Jun 19, 2007

Weeding Out Your Email List

Getting started with permission email marketing? Helping a client prepare their first campaign?  You don’t want to hit "send" then get flooded with spam complaints, or even worse—get blacklisted by a major ISP. Here are some things you can do to make your first campaign go smoothly…

  1. If your list is very large, remove any email address that you haven’t contacted in a long time. People cancel email accounts as soon as 6 months nowadays. Sending too many emails to bad/cancelled/expired email addresses makes you look like a spammer who purchased an old email list somewhere. Too many "undeliverable address" bounces, and ISPs will start blocking emails from your company. Some large ISPs take old/expired email addresses (that haven’t been used in ages) and turn them into "spam traps." They figure any email sent to such an old address is obviously spam.
  2. Are you exporting from Outlook Address Book? Weed out any email addresses from tech-support@my-isp, or sales@amazon, etc. Many email programs automatically add email addresses to your address book simply because you replied to an email from that person in the past. If you send an email newsletter to everyone in your address book, you’re bound to accidentally send to someone that you never even knew was in there (here’s a real life example).
  3. Are you assembling a list from some kind of CRM? Make sure you’re not grabbing lists of "Prospects" or "Maybes" from your sales team. Your sales team gathers contact information for every single person they meet at trade shows, conferences, whatever. Anything that moves is a "prospect" to the sales team. That’s the way it should be. But those prospects did not opt-in for email newsletters from your company. Those prospects probably wouldn’t mind a one-to-one email from that sales guy she met at the tradeshow 3 years ago. "Oh yeah, I remember that guy" is how she might respond. But if you suddenly send an email newsletter from your company, she’ll react by clicking the "This is spam" button in her email program, which sends a report to her ISP. The ISP will then scan the email, and potentially block all future emails from your company, no matter where you send it from.
  4. Separate your lists. One campaign does not fit all. Do you have one big, ginormous list of email addresses? Break them into groups. Some of them might be "People who bought something from me." Some might be "People who signed up for my newsletter." Some might be "Members of the press/media who follow my company." Some might be, "People who entered a prize drawing, and didn’t opt-out from future emails from my company". Don’t send one blanket campaign to all of those people at once. ISPs have a "threshold" for spam complaints. Too many at one time, and you’re blocked. Break them into separate lists, and put together relevant content for each list.
  5. Take a glance through your list and look for catch-all type email addresses, like "sales@example.com" or "everybody@example.com" or "info@" and especially "webmaster@" (web masters are perhaps the grumpiest of all people, because they get so much spam). There are pranksters and jerks (your competition) who will sign up someone else’s email address to your list without their permission. Just to get you in trouble. Also, very few people subscribe to lists with their "sales@" email address. So when we see something like that on a list, it’s a good indicator that the list was "scraped" from a website somewhere. If you spot a lot of these on your list (or your client’s list), you should ask if perhaps any employees in the company took it upon themselves to add "people who should want our campaign" as opposed to "people who actually do want our campaign." Unless you used double opt-in and confirmed every email address, it’s a good idea to try to avoid these kinds of emails.

More specific to MailChimp, people often ask how they can remove dupes and typo’d emails from their lists before importing into MailChimp. There’s really no need to do that. We clean duplicates and incorrectly formatted addresses from your list automatically during the import process.