Our compliance and deliverability team is pretty busy dealing with the dark side of email marketing, but from time-to-time they do find time to share their thoughts. These are their stories.
Good morning, good afternoon and good evening. Before we begin, we want to be crystal clear on one major point.
If you have bought your list, got it from a third party source or even if it just magically appeared on your computer, throw it away and read the following.
There, with that out of the way, now back to your regularily scheduled post.
Email Marketing Delivery Tips: Cleaning Up Your Act
So you've got a list of your customers, or maybe a list of people who signed up for that newsletter or "special offer" you keep meaning to send.
Perhaps you've got a list you've been sending emails to for years, but you aren't happy with the performance.
Obviously, you really want to reach and convert all these contacts, but you just can't seem to make it work.
After all, these are people who have given you their permission to contact them about your products and/or services.
So, what can you do?
There are a number of things that any email marketer can do to improve their performance.
The most successful marketers already do just about everything that will be touched on in this post.
For the most part, everything is easy to implement but it takes time and a bit of a commitment going forward.
Let us start by looking at your key asset, your opt-in list data.
Working With Your Existing Data
Building & Keeping A Clean Opt-In Email List
It starts with collection.
When you collect your list data, you should, at a minimum, include the date that the address was added to your database. Most database software has an easy way to add an automatic added date to a row.
If you use a web form to collect data, you should also record the IP address that the email was added from, and the URL of the page they were added from. This is important for a number of reasons. Most importantly, if you have this information, and anyone ever accuses you of sending unsolicited email to them, you have a clear, reasonable answer to their complaint.
Having an added date is important because the older the data is, the less likely it is to be beneficial to your marketing efforts. Sign up confirmation dates can be used in conjunction with subscriber activity metrics to remove low-quality data from your lists before they become a delivery issue. In some countries, permission to contact a user via email can expire, so this can also be used to run re-opt in campaigns, to re-engage and re-activate your old subscribers.
If you're planning to send to customers, or users who create an account with your service, make sure you're clear about what they might receive when they sign up. If you are using emails collected from an account creation form, there should be an unchecked option to receive your newsletter. Don't make the assumption that users want your newsletters just because they've created an account. Better yet, never assume anything when it comes to signups.
This will further target your list and give you more options for delivering content to the users who want it. Use these forms to set expectations, and include information nearby about how often you send, and what they will receive (Eg: Sign up for our MONTHLY newsletter).
Keep in mind as well that not all web forms imply that a user is granting you permission to send them marketing messages or newsletters. A "contact us" form is a great example of something that is often misused. A contact us form (that doesn't have a "send me your newsletter check-box" is NOT an opt-in form. These customers should only be contacted in relation to the question or comment they made through the form.
Of course, they can be given the opportunity to subscribe to your newsletter in your return message, but if they decline or don't ask to for continued information, they should not be added to your marketing lists.
One big temptation to avoid for smaller businesses is sending to your daily address book. People who you've had personal contact with are not opt-in contacts. Some may very well be interested in your product, but some people on this list could be contacts who have no direct relation or interest in your company.
Any support technician you've ever dealt with, your web-host, and even your Grandmother are all people who might be in your address book for reason unrelated to your business. If you really think that there are some good leads in your address book that haven't contacted you via other means, reach out to them directly and ask them to sign up.
If you are still intent on sending your email to your personal address book, make sure you scrub it first. By scrubbing, we mean, no dead email addresses and the most recent contact info you have. Address books can get very old and dusty, so please clean it up first.
You won't have any opt-in proof for these users, so you need to be sure that the ones you're sending messages to will know who you are and why they are getting your emails. If you haven't got any of the above information for your existing subscribers, start collecting it now.
Whew! Let us recap.
- Collect signup dates
- Collect IP addresses of users
- Collect URL's of registration
- Add (unchecked) options to your forms for users to receive marketing
- Set expectations at registration
- Send email to users who don't know who you are
- Send email to your address book (without a lot of thought ahead of time)
- Send email to people who used a simple "Contact Us" form
There you have it, email marketing delivery tips to help you clean up your act.
For more tips and answers when it comes to compliance and deliverability, take a look at our FAQ or older blog posts.