On the eleventh day of Listmas, my data showed to me emails sent to dead folks…
Today’s post is related to yesterday’s post as well as day 6. Really, it’s all about list hygiene.
The title of the post is “emails sent to dead people.” The thing is, I mean that quite literally. Often people don’t realize it but the folks on their lists will not just move on from job to job, or change cities and thus Internet service providers, or decide that they get too much spam and change addresses, they’ll actually die.
This is important: Marketers have dead people on their lists, and it’s going to be really hard to get rid of them.
Now, there’s good news and bad news to be had here. The good news is that dead people rarely complain. The bad news is that sometimes they have family members who share the address — and those people will complain. Or, they’ll have kids who are trying to dispose of their parent’s estate and have access to their parent’s account. But, perhaps the most important thing to a marketer: A dead person is in no position to buy anything anymore. Continuing to mail them only results in throwing good money after bad.
The thing is things like this point out the need of maintaining a list. There are a few things that will happen to these addresses. First, they will eventually get shut off. Either the bill won’t get paid and the account will be suspended, or the account will get canceled. But, that may not happen for a long time — especially in the case of freemail accounts (Yahoo!, Gmail, and the like).
Second, they will provide data to providers who care to look. As Tom Sather pointed out back in 2009, mail sent to accounts which are no longer being logged into will indicate to some providers that a sender is possibly either trying to pad their complaint rate stats by not taking care of their list or has deeper problems with list hygiene. And that’s the kind of thing that will actually be used to generate a black mark against the sender. (and Laura Atkins reaffirmed in 2015 that some providers still use inactive accounts to help make delivery decisions.
So, what’s a marketer to do? They have no insight into which email accounts are getting checked? And, maybe the account owner is still there, and just seeing the subject line (without an open or a click) is enough to keep the brand top-of-mind enough to generate sales. The thing is, you just don’t know, and what’s more is that you can’t know.
What you can do, though, is figure out when it doesn’t make sense to continue to hold onto data. If a list is like the old Roach Motels (“it can check in, but it can’t check out”), then it’s eventually going to collect addresses which never respond (so they’re not making the marketer money) and instead are actively harmful to their efforts.
The numbers of actual dead people on any list are going to be small. But, to be successful, shouldn’t you be looking to get rid of any negative thing that’s possible? After all, you wan to avoid…