Today, data can well be singled out as the primary entity responsible for moving the gears of invariably every business out there, irrespective of the domain or industry to which it belongs. It is arguably the most formidable currency of our times, and, well, for all the right reasons.
The field of email marketing, too, harbors deep reverence toward the machinations of data. Visualizing foolproof roadmaps, forming steady customer relationships, taking informed decisions, improving ROI- these are just a few of the ways in which data benefits this field. However, it is most critical to understand that the simple act of gathering data is not enough for you to unlock these virtues. Along with mining data, you must also pay strict attention to its quality. Yes, I’m talking about practicing data hygiene.
A Quick Guide To Data Hygiene
Data hygiene refers to the process of ensuring, constantly, that the data you have at your disposal is “clean”- free of errors and inconsistencies of all kinds. During the course of building your email database, you’ll find yourself inundated with information streaming in from several channels. But, know that not all of it will be useful or reliable. And, when you come across such nuggets, your job is to immediately weed them out of your system.
Why is this important, you ask? You see, when customers entrust you with their data, they expect to receive an exceptional user experience in exchange. That, you will be able to provide if and only if you have a plethora of actionable insights. Such insights, in turn, can only be obtained from data that is correct and accurate. In a nutshell, in the absence of good data hygiene, driving the results you desire will become a herculean task.
So, if you want your business to stay ahead of the curve, you must embrace data-driven marketing. As many as 70% of marketers admit to data being a central part of their company’s decision making at all-levels. The general consensus is that open access to data holds the key to higher business performance. Increasing customer loyalty and conversion rates are among the leading reasons why marketers, these days, are keeping data-oriented strategies at the core of their operations. Take a look at the graph below to gain more clarity.
If you are new to this, all of what I just said might come across as a touch overwhelming. Be at ease, though; we’ve got you covered. In this blog, we will help you undherstand why email data hygiene is among the mainstays of a high-performing email marketing campaign. Additionally, we will also elaborate on some best practices to get you started. Curious to see what we have in store? Dive right in, then!
What Makes Your Data Dirty
Data gets dirty due to a number of reasons, such as:
- Failure to extract the data unerringly from the source.
- Sometimes, while the collecting process is seemingly flawless, errors creep in while feeding the same information to the database. An example would be filing the data under the wrong labels.
- Unfamiliarity with the data source, resulting in a subsequent misunderstanding of the data latency.
Dirty data takes myriad shapes- redundant records, incomplete information, outdated data, inaccurate data, and invalid data. How do they stand to impede your campaigns? Let’s take a look.
What Can Dirty Data Mean For You
Increased Risk of Getting Blacklisted
Compiling an email database isn’t just confined to the act of adding email addresses to your list. It also involves categorising your subscribers into different buckets, with the aim of greeting them with personalized campaigns. And why is delivering personalized experiences important? Because nearly 80% of customers will be inclined to buy from you if you manage to offer them one.
Now, if you are not on top of your email data hygiene, you will:
1. Find your list being populated by several invalid or inactive email addresses.
2. Mislabel your customers.
Sending emails to invalid email addresses will earn you the suspicion of ISPs (Internet Service Providers) and ESPs (Email Service Providers), thereby dealing a body blow to your sender reputation, and ultimately, your email deliverability. Moreover, there’s always the possibility of encountering spam traps- bot emails deployed by major email ISPs like Gmail, AOL, and Yahoo and the DNSBL (Domain Name System-based Blackhole List) to catch spammers. Once you hit a spam trap address, you’ll get flagged within no time and added to a blacklist, subsequently. Spam traps are of four types- Classic spam traps, Seeded spam traps, Typo domain-based spam traps, and Recycled email address-based spam traps.
In the case of delivering emails to mislabelled subscribers, you will end up getting blacklisted for what you send to your readers won’t ever be relevant to them, to begin with. Gradually, they will grow less and less engaged with your communications, and eventually either flag you as spam, or, worse, blacklist you.
Difficulty In Minimizing Email Churn Rate
Churn rate refers to the number of subscribers who opt out of your email list. Churns are of two types:
1. Transparent churn: Refers to hard bounces, unsubscribes, and spam complaints. Also called involuntary churn.
2. Opaque churn: Refers to cases where your emails are going straight to spam, and to unengaged subscribers- ones who are receiving your emails but leaving them unopened. Also called voluntary churn.
