How to Eliminate Contacts in Data Driven Marketing

You must go to great lengths in data driven marketing to give people the opportunity to opt out of hearing from you. A critical step in preparing a mail file is to honor those opt-out requests. This amounts to purging addresses that have opted out from your mail file.

You may think you already did this when you pulled the mail file from your database. It’s standard practice to suppress known opt-outs at the time the initial mail file is pulled. But always have the mail house or e-mail vendor do another purge before mailing. Most vendors will insist on doing it anyway to protect their own reputations.

Last-minute purges prevent a couple of problems. First, your initial mail file may have been pulled significantly ahead of the actual mail drop. This means that your opt-outs were not completely up to date when you pulled your mail file. This is particularly important for e-mail addresses. Federal law gives you 30 days before you must honor an e-mail opt-out.

Second, and more importantly, you probably don’t have (or want) direct access to the national opt-out databases. The national do-not-call registry and the direct mail opt-out registry are maintained independently by the FTC and the DMA, respectively. They’re updated constantly.

The only up-to-date opt-outs you have on your database relate to customers who have contacted you directly to opt out. Your mail vendor will have access to the national databases and can suppress those names.

Proof the mail piece

If you spend any time in the database marketing field, you will send out a mailing with some sort of mistake on the mail piece. There always seems to be a mad dash as the mailing date approaches: Pricing gets changed at the last minute or someone wants to tweak the verbiage on the mail piece. This causes multiple versions to be sent back and forth.

Don’t just trust that the correct version of your file is the one that’s being printed. Send someone over there to proof the actual physical mail piece after it has been printed. As a general rule, it’s a good idea to send someone that can proof the copy with an eye toward the business strategy which underlies the campaign.

The creative development team shouldn’t be doing the last-minute proofing. This step is particularly important for large campaigns and brand new campaigns.

In the case of e-mail campaigns, you should have the e-mail vendor send you a test e-mail before they mail to your list. Most large e-mail firms have systems that allow you to proof the e-mail through a number of e-mail browser views — Gmail, Yahoo!, Outlook, and so on — and also allow you to get a preview of how the e-mail will “render” or look in those different e-mail browsers.

How to spy on your mail vendor

Include yourself in the mail file. Also include several other people in your company. This allows you to verify that your communication was delivered on time, in high-quality fashion, and without errors. Include a list of company employees —called a seed list — in your marketing database is standard practice. The seed list is routinely embedded in mail files.

Don’t let the mail vendor manage your seed list. And don’t send the seed list separately to the mail vendor. It needs to be embedded in your mail file. Why? It’s not unheard of for a mail vendor to get behind on a project and decide to pick out the seeds and get them mailed first.

To be completely effective, it is also a good idea to make sure your seed list includes some people the mail vendor doesn’t work with. The vendor can easily search a mail file for names of the people they work with all the time.

Obvious as it sounds, you also need to make sure the names on your seed list aren’t opted out. You shouldn’t have a problem finding such names. Many marketers don’t register on opt-out databases because they have a professional curiosity about what other companies are doing. It’s also easy to set up dedicated e-mail accounts specifically for seed purposes — just don’t give them company e-mail addresses.

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