Email Marketing Best Practices

Why Add-to-Address book instruction is very important in your email communication?

You might have seen in the email newsletters you receive that there is a message at the top asking you  “please add our sender address info@xyz.com to your address book”. Do you know the importance of this message?

It is known that ISPs like yahoo, gmail, hotmail, and etc. have spam filters which will filter mails from reaching your inbox.  These junk or spam filters as often called run a variety of algorithms to check if the mail is needed by you and hence should be put in inbox. If not, they should be placed in junk or spam folder thereby saving your time and botheration.

These spam or junk filters work on message content, sender’s reputation, and your own actions on such messages in the past based on who sent it, subject line of the message, or whether the sender id of the message is in your address book etc.These filters sometime give higher priority to your actions than their generic rules.

Moreover some ISPs like Yahoo and AOL display images in the messages automatically if the sender address is in your address book. Spam email killer Services like Boxbee which works with several ISPs automatically deliver emails to inbox, if the message sender address is in your address book, else the mail will end up either in junk or spam folder.

Gmail spam filter work on how do you interact with the sender message in the past from opening, clicking, responding to the message and seeing the sender address in your address book or contact list to prioritize the message delivery to inbox vis-a-vis to junk or spam folder.

Understanding these issues, most of the smart marketers today have a strong call to action to advice their customers to add their sender address to their address books, so that their messages will be seen more in inbox.  The customers can then take subsequent actions of opening and clicking.

However there is a bigger challenge in educating the customers on how to add the sender address to their address books or contact lists. Each of the ISPs has their own ways to adding the sender address to the address book or contact list.

Kenscio Digital has come with an exhaustive guide to assist customers to add the sender address to the address book or contact list.  Click the link below to find the detailed instructions.  Marketers can insert this link in the message to advice their customers on how to add their sender address to their address book or contact list.

http://www.kenscio.com/whitelist-safe-sender-instructions.php

Also, if you find email from senderaddress@senderdomain.com in your spam or junk folder, please take that opportunity to tell your mail program that it is not spam by hitting the “not spam”, “not junk” or similar button, as that will train your program to whitelist it.

Happy inboxing!

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Bootstrap: Right email marketing strategies

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Make some killer sales this “Holi”

Spike in search for "Holi"

 

As we can clearly see that, there is an obvious spike in the search for “Holi” across India. So the first question is that are you putting Holi in your subject lines, if not you could- attracts more clicks and opens in this week.

The next thing is that who all it will work for?

 

 

 

The top spike is seen in Bihar Jamshedpur and Patna

 

 

 

Rajasthan-Jaipur and Udaipur come second

 

 

 

 

Gurgaon shows a great volume of searches

Gurgaon comes third and follows the rest of the northern states like Delhi, UP, Punjab, and States like Gujarat, Assam, Madhya Pradesh. Surprisingly the other states did not seem to have much traction about the festival- well none of them are actively looking for the things that they would want to do or, looking at things related to Holi. There could be multiple reasons for it- this time Holi is coming on a weekday being one of it, or, it comes right in the middle of the exam season for them.

Well beside all the factors and after analyzing the results with last year people are eagerly waiting for Holi messages in their mail boxes and Facebook walls. However, this year as there are more smart marketers :) the empowered consumer is looking beyond elementary propositioning- So dont just write Holi Celebrations or, XY% off on Holi or, any such vague lines. Discuss it with your Client Success Manager or , just tell them what you want to sell or, what inventory is in excess this season ;).

For other marketers who are serious about their business but yet not with us- There is no excuse for missing an opportunity or, a bad job.

Things to consider:

  • What is a number of audience that fall in the category of states mentioned above?
  • Are they male or, female?
  • What are the cultural factors that affect their decisions?
  • What do you want them to feel reading you subject line?
  • And last but the most importantly why your Holi message?
So go ahead and make some killers sales this festive season :).
P.S. Holi also falls on international Women’s day.

 

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What is a DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) Signature? Why it is required for your mailing server infrastructure?

DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail) is a possibility to make an email sender more easily identifiable for the email service providers (ESPs) who receive and filter email. The message is identified by the domain it is sent from, that is, the part of the address after the @.

If the delivery address differs from that that has been registered with the DNS server (Domain Name Server), there is an increased likelihood that the email will be classified as Spam by the email service provider.

