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Tips to Bounce-Proof Your Email List

Keeping your email lists fresh is critical to the success of your online marketing and e-commerce efforts. In the early days of the Internet, the novelty of web sites and free e-newsletters made acquiring customers online all too easy. With customers signing up in droves to hear your latest offers, there was no need to worry about email address attrition rates or errors during registration.

Unfortunately, those days are over! Due to error-ridden databases, privacy concerns, excess spam, and the high turnover of email addresses, many companies are now finding they are losing email addresses faster than they can gain them. Customer retention has reemerged as the key to profits.

Here is what you can do to bounce-proof your email lists and increase your customer retention rate:

DON'T LET ERRORS GET INTO YOUR LIST

Utilize a double-entry system during registration

This will reduce typos and help your customers recognize how important an accurate email address is to you.

Validate email addresses at the point of registration

Examine your current methods for validating email addresses at the point of registration. Consider upgrading your software or using a real time validation service so you can catch your prospects when they want you most.

Confirm your registrations

Present all new registrants with a confirmation page, which lets them review what they have typed and correct any mistakes made.

Implement a double opt-in process

Require visitors to check their email and click through on a custom link to confirm that your email was successfully delivered to them. Note: you may realize a significant drop off in your registrations and annoy some prospects, but it will ensure that only valid email addresses are introduced into your list. Decide if this trade-off makes sense for you.

Examine your off-line data entry procedures

Review the other ways that email addresses get into your database. Provide your data entry staff with a list of common top-level domains (.com, .net, etc.), domains (hotmail, yahoo, etc.) and standard email address formatting rules. If you do any significant off-line data entry, investigate implementing aggressive validation on these addresses at the time of entry.

IF ERRORS SNEAK IN, CATCH THEM ASAP

Send a confirmation message

Immediately email a welcome message to each newly registered email address. If there is a bounce, quickly implement an email address recovery attempt. The longer you wait, the greater the chance your customers will forget why they gave you their email addresses in the first place.

Utilize a list hygiene and correction service on a regular basis

List hygiene services can identify and correct a majority of the invalid email addresses that result from domain errors, formatting problems, misspellings, and typos. Again, the longer you wait, the more difficult it will be to reconnect with your customers and engage their interest.

EVEN GOOD ADDRESSES GO BAD - PLAN FOR CUSTOMER RECOVERY

Face the facts

People change their email addresses daily. 30% or more of your email addresses are going to need updating each year.

Determine how much a working email address is worth to you

Properly analyze the results of all of your online efforts. Be sure to separately analyze the value of a new customer versus a recovered customer. Loyal, repeat customers are the stable of every successful company. Don't focus your efforts solely on new customer acquisition.

Put someone in charge of customer recovery

Many companies lose sight of the basics. Customer retention may be less sexy, but it will likely yield you a higher ROI. Make sure you have identified the resources, budget, and priority for your customer retention efforts.

Plan your email address acquisition methods to assist with later recovery

Consider collecting a name, an alternate email address, a postal address, or a phone number.

UPDATE YOUR EMAIL ADDRESS LISTS

Provide email address update links on your site

Make it easy for your customers to update their email addresses for you whenever they are interacting with your website.

Put email address update links in your email communications

Enable your customers to update their email addresses with a simple click-through. Many companies require their readers to unsubscribe and then re-subscribe. This is too cumbersome for the visitor and often results in the loss of valuable historical data.

Utilize an ECOA (email change of address) service

ECOA companies provide you with current email addresses for your old or "dead" addresses. Moreover, they will update your list with your customers' preferred email addresses, solving the problem of infrequently checked email accounts.

Utilize an email appending service

If you have names and postal addresses in your files, an email append service can help you find 25% or more of the associated email addresses.

Develop a customer recovery plan and follow it

Determine how much time you can let pass before your customers or prospects will forget why they came to you in the first place? How frequently are you planning to do your database updating? What is the most cost-effective process for recovering a customer? Review the costs and benefits of your options and decide what is best for you.

IT'S ALL ABOUT ROI!

The payoffs for bounce-proofing your email list are substantial: lower customer acquisition costs, increased response rates and sales, reduced messaging and support costs, and the decreased likelihood of winding up on some system administrator's blacklist due to high bounce-back rates. Follow the basic suggestions above and you will maximize the return on your marketing investments. Isn't today a good time to start?

Bill Kaplan
CEO
FreshAddress, Inc.

FreshAddress, Inc., The Email Address ExpertsTM, provides a comprehensive suite of industry leading database and email deliverability services to help companies increase their e-commerce revenues. For more information on how we can help "Build and Update" your email list, visit http://freshaddress.com/biz or email biz@freshaddress.com.


(c) 2003 FRESHADDRESS.COM

Bill Kaplan is the Chief Executive Officier of FreshAddress, Inc.

FreshAddress, Inc. is a privately held company, founded in 1999, helping business and individuals stay connected when email addresses change.

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