Concerns of Older Lists

Many companies collect customer and prospect email addresses as a matter of course. Most are careful to obtain permission to use those addresses for marketing purposes. Those addresses are added to a database... and there they remain. Along come the marketers that classify and segment users to send targeted offers and promotions. Unfortunately, this campaign-driven, target-oriented approach can lead to some addresses not receiving any messages for months, even years.

During that time a lot can happen to an address. That can substantially affect how your messages are received, and how your company is perceived.

What can Happen?

* The address no longer exists. With luck the message bounces and you can remove it from the list.

* The address is redirected. There are two common situations in which this happens.

1) When an employee leaves a company, their email is frequently routed to another employee to ensure a clean handover. If you send a marketing message to that address a year later, the new recipient may report it as spam.

2) In the public space, when an email account is canceled, the associated address becomes free and can be picked up by someone else following a grace period (the average is three to six months). If you send an e-mail to this address, the new address owner may complain the message is unsolicited as he didn't sign up for it.

* The recipient doesn't recall opting in. A recipient who checked "Send me exciting new offers and promotions" while registering on your Web site 18 months ago may not remember doing so when that exciting new offer finally arrives.

The net result is old lists generate more complaints and more of a negative view of your company.

What can you do?

* Use an e-mail change of address (ECOA) service. Email address churn is comparable to physical address churn, around 30 percent annually.

* Facilitate address correction. It's not uncommon for an old address to be forwarded to a new one during a transitional period. Make it easy for subscribers to update their e-mail addresses (and, ideally, any other profile attributes) with every message you send.

* Prevention is the best cure. Send a message at least twice a year to recipients who haven't received any other mailings.

If you don't have anything interesting to say, send a simple notification reminding recipients they're registered to receive e-mail from you and allow them to view and update profile and subscription options.

These are important housekeeping duties and go a long way toward keeping your list fresh and active. Recipients will thank you and your employer will thank you for improved response rates and higher return on investment.

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