DKIM signatures are created, in consultation with you, when your Kenscio mailing system is first set up. The DKIM signatures may differ from the actual domains of your Kenscio mailing system.

Example:

The domain of your Kenscio mailing system is:
news.mybrand.com

You send email messages using the domains:
@mybrand.com
@mybrand.in

The sender domains @mybrand.com and @mybrand.in must be registered with the DNS server. The registered domains should be the domains used for sendout.

This means that, if possible, all domains that will be used for email sendout should receive DKIM signatures.

The part of the address before the @ can be freely set (eg. newsletter@mybrand.com, orders@mybrand.com). This part of the address is not a part of the DKIM signature.

Hint:
If you would like to add a DKIM signature to more sendout domains, or if you need information about which of your domains already have the DKIM signature, please contact your Kenscio representative.

The sendout process with a DKIM signature (simplified):

The sender (that is, the domains) are registered with the DNS server. A special encrypted signature is created that makes these domains clearly identifiable.

During email sendout, the signature and sender information are embedded in the email header.

When an email provider receives an email that contains a DKIM signature, it obtains the key to decipher the signature from the DNS server.

If the sender is correctly identified by the DKIM signature, this increases the chances of delivery in the inbox.

If the DKIM signature does not match the sender identity, the email is probably marked as Spam.

Advantages

The primary advantage for e-mail recipients is it allows the signing domain to reliably identify a stream of legitimate email, thereby allowing domain-based blacklists and whitelists to be more effective. This is also likely to make some kinds of phishing attacks easier to detect.

Use with spam filtering

DKIM is a method of labeling a message, and it does not itself filter or identify spam. However, widespread use of DKIM can prevent spammers from forging the source address of their messages, a technique they commonly employ today. If spammers are forced to show a correct source domain, other filtering techniques can work more effectively. In particular, the source domain can feed into a reputation system to better identify spam. Conversely, DKIM can make it easier to identify mail that is known not to be spam and need not be filtered. If a receiving system has a whitelist of known good sending domains, either locally maintained or from third party certifiers, it can skip the filtering on signed mail from those domains, and perhaps filter the remaining mail more aggressively.

Anti-Phishing

DKIM can be useful as an anti-phishing technology. Mailers in heavily phished domains can sign their mail to show that it is genuine. Recipients can take the absence of a valid signature on mail from those domains to be an indication that the mail is probably forged. The best way to determine the set of domains that merit this degree of scrutiny remains an open question; DKIM will likely have an optional feature called ADSP that lets authors that sign all their mail self-identify, but the effectiveness of this approach remains to be tested.

Working with eBay and PayPal, Google has effectively utilized DKIM in GMail in such a way that any e-mail that claims to be coming from ebay.com or paypal.com will not be accepted at all if they cannot be verified successfully with DKIM. Such messages won’t even appear in the Spam folder.

Feedback Loops (FBLs)

Most of the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) like gmail, yahoo, hotmail and etc. now demand the Email Service Providers (ESPs) to set up DKIM for the sending mailing infrastructure in order that they receive a copy of a message that one of their subscribers has reported as spam — usually by hitting a “report spam” button in that ISP’s mail interface. Feedback Loop recipients are generally expected to remove any subscriber from their mailing lists to prevent similar “spam complaints” — but the core requirement is simply that they fix whichever problems within their network caused the complaints.

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Have you heard about Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance (DMARC)?

Have you heard about DMARC?

Last week, a group of some of the largest email service providers (Gmail, Yahoo, AOL), together with organizations like Facebook and Paypal, jointly announced the release of a new method of email authentication. The new standard, called DMARC, is a way for email senders and receivers to better work together to increase email security by protecting email recipients from malicious phishing attacks and domain spoofing.

How does it work?

Essentially, email senders can now publish a DMARC record that indicates

1. which authentication tests they have in place (i.e. DKIM, SPF) and

2. what action the email service provider should undertake when an incoming email fails these tests (i.e. spam folder or outright rejection).

This provides the mailbox provider with greater certainty about the origin and identity of messages, thus taking the guesswork out of filtering incoming email. The mailbox provider sends a report back to the email sender containing information about all incoming emails claiming to be from that sender, and whether or not they were actually delivered to recipients.

What are the implications for Kenscio clients?

There are no immediate consequences for clients who do not yet have a DMARC record in place. However, given the size and importance of the players involved in the development of this standard (Gmail! Facebook!), its consequences on the email industry are likely to be of growing importance.

