Are You Marketing to Zombies? Yes, You Are. Here’s How to Stop.

Don’t get us wrong: We appreciate and support zombies in their journey of discovery and self-actualization; they’re just not a significant demographic for most companies to target.

Unless you’re selling brains. Brain dealers would be in high demand during a zombie apocalypse (we assume. Might want to get payment up front).

How do you know if you’re marketing to zombies?

In all likelihood, you already are.

Of course, we’re not talking about actual zombies. We’re talking about those contacts in your database who will never engage with your messages and never buy anything but will raise the cost of your CRM/MAP and drag down your engagement metrics.

Data hygiene is just removing the undead weight from your contact database.

And the first step in data hygiene is admitting there’s a problem. Don’t think you have a data quality problem? It’s theoretically possible. But if you really believe that, then you’ll probably be spared during the zombie apocalypse.

How do zombies get into your database?

Several ways.

Some zombies were once real, live human prospects who are no longer with the company. Or they may be in a different position within the same company but aren’t in a decision-making role.

This is known as data decay, which happens when once-accurate contact attributes are no longer accurate. For the B2B sector, data decays at a rate of up to 70.3% per year. And that estimate was before the pandemic and before The Great Resignation. For other sectors, the average is “only” about 30% every year.

Some zombies were never human. They were just bots programmed to fill out a form, often repeatedly, polluting your database.

And sometimes companies invite the zombies in… which, okay, is more of a vampire metaphor, but still pertinent.

What we mean by inviting them in is that some companies still buy lists of email addresses.

Email lists are a great way to pollute your database with zombies. And these zombies will do real damage. You’ll be paying for the probably-outdated (decayed) contact info of prospects who haven’t expressed interest in your products.

Think about it: Have you ever received an email from a company (assuming it didn’t go straight to Spam) and thought to yourself, “How did they get my name? I never signed up for this!”

Would you ever buy from that company, or were you too suspicious or annoyed to even engage?

Not only is email list-buying a terrible practice in terms of database pollution, engagement metrics, and CRM costs, but depending on where those contacts live, you may be breaking the law. Think GDPR (Europe), CCPR/CPRA (California), and the privacy laws in Colorado, Connecticut, Utah, and Virginia, with more on the way. Get caught running afoul of these regulations, and you’re looking at severe fines.

As if facing litigation in multiple jurisdictions isn’t bad enough, it can get even worse. If/When those purchased contacts start labeling your emails as Spam/Junk, the email service providers will take note. Then your Sender Score will plummet, and ESPs will begin redirecting all your messages to Spam.

Read that again: All. Your. Messages. Will. Go. To. Spam.

Even for the engaged prospects.

Bottom line: Email lists bad. Zombies bad. (Feel free to read this in the voice of Frankenstein's monster. 'Tis the season!)

How Do You Fight Off Zombies?

If you want to find out how many zombies are currently residing in your contact database, we can help!

We offer a free database spot check that will show you in detail the extent of your data quality problem. It’s a no-cost, no-obligation review where we’ll show you exactly how many zombies are lurking and what actions to take.

We’ll also provide a more nuanced look at the overall health of your email marketing channel, like which contacts and prospects you’re at risk of losing due to fatigue or other causes.


So far, of the companies we’ve worked with, the lowest percentage of bad/unreachable contacts has been 12%, from a company with regular data hygiene procedures already in place.

The worst was 72%, from a company that admitted that they buy email lists.

To be clear, data hygiene is not a one-and-done proposition. Database health has to be regularly audited in order to be successful and keep those zombies at bay. Even if you’re not buying email lists, data will continue to decay, and bots will likely invade.

Want to keep those zombies under control? Sign up today for a free database spot check.

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