Emails make digital marketing tick. Marketing departments should be hyper-aware of where their lists come from. If not, they will be missing out on valuable leads, which means a negative impact on business—lost time, money and effort. “If you’re starting with bad lists, you won’t get results and you just won’t know why,” says Sky Cassidy, CEO of MountainTop Data. “Maybe you’re using one of these list companies that’s really good at sales but doesn’t know or care about data. They see an opportunity where they can write some code and it creates something they can sell. They’re not really interested in having quality data beyond being able to sell it.”
One key problem for email marketers: the reality that any list from a vendor is bound to be flawed. Marketers can’t be sure how names arrived on the list. For instance, some of them may have been taken from shared IP addresses that don’t require users to opt-in.(1)
Others may have been derived from catch-all domains that collect improperly addressed emails or those sent to inactive users. Making matters worse, they won’t bounce back, so the senders never realize the data is bad. (2)
“Over 50 percent of the emails out there are on catch-all domains,” Cassidy explains. Reputable data companies—and there are some out there—work hard to scrub their lists and make sure they are highly targeted. A data provider worth its salt will use machine learning and proprietary data algorithms to ensure the accuracy of its lists.
Best Email Practices
There are proven methods to make sure your email lists accomplish what they are intended to do, reach potential customers and positively influence their decisions. Some of the things Cassidy recommends are:
- Keep your email list clean.
- Build and maintain an opt-in list.
- Use a different email service provider to send cold campaigns than you use for your opt-in/newsletter campaigns.
- Don’t send emails too frequently to cold lists.
- Make it easy to opt-out.
If marketers fail to put in the time to keep their lists up to spec, bad things can and probably will happen. More of the company’s email will end up in the spam folder. Click rates could plummet and a company could end up paying for bad names.(4)
“Unfortunately, it’s not really easy to catch these types of bad data providers—that is garbage data providers,” Cassidy says.
One way to boost the odds that you will get enough useful names is to cast a wider net and use multiple providers.
That way marketers can measure one against the other and weed out the worst performers. “Have more than one data provider,” Cassidy says. “That’s probably the cleanest way to do it ….If you’re working with garbage data, you’re going to get garbage results.”
Most of the data companies that peddle email marketing lists are selling junk, according to Cassidy.
Businesses and their marketing team need to be aware of this dirty data. If they don’t take the necessary steps to maintain their own lists, they could be seeing major red flags like more bounce backs, fewer clicks and ultimately much less-effective campaigns.
“Data companies know their lists are inadequate, ‘but they don’t care,'” Cassidy says. “It’s hard work to do the things I’m talking about”… to produce high-quality, clean lists.