Purelist – Email Marketing Blog

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Jumpstart Your Email Marketing Strategy the Right Way

Successful small business owners — whether they’re new or just niche entrepreneurs — are usually hands-on kinds of people; when they see some task that needs to be completed to operate or grow their company, they tend to roll up their sleeves and get it done. That does not, importantly, mean they do it all themselves; knowing when you can handle something yourself and when you need to call in a professional is a critical part of successful time management.

Many of these “do it myself or hire it out” kinds of decisions are easy; we’re not all master plumbers, for example. But while it’s tempting to believe there’s nothing more to an email marketing campaign than downloading a template you found online somewhere, filling in the details of your doubtless irresistible upcoming sale, buying an inexpensive list of email addresses, and hitting “send,” the reality is quite different. By jumping head first into the deep end of this particularly sensitive marketing pool, you may set yourself up to cause more damage than the money saved could hope to offset. Email marketing can be a powerful tool to capture customers, drive sales, and increase your reach — but it’s not for the weekend dabbler, either.

Email marketing campaigns that work well all share several qualities, but perhaps the most important is they are well-targeted, and carefully tailored. One size rarely fits all, and this is no exception. The people at the other end must be receiving a message that makes sense for them to be reading — either demographically, geographically, or simply by virtue of knowing their interests and needs ahead of time. Professional email marketing partners build email lists not just by volume, but by quality — and the ability to segment their lists to create useful subsets of differentiated groups that can help a particular campaign be successful.

The importance of the quality of these lists cannot be overstated; in email marketing, the oldest of clichés is absolutely true: you never, ever get a second chance to make a first impression. If the message you’ve sent goes to the wrong place, you’ve labeled yourself and your company as spammers. And once you’ve found your way into someone’s spam folder, there’s a lot of work to be done to dig yourself out of it. Using a high-quality list of email addresses — with recipients that are reliably interested in the sort of things your business has to offer in the first place — is much easier and less expensive in the long run.

And these lists aren’t static; interests change, addresses change, trends change. Professionals know that building a list is the first tiny step toward having a list. It needs to be curated, updated, and maintained; the email addresses need to be scrubbed and cleaned regularly, with an eye to keeping a group of addresses together that will give the biggest ROI. There’s more to email address deliverability than simply whether it exists, and professional email marketers use multiple methods to ensure your message will always get through to the people who need to see it.

Finally, successful targeting and tailoring means keeping your messages fresh and relevant to whichever part of the market you’re gunning for. And while you might be up on the latest in your field, successful online marketing trends emerge, shift and fall into irrelevance faster than you might believe possible. What worked to reach and build customer groups last month is almost certainly less effective this month; email marketing professionals are already laying ground work for the campaigns of tomorrow.

Back in the 1800s, Charles Darwin, an English naturalist, extensive traveler and avid beard enthusiast, coined the term “natural selection.” Science has since accepted it as one of the mechanisms of evolution whereby nature kills off the dumbest of critters while the smartest (Galapagos finches who invest in all-natural beak enhancements, perhaps) survive.

But unlike animals, who just do what animals do and let the evolutionary chips fall where they may, people do a lot of stupid stuff. Thanks to the glory of the Internet, there are even websites where you can read and watch it all. Take for example the Darwin Awards. Spend a few minutes there and you may think twice before riding without a helmet, spray-painting your face gold, or spot welding a gas tanker. However, these imprudent tales will not deter you from royally screwing up your marketing.

Consider the following mistakes we’ve deemed the stupidest—and learn how to avoid them.

1. Believing “More” is Always “Better”

If you have more money than Carlos Slim, who is the richest man in the world, then by all means spend your marketing dollars on high-priced television, radio and print media ads. Why not, you have plenty of cash to burn. You’ll feel cool. Your Call of Duty buddies will think you’re cool. But the rest of us will think your not that cool because your wasting your money. In the majority of cases, success is not about spending more—it’s about spending smarter.

Whether you’re running a mom and pop shop or a Fortune 500 company, you can best access today’s diverse audiences through highly targeted digital marketing campaigns. From web-based ads to email marketing campaigns, these tools are effective, affordable and Darwin approved.

2. Pulling the Lever

Marketing is not like playing a slot machine in Vegas. There’s a lot more to it than dropping in quarters and pulling a lever. If you think you can invest a few bucks, send one email or place one ad, and then sit back with your proverbial bucket ready for a deluge of winnings, you’re not the sharpest tool in Darwin’s shed.

Successful marketing requires planning and development, careful implementation, consistency, repetition and constant change. A well crafted strategy is essential. And that strategy can’t be managed like a bad case of diarrhea. If it sounds like too much to handle, use the brains your mama gave you and outsource your campaign to a managed email marketing service company.

3. Failing to Measure

Every man has measured how tall he is at one time or another—even though most women will tell you that size is not important. It has nothing to do with your height and little to do with attraction. If genetics provided you with an average or even less than average height, natural selection will not lead to the eventual extinction of your family line.

However, failing to measure the results of your marketing efforts could damage your business. Make sure you have a plan in place to track the number of responses and actual sales any advertisement generates. Compare approaches and you can avoid wasting marketing dollars on duds.