The new standard provides many clear benefits, especially for Kenscio clients where data security is a high priority, such as banks. However, in effect any company can benefit from publishing a DMARC record, if for no other reason than to receive the DMARC reports, which provide visibility and information about a domain’s email and any potential authentication issues.

We are currently beta-testing this with selected client systems, to get a better understanding about the impact this has. Also note, there are some circumstances in which it will not be possible to support DMARC (multi-domain systems, in some cases personalized from-addresses).

What is DMARC?

DMARC stands for Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance. DMARC is a new  technical specification that was created in order to help reduce email abuse, especially Phishing attacks. DMARC standardizes how email receivers perform email authentication using the existing SPF and DKIM mechanisms.

When a sender publishes a DMARC policy, the sender clearly indicates to the mailbox provider whether the sender’s emails are protected by SPF and/or DKIM. The sender also specifically tells the mailbox provider what to do if an incoming email fails the SPF and DKIM authentication tests – i.e.  block the message or divert it to the spam folder. The mailbox provider  no longer has to guess how to respond to incoming mail that fails authentication tests, because DMARC clearly tells the mailbox provider  how to handle such messages. Furthermore, the mailbox provider can report back to the email sender about whether incoming emails pass or fail the evaluation process.

As a result of DMARC, email senders will experience consistent authentication results for their messages at AOL, Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo! and any other email receiver implementing DMARC.

How does it work?

DMARC

A DMARC policy for a particular sender is published in the DNS as text (TXT) resource records (RR).

When the mailbox provider receives an incoming mail, it checks the results of the SPF and DKIM tests. It also accesses the DMARC policy for that sender. This policy defines what an email receiver should do with incoming mail when that mail does not pass the SPF and DKIM tests.

If the mailbox provider  determines that the results of the SPF and DKIM authentication tests do not correspond to the standards of the published DMARC, it either rejects the incoming message or categorize it as spam, depending on the instructions of the sender as defined in the DMARC. In DMARC terms, this is referred to as a “non-aligned” email.

The mailbox provider reports back to the email sender about all non-aligned incoming emails.

Important Information

DMARC focuses its analysis on the domain in the “from address”. This identifier is used in conjunction with the results of the underlying authentication technologies (at the moment SPF and DKIM).

The most critical factor is that the domain used for DKIM and SPF must have the same “organisation domain” as the domain in the “from address”.

With DMARC, there is essentially no difference between an email signed with the wrong DKIM and an email with no DKIM signature! (For more information on DKIM, please see DKIM signature).

Using DMARC: Set-up steps

If you are interested in creating and publishing a DMARC policy for your Kenscio’s eC-m system, please contact your Kenscio representative. The DMARC policy for your system will be created together with our team of dedicated, in-house deliverability experts.

The basic steps for setting up a DMARC process for your system are:

1. It is first necessary to have DKIM and/or SPF policies in place!
2. Publish a DMARC record indicating which policies you use and requesting reports from mailbox provider.
3. Analyze the data and modify your mail streams as appropriate.
4. Gradually modify your DMARC policy flags from “monitor” to “quarantine” to “reject” to improve control.

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ISPs doesn’t care about your SenderScore Certification, if they find your bulk mails doesn’t conform to their standards

I have subscribed to Groupon mailers.  They are using one of the top tier Email Service Providers in USA, and got Sender Score certification from Return Path.  According to Return Path, the IPs are having an excellent sender score and Acceptance.

Even though Groupon use double opt-in policies, why is gmail putting some of their mailers in spam folder?  A little more investigation provides some suspected issues within their mailing policies.

There are a large number of spam complaints in gmail for Groupon mailers. This makes Gmail to know that Groupon is either not sending relevant mailers to their subscribers or their unsubscriptions are not being honored promptly. Groupon is also not collecting the frequency of mailers that their subscribers want to receive or their subscribers don’t care to fill it up. This will result in list fatigue and their subscribers instead of unsubscribing, they are finding easier to complain spam!

A large of unknown users also indicate that Groupon is sending mail to subscribers without knowing their email behavior, whether the subscriber is active or inactive. This also explains the reason why Groupon is hitting spam traps with ISPs.

ISPs are using better and smarter algorithms now a days to classify bulk emails based on their own proprietary techniques.  They are relying lesser and lesser on third party certifications like Return Path and others.

