Best Practice for Email Append


A question we get asked a lot here at ExactTarget, is what is the best practice for email appends? Turns out, the real, honest answer is: Don’t. Email appends aren’t a best practice. As I mentioned in a previous post, Morgan Stewart has shared some good data on how to minimize the spam complaint fallout, and drive the best opt-in permission results, if you’re going to do an email append campaign at all.
If people want to get email from you, they’ll give you their email address. If they don’t have an opportunity to give you their email address, give them one. Send them a postcard. Call them. Ask them straight out, may I have your email address, so that we can send you follow-up email communication.

Consent — permission — affirmative consent as defined by the law, opt-in as defined by best practices — is tied to an email address. If I am your customer, and I didn’t give you an email address, you don’t have permission to email me, just because you figured out my email address on your own somehow.

Sure, if an email append vendor is really doing things on the up-and-up, then everybody in their email address database has explicitly opted-in to be there — preferably via a double opt-in process. But, the fact of the matter is, most email append vendors DO NOT work that way. They mostly seem to do things like partnering with industry publications in various industries. You know those magazines — the ones that offer free subscriptions, but in exchange for the “free” subscription — they want an awful lot of detailed information about you. If you were to look closely at their privacy policy, you’d likely find that it allows the publisher to do whatever they want with that data. And whatever they want probably involves selling your personal information to an append vendor or two, adding you to the append vendor’s match database.

(Or even better, you could end up wondering what went wrong. Wondering if your email append vendor or list broker is actually a front for some sort of criminal spam gang in India. Think I’m kidding? Ken Magill’s got the story. I’m not sure if I’ve run into these guys in particular, but I most certainly have helped clients clean up after dealing with vendors that seem to have twenty-five different DBA names, no company principals listed on their website, domains registered with privacy protect, exchanging corporate email on a domain other than the one their website is on, and so forth. Hardly transparent, and often suspicious.)

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