Managing Subscriber Data

Word to the Wise recently published a blog post on the topic of “list churn”—when a significant percentage of email addresses are abandoned each year (30% on some counts). In the post, Word to the Wise lists five key points to remember when managing subscriber data:

  1. Email addresses are not permanent.
  2. Subscriber data degrades if you don’t actively manage it.
  3. Deliverability depends on data quality.
  4. Maintaining data is easier than trying to clean data.
  5. Using list cleaning services will remove hard bounces, but won’t address “stealth” churn (when an email address is abandoned, rather than cancelled), which can still affect deliverability.

Below I cover how ClickDimensions can be used to address each of these points.

1. Email Addresses Are Not Permanent

When you first attempt to send an email to an address that does not exist, ClickDimensions logs an email event as “invalid recipient.” ClickDimensions blocks this email address on our side to prevent repeat send attempts. This prevents the address from generating additional, sender reputation-damaging hard bounces. Any additional attempts to send to this address will result in the generation of an excluded email record along with the email send that included the invalid recipient. This excluded email record’s reason field will say “blocked,” indicating that the recipient was excluded because they were blocked by ClickDimensions.

You’ll want to remove these invalid email addresses from your CRM so they do not impact your deliverability statistics. To identify every contact that contains an invalid email address, all you need to do is run an advanced find for contacts that have an associated email event where the type equals “invalid recipient.” You can also run this same advanced find on leads and accounts.

If you have updated a contact’s email address since the time that this “invalid recipient” email event pulled through, you may have an up-to-date email address for this person. If you are cleaning up your contact’s email addresses periodically, it is a good idea to add a custom “email updated” field to your contact. This can automatically update (via workflow) to the date when the contact’s email field was updated. You can also modify the invalid recipient advanced find to include a condition to check the “email updated” field and set a date that is on or after the last day that you cleaned up your email addresses.

2. Subscriber Data Degrades If You Don’t Actively Manage It

Offering your customers opportunities to provide their most up-to-date information is an important part of managing your subscriber data and combating list churn. With ClickDimensions, you can incorporate this into your marketing emails by including links to subscription pages and/or profile management forms. There is also an option to submit an alternate email address to have a backup in the event that their default address becomes invalid.

If a customer’s email address becomes invalid, you may still be able to get an updated address from them. By creating a profile management form and embedding it onto your website, anyone who visits your website and fills out the form will be submitting an email address (as long as the form includes a required email field). Someone who switches email addresses can submit their new address to you via your website.

3. Deliverability Depends On Data Quality

Your delivery statistics depend on the quality of subscriber data that you possess. If your marketing lists are full of invalid email addresses, your statistics will reflect this as a high number of bounces or a high number of excluded emails. Whenever an email bounces, ClickDimensions records an email event for this specific bounce. There are nineteen different bounce event types, outlined here.

ClickDimensions also records the full bounce message that is returned by the receiving server that bounced the email. This bounce message gives you the information that you need to understand why the email bounced and usually some steps you can take to prevent your emails from bouncing again in the future. ClickDimensions records the bounce message in the email event’s “message” field.

Most often, this will be a numerical bounce code accompanied by a generic message such as “5.0.0 Mailbox disabled, not accepting messages.” Sometimes this message will contain instructions specific to the domain you were sending mail to, perhaps even the email address of the admin so you can contact them and request that your sending domain be whitelisted! Over time, addressing bounces in this way can result in an overall increase in your deliverability.

4. Maintaining Data Is Easier than Trying To Clean Data

If you never let your data get bad in the first place, it’s much easier to keep the quality up. ClickDimensions forms and subscription pages are key to maintaining your subscriber data. You can include them in emails, embed them on your website, or combine this with a nurture program to do a more focused push for the customer to verify and update the information that you have on file.

For a nurture program, let’s say you want to automatically send an email to each contact every six months, encouraging that contact to verify the information you have on file for them and provide any new information, if applicable. In this example, we will send the first of these “subscription maintenance” emails six months after the day that they first signed up for your newsletter. The process could work like this:

  • The contact goes to your website and fills out a profile management form that you have created. This allows people to subscribe to your newsletter while providing you with some basic personal information.
  • The contact submits the form and is added to the newsletter marketing list associated with a “subscription maintenance” nurture program—thus running this contact through the nurture program.
  • The nurture program is set to wait 6 months, send the “subscription maintenance” email, and then run a CRM workflow.
  • The CRM workflow run by the nurture program removes the contact from the newsletter marketing list (this removes the contact from the nurture) and then immediately adds that contact back into the same newsletter marketing list. This sends the contact back through the nurture program from the beginning.

That’s how you set up a recurring nurture program to encourage a customer to keep their subscriber data current! While this process will not be able to send an email to the contact if their address becomes invalid, regular check-ins like this can keep you on the customer’s mind. If the customer happens to log back into a previously abandoned email account and see your “subscription maintenance” email, they might just update their information!

5. Using List Cleaning Services Will Remove Hard Bounces, But Won’t Address “Stealth” Churn

This is a reminder that even though you have successfully delivered an email, this does not guarantee that the recipient ever checks that specific inbox. In fact, it is a good practice to trim down your marketing lists by identifying inactive subscribers, making a targeted attempt to re-engage them, and, if they do not re-engage, removing them from your marketing lists entirely.

That concludes our discussion of how ClickDimensions fits in with Word to the Wise’s five key points to remember when formulating a subscriber data management plan. Happy marketing! 

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