Hence ESPs and bulk email marketers have to better adhere to ISPs guidelines and ever changing policies. ESPs are to be better knowledgeable about the ISPs regulations and provide their clients with best practices and guidelines from time to time to better their ROI.

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The “do not reply” Paradox in email communication

I like surveys, more than surveys I like to share my opinion.

The other day I came across an email asking me to fill in a questionnaire. As I read through the mail, I reached the footer that opened with “Please do not reply to this email”. This completely put me off.

Email marketers fight for a very competitive inbox space. Even with the most engaged email list; email marketer can hardly think of obtaining 100% subscribers attention all the time. In other words emails sent to even  engaged subscribers are often left unread.

When email marketing is referred to as Interactive digital marketing, It beats me why some email marketers would cut interactions with their subscribers with a do not reply message. If anything they should encourage people to reply. This is valuable feedback and the best part is; it comes for free!

Some people might counter this with arguments on scale of mails sent, lack of resources, etc. Email communication is not a one way mass communication. It is a direct digital communication that needs to be interactive in nature.  I don’t think there is any excuse valid enough for trying to ignore replies.

Incoming mails can be easily filtered and sorted by mail clients. Furthermore, ticketing systems can scan messages and even automatically respond to general queries or redirect people to a FAQ section. If it is a long reply and cannot be automatically responded to, may be it is worthwhile to have it read by a person! The interactivity could be made even simple by letting the subscribers answer to a set of choices, which makes the marketers job simple to find the trends of their subscribers.

A two way interaction / conversation ensures an on going dialogue and an on going dialogue ensures sustainable success of email marketing campaigns.

Do not reply message and donotreply@ email addresses suggest you don’t really care about your subscribers and that your communication flows one way. Such marketers usually end up with unengaged subscribers, or worse subscribers put an end to their subscription.

 

 

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Amit Sarna promoted as the New AVP Client Success- Kenscio Digital Marketing Pvt Ltd

Kenscio has promoted Amit Sarna to the position of Associate Vice President Client Success effective 12th December 2011. The Board of Directors voted unanimously to elevate  Amit’s position recognising his tireless efforts in all aspects of his responsibilities.

Mr. Amit Sarna joined the organisation by the end of 2009 as an Account Director in Delhi. He played a very crucial role in getting multiple accounts for the company and proved himself as a strong player for the companies success. Mr. Sarna came to Kenscio with a vast experience of running his own SEO company and a lot of exposure in Account Management working with Sify and Mahindra Intertrade. Mr. Sarna is an engineer and holds a Post Graduation degree in Management.

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Found a Crystal Ball yet?

If you are an email marketer you might have started to believe in destiny. With ISPs headstrong to tighten their policies for bulk senders, rubbing the good ol crystal ball and hoping for the best might seem like a good option. We don’t know much about crystal balls but can sure share some good practices that can help you control the destiny of your email communication.

Gmail has listed a set of guidelines and best practices for Email Marketers, when followed should yield favorable results.

Guidelines for Email Marketers

“The way Gmail classifies spam depends heavily on reports from our users. Gmail users can mark and unmark any message as spam, at any time. To increase the inbox delivery rate of your messages, make sure that all recipients on your distribution lists actually want to receive the mail.” – GMAIL

Presuming you do everything by the book i.e. ensure users opt-in to receive your messages, honor un-subscription, follow the best practices for HTML design, monitor bounces, and ensure your subscribers engage with you and so on; you should not need a crystal ball (or Aladdin’s lamp for that matter). That being said, you can request your faithful subscribers to white-list you!

Being white-listed by subscribers ensures:

1. Your mails almost always lands in their in-boxes.

2. Your reputation with ISPs is significantly improved, so consequently your deliverability improves even for the subscribers who have not white-listed you.

We have listed a set of step by step instructions that you can email to your subscribers and request them to white-list you:

White-Listing Instructions

To ensure the success of this exercise you may consider offering incentives!

 

To learn more feel free to get in touch.

Geetika@kenscio.com

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Timing is everything !

Our friends in the Indian eCommerce space are gung ho about the current boom !  Never before have so many Indians – both in India and overseas filled up their shopping carts and proceeded to check out. Never have Call to Action buttons seen so much action.

 

Which brings us to one of the most important communication vehicles these propositions ride on……….daily mailers!

