Thursday, July 23, 2009

Data Management, Deliverability, and Unsubscribes

At a recent Eloqua user group, there was a conversation around data management, cleansing, and permission management that led to a few key things being clarified, so I wanted to capture the general discussion here.

We’ve talked quite a bit about managing your active and inactive contacts in your database in order to keep your engagement levels high during a lead nurturing campaign. At a certain point, if you marketing database has grown large, and has been operating for a number of years, there may in fact be a number of contacts in your database that should be cleaned out entirely. This cleansing is a natural process, as people change jobs and with it change email addresses, or change personal email addresses, leaving their old email addresses dormant.

A large number of dormant email addresses in your list will decrease your overall campaign response rates, and may in fact cause a noticeable decrease in your deliverability rates as attempts to communicate with non-existant email addresses can cause you to be flagged as a potential source of spam. You will begin to see this in running deliverability tests against seed lists using the embedded testing tools within Eloqua.

The best technique in this situation is to cleanse these dormant addresses in bulk. You can do this from the Data Manipulation menu by selecting "Delete All Contacts in Group". Note that this deletes the Contact records entirely from the database.

The question, however, is what happens to those who have unsubscribed if their email address does end up back in your database again? Is that history of unsubscribing lost? Obviously, in order to stay compliant with both the spirit and letter of the law, you need to ensure that this is not the case.

The good news is that with Eloqua, the contact record and the subscription record are separate. If you have a contact,, who unsubscribes, then is deleted, then is re-added, will still be marked as an unsubscribed contact. The data on the contact (name, address, group membership, etc) is deleted when you select to delete the contact, and it will not return on re-adding the contact, but the record of their subscription status remains.

This is a critical point as it allows you to make your data management decisions without being unduly worried about losing contact unsubscribe data.