, presence and ages of children, occupation, and geographical area.

  • Lifestyles/interests: Gardening, shopping, wildlife, frequent flyer, travel, investing, books, fishing, gambling, gourmet cooking, wine, tennis, consumer electronics (VCR, CD, PC, etc.) ownership, needlework, pets, self-improvement, politics, and many more.

For a detailed list of the kind of data you can append to your file, see a sample report here. The level of detail is incredible -- Omni Point has no less than 30 different types of vehicle ownership information and over 30 data elements on the homes people own. You can add people who own RVs or have fireplaces.

Using the Enhanced Data

There are a handful of ways to use enhanced data:

  • First name: Personalize messages, both in the subject line and message body.

  • Gender: Create different offers targeting men and women.

  • Children: Sell to parents or slant copy toward them.

  • Marital status: Segment between singles and married couples.

That brings us to the lifestyles and interests category, where most of the data points lie. Depending on what you sell, you can enhance your database with specific information. Here are a few ways to use this valuable information:

  • Knowing which people in your database enjoy cruises rather than foreign travel permits tailoring offers accordingly.

  • Want to reach bowlers, photographers, stamp collectors? No problem. These and many more selections are available.

  • Sell telecom services? Identify people who make frequent calls overseas by country called.

  • If you sell investment services or publish a newsletter, you can identify people based on the number of trades they make during a specific period.

Combine data points for extra mileage. For example, add a high household income to presence of children to promote a family cruise.

On the B2B side, according to infoUSA, you can enhance data with standard industrial classification (SIC) codes, company size, sales volume, number of employees, and lots more.

In coming months and years, enhancing your email database will be one of the most important things you can do to grow your business. You’ll be able to mail smarter and generate more revenue.

Keep reading...

Want more email marketing information? ClickZ E-Mail Reference is an archive of all our email columns, organized by topic.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Paul Soltoff

Paul Soltoff is the chief executive officer of SendTec, Inc., a direct marketing services company specializing in customer acquisition. SendTec combines extensive direct response experience with proprietary technologies to produce scalable results. Principal services include performance-based online marketing, offline direct response marketing and direct response television. SendTec represents advertising agencies and advertisers such as RealNetworks, AARP, Monster.com, AAA, Punch Software, MyPoints, Grey Worldwide, CosmetÍque Cosmetics, Columbia House, and Euro-Pro. Prior to starting SendTec, Paul was a founder and EVP of Saatchi and Saatchi's DRTV division in New York and has over 25 years of advertising, media and direct marketing experience.

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