Practicing List Hygiene to Better Reach Your Audience

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If you’re interested in the best possible return on investment in your direct marketing efforts, start by cleaning up your contact lists.

Keeping Contacts Connected

In the marketing realm, there have never been more ways to connect with your audience, and tested methods like direct mail and email campaigns are still holding their own. An integral part of these campaigns are your recipients. Sending direct mail and marketing emails can bring a lot of attention to your organization or business, but this will only work if you are reaching and connecting with your intended audience. If you aren’t taking the time to maintain your contact lists, the success of your campaigns could be in jeopardy.

To make your message as effective as it can be, you’ll want to practice list hygiene. It’s impossible to ensure that every email or piece of mail you send out will reach the person you intend. However, practicing list hygiene is an effective way to improve delivery rates so that you are reaching as much of your audience as possible.

If you’re using a multi-channel marketing approach, you’ll have both a direct mail list and an email list to keep updated. Both can benefit positively from list hygiene.

Direct Mail List Maintenance

Direct mail campaigns are an effective marketing tool, even in our increasingly digital age. In addition to giving recipients a feeling of personal connection with your business, direct mail pieces are opened by 70 to 80 percent of recipients, even when they consider it to be junk mail. That represents a big opportunity for your business to connect with potential customers.

In order to get the highest possible response from your direct mail campaign, you want to ensure that the names and addresses you have on file are current. Annually, 1.3 billion articles of mail fail to reach the intended recipient, and every piece that is returned to you costs an average of $3 to reprocess and resend. That can really add up if your list isn’t up to date.

Incorporating list hygiene practices can be a way for your business to save money. Improving deliverability of your mail reduces the number of returned mail pieces, which you must either pay to resend once you have the correct address information, or put down as lost revenue if the information cannot be found. If you’re environmentally minded, sending mail that you know will be delivered means saving resources by printing fewer mail pieces and having fewer return to you unopened.

Here at Paw Print & Mail, two practices we use to ensure the success of our direct mail services are the Coding Accuracy Support System (CASS) and NCOA (National Change of Address).

CASS Certification is a software which standardizes addresses in your database so that everything is spelled and formatted correctly. It will also remove any addresses that lack information or are likely to have an issue being delivered. According to PitneyBowes, there are errors that could impact deliverability on 23.5 percent of mail, so you’ll want to thoroughly check the addresses on your list.

NCOA connects your mailing list with a USPS database, so that your list will have the most current address information. Since 40 million Americans will change their address every year, keeping up to date with a program like NCOA is essential to ensure what you send will be delivered to your intended recipient.

 Email List Maintenance

Though there are no added postage and processing fees as with returned direct mail, there is always a risk that your marketing emails will bounce back. Like postal addresses, email addresses change as new accounts are created and old addresses abandoned.

A bounce can happen for a number of reasons. Hard bounces are due to the recipient blocking your emails, deleting their email address, or sending to a domain or address that no longer exists. Or it could be a soft bounce, caused by issues like a full inbox or trouble with the size of your message. If you’re getting a bounce, you should delete those emails from your list. And if you’re finding a group of subscribers that never open or interact with your emails, consider taking them off the list too. Not only is including them ineffective, but it can have a negative impact on your email metrics, such as open and delivery rates.

You can also make sure you are mailing to an actual person. Generic company or organization emails are not as likely to interact with your content as email addresses that belong to a specific individual.

But, wait! Before you take out a large chunk of your email list, there are a few things you can do to try to keep these contacts in your audience.

  • Send out emails specifically to re-engage inactive members of your audience. Such an email could contain options to keep receiving emails from you, to change the type of emails they prefer to receive, or to unsubscribe entirely. Even if many choose to unsubscribe, it’s worth taking the time to respectfully reach out in this way, as there is always a chance recipients want to stay aligned with your brand.
  • Give your mailing list a second chance to opt-in to your emails. You could include a special offer in the email to pique interest. Having recipients confirm that their email is correct and they are interested will strengthen your contact list.
  • Try segmenting your lists into sections that will receive different content based on their interests and affiliations. One way to do this is by sending a survey to subscribers, asking what content they are interested in receiving from you. Sending people information relevant to what they want to see will increase the likelihood of your emails being read and interacted with.

The unsubscribe button is an important part of any email campaign. While you hope everyone will want to receive what you’re sending them, this is rarely the case. If you include the option to unsubscribe, it’s important to follow through. Emails can help build positive associations with your brand, but sending emails to a user that has unsubscribed can be detrimental if people have negative things to say about your practices.

You can use a third-party service like those for direct mail to help make email list maintenance easier. Such systems can automatically filter out addresses that are incorrect or always bounce, monitor your metrics, and schedule different kinds of campaigns.

The success of list maintenance lies in being proactive with your strategies, finding ways to make your list more efficient and effective, rather than being reactive, struggling to revamp your campaigns with a stale and outdated contact list. Consistently following good list hygiene practices will increase the effectiveness of your campaigns and make connecting with your audience more fruitful.

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