Don’t Let a Dirty List Hurt Your Campaign Performance

Dirty lists car

At North Star Marketing we have a process called “Sales Amp.” Short for “sales amplification,” it involves providing focused, customized support to an individual salesperson to help them sell more. Sales Amp delivers outstanding results, in part through the use of email marketing. However, an accurate list of prospect email addresses is critical to the strategy’s success.

We have a saying around here: “Great list, great campaign. Bad list, bad campaign.” Unfortunately, it’s rare that we get a great list. Recently, I spoke with two of our campaign managers, Craig Reed and Timmy Sclafani, to learn what they are seeing today in terms of list quality and why this is such a critical issue. I asked them two questions: 1) How would you describe the lists you receive from clients and their list management efforts? and 2) How does list quality impact a campaign? Their answers were enlightening.

But first, a little more about bad or “dirty” lists.

What Is a Dirty List?

The term “dirty,” when applied to an email list, means that an unacceptable number of the addresses have issues. For example, they may:

  • Contain typos
  • Be invalid
  • Belong to someone who does not want to receive email from you

How can you spot a dirty list before it affects your results and potentially your reputation? First, any list that is bought, borrowed, or rented should be viewed with suspicion. The owner of a truly clean list is unlikely to want to share it.

Lists that are old are highly suspect as well. In fact, according to many experts, customer databases degrade by 30 percent or more per year. Imagine roughly 3 out of every 10 people targeted in a campaign not receiving the emails! That’s a serious waste of time, effort, and in some cases, money.

Recent Observations on Email List Management and Quality

With it being so important to use a clean email list in campaigns, what are we seeing at North Star Marketing? Well, suffice it to say that Craig and Timmy do not paint a rosy picture. Yes, some clients provide lists that are in excellent shape. However, as often as not, we see that:

  • Companies do not invest in proper list management, which they consider time-consuming and monotonous
  • The prevailing opinion is that list quantity is more important than quality
  • The creative side of a campaign gets all the attention; the list is almost an afterthought
  • No effort is put into cleaning a list prior to an email blast
  • There is no cohesive strategy for growing their lists
  • Companies view buying lists as more effective than developing and maintaining them, even though a large percentage of the names on a purchased list are likely invalid

Why It’s Critical to Have Clean Email Lists

The possible negative impacts of using a dirty list in an email marketing campaign are many and significant. They include:

  • Recipients ignoring your emails
  • Low open and click-through rates
  • Declining Sender Score
  • Emails relegated to the spam folder (when you believe they’ve been delivered)
  • Decreased deliverability of future emails
  • Legal trouble related to anti-spam regulations
  • Increasing unsubscribe rates
  • Frustration from internal stakeholders as lead generation falters

Dirty lists cause other problems as well. For example, sales teams sometimes import a dirty list into their contact management system and begin treating everyone on it as a valid contact. This can result in a great deal of wasted time and effort as they attempt to contact people using inaccurate information.

Needless to say, you want to avoid all of the above. In particular, you want to keep from being labeled a “spammer.” And have no doubt… there are organizations looking to slap that label on you if it is appropriate. They use what’s called a “spam trap,” which is an email address (either an old address that the provider has taken possession of or a new email address created expressly for this purpose) that has not opted in to any list and therefore, not given permission to be emailed by anyone, including you. If you fire an email off to that address, you’ve officially become a spammer!

Clean Your Lists Before Your Next Campaign

If you’re not sure whether a list is dirty, should you simply get rid of it? No, definitely not. There are ways to clean a list and turn what could have been a serious liability into a valuable asset. We offer a free List Cleaning Guide to do exactly that.

Contact us today to learn more.