Is Your Email List Suffering from Poor Hygiene?

By Zara Ziad, Contributor to MultiChannel Merchant

An email marketing strategy is only as good as your database, but you can run into two main types of problems. Your email list may have a lot of irrelevant contact records, most of which are not in the right target audience and thus aren’t interested in your offer.

Or you may suffer from poor email list hygiene, with lots of inaccurate, incomplete, invalid, out of date, inconsistent or otherwise unusable information. Here’s how to assess your list, including some common issues and possible fixes.

Assessing Your Email List Hygiene

Here’s a list of indicators that will help you to assess the hygiene of your email list:

  • A higher hard bounce rate indicates most of the email addresses don’t exist. Whether they were acquired from a vendor or manually typed into your CRM, they’re not delivered. Even a bounce rate of 3-5% is considered to be a sign that you need to clean your email list.
  • If you notice a reduced customer/prospect engagement with your emails, even though you’re targeting the right audience, this might indicate an issue with your contact information.
  • If your last email list audit happened a long time ago, it’s something that should be done at least annually to ensure check for unsubscribers.
  • Are you noticing a lot of junk or blank fields in your contact list? It is just as important to clean your list horizontally as it is vertically.
  • You need controls on your lead/contact forms that check the validity of each data field.
  • If you notice that the cost-to-return ratio for email marketing is too low, then it might be time to revisit the lists your email marketing team is using.

Common Issues and How to Fix Them

Here are some common issues that can exist within your email list, and how you can fix them.

Look for Inaccurate, Incomplete or Invalid Information

You can find these issues by noticing the following cases:

  • A large number of blank fields
  • A lot of typos and incorrect spellings
  • Data fields that don’t follow the required pattern (email, phone, dates, etc.)

How to fix it: Start by profiling your email list. This will highlight issues and potential opportunities for cleansing. A data profile should tell you how many blank fields exist in your records, and how many fields in a column are not following the required pattern. Pattern matching for checking data validity is important to identify invalid email addresses or numbers. Once you have a data profile for your email list, it will allow you to plan your cleaning activities.

Look for Inconsistencies Between Applications

Companies usually use a number of applications such as CRM, marketing automation and webforms. When data generates from and resides at multiple ends, inconsistencies are common. This makes you doubtful about the effectiveness of your marketing efforts, as there is no single database being used throughout the organization.

How to fix it: Load the completed and cleaned email list to a central place accessible to all departments. Moreover, make sure contact creation is using standardized fields and validation controls. This will ensure all contacts go through the same validation process and are consistent.

Look for Duplicate Contacts

This is probably the most important part of email list cleaning. Companies usually have various contact records for the same person. You can have their work and personal email addresses as separate contacts, or incomplete information causes you to create new contacts rather than updating existing ones.

How to fix it: Utilize data matching techniques. If there is some obvious unique identifier in your email list, you can use it to match contacts, but mostly this is not the case. Teams invest in data matching tools that employ various techniques such as phonetic, numeric, fuzzy matching or other proprietary algorithms. Once matched, you can then decide to merge contacts or purge them so that there is only one record per entity in your email database.

The Consequences of Poor Email List Hygiene

If email lists left unclean can cause serious problems for an organization, including:

  • Duplicate records will cause your email marketing team to send an email twice to the same contact, affecting brand reputation. You will also end up duplicating marketing efforts and wasting valuable time and resources.
  • Sending emails to many email addresses that don’t exist will trigger an ISP’s spam alerts, and will blacklist the sender’s domain, and your content never hits your audience’s inboxes.
  • An unclean contact database can run afoul of compliance with governmental data standards such as GDPR, CCPA, etc.
  • It can mess up your business intelligence process, such as extracting of actionable insights.

Data cleansing is a crucial part of planning effective email marketing campaigns. Although it can be done manually, it is best to utilize a tool that utilizes data profiling, standardization, matching and merge/purge capabilities. The less time you spend cleaning your list, the more time you have to reach the right audience.

Article originally appeared on MultiChannel Merchant.

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