Avoid the Naughty List for Digital and Print Mailing Lists

by Tiffany Parnell, Senior Copywriter - 12/20/17


You work hard crafting the right messages for specific audiences. Don’t let simple mailing list errors stand in the way of reaching your goals.

Building an effective, targeted mailing list is one of the most fundamental parts of a successful direct mail campaign, consumer magazine or digital marketing campaign. In fact, roughly 40% of the response marketers receive from direct mail or email comes from having a targeted list, according to the 40/40/20 rule of direct mail marketing.

Be aware of some of the most common pitfalls that can derail marketing efforts and ways to gain the most mileage from your mailing lists.

Pitfall # 1: You were late getting the appropriate information to your vendor.

This can be especially time-consuming on a print campaign, as any delays in the mailing list translate to delays at the printer, which can even bump your project into a less favorable printing timeslot.

To prevent potential delays, Debbie Dodski, senior list specialist at True North, recommends submitting your list to the vendor at least two weeks before your target print date.

Pitfall # 2: Your list contains typos and other mistakes.

Accidentally transposing a number in an address or using the wrong street abbreviations—for example, abbreviating Circle as “Cr” instead of the correct “Cir”—can cost you. Not only can this prevent your materials from reaching your audience within the expected timeframe, but large volumes of undeliverable-as-addressed (UAA) mail can also affect your postage rates.

Careful data entry on the front end can help cut down on mistakes.

“The more accurate your data, the better your postage savings and the more effective you’ll be in delivering your message,” Dodski says. “For hospitals, this can serve two purposes because the mailing list used for marketing is also usually the same one used for billing. The cleaner the addresses, the better your return on investment.”

For email lists, be sure your vendor validates email addresses, especially if they’ve been typed in by the recipients themselves during an opt-in process.

“Vendors can have a confirmation service ‘ping’ each address on the list to verify that it’s legitimate,” says Eric Clarkson, director of UX and product development at True North. “This saves bounce-backs due to common errors like keying gamil.com instead of gmail.com.”

In addition to catching emails that have been entered incorrectly, services like this can potentially keep you out of trouble with your email service provider by eliminating spam trap emails (addresses that have been abandoned and are sometimes found on purchased lists).

Pitfall # 3: Your list contains outdated recipients/addresses.

More than 36 million Americans—11.2% of the population—moved in 2016 alone. To cut down on the number of mail that is undeliverable because of relocation, the United States Postal Service Move Update requires you to update your list within 95 days before you plan to mail your newsletter, publication or direct mail piece.

Dodski runs all lists received through Postal Service-approved software that reconciles lists with the Postal Service’s change-of-address information. Accepting any changes after your vendor checks for changes in address, incorrect abbreviations, misspellings, etc. can save time and prevent the potential for errors in the future.

Pitfall #4: Your audience didn’t opt in.

Sending to email addresses that aren't opted in is likely to result in high spam/abuse complaints, and can result in your account being suspended. Even sending to a purchased/rented list through your own email server can get that server put on a blacklist.

“We don't recommend using purchased/rented lists as a general rule,” Clarkson says, “Most email service providers like Mailchimp and Constant Contact have specific policies against them.”

That said, even with an opted-in purchased/rented list, performance isn't going to be as effective as it would be with an email list that specifically signed up to receive emails from your organization.

“It’s a wise strategy to make sure the recipients of a message are actively engaged, especially online,” Clarkson says. “Click rates for an engaged audience are always higher than a purchased list.”

Pitfall #5: Your list isn’t targeted.

The single most important thing you need to know when purchasing or building a mailing list is your target audience, according to Dodski.

“If you want to reach an aging population that may be thinking about nursing homes, your list should include adults age 45 and up to ensure your message reaches older adults and their adult children,” Dodski says. “Similarly, if you want to target community members who may need a mammogram or colonoscopy, base your list on community members’ ages and genders.”

Using data analytics to drill even further into your market’s demographics and gain insight on your prospects’ medical conditions, lifestyle, and other information can help you target campaigns even further.

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Topics: Audience Segmentation & Targeting

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