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Here’s a straightforward email marketing insight: if you’re a B2B marketer who operates in or targets the United States, chances are, your email list is severely damaged.

In the last 7 weeks in the United States, unemployment claims totaled more than 33.5 million. For context, the total employed population in the United States is approximately 164.5 million in February 2020; prior to the pandemic, approximately 5.78 million people were unemployed. Combined, this now means unemployment is approximately 23.9%. For contrast, the peak unemployment during the Great Depression was 24.9% in 1933; we’re 1% shy of hitting that and it’s likely we’ll surpass it in a week or two.

How much of your audience is now unemployed? To be sure, some sectors like services were impacted much more heavily, but layoffs have occurred in virtually every industry sector, and more to come over time as the ripple effects spread through the economy.

What this means is fairly clear: every non-personal email you have in your email marketing database has the potential to be invalid. Personal emails – the Hotmails, Gmails, etc. of the world – should continue to be fine, but corporate email addresses likely will not be.

So what should you do about it?

First, if you’ve ever had a policy of not letting people do things like sign up for webinars, newsletters, etc. with a personal email, this would be the time to revoke that policy. Having someone’s non-work email may be the only way you’re able to stay in touch with a valuable member of your audience, so open the floodgates by removing restrictions.

Second, keep an eagle eye on your own email marketing software. Many sophisticated email marketing software platforms and marketing automation packages will automatically collect and remove dead email addresses – watch the numbers of your email marketing lists carefully to see if they’re growing or shrinking.

Third, keep an eagle eye on your web analytics. In services like Google Analytics, assuming you have it configured properly, you should be able to see email marketing’s impact on site traffic and conversions. Watch those numbers for sudden declines – if you see a sudden decline, chances are a good chunk of your email list went bad.

email marketing list analytics

Fourth, if you see sharp changes in your web analytics, your email marketing analytics, or your marketing automation analytics, take your entire email list and re-validate it. There are plenty of great services available which will do this for you, providing data back about which accounts work and don’t work. This is a fairly intensive effort that requires budget and time, so pull the trigger when you start to notice declining performance; if everything is fine and you’re not seeing more than normal bounced addresses, then do this step only as part of your regular marketing technology maintenance. (and if you want help with that, ask us)

Media mogul Jeff Pulver famously said that we live or die on our database. This has never been more true than in rough times. Your audience – and your ability to reliably reach it – is one of the pillars of great marketing strategy. Make sure that pillar is rock-solid with the steps above.


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