Reconfirmation Messages: Clean Up Your List!

  |  December 2, 2004   |  Comments

What to do when your e-mail list contains many older addresses.

Your email list has a large number of older addresses. How can you minimize list atrophy and restore your list to its former glory? Reconfirmation can help separate the wheat from the chaff on your list.

The following presumes all the recipients on your list opted in at some point. Any addresses that didn’t should never have been on the list and should be removed straightaway.

Approaches to Reconfirmation

To reconfirm addresses, send a message to recipients informing them they’re on your list. They can either remain on the list or unsubscribe. Some mailing list software can be configured to do this automatically periodically, but most can’t.

Reconfirmation is an excellent tool for those list segments that aren’t at either end of the spectrum. They’re not so old they should be entirely discarded, and they’re not so new they can be used without concern.

There are two approaches to reconfirmation: opt-in and opt-out. The opt-in approach requires recipients to take a specific action to remain on the list (usually clicking on a URL). Opt-out requires them to take action to be removed from the list (usually clicking on a link or sending a removal request).

The opt-out approach is generally more attractive to marketers, as it loses fewer addresses. However, it doesn’t clean the list as effectively. Recipients of messages that are blackholed or quarantined aren’t removed by opt-out. Further, users have long been advised not to unsubscribe from spam. Some recipients will complain or take no action rather than opt-out. A few believe since they hadn’t opted in before they shouldn’t need to opt out now.

Selecting the Recipients

Though many factors may be considered and precise determination depends on circumstances, there are two key dimensions to think about:

  • Recency. How recently was the segment contacted by email? Within the last six months? Within the last year? Never?

  • Provenance. How good is the record and evidence of their opt-in? Full source, date, and IP address? A flag indicating the source of the subscription? No record?

Writing the Message

Craft a clear, concise reconfirmation message. You can provide an example of what the recipient will receive, but avoid making the message look like a marketing solicitation. This will only confuse recipients about the message’s purpose. The message should:

  • Inform recipients why they’re receiving the message.

  • Remind them when, where, and how they originally signed up.

  • Tell them what they can expect to receive from you in the future.

  • Tell them what they should do to continue or stop receiving messages from you.

Sending the Message

ISPs and recipients generally react favorably to these kinds of reconfirmation messages. However, many run automated blocking systems. A high bounce rate could block your message, at least temporarily. And some recipients may complain about an opt-in reconfirmation.

To minimize the effect of this, send the message in batches and monitor bounce rates and complaints. If a particular segment proves troublesome, switch it from opt-out to opt-in (if it’s not already) or discard it completely. If you’re experiencing deliverability issues with a particular ISP, talk with it about what you’re doing and why. ISPs are generally very receptive to people trying to do the right thing. Hold off on sending more messages until the issue is resolved.

With a well-crafted reconfirmation message, you can effectively clean up an otherwise problematic list. Once it’s clean, keep it that way with regular communications and good list hygiene practices.

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

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Derek Harding

Derek is the managing director of J-Labs, Javelin Marketing Group's technology skunkworks, a role that draws on his 20 years of experience and leadership in the fields of marketing and technology. A British expatriate based in Seattle, Washington, Derek is perhaps better known as the founder and technologist behind Innovyx, one of the first email service providers later acquired by the Omnicom Group. An industry veteran and thought-leader, Derek is a regular expert author, contributor, conference speaker, and takes an active role in a number of industry and trade groups.

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