Understanding Mailing Lists, Contacts and Custom fields

The PoliteMail Mailing List feature allows you to import contacts into PoliteMail, and organize them into Mailing Lists.

PoliteMail also allows you to import additional data, beyond Name and Email address, to a contact. This data may also be used as Personalization fields within an email message (similar in concept to mail-merge).

When you import, you simply map the data within your Excel CSV file into PoliteMail fields.

A PoliteMail Mailing list is separate from an Outlook, Exchange or Active Directory distribution group, but the concept is the same.

A mailing list is a collection/group of contacts. A contact contains the data, and a contact is defined by a unique email address.

In order for PoliteMail to track email (to a contact, or to a contact on a list), it uses email address as a unique key. This enables one discrete person/contact to be on several discrete lists.

When you perform an import, you are importing contacts and placing them into a list (a group). Any data imported, in addition to email address, is associated to the unique email address, it is contact data.

This is in fact the same construct Outlook uses. An Outlook contact can be on several distribution lists. Any contact data, such as name or title, is associated with a contact, not with a distribution group.

In PoliteMail, when you double-click to look at a mailing list, you only see name and email address information in the list. To see other fields, you double-click to look at a contact record, then you see the other fields.

Data fields are associated to a contact (a unique email address). Firstname, Lastname are obvious examples of data fields, Title and Department are others. These fields are associated to a contact/email address. All data fields operate this same way. Data is not associated to a Mailing List, only Contacts are associated to a Mailing List.

A custom field is just an additional field, undefined until you define it. Just like Name or Title, if you change it or import it with different data, the data stored in that field changes.

Important Considerations

When you re-import contact data, even if you are importing into a different list name, you are updating the contact record. If any of the data associated with the email address changes, the contact record will be updated. For example, if FirstName in an existing PoliteMail contact record is “John”, but name within the CSV to be imported is “Robert”, then, the next time you send to John’s email address, any Firstname personaliation will show up as “Robert”, and within PoliteMail the contact will be listed as Robert.

Likewise, when you import and assign data to a custom field (e.g. Custom10), even if you give it a label such as ‘Account Name’, when you re-import data and assign it to ‘Account Name’/Custom 10, you are replacing any data that exists in that field.

Now, if you were to import data into another list, and assign Custom10 to a different field or field name (e.g. ‘Division’), then the data label will change for all contact records whether they are on that import or not–only data for contacts you imported will change. In other words, any existing contacts you didn’t import this time would still have ‘Account Name’ data in a field which in now labeled Division. Also, if just the data label changes (Admin user, in Settings, Custom Fields) from ‘Account Name’ to ‘Division’ the data within the field will not change, until you manually edit or re-import it.

When you import contact data and not all fields are included, or they are blank, PoliteMail will not replace any existing data with blanks.

When you re-import a list of contacts to a Mailing List, and some of the existing contacts on the list do not exist in the import, PoliteMail will not delete those existing contacts from the mailing list. If there are new contacts in the imported list, then PoliteMail will add those new contacts to the list. If you are using imports from other data sources to manage lists, the best approach here is to import the updated lists as a new/separate mailing lists (e.g. ‘All Employees – Dec-1-2014′). You may want to delete the prior list (e.g. ‘All Employees – April-1-2014′) to avoid confusion . Deleting the prior list will not delete any contact records. It will, however, prevent you from running a list-based report on that deleted list (Track Results > Lists). You will still be able to run reports based on the actual send to that list (Results > Messages), or any campaigns that send was assigned to (Results > Campaigns). In other words, when you delete a list, you don’t lose any tracking data or contacts, you just lose the reference to that mailing list/group.