#55: What is a “Dirty List” and how do you clean it?

Feb 3, 2019 | Office Operations

I don’t know one coach, consultant, service provider, or those of us who have an online business, who doesn’t rely on email marketing for the success of their business. So it’s only fitting that you have a clean mail list.

If you’ve ever heard the terms “scrubbing” or “cleaning” a list, basically what is happening is that there is what we call “dirty data” lurking in your database or your list.

Each business will have its own definition of dirty data… this could be incorrect email addresses, fake names, old information, incorrectly formulated results, and so forth.

There are many reasons to clean up your list: better stats, compliance, and removing unneeded accounts so that you don’t have to pay for them. (Believe it or not, most programs count a contact record no matter if you are sending an email or not, in your plan. So if you are getting notices to upgrade your plan, clean your list first, maybe you can hold off for now and save some money.)

In this video, I talk more about dirty data and 3 steps to clean it up.

I don’t know one solopreneur and those of us who have an online business, who doesn’t rely on email marketing for the success of their business. So it’s only fitting that you have a clean mail list.

If you’ve ever heard the terms ‘scrubbing a list’ or ‘cleaning subscribers,’ basically what is happening is that there is what we call dirty data lurking in your database or your list. Each business will have its own definition of dirty data. This could be incorrect email addresses, fake names, old information, incorrectly formulated results, and so forth. There are many reasons to clean up your list – better stats, compliance, and removing unneeded accounts so that you don’t have to pay for them. Believe it or not, most programs count a contact record no matter if you are sending an email or not, in your plan. So if you are getting notices to upgrade your plan, clean your list first, maybe you can hold off for now and save some money.

How do you know if you have dirty data? If you check your analytics and notice a reduction in your open rate, reduced click-through rate, more unsubscribes, more spam complaints, lots of bounces, if you notice any of those things happening as a trend, it’s time to clean up your list.

The first step is to define what constitutes dirty data for your business so that you can come up with a plan to clean it. Usually, this means incorrect or bad email addresses, maybe they are missing a character or are no longer active, fake names by fake bots, and duplicates. But if you really want to clean house, then you can also add on that list alias email addresses such as those that start with info or sales, those generic types of group email addresses. What about those subscribers who have no engagement for the past 3 months or are otherwise inactive?

Step 2 is to create a process for how to deal with each type of dirty data. And this is where the systems piece comes in. Look at your list you created in Step 1 and for each type of data, create your process. And this is where you list out step 1, run report to check for hard bounces, step 2, export those who are customers so that you can retain purchasing or membership information, step 3, delete contact records. And it’s one thing to create this process, but also create a task to remind you to do it. The first of the month, at the end of the quarter, whatever your preference is. Whatever program you use, figure out the process to clean it. and then do that for each type of data you’ve identified.

Most people stop there, but I want you to do this extra step.

As you go through each process, do a quick analysis to see if you need to change up your marketing strategy or tool. For example, you are cleaning up your list and notice a ton of fake accounts. This happened to me last year, I was getting bombarded daily by bots adding their information to my web forms, and most of the time it was a random string of numbers and letters so I knew they were fake. So you notice that you have a ton of these fake accounts that are coming through your opt-in forms. You could enact a strategy by adding a Captcha at the bottom so someone has to do an extra step to submit, you could implement double opt-in and automatically remove those that don’t confirm. There are things you can do, but you won’t know unless you analyze.

Or let’s say you have a lot of inactive subscribers. How did they get on your email list? Let’s say you notice that 100 people who downloaded a freebie from you never opened your emails. If you’re still offering that freebie, check it out to ensure it really is the right freebie for your audience. It may need to be tweaked or replaced entirely.

Coming up this month we’ll go into more detail about these systems and tools you can use. And you may be asking, instead of removing these people, what about trying to re-engage them? That’s next month’s topic so we’ll definitely be going over that as well so stay tuned.

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