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Growing your list carefully

Karl Murray wrote a great set of recommendations for growing an email marketing list. I really can’t think of anything I would have said differently. Touching customers and getting contact information from them is great, but there are situations where this gets bad addresses. Too many bad addresses can impact delivery.
So how do you grow your list without falling into a delivery trap? The specific recommendations, as always, depend on your specific situation. But knowing how bad addresses get onto your list will allow you to implement mitigation strategies that actually work.

Types of bad addresses

Typos
These are usually addresses typed in by the user during a transaction. In my case, my fingers can type wordtothewise.com very quickly, but at least 1 time in 10 I type wordtotehwise.com or something similar. My fingers just get away from me. Other people can typo their username or their domain name.  Many typo domains are used by various spam filtering companies as spamtrap domains and any mail to them can result in blocked mail. Username typos won’t always lead to blocking, but if you have a lot of them, then the complaints may hurt your reputation.
Data Entry Errors
These usually happen when the user writes down their email address and it’s later transcribed into a database or when an address is taken over the phone. Many people have horrible handwriting, increasing the chance that the address is wrong. Plus, there are all the risks of typos during the data entry.
Purposely bad data
These cases are where stores give discounts or other incentives for addresses at point of sale. The customer doesn’t necessarily want email from the store, but is happy to claim their 5% discount or free gift. One of our local brew pubs actually gives free beers during special events if the customer “signs up for their mailing list.” I can only imagine how many people will give a fake address just for a free beer. Some of these addresses are obviously bad (none@none.com, asdf@asdf.com, etc) but some of them are just randomly made up or belong to other people.

What can senders do to protect themselves?

When collecting addresses at the point of sale, have the have the user type in the address or read the address on the screen before submission.
Collect addresses electronically rather than on paper for later transcription to minimize data entry errors.
When collecting email addresses over the phone, try to send a message during the call to confirm the recipient can receive it.
The first email sent to any recipient should always have a link for “This is not me” so the mistaken recipient can notify you that the address is incorrect and should not be mailed again.
Always send a welcome message. This should be sent as soon as possible, ideally before the user leaves the website or the register. In stores people with smart phones can be encouraged to check their mail right there to make sure they’ve received it. If the message bounces and that information can be pushed back to the register the company associate can ask for a correct address before the end of the transaction. The same bounce data can be pushed back to the website to give the user the opportunity to correct the address.
If you’re collecting addresses by giving things away, send a welcome message, or a welcome series, but do not add those addresses to your main list unless and until there has been some positive activity.
Overall, consumers expect to be asked for their email address during most every interaction with a business. This is not a bad thing, but does mean that the business needs to have processes in place to make sure their data is clean. Clean data is more responsive data.
 

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