The Future Dream World of Email Merge and Purge

Picture the following scenario: You’re in prospecting-by-email mode. You’ve come up with a terrific lead generation offer, and your message’s creative is dynamite. Your target audience consists of business executives and decision makers of Internet-related businesses.

Based on the promising results of your previous test campaigns, your list plan consists of more than 20 different opt-in email lists — each containing more than 20,000 email addresses.

So you’ve got all your ducks in a row, as far as your upcoming campaign goes. Or do you?

Think all those email addresses are 100 percent unique? Meaning: Do you think that your list of, say, Industry Standard names and email addresses are completely different from those on your Forbes list?

Think again.

Chances are very, very good — especially with the more specialized lists — that there will be duplicate names across all of these files, which means that chances are good that your recipients will receive your wonderful promotion more than once. And no matter how clever that email may be, this is certainly not the ideal scenario. In fact, in all likelihood, it will suppress your response.

This scenario can be improved, to be sure. How? Well, when the time comes (and we’re not quite there yet), the use of data merge and purge for acquisitions campaigns will bring email prospecting to a whole new level.

How will it work? If you’re from the traditional DM world, you can probably skip this part. Essentially, the procedures would be very similar to those of the direct-mail-list world. Each email-list vendor represented in your plan would simply send your “order” to one central service bureau. That service bureau would then combine those addresses (the merge), retaining any proprietary information on each list. It would then expel any duplicate addresses (the purge) and deploy what’s remaining.

A nice solution, right? Like I said, we’re not quite there, but we’re definitely headed in that direction. Not too long ago, a company by the name of IntraSource was written up as a possible provider in this category. The problem — and the reason that this seemingly simple solution has not yet taken effect in the email industry — is that many list vendors and suppliers have been reluctant to transfer their email addresses to a third party. Although all competent service bureaus would ensure security and would also need to take measures to prevent more than onetime usage on lists, there is still concern among vendors.

I really can’t blame them, although steps can be taken to address those concerns. The fact is that email addresses are valuable, and unless the proper measures are taken, unsavory complications (read: spam, lost or stolen addresses, etc.) could very well happen.

But just envision a world of email merge and purge for a moment — once it’s finally up and running…

Your response rates from prospecting promotions should see some decent lifts, due to the simple fact that recipients will no longer be bombarded with multiple identical messages.

We marketers would have the ability to suppress our house files. (After all, why should we send our customers a prospecting piece when they are no longer prospects?)

We would also be able to seamlessly create tests within numerous outside opt-in lists — in an easy, systematic manner. For example, we could have the service bureau split 10 of our lists into three equal segments each, and email each segment an altogether different message. Definitely a much easier method than ordering three different lists from every single list vendor… not to mention the fact that we would be assured of test-segment authenticity.

Additionally, we could suppress email addresses from recent test campaigns to reduce the number of promotional messages our prospects receive. (Note: It won’t necessarily mean that we won’t have to pay for any duplicate or suppressed names. It just means that we’ll have more control as to how many times our recipients are “hit.”)

The list (no pun intended) of benefits is virtually endless, as far as the potential enhancements and tools for email prospecting campaigns go. What will it take to get there? Participation. Participation across the board, by all major list vendors and suppliers. There ARE some list vendors that are ready and willing right now, but they can’t do it alone. It simply will not work.

Like I said, it’s bound to happen. We have a bit of work ahead of us to make it mainstream, but once it is, we’re talking instant improvement to email acquisitions campaigns.

So stay tuned for the future. The advent of email address merge and purge will make it very bright indeed.

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