Maximizing Deliverability

3 Steps to Launching a Successful Winback Program

Now that the holiday season is over and we are all getting back into the normal swing of things, a lot of digital marketing folks are beginning to look at their email marketing lists and trying to figure out how to winback some customers who haven’t engaged with them a while. This is a common challenge across the industry, and I have heard many different recommendations from a number of experts in the field.

There are a number of steps you can take to prep for these types of programs and help ensure a successful campaign to win back your customers. While the creative and actual messaging is essential for a successful program, it's important to remember that all your efforts in those areas won’t matter one bit if you don’t put in the effort on the front end.

These three steps will help you prepare for this year’s big win-back campaign.

1. Determine What an Inactive Customer Means to You
If you're advising a client on a winback program, don't make the common mistake of making suggestions before you completely understanding their business model. It is extremely important to carefully examine their customer lifecycle and go backwards.

I will often hear experts say that if someone hasn’t opened or clicked on a message in 3 to 6 months (or some other arbitrary date range), you should simply remove them from your list. While this might be a decent starting point for the masses, I believe you could be missing out on some valuable customers. Let’s say for example that you send a monthly newsletter.  Are you only going to give the person three opportunities to engage with you before you start asking them to come back? In their minds, maybe they never left and were just busy working on some high-level projects that prevented them from focusing on the information you have sent them.

2. Examine the Content You Are Sending Them
If there's one term that has been repeatedly drilled into my head more than any other in the many years I've been in this industry, it's "relevancy."  If you are not sending your customers relevant offers and information, how can you expect them to be engaged with your brand and marketing campaigns? Take a look back at the last 6-12 months and see if your campaigns are still offering your customers something that they can’t get somewhere else. Is the information that you are sharing with them meaningful and important to them, or are you simply sending everyone the same offers with no regard for past engagement?

3. Don’t Send Win-Back Emails from the Same System as Your “Master” List
One of the most important things to think about and prepare for when creating a re-engagement campaign is to make sure you have a separate IP for sending these messages. Because of the nature of the campaign, you are likely to see a higher than usual unknown user and complaint rate. By creating a separate sub-domain and sending off of a separate IP, you are less likely to negatively affect the rest of your email marketing messages.

After you've taken the three steps above, it is time to focus on the messaging, creative and potential special offers you are going to employ to get your customers engaged with your brand again. Remember, doing the work on the frontend will save you time and agony on the backend.

One final note: when creating a re-engagement program, make sure to not overwhelm your customers with too many messages. If they have already become inactive for whatever reason, continuing to send them more and more mail is not going to get them to come back. In fact it will likely cause them to mark all of your messages as spam, which would be worse than simply losing them as a customer.

A well-planned and executed winback campaign is certainly worth the effort, and these three steps will help get you started.

Good Luck and Good Sending.

Posted by: Spencer Kollas at 2:32 PM
Categories: email marketing, win-back

7 Tips for Cleaning Up Your Email Lists for 2012

As we head into 2012, you should take a close look at your email marketing and list hygiene practices to make sure that you are maintaining a good sender reputation and maximizing deliverability. Good list hygiene combined engaging emails and sender authentication will help you build a solid email reputation with your top ISPs.  

List hygiene may not be the most exciting aspect of email marketing, but it is essential for good deliverability. Simply follow the seven tips below to get your lists in order for the New Year.

1. Scrub Your Lists Regularly. Keep your email lists clean by regularly running them against a register of known bad domains and removing duplicate addresses and role accounts. You can automate the latter by adding “info@*,” “sales@*,” and other common addresses to your suppression list. Your email system may also enable you to automatically suppress bad domains and role-based distribution lists.

2. Remove Bad Domains. Bad domains should be removed immediately. Closely review your failure reports, identify bad addresses and evaluate whether they are the result of a data capture problem or a non-existent domain.

3. Review Data Capture Processes– List hygiene starts with collecting good data. Make sure your sign-up forms prompt users to fix incorrect email address or syntax errors before they are submitted.