4. Cutting the Budget

The experts keep telling us that the economy is improving. Unemployment is holding steady. Home prices are increasing, and men are buying new underwear. However, we understand that many small businesses are still feeling the pinch of the recessions slow recovery. Unfortunately, when executives tighten their belts, they often slash marketing budgets.

In reality, marketing is the last place any business should cut back—unless they want to go the way of the dodo. When cash flow is slow, you need to reach out to new prospects and retain current customers more than ever. Remember, digital marketing, such as an email campaign, allows you to spend even the tiniest budget more intelligently.

5. Falling for the Con

The floundering economy has given birth to more than the Octomom, Kate Gosselin and Michelle Duggar combined—though rather than babies, it has squeezed thousands of kicking and screaming consultants out of its clown car. You can now find these “professionals” everywhere, proclaiming their sales and marketing prowess with all the finesse of a “Buy Here-Pay Here” used car salesman.

Sure, you might find that some may actually know what they are doing, but fall for the con of one who doesn’t and you’ll have no one to blame but yourself. Always lay out clear expectations regarding costs, timelines and results. Check references and ask about the quality and reliability of delivered work. When in doubt, choose a full service marketing company with a proven track record.

Darwin published his theory of evolution in the 1859 book, On the Origin of Species. Recognized as a preeminent scientist and one of history’s most influential men, England gave him a nobleman’s funeral in 1882 and buried him near Isaac Newton in Westminster Abbey. Today, his name lives on in conjunction with acts of the utmost stupidity in the Darwin Awards. Don’t let your marketing become an award nominee or winner.

Do you ever wonder why when sending an email marketing campaign, or receiving an email from another company, some emails end up in the inbox while others find their way directly to the junk or spam folder?

The most important factor in determining whether your email is marked as spam, and ends up in the junk folder, or goes to your subscriber’s inbox is directly related to your sender and IP reputation. While there are other factors, your IP reputation is inevitably the most important. Sender reputation is directly associated with the IP address of the email server you are using to send your email campaigns. ISP’s (Internet Service Provider) score a sender’s IP address or reputation by assigning a value or score, weighing various factors related to email marketing activity. They then use their own algorithm or scoring metrics to determine your reputation and if your emails will be destined for the inbox, junk folder or simply rejected. In essence, your sender or IP reputation indicates to an ISP the trustworthiness of the source of the email that is being delivered. What constitutes a trustworthy sender will vary from ISP to ISP, so in order to build a strong sender or IP reputation you’ll need to understand all of the factors that ISP’s look at when determining a score and how or if to deliver your email marketing messages at all.

A sender or IP reputation is built over time. Simply setting up a new IP address and sending your emails from it won’t guarantee that your emails will make it to the inbox. Oftentimes clients don’t understand why emails being sent from a brand new IP address would land in the spam or junk folder. Their rational is usually, “This is a brand new IP. The IP reputation can’t be bad. Why would they send all of our emails to the junk folder?”  A brand new IP with no history of email activity is normally regarded as suspicious by the ISP, because they do not know anything about the IP address that is being used to send the emails. You can think about it the same way banks use credit scores. If you have no credit, payment history or credit score, a bank is less likely to give you credit or loan you money. While if you have a good credit history of paying your bills on time and being diligent about your finances, banks are more likely to lend you money or extend you the credit you’re asking for.

What factors are used in determining your sender and IP reputation?

  1. Spam Complaints – How many users click the spam or junk button when receiving your emails? What percentage of recipients complain about the emails they receive from you and your ever so important IP address?
  2. Clean Email Address – Having a list of email addresses that are valid and deliverable are also a key factor in scoring your IP reputation. A quality email list, will in most cases, allow you to deliver your emails to the user’s inbox. Email List Cleaning is extremely important because it stops you from sending to invalid and unwanted emails. Having a high percentage of hard bounces (bad or undeliverable email addresses) is a sure way to let the ISP’s know your list is either old, scrapped, purchased, not optin or simply not maintained. While validating your email list is extremely important, cleaning your email list is equally critical. Sending to spamtraps is a sure way to ensure, even if you did before, you’ll no longer be able to deliver your emails to the users inbox.
  3. Volume of Email being sent – If you normally send to a list of 3,000 emails twice weekly and then decide to buy a list and start sending to 300,000, you’ll normally find out pretty quickly that your emails are being rejected or being sent to the spam folder.
  4. IP Blacklists – Most ISP’s will use some type of external blacklist to see if your IP address is negatively listed for either sending to spam seeds or complaining recipients.
  5. Valid DNS – Ensuring that the DNS is correctly setup for your sending domain and the IP address is validated to allow you to send from it is critical in delivering your emails without any problems. The main DNS records that need to be correctly configured are: A, MX, SPF, Domain Keys (DKIM), and Reverse DNS
  6. Email Content – While the content or keywords in your email is important, most industry experts will agree that it only accounts for approximately 20% of the score determining if an ISP will accept and deliver your email to the inbox or spam folder or outright reject the email being sent.

Conclusion – Delivering your Email Marketing to the Inbox

If you have your domain and IP configured properly in DNS, clean and validate your email lists regularly, send to only optin email addresses of your customers or people who have signed up to receive emails from you and don’t send spammy looking emails that will entice a recipient to click the spam button, you should be OK. Following these basic rules is the framework of any responsible email marketer.