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Rick Cook Better Campaign Results from Better Marketing List Management

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 By Rick Cook

Accurate Marketing Lists Are a Precursor to Campaign Success

In a Forrester Research report titled "U.S. Email Marketing Forecast, 2009 to 2014" the analyst firm notes that 70% of email marketing dollars are spent on customer retention programs. Analyst David Daniels notes that email campaigns designed for customer acquisitions are much more difficult and therefore not getting as much focus. However, he also notes that a small population of leading marketers are showing big success in using email campaigns for lead generation by creating narrow customer segments, developing highly relevant messaging and automating their business processes.

Marketing lists are the lifeblood of conventional marketing. We use contact lists to outreach new prospects, keep track of customers, follow prospects through the nurture process and manage campaigns that contact our customers or prospects. However lists can also be tedious and time-consuming to manage. That's where Customer Relationship Management software can add value.

Assembling Lists
Managing a marketing list effectively starts with the campaign distribution target. This can be as simple as “we want to reach all CIOs in the distribution industry in a three state area” or an elaborately laid out campaign with multiple messages delivered in a nurture program. At the minimum you need to know who your campaign is aimed at, and the more closely the better. CRM software can be a big help in detecting relationships and patterns in customer data that you can capitalize on in planning the campaign.

Sure you can blast your message out to every name you can get, but experience has shown that this is a low-return strategy. It wastes resources, and one of the most important resources it wastes is customer attention. Annoying target populations with non-relevant messaging or content is certain to incur the unsubscribe penalty and forever after you lose the opportunity to email highly specific and relevant promotions or content.

Customer attention is one of the most valuable resources in any marketing campaign. If you waste the customer’s time with messages he or she isn’t interested in, you’ll be turned off like a light switch and it’s awfully hard to flick that switch on again.

The combination of applying customer attributes, list segmentation and precise messaging is sometimes called microtargeting and is a powerful marketing strategy which allows marketers to apply outreach promotions which align with where customers are in their buying cycles. According to Heather Blank, Director of Strategic Services with email service provider (ESP) Responsys, "Our clients who have been more successful [with lead generation] are the ones creating dynamically generated content by bringing in either Web or profile data ... and sending content that matches someone's profile very closely."

CRM systems can help you build carefully targeted lists supported by customer attributes which will help you achieve your marketing goals more efficiently. The thing that makes CRM software especially valuable is the 360 degree view of the customer or prospect. The more information you have, the more closely you can tailor your marketing list and messaging. Other alternatives, such as mailing list programs, don’t offer this all-inclusive view of the prospects or customers, which means that they can’t target their lists as precisely.

Segmentation is especially important if you’re selling multiple products to different classes of customers. Sending out a generic message is not nearly as effective as sending a honed message to a targeted group. Of course sending a message aimed at one group to a completely different group is also a waste of resources.

Managing Lists
One of the first steps in managing any marketing list is cleaning it up. Research firm Aberdeen shares that 78% of marketers cite a lack of trust in customer data which prevents them from leveraging personalization, customer segmentation, and customer profiling. The most obvious example of list cleaning is deduplication – eliminating redundant records that refer to the same person or company. List cleaning also includes getting rid of invalid addresses, customers who have opted out of receiving your emails, and correcting data such as ever changing postal codes.

Here again CRM software solutions can help by letting you check the list items against other information you have in your customer database. Because of its all-inclusive view of the customer or prospect, your CRM system provides a valuable cross-check. If the sales department has John Smith at 123 4th St. and billing has John Smith at 321 5th Street. You have a chance to eliminate the discrepancy and improve your marketing effectiveness.

Keep in mind that a marketing list is a living document. It represents a group of people that change over time. Interest in your product grows or declines, people change jobs, potential customers go out of business or come into existence. Marketing lists generally deteriorate 2% per month so after only one year almost one-fourth of the list needs clean up. That means marketing lists need constant attention.

Here again, a CRM database can help you keep your list current thereby increasing campaign performance results.

Similarly, it’s important to keep from over-sending. Too many emails to the same customers result in a sharp rise in unsubscribe requests. Too many direct mail pieces, telephone calls, etc. also have a detrimental effect on the relationship with the customer – and the propensity for customers to respond favorably. Cleaning the list cuts down on unwanted duplication and unintentionally peppering the same contacts with the same messages multiple times. Also with the automatic reminders or emails that can be triggered from the CRM system you can be sure your contact schedule is being adhered to.

CRM software also helps you make sure you are properly handling bounced emails and unsubscribe requests. It can also help you analyze those events and draw implications about your list quality. Emails that bounce are a canary in the coal mine when it comes to marketing lists. The more bounces, the less reliable the list.

