Infogroup Exec Rebuts e-Append Critics
By Ken Magill
Not only can email appending be done responsibly and cost effectively without harming the marketer’s reputation, it happens all the time, according to Dan Babb, senior director, interactive, for data giant Infogroup.
What’s more, Babb said, he’s got the repeat business to prove email appending works.
“Email appending isn’t for everybody,” he said. “It’s a marketing tactic that needs to be thought through and a strategy needs to be put in place for how you’re going to use it.”
Babb contacted The Magill Report last week to rebut the assertions in a piece published here in which Al Iverson, director of privacy and deliverability at email service provider ExactTarget, said when companies use email appending services, invariably they end up with lists full of spam traps and people likely to report the marketer’s messages as spam.
“There are things responsible append vendors do to protect clients from complainers,” Babb said. For example, he said, if someone opts their address out of one Infogroup appending project, Infogroup suppresses that address from all future append efforts.
“We’re never going to mail that address again,” he said. “I don’t want to sell an email address to someone that’s not going to be responsive. I don’t want to sell one that causes problems for them.”
He said another way he protects his clients is by making clear that addresses acquired through an append must be treated differently than those organically acquired.
“You need to treat those two universes differently in your strategy,” he said. “They need to work harder to get the people who were appended to be responsive. Subject-line testing, content testing and frequency are all going to be factors in how you make this data perform.”
Babb also said that contrary to Iverson’s assertions that appending is almost universally cost ineffective when done on a confirmed-permission basis, he’s got several clients who do so regularly.
“I’ve got some clients who are very privacy sensitive so they will only send emails to people who have confirmed by clicking the ‘yes, I want to get your emails,’” he said.
However, 95 percent of his clients append on an opt-out basis, he said.
Meanwhile, Babb said, in any append project, Infogroup sends the welcome messages from its own servers. An appender who won’t send welcome messages on the client’s behalf is usually an appender who has no confidence in the quality of its data and/or has been blacklisted and can’t send the messages from its servers.
“The fact that we look at opt outs from a global basis helps keep our platform clean enough so that we can send those welcome emails,” he said. “I’ve had a number of clients who don’t see the value of a welcome email. We require that we send it because we want to provide our clients with good, deliverable email addresses. We’re their service bureau for that first email.”
Babb added that his success in email appending is proof that it works when done properly.
“I sold my first append project in November of 2000, so I’ve been doing this for quite a while,” he said. “Last year alone I sold 1,100 email append projects. About 50 percent of my business is repeat business. My longest-running client has been doing email appends with us on a quarterly basis for seven years and has never missed a quarter. If email append wasn’t working as a tactic, why would they spend money every single quarter for that much time. Year to date, we’ve run 700 email appends.”
Babb also took issue with the Messaging Anti-Abuse Working Group’s recently released position paper condemning all forms of email appending, claiming it contained inaccuracies.
“When an organization like MAAWG is going to come out with a position on email append, they owe it to the industry to be factual,” he said. “There are things in this document that are either inaccurate, or stating something that could be perceived as fact when it’s not.”
For example, Babb takes issue with the following statement in MAAWG’s anti-appending document: “[E]mail appending creates significant risks of violating consent requirements in privacy and anti-spam legislation.”
“That makes it sound like email append is an illegal practice,” said Babb. “It is clearly not an illegal practice.”
He also said the following statement in MAAWG’s document is misleading: “Further, the data collected by email-appending service companies today is often error-prone. Their practice of using various clues to determine an email address from publicly available information often leads to incorrect guesses.”
“That’s not how we or any of the other responsible appenders operates,” he said. “We’re all using very accurate match logic to match these records. We’re using components of name, address, city, state, ZIP from records that were [supplied] voluntarily and of their own free will. These consumers provided their information on a website where they were giving consent to receive marketing email.”
Babb took particular issue with MAAWG’s statement that “legitimate marketers do not engage in email appending.”
“I looked over the supporters and members of MAAWG and found my client in their member list,” he said. “So when you tell me that legitimate marketers don’t use append but a supporter and member of MAAWG ran a very large email append recently, it’s sending the wrong message.”
What is more, Infogroup has a major repeat append client who is also an ExactTarget client, Babb said.
“I won’t tell you who the client is, but they have been using ExactTarget for almost a year and nobody on the marketing team has seen any negative repercussions from using appending,” he said.
Author’s note: For what should be obvious reasons, Babb did not want to name any of his clients who are engaging in appending. Considering that any marketer identified here as an append client would be blacklisted immediately no matter how clean their file may or may not be, I did not press him.