Hygiene: Your Smartest Move
By Lou Mastria, chief privacy officer and vice
president of public affairs, NextAction Corp
Can there be targeted marketing without accurate
information? I say no.
From e-mail to direct mail, the need for sound list
hygiene practices is not only ever-present, but
Why? For me, it comes down to the belief that a
global list hygiene strategy is part and parcel of
increasing relevance for the consumer, reducing
costs for the marketer, and demonstrating corporate
responsibility. A win-win-win!
With the increasing costs of postage, printing and
paper (on the mail side), and the heightened level
of scrutiny that bad e-mail addresses get from ISPs
(on the e-mail side), it's no wonder that marketers
with an eye on all of their bottom lines are looking
with renewed interest at the art and science of
On the mail side of the equation, my company has
seen several examples of significant increases in
addressable households when clients adopt better
hygiene habits. Last year, we began doubling the
frequency of our database hygiene and have shown (to
some really incredulous clients) gains of 5 percent
to 10 percent in addressable households on
housefiles. In this economy, who wouldn't want to
re-engage with 5 percent to 10 percent more of their
Then there's the not-so-inconsequential benefit of
qualifying for the fullest USPS discounts. The USPS
is clearly sending the message with its pricing
structures that if marketers want to communicate
economically with consumers, they'll leverage the
latest address correction and standardization
systems. And, of course, there is the concomitant
benefit that good list hygiene also reduces total
postal costs by eliminating bad or old addresses.
The USPS has reported that 9 billion pieces are
undeliverable each year.
In this economy, another reason to look anew at list
hygiene is the costs often can be self-funding. For
an average cataloger, the postage savings alone
easily can reach five figures.
When it comes to e-mail, the DMA recommends a
complaint rate of no more than .1 percent. It's also
widely recognized that ISPs use abandoned e-mail
addresses as spam traps. So, unless you want to
spend precious amounts of time and money convincing
ISPs you're not a spammer, list hygiene is a nearly
cost-free way to increase e-mail deliverability.
All of the cost-savings arguments for good list
hygiene practices don't even take into account the
shrinking tolerance consumers have for irrelevant
marketing. Whether online or off, the trip from
inbox to recycle bin is getting shorter as
attention-starved consumers look to simplify their
lives. They do not have the time nor the inclination
to deduce why marketers would waste resources to
send the proverbial vinyl-siding ad to the apartment
Then there are brand costs to consider. Think about
the reputational, privacy and environmental costs
that your organization suffers from poor list
The reality is that poor list hygiene can telegraph
to your current and prospective customers that your
offer is not valuable, or that you do not respect
them or the environment-none of these are desired
So, use all of the suppression and hygiene tools
available to you. For example, use DMA's Mail
Preference Service. Don't overlook the importance of
in-house suppress. Leverage NCOALinkŪ and
address hygiene systems. Begin to explore the
operational benefits and costs of opt-down-not just
Again, can there be targeted marketing without
accurate information? I say no. But the information
necessary to achieve clean lists does exist.
Leverage it to go for that triple win.
Target Marketing Magazine May 1, 2008 (www.targetmarketingmag.com).
Lou Mastria, CIPP, is chief privacy officer and vice
president of public affairs at NextAction Corp. He
can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.