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Ken Magill

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What We Can Learn from the DMA


By Ken Magill
A few takeaways from the Direct Marketing Association's spamming-the-world snafu this week.
Every email service provider should have a line of code in its outbound system that says: If thereís a single address on a client's list, then the mailing should be blocked from going out.
Steve Linford, chief executive of Spamhaus, should be on every marketer's suppression file.
Okay, so I'm kidding. Simply suppressing Spamhaus addresses wouldn't have prevented the DMA from hitting more than 100 spam traps with a single mailing. But shouldn't ESPs have some sort of safeguards in place to detect when a mailing is as polluted as the DMA's was?
Also, a lot of people are understandably drawing the conclusion that the DMA must have bought a polluted list for the Saturday campaign. After all, how else could so many spam traps and other non-permissioned addresses end up in the DMA's database?
Stephanie Miller, the DMA's vice president, member communications and engagement, said the DMA doesn't buy lists. Yes, she could be lying. People lie to me all the time. It comes with the job.
But as a former long-time Return Path employee, Miller knows as well as anyone the risks of buying email lists. What's more, Matt Blumberg, CEO of Return Path, was chairman of the DMA's board for two years until earlier this month.
It's difficult to believe they'd sit idly by while the DMA systematically bought email lists.
Maybe some folks under a previous leadership team or two bought lists and the addresses were never taken out of the DMA's database.
What we know is this: The DMA had a slew of email addresses in its database that have no place on anyone's file. 
Lessons for Magill Report readers:
*Old, unused email addresses are a ticking time bomb.
*Data quality and list hygiene are paramount in email marketing.
*Don't ever buy email lists.
*If you do end up on a major blocklist like Spamhaus, the reason for the block can usually be traced to an event. Someone bought a list and added it to the company's file, for example. Identify the event. Fix the problem.
*Unless you've been your company's email marketing manager for the entire time your company has been sending commercial email, you don't know how your file was built. There are data-services providers, my lead advertiser among them, who can identify addresses on your list you shouldn't be mailing.
*Data quality and list hygiene are paramount in email marketing.
*Data quality and list hygiene are paramount in email marketing.

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Terms: Feel free to be as big a jerk as you want, but don't attack anyone other than me personally. And don't criticize people or companies other than me anonymously. Got something crappy to say? Say it under your real name. Anonymous potshots and personal attacks aimed at me, however, are fine.

Posted by: Bill Kaplan
Date: 2013-10-31 14:33:57
Subject: A penny of prevention is worth a pound of cure

Nowhere is this idiom more applicable than in the email marketing industry. In the direct mail industry, a faulty address is considered costly because one might spend $1 to $5 sending out a catalog to a person that doesn't exist. Conscious of this cost, direct marketers scrub their postal addresses through an NCOA or other cleansing service on a regular basis, often prior to each campaign. In the email world, however, some marketers have been blinded by the fact that email is so cheap that it simply doesn't pay to clean and update one's list prior to deploying campaigns. The fact is that the vast majority of deliverability issues stem from hygiene problems with the underlying list. And worse yet, a few problematic email addresses don't just go undelivered. Rather, they can bring down your entire email program for months, even years, because they DO get delivered by ending up in some abuse department's inboxes or perhaps even in Spamhaus's or other spam-filtering organizations' web. Fortunately, email hygiene, correction, and validation services are now available that can block toxic-but-deliverable addresses, correct inadvertent typos, and validate the deliverability of each email address prior to any deployments. And these services are seamless to set up and cost a penny or less per process! To learn more about how leading marketers keep their lists safe from harm, see