Now, churn is inevitable. Over the course of time, a few of your subscribers will drop out of your list every now and then. That’s never going to be in your control. What you will have control over, though, is your email churn rate; you can take steps to make certain it is as low as possible. A good starting point is, you guessed it, maintaining excellent email data hygiene.
As we have already mentioned earlier, bad email hygiene will keep you from making the most of your customers’ data. As a result, you will never quite be able to come up with marketing campaigns that leave them spellbound. And once your subscribers run out of reasons to look forward to your emails, they won’t think twice before opting out of your list.
This consequence is really a culmination of the two factors listed above. With your deliverability and engagement down in the dumps, your ROI will, of course, be unenviable. Unless you fix your data hygiene problems, all your email spendings will basically be in vain.
Sometimes the repercussions of bad email hygiene can appear rather trivial, which is why email marketers tend to overlook them. For instance, let’s say that one of your subscribers is named John. While entering their name into the database however, you misspelt it as Jon. So, the personalized emails you send to him now will now address him as “Hi, Jon!” instead of, you know, his actual name.
It is easy to pass this off as a trifling error. After all, it’s just a case of one missing alphabet, right? Wrong. It is enough to put off your customer and push them to consider dropping off your list. A few seemingly casual mistakes like this, and you never know the scale of losses you might be setting yourself up for. So, whatever you do, never be lousy when it comes to your email data hygiene. Remember, you can strive for the perfect big picture only if you get every single detail spot on.
Email Data Hygiene Best Practices
Listed below are a few techniques that will help you keep your email hygiene on track, always.
Pay Attention To The Data Entry Sources
Website, mobile application, social media platforms, newsletters- leads for your email list are generated from a host of different sources. Your job, thus, is to ensure that the data collection methods employed across these channels are functioning immaculately.
For instance, if you’ve put up signup forms on your brand’s landing page, you’d do best to make sure they abide by the following tenets.
- They should have as few data entry fields as possible.
- The design should be simple, attractive, and unfussy.
- Your value proposition should be clear.
- Establish your credibility by leveraging social proof
- Make your CTA (call-to-action) compelling.
Additionally, always look to avoid manual data entries. This will help you steer clear of human error. Wherever possible, deploy an automated data entry system.
Never Compromise Your Email List Hygiene
If the hygiene of your email list is in shambles, your campaigns will never take off no matter what you do. Here are a few techniques that will help keep your list clean and proper.
- Routinely scan your list for inactive subscribers. Identify them, try to draw them back with a re-engagement campaign, and if that fails, remove them. Trust me, there’s nothing to be gained by sitting on them.
- Never purchase an email list. Lists that are up for sale are chock full of invalid addresses, and we all know the consequences of mailing such a list.
- Always segment your contacts. Divide them into different sections based on different parameters such as age, gender, occupation, past purchases, buying patterns, position in the sales funnel, and the like. This will give you a sound understanding of the various buyer personas interacting with your brand.
Assign A Hierarchy To Your Data
No two sets of data in your database will have the same order or precedence, right? While some will be called upon right away, others will stand to serve a purpose at a later point in time. Thus, to keep confusion at bay and your data pipeline uncluttered, it is best that you specify a hierarchy and arrange your data accordingly.
Use SQL To Cleanse Data
This approach requires you to be familiar with SQL and is a bit complex compared to the rest. But every second spent learning this technique will be well worth it, I assure you. SQL-based data cleansing will let you modify raw data without having to rely on third-party tools. Moreover, you will be able to unlock functionalities way more sophisticated than the ones offered by said tools. You don’t need to be an absolute whiz, of course, to get started. High-level data transformations can be carried out with the knowledge of basic SQL queries, even.
Wrapping It Up
The concept of data hygiene can be a lot to take in at the outset, I agree. So, my only advice to you would be that you give yourself as much time as possible to acclimatize yourself with every single nuance it entails. Trust me, once you get the lay of this land, you will be able to add a new dimension altogether to your email marketing campaigns.