Dear Email Address Occupant
There’s a great post over on CircleID from John Levine and his experience with a marketer sending mail to a spam trap.
Apparently, some time back in 2002 someone opted in an address that didn’t belong to them to a marketing database. It may have been a hard to read scribble that was misread when the data was scanned (or typed) into the database. It could be that the person didn’t actually know their email address. There are a lot of ways spamtraps can end up on lists that don’t involve malice on the part of the sender.
But I can’t help thinking that mailing an address for 10 years, where the person has never ever responded might be a sign that the address isn’t valid. Or that the recipient might not want what you’re selling or, is not actually a potential customer.
I wrote a few weeks back about the difference between delivery and marketing. That has sparked conversations, including one where I discovered there are a lot of marketers out there that loathe and despise delivery people. But it’s delivery people who understand that not every email address is a potential purchaser. Our job is to make sure that mail to non-existent “customers” doesn’t stop mail from actually getting to actual potential customers.
Email doesn’t have an equivalent of “occupant” or “resident.” Email marketers need to pay attention to their data quality and hygiene. In the snail mail world, that isn’t true. My parents still get marketing mail addressed to me, and I’ve not lived in that house for 20+ years. Sure, it’s possible an 18 year old interested in virginia slims might move into that house at some point, and maybe that 20 years of marketing will pay off. It only costs a few cents to keep that address on their list and the potential return is there.
In email, though, sending mail to addresses that don’t have a real recipient there has the potential to hurt delivery to all other recipients on your list. Is one or two bad addresses going to be the difference between blocked and inbox? No, but the more abandoned addresses and non-existent recipients on a list there are on a list, the more likely filters will decide the mail isn’t really important or wanted.
The cost of keeping that address, one that will never, ever convert on a list may mean losing access to the inbox of actual, real, converting customers.