Name mistakes happen. You know this; you’ve been to Starbucks. (No knocks on the baristas. We live in an age where there are too many ways to spell Caitlin.)
But as a digital strategist, I draw the line at email flubs: “Dear FirstName,” bad; “Hi, Monica!,” yikes. Worse than both is mistargeting altogether.
Because today’s email marketing campaigns are centered on data-driven processes like automation and personalization, keeping your email data clean is critical. Outdated and messy data management practices can damage your brand in ways both cringy (see above) and detrimental (wasting time and money on bad leads).
Here’s what you need to know about your email data to avoid both outcomes.
The Truth About Your Email List
HubSpot says you’ll lose more than 20 percent of the contacts on your email list each year, be it because of changed or abandoned email addresses or opt-outs. Not a lot you can do about that.
What you can do is be aware and act accordingly. Keep a real picture of the data you have and refresh your email data with fresh leads appropriately. A list of qualified leads is essential for successful inbound marketing.
When is It Time to Clean Your Email Data?
Your schedule will vary depending on your business size and resources. A DemandGen report suggests that large companies with over 100,000 leads should scrub their data quarterly, while smaller companies should aim for a twice-yearly cleanse.
A better play is to keep an eye out for the warning signs:
- Unsubscribe/spam complaint rates: It’s less about the number and more about whether it’s growing from email to email.
- Email open and click rates: If they’re trending down over the past few emails, you may have a problem.
A Word on the Bad Email Data
Bad data doesn’t just mean old and outdated. It also means data that’s not helpful to your business objectives. To assess the quality of your email data, start with some basic questions:
- Is your data giving you the insights you need to advance your business?
- How do you use the data you have stored, and how will you use it in the future?
- Do you really need all of it, or are there parts that are outdated or unhelpful?
Setting expectations for how you’ll reap the benefits of your data will help you plot a strategy for collecting and retaining the exact information your business needs to thrive. Tactics like customer surveys and giveaways or conditional form logic can help you collect the data you need from your customers and build stronger marketing and sales programs.
A 3-Step Guide to Cleaning Your Email Data
Step 1: Clean Up Your Contacts
Contact information can become obsolete quickly as people change phone numbers, emails, and jobs. Keeping incorrect information on file can become an endless loop of unread, undelivered, and unseen efforts that can drain your time and resources.
Bad contacts take many forms:
- Inactive contacts. If so-called leads have shown zero interest in your business, continuing to target them is wasting your time and negatively affecting your ROI. The same can go for contacts who engaged long ago but have since dropped off (due to job changes, for instance).
- Junk contacts. Anonymous contacts with junk emails such as [email protected] are likely spammers, bots, or worse: people who don’t want to hear from you.
- Outdated contacts. Ditch the contacts that give you dial tones or bounce-back emails.
- Duplicate contacts. If you’re using a CRM or marketing automation software, you can set up duplicate contact notifications to alert you when things seem suspect. When you identify a duplicate, either delete the extra contacts or merge them into a single entry.
To help combat the accumulation of these bad contacts, consider establishing a self-cleaning email drip campaign. Have a contact who hasn’t opened an email from you in two months? Send them a check-in. Did they ignore that too? Send a final (friendly) warning. Nothing? Nix them.
Step 2: Standardize Email Data Management Entry
Try using drop-down menus at online entry points so contacts must enter their details using standardized formats. For example, a country of residence might be “United States,” but a customer might be apt to enter this as “US,” “U.S.,” or “USA.” By streamlining formatting options, you avoid inconsistent data when it comes time to analyze and segment your contacts.
Make sure your team is aware of these standardized formats for when they need to manually enter details into your database. Incorrect formatting (phone numbers and email addresses are common culprits) can stand in the way of contacting customers.
Step 3: Verify New Email Data
This one’s about quality over quantity.
For new online leads, consider setting up automations to verify that a new subscriber has given you their correct email address for future contact. You can even take it a step further by reminding them what they can expect from your emails. A contact that doesn’t actually want to hear from you is still a bad contact.
If possible, implement a data management process within your company to verify key information points before a customer is added to the central database. These points could be as simple as reaching out to ensure you have the correct name, email, and phone number.
Making sure your data is clean when it comes in is huge, but the work doesn’t stop there. After you’ve self-assessed, consider creating a regular data cleaning schedule for your business. The ultimate goal is an email database that steadily drives more and more business.
If you’ve got questions about cleaning up your data or if you need help creating a data management strategy for your business, contact us.