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Maintaining good email hygiene: Why is it important?

Email hygiene might seem like an easy task for marketers to manage, but it can get complicated if they don’t know how to maintain healthy practices. Kavita Singh spoke with B2B Marketing’s Propolis Hive expert for execution and campaigns, Steve Kemish, about what email hygiene is and why it’s important to keep up with it.

What is email hygiene?

Simply put, email hygiene is keeping an up-to-date clean and best quality email list. That normally means removing records that are no longer working or out of date.

To do this, marketers need to understand the difference between a hard and soft bounce in email. A hard bounce is when an email address technically doesn’t work anymore, due to someone leaving the business. In the case for soft bounces, the email still works but the system sends back some sort of ‘out of office’ or ‘your email is not recognised’.

Steve says: “So you would, therefore, not really worry about soft bounces. It’s only those hard bounces you’ll need to worry about because they’re dead and not a valid route to an organisation. You’re going to need to get rid of those because you’re normally paying in email terms per thousand sends. Alieving those hard records and bounces in your email list will prevent you ending up on some sort of spam system.”

Some signs you need to address poor email quality include:

  • Ending up in the spam filter
  • Large number of bounces
  • Low open rates and click-through rates

Why is it important right now?

It’s always essential to keep good hygiene, so why should you care now in 2021? With lockdown, it’s harder to sell to new customers for multiple reasons. For sales, they can’t use their office phones for outbound telemarketing or talk to someone they’re nurturing.

Steve says: “Chuck in the fact that Covid-19 was a financial stress for many organisations, so they might’ve attained the mindset: ‘It’s too hard to go and try to sell to new people in a difficult time.’ That’s meant that retention has gotten more important now than ever.”

Good email practices have always meant sending out to people you know or expect to hear back from. That means nurturing your existing customers, including those soft bounces you might still have. Lockdown has meant a wider focus on retention than acquisition, so your email database instantly becomes more valuable.

Steve mentions: “There’s a consent race because of the changes to digital and the redundancy of cookies. That’s going to affect the way you do things such as targeted advertising, and it’s more important to have your first party quality data that you can talk to, so we’ve seen the retention on that too.”

Another reason email hygiene might be brought back to the forefront is because of the surge of social media, which has meant that platforms such as LinkedIn have become oversaturated. So, as a result, marketers might be more inclined to turn to email.

Two hygiene habits to adopt

1. Remove hard bounces and test the soft ones

This is the most basic one, which many automated tools can do for you, but make sure you’re removing all the hard bounces, so they’re not on your list. Remove that record, but, more importantly, find out two things: why did that person leave, and who has replaced them?

Steve says: “Replace them with the updated person. The soft bounce, I wouldn’t worry about. It’s just isolating those who aren’t opening your emails and then making them a test. Soft bounces are still relevant. They’re not opening our emails, so let’s figure out how to change the ways to re-engage them from our list.”

To the same degree, what should you do with the existing customers who are opening your emails? The short answer: nothing! Your messaging is already working with them, so be sure to isolate the soft bounces from your existing audience. Perhaps you start sending those soft bounces on a monthly basis rather than a weekly. You can also try new types of content to make it more relevant to them to re-capture and re-engage their attention.

2. Get the personalised messaging right

Especially with so many competitors out there, you need to cut through the clutter and personalise your messages so that they engage your targeted audience. It’s important to personalise the content, but it’s even more important to know when you personalise as well.

Steve says: “If you’re going to capture the data, how easy is it for them to give it to you? And how easy is it for them to give it to you incorrectly? If you ask too much of someone regularly early on, we might want more data than they want to give, so that value exchange is important. Make it easy for them to give you the data.”

For example, you may want your prospects to sign up using basic information such as their email address, name and job title first before asking for their challenges and goals. This can be used further down the line once your prospects have a better understanding of the products and services your company offers.

Steve says: “To get the personalisation right, get the data right and then secondly, think about what personalisation means. You already know your name and a lot of B2B companies think a personalised email is putting your name in the subject line. That’s not personalisation. It needs to be content changed based on that specific customer and organisation.”

Making sure there is an auto capitalisation on the first name is a no brainer, but more importantly, check to ensure the correct data is being used. Some more subtle personalisation and segmentation includes tweaking the job title, knowing their time zone and location and asking the right types of questions to your customers.

After all, at the end of the day, email hygiene is all about the quality not the quantity.

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