Resurrecting the Dead: The Woes of Old and Unknown Email Lists

In the spirit of ghouls and ghosts, dead and the undead, I’d like to share a few tales of resurrecting dead email lists, really dead lists. So gather round my wide-eyed brethren and listen with bated breath as we pay several visits to different crypts, email crypts if you will.

The New Job—Exciting, but Maybe a Little Bit Scary…

A friend of mine was excited to get a new job as an email marketing manager. Like any other person in a similar role, her goal is to drive email revenues and increase email subscribership. As she combed through the files left by her predecessor, she found an Excel file with several thousand email addresses and thought “Great!” She confirmed these email addresses were not already in her active email file, but she wasn’t quite sure when they were acquired. So she decided to have the list cleaned to remove any old email addresses before she included them in the next campaign.

Sounds like the perfect idea, right? Not so fast.

“Rediscovered” email lists like these can be scary. If the file was built or acquired many years ago and never messaged, chances run high that the recipient won’t even recall subscribing to that company’s email communications. While a list hygiene process will flag known bad and problematic email addresses, that does not mean the owners of the “good” email address still want to receive your email communications. And high complaint rates will affect your overall email deliverability and land you in hot water with your ESP.

If you ever come across a similar file, utilize every possible resource to determine what that list actually is before you even consider using it. Compare it to your unsubscribe and/or suppression lists, do any emails overlap? If you’re never able to get beyond the fact it’s just a random file of email addresses you found, your safest bet is to leave it alone.

The Corporate Re-naming…

A client was referred to us after experiencing a high bounce and abuse complaint rate on the first deployment with a new ESP. As with any new client, we carefully stepped through all details to ensure we provide the best advice and services to meet their needs.

We learned the individuals on the problem list were indeed previous, happy customers but they bought the client’s products when the company was known by a completely different name. Also, it had been nearly 10 years since she had utilized these email addresses.

While we know that our client had only the best intentions at heart, unused customer files that are years old are risky, especially if these customers subscribed to email communications when the company was known by a different name. Besides the issue with lapsed customers and complaints, the chance of spamtraps on a list like this increases tenfold, which can cause a complete nightmare for marketers.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, always have your list cleaned to remove any toxic and undeliverable email addresses and segment the list by buyer recency. Be sure to develop a thoughtful re-engagement campaign and message carefully with lots of testing. Corporate name changes need considerable marketing resources and attention to ensure the transition is smooth and understood by your customers.

Remove the fear!

Feeling worried about one of your email marketing strategies? Ask a vendor you trust to give you advice, not just sell you services. At FreshAddress, we routinely help our clients stay away from email ‘scares’, and would be happy to assist you too… just drop us a line!

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