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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.

Email Marketing Worst Practices Still Prevail, as This LinkedIn Post Proves

Mon, 04/17/2017 - 11:52

This really happened…

The following question was posted in a discussion group for email marketers: “I need to blast bulk emails on daily basis so suggest me some best email marketing tools.”

As soon as I saw it, I thought, “Oh boy, that person is going to get lambasted for using not one, not two, but three dangerous words in this group: blast, bulk and daily.” I checked the comments on the post, fully expecting to be embarrassed on this marketer’s behalf. Instead, I was the embarrassed one because not one marketer—not one—called this person out for potentially bad email marketing practices. They simply suggested software and vendors.

Now, I could be wrong. It could be this person and the company they work for are adhering to email marketing best practices. Perhaps the post was only the result of a poor choice of words. But still, you’d think one marketer would have commented on that at least, just to be sure.

Why marketers need to strike “blast” and “bulk” from their vocabularies
The words blast and bulk are problematic at best for email marketers. It would be best if we simply did not use them. These are old words, from back in the dinosaur age of email when that’s exactly what we did: blast bulk emails to our lists.

We’ve evolved, however—or some of us have, at least. Today we don’t have to blast bulk emails because we can segment. We can target. We can deliver relevant and timely emails to consumers as individuals. We know about cadence and we can test to determine which frequency offers the best results. We can even offer preference centers that give consumers some control over the emails they receive from us.

And we have proven best practices that say this is how to do email marketing in an effective, profitable way: by sending engaging, timely, relevant emails to subscribers who opted into a list.

But as marketers, even if we’re not doing the blasting to bulk lists, we need to stop using those words because they inherently make the practices seem acceptable. And apparently they are still acceptable, because I see so much of it going on—and no one in the discussion group took issue with the word use.

And about this word “daily”
Then there’s the issue of both the word daily and the timing of anything done daily. Since research shows most consumers say weekly is the right frequency for receiving an email from a brand, daily is probably a bad idea. Some emails are delivered (and devoured) daily because their content is so engaging and relevant that people want to get them every day (think Skimm). Those emails are the exception however.

Sending too many emails too often hurts everyone. The most common reason people unsubscribe? Too many emails. So says recent research from MarketingSherpa, and this result has been consistent from year to year. Over 26% of respondents in 2016 cited too many emails in general as the reason of unsubscribing—not emails from one company in particular, mind you, just too many emails from too many vendors.

Other top reasons include:

  • Irrelevant emails at 21%
  • Too many emails from one particular company at 19%
  • The emails are always selling something at 19%
  • The content is boring, repetitive, uninteresting at 17%

Daily emails are a contributor to the email overload that makes consumers unsubscribe from everyone’s lists, not only the lists of the perpetrators. And bad emails—the ones that are irrelevant, boring, pushy, repetitive or uninteresting—are one reason why consumers have a cynical view of email marketing. Consumers like email marketing. It’s still their preferred channel for hearing from a brand. But they’d like it better if the email was done better (and sent less often), I’m sure, and they’d be more likely to click through as a result.

So daily—daily is also a problematic word in this context, and a word that only a few noted email marketers should be able to freely use. The rest of us need to determine a sending schedule that works for our subscribers—and that probably won’t be daily.

Finally, why marketers need to call out other marketers
If you think that it doesn’t matter when another marketer uses the batch-and-blast approach to email marketing or sends daily emails that are irrelevant and pushy, I disagree. Every time someone goes against what we know to be sound and proven best practices, they do the whole industry a disservice. We work hard to get our emails delivered, then face so much competition when we finally do get to the inbox. As for me and ClickMail’s clients, I’d rather all the competition we had to face was legit email from legit marketers using legit email practices. Our emails would stand out more in the inbox and we wouldn’t have to fight against so much clutter. A rising tide lifts all boats, they say. That applies to email too.

Every time a marketer violates email marketing best practices, doing blasts to bulk lists on a daily basis, a legitimate email marketer must fight one more battle for a place in the inbox and the attention of the consumer. That makes it imperative that those of us who are mindful make sure to stress the importance of doing email right…not right now.

The post Email Marketing Worst Practices Still Prevail, as This LinkedIn Post Proves appeared first on ClickMail | Whitelist.

Content Marketing Infographic Shows Email Marketing Plays Crucial for Distribution

Thu, 03/30/2017 - 10:56

The folks at Skilled have created an impressive infographic on ways to use content marketing—55 ways to use content marketing, to be exact. The topic and all of the many noteworthy facts presented are interesting and useful on their own. But what really caught my eye is toward the end of the infographic as you scroll down. There you’ll find the information on how to disseminate that content marketing—and email marketing is a key component of that distribution.

Which types of content marketing top the list?
Infographics, blogging and video are featured as the best, most effective types of content marketing, with compelling numbers backing up the claims:

  • Infographics are liked and shared on social media three times more than any other type of content.
  • Blogs are ranked as the number one most important strategy by 45% of marketers.
  • And 52% of marketers name video as the content with the best ROI. According to the infographic, simply using the word video in a subject line could boost open rates by 19%, and click-through rates by 65%, as well as decrease unsubscribes by 26%

But how do you get that content out there? Email!
This infographic on content marketing makes a compelling case for email being a central component of any content marketing strategy. According to the statistics, 93% or marketers say email is the most important channel for distributing their content marketing.

With 204 million messages sent every minute, email is obviously still a very popular communications channel, and 82% of B2B and B2C companies say it is the number one choice for content distribution. In addition, email is 40x more effective than Facebook or Twitter at acquiring new customers, and 72% of consumers prefer to receive promotional content via email compared to other channels.

For those organizations more sales focused than marketing focused, email might not be tapped into (yet) for distributing content. These numbers show that mindset should change, however.

Use email to drive content
Although it’s not reflected in the infographic, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out that you can also use email to drive the content you use in your content marketing. Track the data generated by your email marketing distribution of your content: What gets the most engagement? Do more of that. What gets the least? Tweak that or drop it. Test your subject lines and your frequency. Try a variety of content marketing types, such as the infographics or video mentioned above, or something else like white papers or guides. When you use email to distribute your content, you can learn how to refine and improve that content as a a result.

In the meantime, put the nuggets from this infographic to use.

Presented by

The post Content Marketing Infographic Shows Email Marketing Plays Crucial for Distribution appeared first on ClickMail | Whitelist.