Email Appending Best Practices for 2017
Email appending can be an extremely helpful tool for email marketers in the long run. Even though it has been around for as long as email marketing has been around, the chances of it being used well are low. There are many reasons for this. Finding a trustworthy email appending solutions provider is difficult today- the industry is such that low quality players far outnumber the good ones. Email appending is the process of adding or updating a missing email address into a customer record within your database. This significantly improves your email marketing metrics. If you are a seasoned email marketing professional, we are sure you will have used email appending during your marketing campaigns.
Benefits of email appending
For beginners and those who do not know the details and technical aspects of email appending, this best practices compilation will surely help you make an informed decision. There are various steps involved in the process and more importantly, many things that you should be careful about. There are various benefits of email appending. As per email marketing experts, you can see an average increase of 30% in your ROI when you use email appending. It not only benefits your email marketing program, it improves your delivery rate, IP reputation and makes your database stronger and cleaner. This decreases the need to spend on data hygiene processes.
Data quality is the key to getting higher returns from your email campaigns. If you have low quality data, then you cannot really expect leads to flow in. Now, data quality can deteriorate steadily, over a period of time. There are many changes in data that happen, and after a certain amount of time, your data will not look like how it used to, when you started off. This is where the benefits of email appending come into the picture.
One of the biggest advantages of email appending is the improvement in data quality. It allows you to reach your target customers faster and engage them easily.
It protects your sender reputation. Since it uses the process of opt-in emails, you are compliant of anti spam laws, and for an email marketer, this is a serious issue. Only valid email addresses are added to your database after the append process, increasing deliverability and improving sender score.
Your eventual ROI improves. The cost of data decay when calculated against the cost of e-appending, there is bound to be a significant bonus and additionally, your own dataset becomes healthy.
Email Appending Best Practices
There are a set of things you need to consider, before you begin an email append on your database. These are essential to remember because they can cause serious issues at a later date, for you as an email marketer and for your brand too. So, these best practices ensure that you are on the safer side and you also get to reap the benefits of email appending!
Append customer data-ONLY
It is important to understand this valuable piece of information. In the rush to improve email marketing results, most marketers will solicit email append from shady service providers. They really do not bother about reputation and compliance. If you append a prospect file and send out emails to them, you are effectively breaking a law and there are not many ways to get out of this offence. The penalty can be quite severe.
Email appending is an accepted practice by the DMA if it is 100% CAN-SPAM complaint.
When you send across a dataset to be appended, ensure that this file only consists of customers or any party that has interacted with you and has provided their contact details to you either via your online methods of data collection or offline sources which was then transferred online. This can be a form page, questionnaire, surveys, contests and such to name a few.
In summary- When you send out your database for email appending, you need to make sure that the list you are sending contains only customer contacts and NOT prospect contacts.
Opt-in Vs Opt-out
The append service provider, once the appending is done, will send out a welcome email to the newly appended files. This is the first contact that is made-post append. This is done to let the receivers know of your intentions with them. The suggested process here is the opt-in process. There are advantages to this. In comparison, if it’s an opt-out and you get a large number of opt outs, it affects your IP reputation and stability. Another point is that people like it when they are asked for permission to be contacted. They would have already had a previous connection with you and the chances of an increase in subscriptions are always high.
The Welcome email
This is part of the process and most popular email append service providers consider this as a vital part of the entire procedure. The welcome email can be sent by you or the email append service provider. It is mostly sent by the service provider. You can always draft one out and send it to them to be forwarded.
The welcome email needs to have a set of standard options to make sure that it serves its purpose and gets the job done well.
- The subject line should contain the name of the brand, preferably within the first 10 words.
- The message should clearly state the reason for sending, within the body.
- It should have the postal address of the brand sending the mail so that it is CAN-SPAM compliant.
- Do not sell anything to the receiver in the welcome email. You can go so far as to tell them what they can expect from adding you to their mailing list, but that’s about it.
- The opt-out option should be visible and easy to use and should stay functional for at least 10 working days.
- All opt-outs should be collected and removed from your mailing lists into a suppression list.
Ensure you have your email program set up, before you send the welcome email. Once the triggers are set off, the emails need to shoot out immediately. This ensures that you get a good hold of prospect attention. Make sure you have created an easy passage of data from the service provider to your server and that this dataset is ready to match and integrate with your email service provider (in-house or external). These are common issues that crop up which delay the deployment of email campaigns, effectively nullifying the email append process.
Keep your in-house list separate
It is vital to make sure you do not mix your newly received appended list and your in-house list. You can merge them after you start receiving replies from the welcome mail. This way, you can be sure of the results of the append job. It eliminates bounces which are common during appending. Send the welcome mail from a separate IP, just to be sure.
There are many factors that affect an append job. The reputation and the abilities of the appending partner are one; you never know what types of emails you will get back. The process of taking precautions while transferring and receiving data should be default for all email marketing executives.
The service provider
As with any outsourced process, the vendor reputation is highly important during email appending. Fly by night operators are dime a dozen today and many have fallen prey to them. This has created all kinds of issues for reputed businesses and many who want to venture into this business. How do you validate email appending solutions of a service provider?
They should have a strong client list to begin with. You can ask for references from past clients and cross check with them.
If they are a new player, you can ask the basic technical aspects of how they go about doing the match, the algorithms they use, the quality of the master database they have, the way they handle unsubscribe requests, hard bounces, their take on the DMA and CAN-SPAM guidelines and also provide samples.