4. Actively Manage Hard and Soft Bounces – In addition to having established policies for automatically removing hard-bounced addresses due to bad addresses and unknown users, you should have similar policies for removing soft bounces after a pre-determined number of consecutive failures.

5. Promptly Remove Unsubscribes – Don’t wait the 10 days allowed by CAN-SPAM to process unsubscribes. Remove unsubscribed addresses immediately to avoid users hitting the “this is spam” button and damaging your sender reputation.

6. Mark Inactive Addresses for Reengagement – Transfer inactive addresses to another list that is designed to reengage them.  A good rule of thumb for identifying inactives is no more than 12 months – but 6 months can be preferable depending on factors related to the seasonality of your business.

7. Sign Up for Feedback Loops and Whitelists – Sign up for available feedback loops at your top ISPs to monitor the number of spam complaints generated from your mailings. Similarly, maximize your inbox delivery by signing up for whitelists offered by ISPs and other providers.

Consider these tips when looking to improving your email marketing and overall list hygiene to streamline practices going into the future.

Learn about other email deliverability solutions we provide at StrongView.

Posted by: Spencer Kollas at 2:55 PM
Categories: email marketing, email, tips, list hygiene, sender reputation

Email Marketing Gurus! The EEC Needs You

As a member of the EEC, I am an active member in a number of their groups, including the Speaker Bureau and the Deliverability Roundtable. Both of these email marketing groups have some fantastic people involved in them, but we can always use more. So take the time, become a member, and enjoy getting to know your fellow email experts and help drive the industry in the direction of the future.

For more information, please go to the Speaker Bureau and Deliverability pages. Make sure to check out any others you might be interested in as well.

Learn about other email deliverability solutions we provide at StrongView.

Posted by: Spencer Kollas at 12:28 PM
Categories: email marketing, industry groups, , deliverabilty

Email Deliverability News: Hotmail Addresses 'Graymail,' Flags and One-Click Unsubs

Email marketing success is dependent on many things, not the least of which is addressing the latest innovations and changes to major email services…and Hotmail certainly qualifies as a major email service.

Just recently Microsoft announced some major changes to what their webmail services like Hotmail will look like and how users will interact with their email moving forward. One of the biggest reasons Microsoft made these changes was because they realized that getting rid of true spam was not enough. They understand that many people report legitimate emails, such as newsletters, offer campaigns and even notifications. Users might do this for a number of possible reasons

  1. They no longer want to receive the email and do not trust the unsubscribe links
  2. They feel it is easier to check a large number of emails at once and mark them as spam rather than going into each email and unsubscribing.

Microsoft calls this type of mail graymail, and they have created new ways to help users organize their inbox and remove the clutter. Previously Microsoft had implemented the “Sweep” feature which allowed customers to automatically move specific emails to different folders. They have now taken that technology a step further by creating a specific "Newsletter" folder where they will automatically put newsletters it delivered to users.

Another item that will potentially change the graymail issue is the implementation of the one-click unsubscribe. By utilizing this process, Microsoft will ask you if you want to unsubscribe from the mailing. Microsoft will then respond to the marketer notifying them to remove the user from future mailings. For any mailings received from the marketer after this process was put in place, the mailings will be automatically sent to the Junk folder as a way to address this complication with email deliverability.

Finally, another change that Microsoft has implemented is the ability to flag emails. Much like Gmail’s labels, or Outlook's flags, this functionality allows users to no longer have to mark messages at unread in order to go back and follow up on items but create flags in order to help them better organize their messages in their inbox.

As a marketer, these changes should not change your approach to your email marketing campaigns. As we have always said at StrongView, it is all about relevancy. If your campaigns are not relevant to your users, you will not see the returns you are looking for. But if your customers find your campaigns relevant they will look for those emails no matter where they land within their mailboxes.

In addition to email deliverability news found here, you can also stay connected to the Email Marketing Insights Blog for more of the latest news in email marketing.