Opt out requests are also important to monitor. Keep in mind that opt-out requests are probably just the tip of the iceberg. Opting out requires an extra step on the part of the reader. Most people won’t make that extra click, even if they’re not interested in the email content. They’ll just ignore it or mark it as spam. To get the true “not-read” rate you need to multiply the opt-out requests by several times. This fact makes opt out rates especially important in analyzing the success of the marketing campaign. A high opt out rate means you’re doing something wrong.

Also recognize when prospects haven't opted out, however, have also not opened your emails. Unopened emails are affecting some marketers deliverability. According to Matt Wise, board member of the Interactive Advertising Bureau, "If you send your email out and no one engages with it, you are risking that the ISPs and corporations which use ISP black lists are going to stop delivering your messages." To prevent impairing your email deliverability, move prospect records who don't engage to a different campaign, or remove them all together.

Analyzing The Results
A marketing campaign without analysis of the results is severely crippled. Here again, CRM systems can help. CRM applications have powerful analytical tools built in which can help you pinpoint how your campaign fared and how each campaign compares to all other campaigns in terms of cost, effectiveness and ROI. This real time analysis permits the marketer to quickly reallocate marketing funds away from lower performing campaigns.

CRM software is especially helpful with test marketing where a campaign is trialed on only part of the list. By tracking things like bounces and opt-outs as well as responses you get an important early indicator of how good your list is and then project overall campaign effectiveness.

Beyond test marketing, a CRM system is an ideal tool for pulling together the results of the campaign and analyzing them across a number of metrics and performance criteria. With marketing management systems you can not only see standard metrics like response rate and cost versus revenue of the campaign, you can also generate custom metrics specific to your needs. The powerful, flexible analytics of customer relationship management applications allow you to easily study your campaign and make improvements for better performing future campaigns. End

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Comments (7) — Comments for this page are closed —

Guest Chris Nichols
  What if I'm applying all the customer attributes I have and still not getting a high email conversion return?
  Denise Denise Holland
    Forrester's David Daniels advises in his email marketing research report that even with customer attributes and list segmentation, messaging should always focus on the customer's business problem, and marketers may be well advised to leverage customer testimonials in their email copy. According to Daniels, "Those people who are doing this are getting the highest conversion rate." List segmentation also continues during the campaigns. "Email marketers need to not only measure email engagement via metrics such as click through rate but also use that measure as a segmentation attribute to divide subscribers into two buckets: those that are engaged and those that are not," says Daniels. He also comments, "This will allow marketers to drive more meaningful and relevant conversations with their subscribers."

Guest Denise Johnson
  In your opinion, how many times should a list be emailed to?
  Denise Denise Holland
    There is no consensus answer to this question and a number of variables to consider. For example, the relationship to the email recipient (i.e. a suspect, prospect or existing customer), the promotion relevance to the recipient, the brand being referenced, the complexity of the promoted item or service, and the length of the sales cycle are all factors which influence the frequency, number of touches or duration of an email campaign. However, two universal indicators which will advise you to dial down the campaign include conversions and opt-outs. When conversions fall, or opt-outs go up, its time to retire the campaign and implement something fresh.

Guest Tracy Phillips
  Excellent article. This reinforces that we need to better use our crm software system to support our marketing segmentation program - and better integrate our crm system between our marketing and sales groups.

Guest Zach Kirk
  Can you recommend some of the better list managers and data segmentation vendors?
  Denise Denise Holland
    Here's a short list of list managers that I believe are all reputable. It's not an exhaustive list and you should be sure to do your own vetting - Acton International, Advanstar, ALC, Bethesda List Center, Carney Direct Marketing, DefinitiveData, Direct Media Millard, Dunhill International List Company, Harte-Hanks Market Intelligence, Infogroup, IDG, Kroll Direct Marketing, List Services, Marketfish, MeritDirect, MetaResponse Group, Q Interactive and Worldata.

Here's a list of data segmentation vendors I've worked with or heard descent things about. Again, do your due diligence - Anchor Computer, D&B, Entiera, Experian, Harte-Hanks Direct Marketing, Hoovers, Infogroup, Merkle, MLS Data Management and ZoomInfo.



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Blasting out unintelligent marketing lists via email or other channels is a low-return strategy. It wastes resources, and one of the most important resources it wastes is customer attention. Annoying target populations with non-relevant messaging is certain to incur the unsubscribe penalty and forever after you lose the opportunity to email highly specific promotions. Using CRM software to segment and refine your marketing lists can avoid this penalty.


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