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To Append or Not to Append?

Many email marketers tend to shudder at the words “data append”. The idea of dumping hundreds or thousands of unknown email addresses into a list that you worked so hard to compile ‘legitimately’ can be terrifying.   If that’s the case, where do the benefits lie? Are they worth the risk of numerous Spam complaints, bounces and unsubscribes against your reputation? If done properly, the answer for the client or your company is yes.

As a person outside or new to the email marketing industry, it’s important to know exactly what a data append is. Many in the industry feel it is a “black hat” way of doing email marketing, but many also swear by it to get a multitude of names on your list quickly. An example of a data append goes like this: 
I fill out a form when I stay at a hotel with my first and last name, address, city, state, zip etc, but I leave out my email address. A data append service goes through the guest history and finds all names that are not listed with an email address. They then do a mass search to find their email address based on their name and address and send a custom “opt-in” form to this collection of email addresses.  
From there, the append service takes those that did not bounce or unsubscribe from the append and delivers the results. It’s easy, it’s legitimate and it does eventually get more business. However, there are additional steps that may seem tedious but are extremely beneficial to the overall health of your email database. I’ve learned to do at least one more “cleansing” of the list before adding it in with your regular database. 
In our most recent data append, we originally received over 50,000 addresses. Before mixing these names with our regular database, I sent out a regular email offer to this appended list. Unlike the original email that was sent, which was simply an opt-in message (ie. “We would like to extend our offers to you in the future”), we now offered them an actual resort special.  By the time the unsubscribes and bounces were filtered out the second time, we brought our numbers down to 47,000 names. 
The Ultimate Test – Does the Append Bring Return?
When I added the appended names in with our regular database, I put them under the segment called “append” so I could track how well it performed compared to the existing database.   The results came back strong for the appended list. The percentage of bounces and unsubscribes were the same as compared to the regular database, and the clicks and open rates fell at about average for the travel industry.
Results were as follows:

2/23/2009

    
 

Appended List

%

Regular Database

%

Bounces

84

0.6

231

0.6

Unsubscribes

31

0.2

58

0.1

     

Total Opened

1833

 

7942

 

Unique Opened

1244

8.5

4922

13

Total Clicked

467

 

2222

 

Unique Clicked

327

2.2

1457

3.8

 
It’s important once again to note that while a data append can be beneficial to your client or company, remember to use caution before simply dumping the names into your database. A few tips for appending:
-          Label the appended names under their own segment and keep an eye on their performance.
-           If the appended list is very large, add in names a few at a time as you send emails.  This way, you don’t run the risk of being blacklisted if there are a lot of bounces and unsubscribes that result from the initial send. 
-          Be sure to choose the right data append company. Do some research and don’t just choose a service based on price. Remember, your reputation is at stake.
-          Focus on selling the person on your email list with your opt-in message. Let them know that you have the best intentions to satisfy their needs as a consumer and make it clear that you appreciate their business in the past.

 


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