Learn about other email deliverability solutions we provide at StrongView.

Posted by: Spencer Kollas at 5:19 PM
Categories: email marketing, deliverability, hotmail, graymail

Factors Affecting Deliverability

In my latest iMedia Connection article, I address the misperceptions that some ESPs give when it comes to promising high deliverability. The fact of the matter is that the capabilities offered by an email marketing solution provider are only part of the equation. You can have the best deliverability technology in the world to power your email, and then get blocked at major ISPs by blasting a campaign out to an unqualified list you just happened to find lying around.

Of course, having an email marketing solution provider that has the technology and the deliverability services to help you follow through with best practices is the best scenario. Read my article for more information on the topic:

Posted by: Spencer Kollas at 6:27 PM
Categories: ESP, deliverability, email marketing

Happier Holidays Begin Now

Here is a great article from our friends at Return Path that I wanted to share with everyone in case you don't receive their emails.

Happier Holidays Begin Now
By Margaret Farmakis
Senior Director, Response Consulting, Return Path

It's that time of year again. If you're an email marketer, you're probably not thinking about hosting a back yard BBQ or staking out a spot on your favorite beach. Your head (and your company's bottom line) is much more focused on what's going to be in Santa's sleigh this year and how you can use email to ensure that your customers will be decking their halls with your products this holiday season.

Most email marketers plan their holiday strategy in the summer, and this year is no different. However, this year does bring with it a greater set of challenges. The current economic climate is stagnant at best. While the financial pundits predict signs of an upturn any day now, that hasn't translated to consumer spending. Purse strings are tight and marketers are going to have to work harder than ever this year to stand out from the rest of the holiday inbox clutter, resonate with their customers and provide relevant messaging that encourages brand loyalty and purchasing activity.

So what can a forward-thinking marketer do? The first step is to break free from the same type of "Free Shipping" messaging that was sent last year (and possibly the year before that, and the year before that). While discounts and savings are certainly relevant this year, sending the same one-dimensional messaging throughout the holiday season will only lead to subscriber fatigue (and possibly opt-outs and complaints) and won't differentiate your brand from the competition. Instead, consider implementing these tips to help you stand out:

If you don't know what your subscribers want to receive from you this holiday season, ask! The pre-holiday season (basically now through early October) is a great time to send out a subscriber survey that gives you insight into how you can really resonate with your subscribers this holiday season. What did they like (or not like) about your emails last year, in terms of content, offers, and frequency? What do they need the most help with? How much are they planning to spend, and on who? How can you help get them into the holiday shopping spirit? Offering an incentive (like an entry into a holiday contest, prize give-away or a coupon code) could improve response rates, and once you've received answers and feedback, be sure to actually use this data to make adjustments to your email program strategy.

Count down the season with a special holiday series. Ask subscribers for permission to send a new gift-giving series. Send the series once a day for a week or once a week for a month. Content can include gift ideas for her, for him, for the kids, for a budget ($50 and below), for the hard-to-shop-for friend or family member, or feature non-traditional gifts or eco-friendly items. Track sign-up rates and subscriber behavior across the series. Do all messages in the series perform well? Which ones get the most clicks and conversions? Which categories generate the most interest? The least? Start promoting the series in your fall campaigns and make it easy to sign-up for. Be sure that you set clear expectations about what subscribers will be getting, when they'll get it and for how long.

Give a little something extra. While sending email is first and foremost about driving sales, show your subscribers that you can still embrace the true meaning of the holiday season. Inspire them to tap into their holiday spirit and connect with friends and family by featuring extra helpings of content in at least one promotion a week. Consider sending a favorite cookie recipe (and give subscribers a forum for sharing theirs), instructions for a family-friendly craft idea, how subscribers can start a new holiday tradition, ideas for festive activities, or a how-to guide for hosting a great party or mixing the perfect cocktail.

