To be more accurate than the title above, there are really five extremely important reasons for ensuring that email hygiene is properly practiced, and they are:
But seriously, every time an email marketer sends to an email address that isn’t opted in, or worse, has already unsubscribed, that’s a surefire way to lose money, damage the sender’s reputation and lose the potential customer permanently. Let’s look at the simple steps email marketers can take to ensure that they increase Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and not lose any of that all-important green folding stuff unnecessarily. First, let’s define what we mean by email hygiene
1 What is email hygiene?
Email hygiene is a term for the techniques used to maintain the accuracy (sometimes known as ‘cleanliness’) of email lists and the content of sent messages. Good practice in email hygiene includes removing invalid or inactive email addresses, avoiding sending messages to non-opted-in recipients, thereby avoiding potential legal action from the recipient or governmental privacy regulators, and even ensuring that formatting errors are avoided.
Email hygiene, when carried out properly, also includes implementing industry-standard compliant practices for email marketing campaigns. Good email hygiene can improve deliverability and reduce the risk of sent messages being marked as spam by the recipient’s Internet Service Provider (ISP) – or indeed their email client of choices such as Gmail or Yahoo.
Furthermore, good email hygiene practices also include taking steps to protect against email-based security threats, such as phishing or malware. In short, email hygiene can safeguard that communications comply with legal and ethical standards.
Once you have made sure that your email lists and the contents of messages are clean and legally compliant, the next step is to target those messages to the right people in terms of demographic. Obviously, you don’t want to be sending emails advertising an offer on cases of wine to someone who is a confirmed teetotaler!
2 Why is it essential to segment and personalize your emails?
Segmenting and personalizing emails allows you to tailor your message and call to action (CTA) to specific groups of people, based on their behaviors, likes and dislikes, specific interests and/or demographics like age, gender, income level, and even geographical location determined by their IP address.
Clearly, sending messages with content that is relevant and valuable to the recipient is bound to lead to better engagement and conversion rates than taking a ‘scattergun’ approach. Segmenting email lists also allows the compartmentalization of recipients based on their behavioral demographics, such as purchase history, or previous email engagement. Put simply, people who tend to open marketing emails are more likely to buy or engage with them than people who just delete them without even opening them. Also, any good email marketing platform should be able to analyze whether emails were opened before deletion, or read first, then deleted.
Personalizing emails can make the recipient feel like the message they receive is specifically meant for them as an individual. This increases the likelihood of them engaging with a message’s content, as well as building trust and loyalty with its brand. Personalization can also be used to create a sense of urgency, by including dynamic content that can change based on the recipient’s location, browsing history, purchase behavior or socio-economic category (SECs).
3 SEC criteria
These SECs are seen nowadays as highly subjective and often criticized for being outdated, judgmental, and discriminatory, but they are still used widely in marketing campaigns to classify people as upper, middle, and lower class respectively. The SEC system also adds sub-categories using alpha-numeric codes. Thus the CEO of a multinational corporation or a high-court judge would almost certainly be classed as an A1, whereas a blue-collar factory worker might well be quantified as an E2.
It’s obvious that sending an email to an appropriate person with relevant content, which that recipient may well find interesting, is going to influence the deliverability level of that message. Obviously, an E2 factory worker sent an email urging them to invest $50k in blue chip stocks with Chase Manhattan is very likely to mark the email as spam, not least angering them, which might even lead to an abusive two-word reply, whereby that second word is ‘off’!
4 Don’t ever buy email lists
Naturally, healthy deliverability rates encourage a corresponding level of customer retention. Conversely, the sender’s reputation will suffer badly if emails are sent to recipients who haven’t opted in. This is why it’s very important for email marketers never to buy email lists; it is not only against the terms of service of most email service providers, but it also goes against privacy laws such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in Europe and the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) in the USA.
Buying email lists can lead to at least a couple of unwanted issues:
- Many of the email addresses on purchased lists are outdated, scraped from websites, or worse, thefts from hacked databases. Many of the addresses are simply fake, which can lead to high bounce rates and damage the sender’s reputation.
- Recipients on purchased lists have not opted in to receive the communications they are sent. Not only does this lead to high unsubscribe rates and complaints, but can even land the sender with very heavy fines from governmental privacy regulators.
To avoid such problems, email marketers should attempt to build their lists organically by encouraging opt-ins to receive communications via website forms and offline advertisements. There really is no point in trying to short-circuit the privacy safeguards put in place by ISPs, email providers, and governmental legislation. The simple message is this: play by the rules, and send quality content only to people who genuinely have an interest in your services and products. Only then will your email marketing campaigns bear fruit.