With 2015 just around the corner, it’s time to evaluate how your email marketing strategy worked in 2014 and what needs to change for the New Year. For most marketers, figuring out what to change is the biggest hurdle. From technology to trends, marketing your business is an ever changing model, while constantly tweaking your effort to drive the best results and largest ROI.
I looked into my crystal ball this morning and below are the most important items I saw for 2015.
Conclusion: When considering any changes to your email marketing strategy for 2015, it’s vitally important to take all factors into consideration when making any changes or implementing any new ideas. Make sure to completely vet your ideas and test them to ensure your changes will be effective and worthwhile. One size does not fit all when it comes to email marketing, frequency, types of offers or figuring out when to send to get the biggest bang for your buck.
OK, so you decided to start sending emails to your customers, leads or prospects, but you just realized that after attempting to upload your list into Mailchimp, SendGrid, ExactTarget, Constant Contact or one of a handful of other ESPs (email service providers), they shut you down before your list was even fully uploaded. WOW, that’s a shocker. Considering that you haven’t sent an email to any of these people ever, or in a very long time, why would this come as a shock? It shouldn’t – The simple fact is that 2-3% of all email address are abandoned, become inactive or are changed every month. As with most ESPs, when you sign up for a new account and think you can simply upload your email list and start mailing, you might be in for a big surprise, when they tell you your list is not acceptable.
So now what? Most ESPs will either direct you to a company that can assist you in cleaning up and validating your email list or show you the door, with a note taped to your back that says “Get Lost”, as you hear the door slam behind you.
What is Email List Cleaning?
Email list cleaning is a service, usually provided by a specialty data company that will compare your email addresses to a large compiled master list of email addresses that are known to be bad or problematic. These are email addresses you’ll never want to send an email marketing message, advertisement or any email to ever. This works by identifying, purging and removing bad, invalid, known hard bounce, seed, honeypot, duplicate, complainer and BOT email data from your list.
What is Email Validation?
Email validation is a service, usually provided by a specialty data company that will validate every single email in your list by using either a proprietary or non-proprietary application that will determine if the email address is valid and deliverable or not. This service should always be done by a professional company and never requires an email being sent to the end user while validating.
OK, are we still on the same page? Simple Right? So, why doesn’t 2+2=4?
So logically, you would assume that the first step that most of the specialty data companies that provide these services would do is clean out and remove the bad email addresses you should never send an email to prior to validating the email addresses in your list. While this sounds like a pretty good, simple and intelligent idea, it’s utterly astonishing that most companies that provide these types of services don’t do both. Email Answers is the only company that offers a complete service that will clean and validate an email list. You should also consider the fact that Email Answers service is 80% less expensive than any legitimate competitor. When I started doing some research on Google, it blew my mind that the handful of companies who offer email validation don’t (or maybe can’t) offer email list cleaning as part of their service.
Let’s Look at Some Email Validation Companies Together.
(You can click any of the images/screen shots below to see a larger version)
Now you might want to buckle up, because what I’m about to share with you, which you can test yourself by simply going to these companies websites (at least for a short while until they fix it) will absolutely amaze you.
Why would you ever want to send an email to email@example.com even if it is valid?
Yay! firstname.lastname@example.org is valid (LOL) but why would you ever want to send a marketing email to it or have this email address in your customer or newsletter database?
This one really amazed me – they test 10 different validation components but they still allow you to validate email@example.com. Why would any company ever want to send an email to an abuse email address or this type of role account?
This one I really enjoyed, because they allow you to validate up to 5 email addresses at once, but totally miss the fact that they need to scrub and remove the garbage?
Besides telling you the emails address is OK to send to, they offer an Email Extractor.
(Stay Really Far Away from this one!)
This one I really enjoyed. A company that sells a service they don’t even use themselves on their own website. I was able to sign up with an abuse email using a domain that doesn’t even have name servers answering, DNS records, a web or email server setup.
But wait, it gets better. Once I sign up with a bogus abuse email account, I am taken to an up-sell page to get my free “email assurance” report, whatever that means? They even pre-populate the bogus email address I used during the signup test.
