Ensuring your outbound marketing message reaches its targets.
Posted Oct 18, 2004
Email marketing is one of the most successful and cost-effective ways to keep in touch with customers--by creating brand awareness, building customer loyalty, and driving sales.
Companies expend a lot of effort building customer lists for email campaigns. It's frustrating, then, when more than 20 percent of legitimate email industry-wide never hits the inbox. But marketers can take proactive measures to improve the chances their emails will be delivered. The following five steps can immediately increase any organization's open and response rates:
1. Ask to be added to the address book: Outlook 2003 calls it the Safe Sender list and AOL refers to it as People I Know. Either way, asking subscribers to add you to their address book is the best way to get around filters and guarantee your email will be delivered to the inbox. Since subscribers can forget how and when they opted-in to receive email, it's a good idea to remind them with an opening message such as: "You are receiving this email because you opted in to receive our newsletter at xyzco.com. To ensure that you receive future emails, please add email@example.com to your address book or safe sender list." Doing so increases your open rate and reduces the chance that a user will send future emails to the junk mail folder.
2. Maintain consistent "from" information: Once subscribers add your "from" address to their address book, don't change it or your email again will be subject to filtering. Always keep the "from" address and name consistent so your emails will pass through as Safe Senders.
3. Permission and recognition minimize complaints: Generating a high number of complaints from your subscribers at Yahoo!, AOL, or Hotmail increases your chance of ending up in the junk folder. These systems share filtering--each time a subscriber of one service reports your email as spam, your chance of ending up in the junk folder increases for subscribers using any of the services. Make sure you send only to subscribers that have given you explicit permission and know what content to expect.
4. Monitor content: The junk mail filter in Outlook 2003 functions by scanning the content and sender of each message. Avoid overly promotional words and phrases, multiple exclamation points, all-capital letters, and other text often used by spammers.
5. Use a trusted sender: Companies practicing only permission-based email marketing are able to develop "whitelist" relationships with major ISPs. By showing a history of low undeliverable emails (bounces) and low complaint rates, qualified senders can avoid the negative image and link suppression that most senders will encounter. The changes in email software and ISP filtering mechanisms hold many significant challenges for legitimate email marketers. However, those who are aware of features like image suppression and junk folders and respond to these changes accordingly will be able to continue sending email successfully to all major ISPs.
About the Author
Chip House is the vice president of privacy and deliverability for ExactTarget, a leading developer of on-demand outbound email software solutions with more than 2,400 customers. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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