It’s a Tuesday afternoon.  You’ve sent your skillfully crafted email to your opt-in list of email addresses and eagerly go to your marketing reports to see your results.  There in the middle of your Opens and Clicks is a pile of hard bounces.   Sure it’s less than 2% of your list, but a hard bounce means that email address doesn’t exist anymore. Maybe they’ve changed jobs or deleted an email account because it was getting too much Junk Mail.  Either way, you’re assured that with a hard bounce, you’re never going get an email marketing message through to that email address again and you’ve lost an opportunity to connect with someone who at one point opted in.

Now what?

Email-List-AttritionResearch says that up to 30% of your email list could turn over every year (Marketing Sherpa, Nov 2007).  With no official National Change of Email Address list, in a worst case scenario, you could lose over 80% of your email addresses in 5 years unless you take action to maintain your list.  These email addresses represent valid prospects that originally told you they wanted your email marketing messages and reconnecting with them is still a lower marketing cost than new customer acquisition.

Alright, you know email attrition is a problem.  So, again we say… Now what?  What can you do?

1. Be Aware: Know your turn over rate.  Most Email Service Providers offer reports on your email deliverability as well as contain the list of hard bounced email addresses.  Not only should they handle the email addresses automatically online, but also capture the customer names in an easy-to-compile list for you to then reconnect with those customers.  Some ESPs will even offer their services to help you create a marketing program to reach out.

2. Reconnect: These are customers and potential customers that at one point opted to receive your email marketing messages.  Chances are they may still want to hear from you and you can’t afford to let them go. A few ideas on how to reconnect:

A) Direct Mail – Hopefully you or your email system keeps records of the physical addresses for your email subscribers.  Now is the time for your customer service or marketing department to send them a postcard or mailer that reminds them why they should be on the list and perhaps to offer them a reward for updating their email information.

B) Direct Contact – If it’s feasible, get your sales and marketing force on the phones and really reconnect with your customers, still emphasizing the value of being on the list.

C) Social Network – When you opt in subscribers for email, make sure you’re enticing them to connect with you in their other online spheres: Facebook, Twitter, etc.  If the subscriber’s email address goes bad, you still have touch points to contact them while you’re trying to update their information. While direct promoting via social can have mixed results, you can always send out an ‘Update your Profile’ social media or email marketing campaign regularly to avoid the bounced address in the first place.

3. Know the Value: As you prepare to reconnect, know what you can spend and what percent of reactivated clients you need in order to pay for the reconnect campaign.  You may even be able to figure out what the value of a valid consumer email address is in dollars.  Keep in mind the lifetime value of that customer, and consider the efficient ROI of being able to reach him/her with email marketing rather than other forms of communication.

What are the benefits of doing it right?  Brand awareness and ROI, of course.  First, clean lists mean you’re not paying to send emails to people who will never receive them.  More importantly, if you don’t update your email contacts, you’re missing out on sending relevant email marketing messages to people that were at some point interested to receive them.  You’re missing out on thousands of potential customers and therefore hundreds of thousands or more in potential sales.


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