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Up-to-Date Database Helps Business Stay on Point

by Alf Nucifora

I recently got into an argument with my Webmaster. I could not understand why 25% of the addresses on my e-mail newsletter distribution file came back as undeliverable. I take particular pain to ensure that my database is kept current and accurate and yet a quarter of the names were out of date. How could that be?

It seems that e-mail address churn is now a growing phenomenon and where its impact will be most sorely felt is in the area of B2B e-mail marketing. According to Debbie Weil, in her online article, "Where E-mail Addresses Go Bad," e-mail address churn is estimated by industry experts to be running at a 20-40 percent rate annually. It is, says Weil, "a constant factor undermining the success of e-mail marketing campaigns."

The industry stats confirm that judgment. Weil's article references a recent NFO WorldGroup study of U.S. consumers that found that 41% had changed e-mail addresses at least once in the past two years, with 15% changing twice or more. According to John Coe, President of Database Marketing Associates, Inc., more that 75% of the 300 business cards he collected in the past year as a speaker for the Direct Marketing Association recorded changes in personal information. The Pew Internet Project notes that 37% of experienced online users provide fake e-mail addresses when registering at sites in order to avoid spam. (I confess to plugging in a false phone number for a home phone number request.)

It now seems obvious that bad e-mail addresses are tied to a number of recurring events, from job loss to change of ISP to a growing trend on the consumers part to have multiple e-mail addresses, each discreet address reserved for a particular need depending upon the degree of privacy associated with that need. The growing incidences of spam mail is also causing frustrated consumers to keep a generic e-mail address for all the junk mail and reserve a separate address for the truly important stuff.

For the e-mail marketer, this multi-address trend is a major hassle. But there are a couple of steps that can be taken to ensure that your database is kept alive and well.

  • Never send out an e-mail marketing communication (correspondence or newsletter) unless you have been specifically given permission by the recipient to do so. Spamming is a mortal sin.

  • Always give the recipient, or at least one who has changed his/her mind, the opportunity to unsubscribe or to opt out. And make the process easy… a simple click on the "unsubscribe" button and technology completes the process.

  • Mail to your list on a constant basis, preferably monthly. This will weed out the bad addresses in small batches rather than cause major attrition resulting from annual mailings.

  • Maintain a strong missionary strategy… always be seeking new names to add to your database. It's the old conveyor belt strategy. As they fall off one end, pile them on at the other.

  • And remember that the recipient will only choose to stay on your mailing list if what you send is compelling and readable. The majority of the e-mail newsletters and marketing communications that I receive are dull, boring and nothing more than idle dross. In that circumstance, it's easy to hit the delete or unsubscribe buttons.

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