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You Might Be a Spammer if…You’re not Raising the Bar High Enough

Tue, 06/13/2017 - 11:29

In recent years, we’ve heard of companies that are supposedly “too big to fail.” That notion is negotiable, but certainly we have companies that are not too big to fail as well as not too big to spam.

If you think of spammers as never-do-wells sitting in dark, dingy basement apartments trying to trick people into buying Viagra or Costa Rica, think again. And then make sure your own email marketing is legitimate and can’t be labeled as spam. Yes, you: Make sure you’re not a spammer.

“But spammers, those are bad guys, right?”
Sure, you’ve got your classic types of spam, like that poor Nigerian prince who can’t seem to get a break, the emails trying to trick you into handing over personal information by getting you to log in on a bogus web page, emails offering get-rich-quick/lose-weight-fast/win-the-lottery scams, and a variety financial schemes (or should I say scams?). And that kind of spam is on the rise, according to Kasperky Lab.

But spam is so much more than all that. And you might be a perpetrator after all.

Big brands spam too
If your definition of spam is limited to the kinds of trickery described above, see this BBC article, presenting two examples of large-scale spamming done by big name companies:

  • The first, Flybe, was fined for sending over 3.3 million emails to people who had opted out of receiving emails from the brand.
  • The other, Honda Motor Europe, was fined for sending almost 290,000 emails to people who had not given consent to receiving emails from the company.

Are you surprised to see name brands fined for something you thought only shady characters did? I am quite sure that the companies were also surprised! I doubt neither Flybe’s nor Honda Motor Europe’s email marketing teams considered their actions to be anything but legitimate. The word “spam” was not one they considered as they planned the email marketing campaigns that came under fire.

There’s a reason for that, and it has to do with how we define spam…

Spam is in the eye of the beholder
Email spam is not something with a concrete definition. Sure, CAN SPAM and CASL and other organizations have created detailed definitions in order to create laws that regulate spam, but let’s turn to Wikipedia’s simple definition because it’s simpler: Wikipedia describes spam as “unsolicited messages…sent by email.” The key word here is “unsolicited.”

In both the case of Flybe and Honda Motor Europe, the emails were unsolicited, meaning the recipients had asked not to receive emails (as in the case of Flybe) or they had not given consent in the first place (as in the case of Honda).

But we must also consider the perception of the recipient because “unsolicited” can mean different things to different people. For me, unsolicited might be the emails I keep getting from the brand I bought from 10 years ago and haven’t bought from since—yet they continue to email me week in and week out, month after month and year after year, even though I don’t open their emails. In my opinion, I’ve demonstrated to them that I’m not interested and therefore their emails are unsolicited, or not asked for nor wanted, and therefore spam.

Or consider the companies that start emailing you simply because you downloaded a whitepaper from them. Suddenly you’re on their list because they assumed some kind of implied consent on your part when you clicked on the download link. Those are technically unsolicited emails and many of the recipients probably consider those emails to be spam.

Just think about your own inbox and the deluge of emails you get each day. How many of those would you label as spam using the definition of unsolicited?

“It seemed like a good idea at the time…”
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: Email can be challenging because it is so easy to do, and that means it’s so easy to do it wrong. And that includes sending emails to people don’t want to hear from you, just like the companies described above.

How do you avoid being a spammer when really, you’re only trying to be a legitimate email marketer? You start with a higher bar. Seriously. Raise that bar. It’s too easy for email marketers to take advantage of a list. No common-sense filter exists that will prevent them from sending emails they shouldn’t. Email marketers must act as their own filters, setting higher standards and adhering to them to ensure that the only people who receive emails from them are people who want to receive emails from them: solicited, wanted, desired, anticipated emails.

Does this reduce the number of people you’ll be able to email? Possibly. Will it improve the quality of your list? Most definitely. When your list is limited to only those people who want to hear from you, your list becomes one of engaged and interested subscribers, not people who wish your emails would quit showing up in their inboxes.

Next time you and your team are brainstorming some brilliant new email marketing campaign that targets anyone other than your engaged subscribers, stop and ask yourselves if your plan is a legitimate one or will involve sending un-asked for emails. Be honest. Be strict. And be willing to adhere to a higher standard, so you won’t be a spammer, not even an unintentional one.

The post You Might Be a Spammer if…You’re not Raising the Bar High Enough appeared first on ClickMail | Whitelist.

Why Your Email Deliverability Doesn’t Rank 10 Out of 10…Yet

Tue, 05/30/2017 - 12:17

On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest, how would you rank your email deliverability?