The options are endless, and a little content (a few bulleted tips, a short checklist, a three-step guide) will go a long way to ensuring that your subscribers appreciate (and anticipate) your messages in their inbox this holiday season.

Posted by: Spencer Kollas at 9:50 AM
Categories: Return Path, email marketing, email strategy, strategy

Liberal Shift May Assure Net Neutrality


Liberal shift may assure Net neutrality

By Michael Geist
Toronto Star
Jun 22, 2009


Last Thursday began as an ordinary, rainy spring day in Ottawa. Canadian politicians, having just avoided an unwanted election, were only two days away from an extended summer break.

Yet by the end of the day, a trio of events unfolded that could help shape the Internet in Canada for years to come.

The first took place mid-morning, with the introduction of new lawful access legislation.

The bills would dramatically change the Internet in Canada, requiring Internet service providers to install new surveillance capabilities, force them to disclose subscriber information such as name, address and email address without a court order, as well as grant police broad new powers to obtain Internet transmission data.

The introduction of the legislation by Justice Minister Rob Nicholson and Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan – accompanied by more than a dozen law enforcement representatives –generated an immediate wave of criticism.

Internet service providers expressed concern about the cost of the program, while privacy groups lamented the government's about-face on the issue of court oversight since Stockwell Day, the previous public safety minister, had pledged not to introduce mandated disclosure of subscriber information without it.

Given the experience with misuse of surveillance powers in other countries, the bill will likely continue to attract attention as Canadians ask whether the government has struck the right balance between providing law enforcement with the necessary investigative powers, ensuring robust oversight, and preserving online privacy.

Hours later, the scene shifted to question period, where Liberal Industry critic Marc Garneau surprised Internet watchers by emphasizing the importance of an open Internet and declaring that the Liberal party now firmly supports net neutrality. The party has adopted a position opposing the management of Internet traffic that infringes privacy and targets specific websites, users and legitimate business applications.

The move represents an unexpected shift in policy direction just weeks before the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission is scheduled to conduct hearings on network management practices. For months, the NDP has stood virtually alone among the major Canadian political parties in its support for web neutrality.

With the Liberals onside, the door is open for a bipartisan effort this fall to enshrine net neutrality principles into law.

Immediately after Question Period, the standing committee on industry held its final hearing before the break on the Electronic Commerce Protection Act, Canada's new anti-spam bill. Some business groups have sought to water down the legislative proposal, implausibly arguing that Canadian privacy law is sufficient to address persistent spamming activities and that the ECPA's tough penalties could dissuade talented business leaders from taking on corporate directorship positions for fear of potential liability.

Representatives from the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada and the Competition Bureau and CRTC chairman Konrad von Finckenstein firmly put those fears to rest. Assistant Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Denham rejected the view that current privacy laws are up to the task of countering Canadian spam and welcomed the clarity of the anti-spam bill.

Von Finckenstein was similarly supportive of the ECPA, expressing optimism about its potential to address long-standing spam concerns.

These issues – lawful access, net neutrality and the ECPA – will be back on the parliamentary agenda in the fall. But on a single day all three moved to the fore with big implications for the Internet in Canada.

Posted by: Spencer Kollas at 7:40 AM
Categories: ECPA, Electronic Commerce Protection Act, NDP, canada, email marketing, legislation, spam

SORBS Blacklist shutting down

As of July 20, 2009, the SORBS blacklist will no longer be available.

Posted by: Spencer Kollas at 8:47 AM
Categories: SORBS, Spam, blacklist, email marketing

Good Article on List Size

An interesting article from Chip House today on how fewer subscribers can help your marketing revenue:

Posted by: Spencer Kollas at 6:35 AM
Categories: email marketing, email strategy, email subscribers

Canada Bill has Key Differences from CAN-SPAM

Here is an interesting article from Ken Magill about a new bill in Canada and how if it passes into law the differences that US-based senders will need to consider:

Posted by: Spencer Kollas at 1:35 PM
Categories: CAN-SPAM, Canada, Email marketing, regulation, spam