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Broken record…

The Return Path In the Know blog listed 4 reasons mailing those old addresses is a bad idea.

Ashley, the author, is completely right and I endorse everything she said. (Although I’d really like to hear what happened to the customer that added back all those addresses. What was the effect on that campaign and future email marketing?) As I was reading the article though, I realized how many times this has been said and how depressing it is that we have to say it again. And again. And again.

A number of folks have told me that the reason they don’t pay any attention to delivery professionals is because we don’t provide enough real data. They can show that sending mail to old addresses costs them nothing, and makes them real money.

That’s not really true, though. We do provide data, they just don’t like it so they don’t listen to it. Return Path publishes lots of numbers showing that mailing unengaged recipients lowers overall delivery. I can provide case studies and data but companies that are committed to sending as much mail as possible throw up many reasons why our data isn’t good or valid.

The biggest argument is that they want hard numbers. I do understand this. Numbers are great. Direct and clear answers are wonderful. But delivery is a squishy science. There are a lot of inputs and a lot of modifiers and sometimes we can’t get exactly one answer. The data is noisy, and difficult to replicate. One of the reasons is that filtering is a moving target. Filters are not, and cannot be, fixed. They are adaptive and are changing even between one hour and the next.

Delivery experts are about risk management. They are the parents requiring everyone in the car wear seat belts, even though the driver has never had an accident. They are the fire department enforcing fire codes, even though it’s the rainy season.

Risk management isn’t about the idea that bad things will absolutely happen but rather that it is more likely that a bad thing will happen in some cases.

In this case, it’s more likely that delivery problems will happen when mailing old addresses. And if those addresses aren’t actively contributing to revenue, it’s hard to argue that their presence on a list is more beneficial than their absence.

But I repeat myself. Again.

8 comments

  1. John L says

    They don’t really want hard numbers. They are unable to believe that there are people who don’t want to hear from them; the excuse to justify it hardly matters. BMS.strikes again.

  2. Neil Schwartzman says

    It is depressing to read what I read and wrote a decade ago. Is anyone listening? is anyone out there? One need but go through the archives of a long-lived publication like ClickZ.com to see stuff repeated continually.

  3. Ken Magill says

    The day we can stop repeating ourselves is the day we’ll have to hunt for new employment. Yay for ignorance!

  4. I Know That Feel « The E-mail Skinny says

    […] alike — and all for free — on the WTTW blog for five years now. She recently posted an article that really hit home: Delivery experts are about risk management. They are the parents requiring everyone in the car […]

  5. Remy Bergsma says

    There’s (partially, at least) a task for ESPs here: education is what it’s at. If clients have no idea of consequences in the short and long run, why should they care? If they do, they will understand deliverability (at least the basics).

    Bringing a horse to the well for water is one thing. But making it drink is a whole different story.

  6. Udeme says

    Looks like the sender may need Deliverability 101. Switching mail systems is no excuse for doing what they did. Funny how no matter how much delivery experts across the industry scream & cry about stuff like this, it gets repeated over & over.

  7. Travis Wetherbee says

    Neil, yes there are those who are out there listening, unfortunately it is other deliverability professional. All jokes, there is some light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. I have seen clients coming to me asking about how to do it right the first time. They are few but it is better than none.

  8. Chris T says

    I’ve spoken to countless clients that want to send to a 4 year old list that hasn’t been used in 4 years, but no one has ever asked me for analytics regarding the affects of sending to the old list. The client just wants their way. ESP sending reputation be damned. Its a tough pill to swallow. The alternative for them is to build their own mail server.

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