Since we’ve had a little fun today testing out some other email validation company’s forms and their email validation testing tools on their websites, I think it might be time to move on to discuss what we’ve discovered and learned today. I think we can all agree, most of you should now understand Why All Email Validation Services Are Not Created Equal.
Any Questions So Far?
It’s actually pretty sad that there are companies signing up for these services and relying on them to validate their new email signups without truly knowing what they are getting into.
Are you feeling a little sick to your stomach yet? Yea, me too.
What’s the Solution?
Email Answers offers 2 options for you to choose from.
The main difference between Purelist and Email Answers – Email List Cleaning and Validation Service is that while Purelist is a real-time processing platform, our email list cleaning and validation service is not and requires a 24-72 hour turnaround time. Purelist does not validate each individual email address to ensure it is valid and deliverable, while our email list cleaning and validation service does.
Here’s some additional recommended reading for you:
I have great news for you: the perfect email marketing service provider for your business is out there.
Now here’s the tough part: as every princess knows, you might have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find a prince.
Fortunately, like a quickly-smooched-and-set-aside frog, you don’t have to commit to an email marketing service provider until you know they’re “the one.” And there are plenty of strategies that can help you filter out the companies that aren’t the best fit for you. The first step is deciding what you want to get out of the relationship. If you’ve run a business, you already know your time is your most precious resource; you need to guard it carefully. Selecting a single email marketing service provider that can handle all of your needs under one “roof” will save you the hassle of working with more than one company for your email creative design, email list cleaning and validation, another for your email marketing strategies, and yet another for your email deployments.
Make a list of the services your ideal company would offer, and only look at those that fit the bill. Remember, it doesn’t matter if a particular email marketing service provider got a great recommendation from a colleague if they don’t do the sorts of work your business in particular needs.
If you’re new to marketing, ask yourself: does it look like Company X has the resources to guide you from start to finish? If you’re the sort who wants to stay involved at every turn, are they set up to let you make on-the-fly changes to the plan? And if you’re looking for a fire-and-forget managed email marketing experience, does the company seem to be qualified enough to let you be comfortably hands-off?
Next, get ready to dig in; it’s time to research the companies you’ve selected. Investigate their track record online, see what sorts of feedback and reviews they receive from their customers and whether their current customers are happy with their service. Third party review sites and discussion boards where the companies are talked about are great sources for information — as long as you remember such boards have a built-in “negative rant” quotient — and many companies will post testimonials on their own websites from satisfied customers. You might also find other frivolous, poor or negative reviews which are actually posted by competitors. Trying to decipher what’s real and what’s bogus isn’t always the easiest task. A simple way to cut through the nonsense would be to check and ensure they have a good rating with the Better Business Bureau.
Now comes the part where you make contact. With any luck you’ve made your list short enough to start sending emails and making phone calls; explain your business and what you hope to achieve with a new and comprehensive email marketing program. If you have specific needs, are working with a set budget, or have goals that might seem a little abstruse, lay it all out — then start asking questions you couldn’t find answers to from their website alone.
Do they have experience with the product or service you’re trying to market or promote? Are their practices adaptive, ready to change as quickly as technology and the market landscape can? Can they help you not only raise awareness of your company but also generate actionable leads or sales? And do they have methodologies to evaluate and improve their own data — can they ensure your message is well-targeted, is being put in front of the right people and is actually being delivered to the users inbox?
Finally, after you’ve talked to a few full service email marketing service providers, reflect upon the conversations. Did you get the impression that they valued your business? Were you, as a potential new customer, considered a priority? Was there adequate follow-up after you spoke, and did you get the sense they placed a lot of emphasis on delivering great customer service?
Making a thoughtful and educated decision about your email marketing, right from the beginning, can save you a lot of headaches later. More importantly, choosing the right email marketing service provider for your needs can produce more measurable results more quickly — giving your company the shot at greatness you know it deserves.
If you get it right, you’ll be wiping the smeared lipstick off your face with a big, ear to ear smile, as they back the Brinks truck up to your door for your weekly delivery.