It isn’t easy choosing the right partner and pricing should never be the guiding factor because there are many providers who undercut major players in pricing and provide shoddy results.
It is best to compare many providers and see which works best for your budget and matches the results you are looking forward to.
Some of the basics that you can expect from a good append service provider are as follows-
- No charge for matched and delivered opt-outs.
- No charges for non-matched records.
- No charge for bounces.
There are many things that can go wrong. Check everything and make sure that both you and the service provider are on the same page with regards to the results you are expecting, the quality of the emails that will be appended and the data security processes that need to be in place. The benefits of email appending are many but a bad service provider can turn the clock back on your email marketing campaigns.
Things you need to run a successful append job
This is the amount of matches that happen between your database and the service provider’s master database. The higher it is, the better it is. The industry standard hovers between 5% and 20%. Most email append service providers will show inflated numbers for their master database. The fact is, match rates depend on the quality of the database. It is also important to note that the master database needs to be opt-in data only.
Learn about how the service provider does the matching process. It is string based logic or is there a complicated algorithm involved? If it is complicated, issues can arise. Understand how well they have been able to match using the complicated algorithms by running a test batch.
Household or individual match
There are two defined sets of match criteria. One is household match and the other is individual match. Household match means that the last name and the street address matched with the email. Individual match means that the first name, last name and the street address have matched successfully with the email. The match rates for household match batches are considerably high. The negative is that it is not refined and there may be confusion as there is no first name match. It is used by select industries only.
It is vital to run a suppression process on your list after you receive it from the service provider. Firstly, remove all CAN-SPAM data. It is good if you can work with a service provider who can run global suppression campaigns that can essentially remove all bounces, complaint emails, blacklisted domains, DMA Do Not Mail files, and any other special domain suppression files. This allows you to have a much higher delivery rate for your welcome emails.
Source of MDB
Get to know the source of the appended email from the service provider. It is vital because you never know what sort of issues you may come across while using the appended list. Even though the complaint rates for an appended list is typically low, it is important because whenever there is a complaint, you need to show the source of the email before you remove the said email from your list and add it to the suppression list.
The standard operating procedure for email append service providers are they send an welcome email that eliminates all types of bounces from the final list. It is a clear red flag is a provider is not willing to conduct this process without question.
What a full append file consists of
A successful append file should consist of email address, gender, birthday, day stamp, the source of opt-in as well as the IP address where the customer subscribed. This is the minimum expectation. To achieve this, the append provider should receive at least a complete name and current address from you. If this is not available, then it is practically impossible to conduct the exercise and if a service provider says they can, it is shady at best.
The steps involved in email appending
Now that you know some of the most common practices associated with email appending and also about the welcome email process, you need to know the basic steps of how email appending is done. Without this knowledge, you will be taken for a ride by unscrupulous vendors.
It consists of 3 steps at the very basic level. Steps can be added depending on the complicity of the order and the final outcome required.
Firstly the format of the file has to be determined. The most favorable format is.csv layout. Prepare your documents in the following order: first name, last name, address, city, state, zip.
The next step is to upload the document to the service provider’s portal. This can be done via multiple ways and it is usually instructed by the providers themselves. The service provider will match your documents with theirs.
This is done by the service provider. They will run their match algorithms through your database and insert the missing emails into your database.
You are ready to download your appended files via whatever FTP options that are given.
After this is done, you can run your suppression program. Remove and eliminate all hard bounces and other suppression criteria.
Run your welcome campaign and then do a scrub of your list again. The final list that you get after this is your appended list.
There may be other smaller steps involved and that depends on the size and complexity of your order and the abilities of the service provider. It takes about an hour to conduct a full append job on a file that is 20 MB in size, which may contain 300,000 contact entries in them.
The limitations of email appending
Email appending is one of the most commonly used processes to improve email campaign results. That being said, it is not a fix it all process that will magically improve your campaigns. In fact there is nothing available that can actually do that!
Those who expect email appending to be super successful should always remember that their data sourcing process is a key element in the picture. There is no way your deliverability will increase if you do not validate the email addresses upon receipt, manage bounces, and unsubscribe requests.
It is possible that not all recipients in the appended file will receive your welcome email the first time. There are many reasons and most of them are technical. It is suggested to send one or two more welcome campaigns to soft bounces, just to make sure.
Make sure that you do not send contact information to be appended that is over 2 years old. These records have an extremely low chance of getting a match. This brings down the numbers of the append job and you get low returns too.
Your database consists of confidential customer information and it is important to keep that privacy intact while conducting email appending. Customer privacy is an extremely tricky surface to play on. Hence, it is important to be patient and extremely careful while choosing an append partner and also while moving and receiving the files. Your file basically leaves your premises and hence it is important to get safety precautions set up so that data leakage does not happen. The price you pay for data leakage is big today.
Email appending is not a fix for bad delivery if your in-house data is not up to the mark. It helps in improving your data, if it is old or has issues such as incomplete data. Getting around the job of email appending is not easy. There are many issues that can plague you, such as a bad email append partner, bad results and data breaches. Make sure you know the basic processes of email appending, what it involves, if you really need it and how to go about doing it well. Most times, data hygiene processes are enough to improve email delivery rates. If you do have to conduct an email append job, it is best to get it done from players who have good experience and have worked with clients across the world.