Sending a new email campaign, can be nerve-wracking, not least because there are increasing pressures on marketers to engage, convert, drive sales and achieve ROI (return on investment).
How will the data behave? How many bounces will be incurred? How many emails will end up in junk? There are these – and many more – obstacles to navigate, before the marketer can even reach the recipient.
After that there are further quandaries – will the subject line capture their attention? Will they open and read the comms? Is it personalised and compelling enough to achieve cut through?
Email may be quick and cost-effective, but it isn’t always easy. So, how can marketers optimise the deliverability of their first email campaign, or a new campaign being distributed to untapped data?
Firstly, it’s important to understand deliverability – the term used to describe how likely an email is to arrive in the correct inbox, instead of being quarantined in a spam folder or, worse still, being rejected by a mail server altogether.
A good deliverability profile is essential, because 87% of consumers do not trust emails that land in ‘junk’ – in fact emails that land in junk are only a fifth as effective as those that successfully reach an inbox. But the dreaded junk folder is a very real problem.
Microsoft (Hotmail), Google (Gmail) and BT have the strictest spam protection policies, and unfortunately these platforms represent approximately 80% of all email users in the UK.
There are a number of factors that influence deliverability. Because there are so many considerations, email isn’t always the ‘quick win’ that many marketers hope.
Marketers who understand email will win, and those who overlook best practice will soon see diminishing returns
But by thinking carefully about these factors, and utilising tech properly to aid the process, marketers can soon nail their email effectiveness.
So which factors need to be taken into account?
The quality of the data
Have the email addresses been qualified? Are they accurate? Is the audience already engaged? A data validation vendor can eliminate potential bad or invalid addresses, as well as known spam traps from the list.
It is also possible to use a new data send server with a different IP pool for previously untapped addresses.
This protects any existing, warmed-up IPs from getting ‘damaged’, by keeping them separate. Warmed-up and/or dedicated IPs should only be used when the marketer is confident that the data is cleansed. That way, a good reputation is built with the receiving ISPs, with less bounces.
Send volumes, frequencies and patterns
By throttling – or staggering – email sends, it is possible to protect and enhance the deliverability profile. So, if the emails don’t need to be distributed urgently, don’t rush to send them all at once.
Begin the distribution activity as slowly as possible, throttling so many per hour, each day, until all contacts have been reached. Avoid any sharp spikes, opting for gradual uplifts where required.
With an intelligent marketing automation platform in place, this needn’t be a difficult or time-consuming process. It is even possible to adopt a custom throttling approach, so that planned and optimised deliverability windows can be created according to the times of day/days of the week that do/don’t perform.
This is another benefit of using a marketing automation partner – if a marketer doesn’t know the most appropriate sending pattern for their sector/audience, this is a benchmark exercise the vendor can carry out.
As the age-old saying goes, ‘first impressions count’. This applies to email too – the email content, aesthetics and responsiveness will all help to set the tone, capture attention and drive engagement.
But there are some specific standards that email content must adhere to too. It should be compliant with the CAN SPAM Act/CASL Act, for example, it must include a valid physical address and an unsubscribe option in the header.
These elements will authenticate the legitimacy of the email in the eyes of the receiver, so should even be applied to plain text emails. This practice is particularly helpful when sending to US/Canadian contacts.
‘From’ and ‘Reply to’ addresses should be accurate and consistent, especially throughout the early stages of a campaign send.
Changing the ‘from’ name from time to time is OK, but separate sender domains are preferable as they help to clarify the type of email being sent.
ISPs are becoming increasingly concerned about domain behaviour, so domain-based segmentation and consistency will help build reputation.
There are some other factors to consider beyond these primary recommendations. For example:
- Data management practices should be implemented to keep on top of bounce suppression and user preferences;
- Mail server configurations should also be monitored to adhere to the latest receiving requirements. DMARC, DKIM, SPF and Domainkeys should also be enabled;
- It’s good practice to include feedback loops, which allows ESPs and recipients to feed concerns back to the sender;
- The quality of code should be monitored, as bad code containing links to black-listed sites can impact on deliverability;
- Continually monitor your IP credibility score (with senderscore.org).
It sounds like there’s a lot to take in, and, admittedly, there are many elements to a truly brilliant email campaign. But, inbox protection is getting smarter by the day, so marketers who understand email will win, and those who overlook best practice will soon see diminishing returns.