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The Great E-Appending Debate

  |  May 9, 2012   |  Comments

Do you want to invest in the short-term gain and long-term loss or invest in the long-term gain with lots of hard work?

Last week I once again helped program the MediaPost Email Insider Summit that took place in beautiful Captiva, FL. As part of the programming committee my colleagues and I are given a bit of power to program topics we think are important to the event attendees to hear. What we didn't realize is that one topic in particular would be the most heated debate we've heard at the Summit in some time: email appending or e-appending. If you visit the Summit site you can go watch the "panel" (debate) and see what you missed.

Per Wikipedia:

"Email appending is a data enhancement service that matches and appends email addresses to a database based on first name, last name and postal address. In this way they can have an updated database with the current email address of individuals on the list."

The process of email appending obviously depends on the quality of both databases being merged. When done, a permission pass is sent to contacts giving them the option to opt out of receiving future communications. Emails are also confirmed deliverable during this send, when an email is received successfully from this contact's mailbox. Mail sent by email appending methods therefore is opt-out instead of opt-in email.

As most of you know I am not a huge fan of these techniques as a past ISP abuse personnel and because of the opt-out process involved here, but even more as a privacy professional and the "forced" and unknown use of someone's personally identifiable information (PII).

This debate has gone on for years and I know that many of you believe or think that it works, but I'm here to tell you outside of the legalities especially in Canada and the E.U. that these practices do not work based on my and many others' experiences. Many people confuse the "growth" of their list, whether the data is right or wrong, as a success. This has been debated recently with some friends over on the Only Influencers site, but as I was speaking to my good friend Ryan Phelan from BlueHornet last week at the conference, we've never seen or ever been shown any numbers in support of such processes. I've only ever seen the negative. We've asked supporters of process to give us proof, but to date none has been given.

To me, e-appending is cheating in a world of relevant marketing in which we want to do our best to connect with our prospects and customers. Marketing isn't supposed to be easy here. It requires a lot of work to achieve the results many have seen. If it was easy, we would all be rich, but we are not. Just like we tell our children to work hard and as such they will be rewarded later in life, we need to understand the same premise applies to us as adults and in marketing. Don't cheat yourself and your company. In fact, stop cheating on those who are innocently e-appended into receiving email or other digital marketing from someone or something they don't know.

My father has a name similar to mine, lives in the same county as I do, and on many occasions people e-append him but I end up getting the irrelevant marketing at my home because of the similarity in nature.

My friend Ryan Phelan said it best: "Whether you believe in permission or affirmative opt-in there is one simple rule that no one can dispute. Consumers provide a primary email based on trust and choice. They have chosen to give someone their email address based on a certain degree of trust. E-appending at its core is a betrayal of that trust because the consumer chose not to give it to you. If you start there, there's nowhere else to go. Sure, you could start a sentence that says 'But' or 'The consumer thinks' or 'I have a prior business,' but all of those are trumped by the prior."

The future and trust of email marketing is in our hands as marketers. We can invest in the short-term gain and long-term loss or invest in the long-term gain with lots of hard work. You choose and if someone tries to choose for you, just don't give her your email address.


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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