This blog post can be found on the E-Marketing Connection web site blog: E-Mail
Campaign Reports Are a Critical Part of E-Mail Marketing Success
Small business owners who have an e-mail marketing program in place know full well how important it is for their messages to make it to their recipients’ inboxes. E-mail clients have all sorts of clever ways of keeping your e-mail messages away from their users, all in the name of SPAM control.
We know our readers have opted in to our list and are just sitting there at their computers waiting for our newsletter to arrive! But the sad fact is the email clients don’t know this, and are using their best algorithms to determine if our message is SPAM or not.
Even a few percentage point increase in deliverability can make a huge difference in the bottom line. Here are two things I did with my own newsletter recently that made an immediate significant difference in getting my email to inboxes.
I know they BOTH worked because I did them at different times and saw results.
The text that appears in the From field of an email can be customized via the settings on your email campaign. The best From address is your company’s name. There are several reasons for this, but the main ones are recognition and avoiding spam filters.
First, using your company name consistently in all the emails you send will get your readers accustomed to seeing your name, and it will become more memorable to them over time.
Second, company names are more likely to make it through SPAM filters. For example, using the From text “Free Advertising” would be a red flag, even if that’s what your company does. Plus it doesn’t sound like a company name and a reader might assume it’s SPAM anyway, even if it makes it through.
When you set your email provider settings to “track opens” (this is probably a check box on one of your campaign screens), your email will automatically get a teeny little image inserted into it. This image is not visible to the reader, it’s usually transparent and is so small that it’s impossible to detect by a human.
However, the existence of this image (it’s called a “tracking beacon“) is one of the things junk mail filtering mechanisms look for when deciding what goes into the junk bin. This is because the tracking beacon, when loaded by an email client, can talk back to the computer that sent the email, telling it the email message was opened. This is the only way opens can be tracked.
When you turn off the “track opens” setting, it will make your email more likely to bypass the junk mail filter. Yes, it also means that you won’t be able to track open rates, but open rates are inaccurate anyway (I’ll talk about that in another post).
When I did both of the above things, my deliverability rate increased, and hence my click-through rate also increased! So the next time you’re sending an email campaign, make sure your From text is your company name, and turn off your open tracking setting, and see if it makes a difference for you too.
A lot of importance is placed on deliverability in email campaigns. What this refers to is the percentage of emails that actually make it into the subscribers’ inboxes.
But another important metric is the actual mix of email clients your subscribers are using to view your emails and how each of them displays your message. Even people who have been doing email marketing for a long time sometimes don’t pay enough attention to this.
For example, many email clients (“email client” means Gmail, Outlook, Eudora, etc.) will have a default setting that turns off all graphics in the preview window. The reason for this is spam-related, the details of which are beyond the scope of this post. And since most email campaigns have graphical banners at the top, those banners won’t load when graphics are turned off. If you’re not aware of this, and you don’t design your email template the right way in order to compensate, your viewer might see just a big blank box in their preview window. Clearly not what you want!
Some people might say, “But isn’t that why we also include a text-based version?” While it’s good to include a text version, the reason for doing so is not what you might think. The text based version is for people who specifically need text-only emails for accessibility or bandwidth reasons. HTML is text too, from a technical standpoint. Turning off graphics in an email client still renders the HTML properly, it just doesn’t download and display the images rendered via the HTML <img> tag.
Here’s one final tidbit to seal the deal… mobile devices do not load graphics in the email program, at least my iPhone doesn’t. It doesn’t even LET me load graphics! And guess what? The iPhone is the second most popular email client for one of my lists. My ESP (E-Mail Service Provider), which is MailChimp, tells me what email clients are used to view my emails. Take a look at the chart, Gmail is #1 and iPhone is #2. It would behoove you to check your own list to see what your email client mix is.
Another activity you should consider is email client testing. Any time you change your email template, you need to retest it on at least the top five email clients that are used by your subscribers. It’s easy enough to create accounts for yourself on these different clients, and send tests to those accounts and just view them. View them with graphics turned off and then on. View them in the preview window and the full reading window. View them on different devices if you can (Windows vs. Mac vs. iPhone/iPad, etc.)
Yes, this all sounds like a bit of a pain, but isn’t it worth it if it means just a few more of your subscribers will actually have a better reading experience? For all you know some of your readers are opening your email just to see a blank box (your header) and with 100 other emails waiting to be read, yours might just get passed by.
I don’t want that to happen to you any more than you do. If you need help, or have a question about this, just post a comment and I’ll be happy to respond with more details.
[This is part 9 (the final installment) of the series "Debunking the Myths of E-Mail Marketing."]