Deliverability usually doesn’t get a 10—either in importance or performance—because email marketers often think deliverability ends with hitting the “send” button. Yet there is much more to it than that, and much to be gained by both learning more about deliverability and taking steps to continuously improve it.

An email sent is not an email delivered
Let’s start with a common misconception: the difference between emails sent and emails delivered. An email marketer might send to a list of 50,000 and see in his or her email analytics that 87% of those emails were “delivered” according to the ESP. However, that does not mean 87% reached the subscribers’ inboxes. That number is known as the Inbox Placement Rate (IPR) and it’s a much more accurate measurement.

According to ReturnPath’s 2016 Deliverability Benchmark Report, the IPR is declining in the U.S., and marketers managed to get only 73% of messages delivered to the inbox.

Why email deliverability is so hard
For a better understanding of the discrepancy between the emails you successfully manage to send vs. the emails you successfully manage to deliver, let’s consider all the hoops you have to jump through to get to that inbox:

  • First, you have to have a valid email address.
  • Second, your email message must get past the gateway that is the ISP or corporate email filter.
  • Next, it has to get past the recipient’s spam filter.
  • Then that email has to avoid the junk mail folder.
  • Finally, it has to actually get into the recipient’s inbox.

But that’s not all! Once there, the recipient needs to actually open the email, but more on that later…

Before you jump through hoops: the two parts of email deliverability
That’s quite the list of hoops you have to jump through. And before that even happens, before you hit send and start “jumping,” there are two aspects of email deliverability that need to be mastered first (and the second one is often ignored).

First, there is the technical part. Some of the technical aspects are handled by your ESP as they strive to keep their own deliverability rate as high as possible, including feedback loops with domains and authentication. For the sender, the technical aspects also include careful ramping up of new IP addresses and clean HTML code. These are kind of like the nuts and bolts of your email deliverability, the machine part, if you will.

The other aspect is a little more squishy, for lack of a better word, and it’s where your role as the sender or publisher comes into play. Although the technical aspects of email deliverability are crucial, they are only part of the process of reaching the inbox. The content you create and send, the frequency and cadence of your sends, the way you either consider or disregard your subscribers, the testing and optimizing you do (or don’t do)…all of these affect your email deliverability as well, because they affect the actual engagement of the people you are emailing, ideally helping to ensure your emails are engaged with.

Too many marketers rely on technology
The challenge is, many email marketers are focused on the technology and think that’s enough to get emails into the inbox. But it’s not. Domains like Gmail are looking for subscriber engagement. It’s hard for a marketer to understand, but you don’t get awarded inbox placement without doing the second part.

That is due in part to lack of knowledge. Email marketing is a strange field. It’s not as if college students are lining up to declare themselves Email Marketing majors. Usually those on the email team come from somewhere else, and get on-the-job training. With all of the intricacies and complexities of successful email marketing, it’s no surprise that there is much email marketers don’t know.

Then there is the lack of time. People are busy, email marketers especially. They are rushing to get campaigns out the door, and think they lack the time to even do an A/B test. But without a focus on content and optimizing that content, email deliverability can’t improve…and might even decline.

Incremental improvements add up
Whether it’s due to lack of knowledge or lack of time, I would estimate up to 80% of email marketers are not optimizing their subject lines, let alone the preheader text or the body text, probably because they think what they have is “good enough.” Good is the enemy of great, remember? Optimizing just one aspect, like the subject line, could make a huge difference.

If there’s an A/B split test and the one subject line performs 3% better than the other subject line, an uneducated email marketer might assume that’s a negligible difference that really doesn’t matter. They’d be wrong. If 3% more recipients open the email with the better subject line, that incremental improvement adds up. For one thing, that means 3% more people actually saw the content and had the option of acting on it. Opening an email shows engagement, and engagement improves your sender reputation and therefore deliverability rate, possibly getting you into even more inboxes. And every email that gets opened gives you that many more chances for a click through and conversion. You won’t have an overnight improvement, but you might have a long-term gradual one.

When it comes to email deliverability, the technical aspect will only take you so far.

Your ESP can make up for a lack of time and expertise
If your email team suffers from a lack of knowledge or a lack of time, or both, choose to work with an ESP that can help you improve your “softer” side of the email deliverability equation. An ESP like iPost, for example, offers automated testing, with the winning email being the one that is sent out on your behalf. An ESP can also educate your team, for a better understanding of how your actions as a sender are working for or against your Inbox Placement Rate.

Your email deliverability should be a 10. Let’s make it so.

The post Why Your Email Deliverability Doesn’t Rank 10 Out of 10…Yet appeared first on ClickMail | Whitelist.