How to eMarket to Your Small Business Customers – Best Practices for Deliverability

Email. The very word itself represents communication coupled with speed. One of the most transforming manifestations in our lifetime. The push of a button transmits our words to a personal target of one, or a larger audience of many. If you’re email marketing to your customers, prospects, members or subscribers, rising postal rates are irrelevant, and there’s no concern for postal permits, bar codes, indicias, or printing and mail house costs.

Therein Lies the Challenge

As you inch across that relationship tightrope in a make or break alliance with your customers – those people you already have a relationship with – email marketing can be a cost-effective and powerful way to building and maintaining the edge you need. It’s not only about cost, however, as it’s also, simply, the most effective channel to remaining in front of this vital audience. That’s what email marketing is all about.

There are caveats, of course, included alongside any innovation and email marketing is no exception. It’s a blessing, certainly, because of its low cost and ease of use to your customers and the rest. But because of its low cost, there’s no limit to what you and every other entity can send. Your customers’ inbox, as a result, is a toxic overload of messages and all are competing with yours. A challenge indeed.

So What to Do?

As you deal with the dilemma of spam filters, there is no doubt that your customers aren’t pleased with an overload of messages for products and services they don’t need. So how do you get your message through to them?

Well, the good news is that your customers want to hear from you. They want value from you so your messages need to be important, well-targeted, and provide a content-rich experience. Plus, there’s the challenge of unequivocal compliance with anti-spam mechanisms. It’s an important integrated mix of elements that need addressing, or else your message to your own customer will be intercepted and spam filter-bound.

Deliverability

By any means, this is not an exclusive rendering, but a few deliverability elements you should initially ponder. There’s nothing here that you haven’t heard before, but as a legitimate eMarketer, give serious consideration to these best practices to improve your overall email marketing effectiveness. Or else!

Permission – I know you know this, but remember to confirm with the people on your list that they’ve actually requested to be on it. When your customers or prospects say they want future email from you, allow them to confirm (or verify) their request. It’s just good practice.

The list – You should regularly remove undeliverable addresses, as Internet Service Providers (ISP) track the percentage of undeliverable emails to certain addresses within a period. They could block other messages if you continue to do the same.

Trusted sender – Encourage your recipients to put your “From Address” into their address book, trusted sender list, or approved sender list. As a trusted sender or contact, your email will be delivered and remain exempt from anti-spam measures.

Language – Stay away from using language and tactics that look like spam to a content-based spam filter (especially in your Subject line).

You should avoid:

a) Spam-like words/phrases such as – free… guarantee… credit card… income… call now, etc.

b) All caps – This dramatically increases the likelihood of being filtered.

c) Certain punctuation – It’s not grammatically correct to begin with, but stop with the !!! and ??? as this tactic can trip the filter.

d) Symbols – If describing currency in your email marketing campaign, use $ and not $$.

CAN-SPAM Compliance – Do a legal review of the January 2004 Federal CAN-SPAM law to ensure your email practices are in compliance.

Frequency – One of email recipients’ biggest complaints is receiving too many emails from the same entity/marketer. If different departments (customer service, research, sales) are sending messages simultaneously, that’s not a good thing.

Expectations – To ease value, importance and frequency objections, tell your intended email recipients what you’ll be sending and how often.

Don’t hide – Your recipient might know your company, but they still need to recognize you. This includes a familiar brand and email “From” line and email address.

Email Service Provider (ESP) – to effectively help with your strategy, manage your data, design your email, and track your results, you should consider using an ESP. Almost needless to say, an ESP, among many other things, for your email marketing program will build legal requirements into their platforms so you don’t have to worry about compliance.

Other -

  • Always include information in your Subject line.
  • Avoid using mostly images in your message.
  • Avoid using attachments as it’s better to link to files via a website.
  • Deliverability and performance metrics will increase if you simply perform list hygiene. It’ll lead to higher deliverability and fewer complaints, and thus, a better reputation.
  • Do not excessively use “Click Here.”

Obviously, no single tip will guarantee your email delivery, but utilizing as a group can certainly help.

Email Best Practices

When your customer/prospect allows you to send them future emails, they do so expecting something of value and that is something you can control. Remember, your subscriber wants email from you but only if it’s interesting and of value to them. They may not react today but soon, as they know good email (that’s in their best interests) from a good company when they see it.

However, even if you succeed and make it to the inbox, if your recipient thinks it’s spam – your address is flagged.

I’ll end with this: Simply, follow email marketing best practices by complying with CAN-SPAM laws… stay cognizant of and put into practice the tips you read here (and elsewhere)… and create overall compelling messages that result in higher inbox deliverability and response.

Fresh technologies will continue to appear, no doubt creating new communication channels to customers. So the rules of customer engagement will continue to change, and you can bet against that at your own risk. But until that next technology arrives, email in all its eclectic glory is ours to command.

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