The number one thing I hear from business owners when I talk about email marketing is “I don’t want to annoy my customers.” Neither do I! And the good news is it’s REALLY EASY not to do this.
Permission marketing is a term made popular by Seth Godin with his book of the same name. At it’s very basic level, it simply means you ask for and get explicit permission from people to market to them.
This concept manifests in many ways, but most poignantly in e-mail marketing. This is where the concept not only makes a lot of sense, but absolutely shines!
So picture this… you walk up to a person at a networking event and they ask you, “What to you do?” You tell them, “I am a small business accountant,” or “I help businesses with their Internet marketing,” or “We help homeowners going through life changing events to de-clutter their homes in order to cope better.” Then you ask “Would you like to learn more about what I do for my customers?” If they answer yes they have just given you permission to deliver your marketing message to them.
The same goes for electronic marketing. If a visitor on your web site enters their email in a form and clicks the button that says “Add me to your newsletter,” you can safely assume that they want to hear what you have to say!
So as long as you only add people to your email list who have given their explicit permission you will not be spamming them when you send out your emails.
Another very important point is that you have to make good on your promise. The people on your list have said they trust you, and you need to protect that and respect it. You need to add value to their lives, not just sell to them. Nobody wants to walk into a place and get pounced on by a sales person. It’s creepy and annoying. Help people, they will learn to trust you, they will respect you and they will buy from you.
Once you have proven that you are trustworthy and have earned their respect, more and more people will want to join your list. Your list will grow… and you will do it all without annoying anyone.
Emailing your customers every day is probably going to be too much, and you will definitely annoy them. Unless of course that is their expectation. For example you might offer a daily tip of some kind. As long as your subscribers signed up knowing that’s what they were getting, then it’s a perfectly awesome way to stay in front of them!
However, if you are offering a newsletter, you want to be more discerning. Besides it’s time consuming and unless you have 4 hours a day to write newsletters, it’s not practical. I personally send my big robust newsletter once a month. I know folks who send theirs once a week. Both are fine, do whatever you can handle and your customers want/need/will accept.
On the other end, you can’t wait too long between emails. Some of your subscribers, especially the new ones, will forget they signed up for your list if you wait three months to send them the next one. They may even think you added them without permission and report you for spamming them.
So be practical and respectful of your audience. Somewhere between twice a week and once a month is reasonable.
My definition of spam is “Repeatedly send people irrelevant, ad-filled junk e-mail without their permission and without giving them a way to unsubscribe.” (Here’s the Wikipedia definition if you’re interested.)
You probably picked out the key components…
3. without permission
4. without an unsubscribe option
The bottom line is if you avoid all of these nasty things, you will be on the right track. Go for it.
Thank you for reading all 9 installments of this series. It was a lot of fun to write and I hope it helped you ignite your desire to do e-mail marketing. Truly it is the number one way to do effective internet marketing, and no small business should be without it in their e-marketing mix!
If you have any questions at all, just post a comment in the box below and let me know, and I’ll be happy to answer you. Or email me privately.
[This is part 8 of the series "Debunking the Myths of E-Mail Marketing."]
I wonder how many people reading this can honestly say “I never use email.” How could this myth possibly be true? How would we communicate without email? Let’s explore the alternatives.
By Phone. What a concept! Anybody under 25 doesn’t even answer their own cell-phone (just ask my 24-year old step-son), they only respond to text messages. And speaking of which…
Texting. I love texting, it’s highly useful, but it’s no replacement for email. First of all you can’t format a text message, which would drive me nuts after a while. Second, you can’t have conversations with groups of people over text. And finally, you can’t organize them or follow threads. I’m sure there are lots of other reasons… it’s just too ridiculous to even try to enumerate them.
Facebook. Unless you’re constantly on Facebook, or log into it several times a day, you wouldn’t be able to use it in the same way as email. Every time I go into Facebook I lose time because I’m compelled to check and see what everyone’s up to. It’s designed that way! Very inefficient for a professional trying to get her work done.
Instant message. Basically it’s the same as texting but can also be done on computers via chat services like AIM and Jabber. Same comments as above.
Twitter. Really? Most people I know don’t even use Twitter, much less understand all the nuances and etiquette known only to the hard-core users.
In-person. This one makes me nostalgic. It’s not that I yearn for the old days when my father-in-law used to just “drop by” our house to say hi, and stay for 2 hours. But there’s something to be said for face to face communications. It just can’t replace e-mail.
As recent as last October, the Pew Internet and American Life Project released a report that found that more than 90% of the population who uses the internet use it for e-mail. I’m not sure what the other “less than 10%” use, but this factoid being from a highly trustworthy source tells me that email is not going away any time soon.
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