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Delivery advice from Politico

Politico published an article Sunday looking at the best e-mail lists in politics. Their criteria for choosing the winner focused on list size and recipient engagement, measured by amount of money raised and recipient response to issues. Despite not being a delivery focused article or even mentioning delivery at all, this article is all about delivery.
How can an article be about delivery without ever mentioning the word? By actually looking at the effectiveness of the overall campaign and measuring how the lists actually perform. In the article, Politico used a number of criteria to evaluate different email lists and programs.

Using the criteria used by political pros to assess the value of these emails lists—size, freshness, comprehensiveness (does it include addresses, land lines, cell phone numbers or donation data?), open rates (what percentage of emails in a given send get opened), click-throughs (how many links are activated), actions and donations (how many emails result in a contribution or a letter to member of Congress) as well as intangibles like buzz and list managers’ skills—here is POLITICO’s ranking of the top five most potent email lists in politics. 

What is Politico actually measuring here? Data acquisition, user engagement, data hygiene, relevancy; all of those things those of us in the delivery arena point out as critical for email delivery.
The article goes on to discuss specific lists. The largest list is Organizing for America, collected by President Obama’s campaign. Mail to the 13 million recipients is generated 500 million dollars in donations during the campaign. An interesting point about this list is that after the election recipients received less relevant mail and subscribers complained about the mail. In response to the complaints, the list was refocused on political initiatives.
Even the politicians understand that relevancy is key to good performance in the email space.
There is another nugget of information in the article, when they mention another large list.

By far the biggest list on the right, at about 12 million emails strong, the RNC’s list would rank higher, but it’s thought to be somewhat tainted because segments of it were obtained through outside list exchanges with John McCain’s presidential campaign and list purchases and rentals, including from conservative media outlets Human Events, Townhall, NewsMax and the Weekly Standard.

Did you catch that? A list that used purchases and rentals to grow is thought to be somewhat tainted. The RNC list was quite successful at raising money, possibly because of the attitude of the RNC’s eCampaign Director Cyrus Krohn, “if you have a large list, you have to be smart about how you utilize it.” Targeting and segmentation can overcome a list “thought to be tainted.”
Politico also comments on Secretary Clinton’s list, and that she can no longer use it because of her cabinet position. She has sold the list to her Senate campaign committee and the list is being rented to groups like NoLimits.org. Her former deputy Internet director admits, “Hillary Clinton’s list is obviously very strong, but you can’t rank it that high because she can’t nurture it while she is secretary of state. And it’s very hard to transfer it from one organization to another.”
Overall, what this article tells us is that good list management is key to building large and responsive lists.

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