 

Digital direct marketing communication – your one on ones with potential buyers are not  as easy as ABC, but if you have been following our blog, you would’ve picked up the juiciest bits on email template best practices  and  set up a fantastic email template. You know the importance of deliverability and other success metrics and you are sure your recipients are definitely receiving your email campaigns….there’s just one more question you need to ask yourself…. are they reading them?

 

Some of the key considerations which email marketers must take into mind while creating a “read & respond”  campaign are:

 

  • Relevance:  making the content relevant to each recipient. If a recipient knows that when your brand arrives in their inbox, this email is definitely something they have expressed an interest in and want to read, they will act on that.
  • Segmentation: The best way to implement relevance is to effectively segment your database so you know what your customers are interested in and therefore what content will be the most relevant. You read a lot more on relevance on our blog soon!

 

You are now ready with that killer content, a solid Email Service Provider (ESP) behind you – btw choosing an ESP  can be quite a task , here’s hoping you’ve done it right , what next?

 

Ask Usain Bolt,  what the importance of timing is? No seriously, a great proposition, even with A/B split  tested subject lines and creatives  can turn horribly wrong if the timing is off . Common sense – nope …….experience !!  ( The school of hard knocks third semester )

 

A well timed campaign – other criteria remaining the same –  can work wonders on the open rates and further on the ROI of the campaign. Unfortunately, there is no formula or overall ‘ideal time slot’ which you can follow to achieve this elusive ‘golden hour’.  There are a number of factors that go in to your decision: what time is best to hit the send button? ( btw with a good ESP – it would be the Schedule button )

 

Timing – Day and hour depends on the answers to the following questions.

 

Who are your audience?

 

For a B2B audience, it doesn’t take an Einstein  to work out that Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday are the optimum days. As we all know, Mondays are spent getting back in to the swing of work after the weekend and Friday sees offices winding down for the next weekend. Saturday and Sunday are redundant as offices are closed. Days before holidays are = Fridays and days after holidays are = Mondays irrespective of what days they fall on !

 

For B2C email marketing, timings are very different.  Very dependant on the demographic of your audience.  One can safely assume most prospects will mainly be checking their personal emails in the evenings, during lunchtimes and over the weekends. However it is best to test which brings us back to segmenting!  B2C sending can be a bit of a gamble without thorough testing of your specific target audience. Homework must be done and learnings interpreted. A great ESP will be able to deliver dynamic content with different propositions scheduled at different times of a day or even different days.

 

Is your campaign seasonal?

 

For the B2B sector, marketers must avoid sending their campaigns over school vacation season, long weekends  and of course  the many holidays that we have !

 

Again advice for the B2C sector is entirely opposite. If relevant, a seasonal approach can boost additional sales and therefore revenue. Most campaigns are timed to address seasonal offers!

 

So much for planned marketing communication…

 

However, there is another aspect to timing in direct digital communication.

 

Timing can never be as important as it is when the ‘Prospect ‘is on the verge of becoming a ‘Paying Customer’ …many a sales person have rued their chances – having communicated a little later than they should have.

 

The optimum time for any recipient to receive your communication is when they have shown an interest in your brand or product. Using Automated mails  or  trigger campaigns, based on browsing behaviour or when they last clicked on or opened an email gives you a clear indication as to when to send the email and what content to include.

 

A typical scenario of such lost opportunities would be apparent in a colleague’s recent experience  on a  very popular  online store. As he described it  “ I was on my way to check out and proceed to pay when I saw this dangling banner in the right column : Sign up for our newsletter and  get 10% off. I paused, thought I could save this 10% by signing up and using the voucher code. So I smartly opened another browser, signed up and waited for the voucher. About an hour later, neither my inbox nor my  spam folder had  any sign of  an email from these guys . I gave up hope and eventually had lost all interest in buying that item at 10% higher than I could’ve”.

 

A simple Triggered email could have, rather, should have been used here  to enable interest being converted to action  at the point when the customer is most engaged.

 

Another cyclic practice is communication with non responders. Winning back non responders should be taken up as a part of your communication calendar and a definite cog in your wheel .

While still on timing, or should I say while there is time – it would be good to remind you to look for patterns in your open and click-through rates or other email metrics. Whether certain offers work better when sent at some time or another? Are there any influences that make your campaigns more successful, like salary days ( beginning of the month ) ? Are you responding to your customers at the optimum moment?

The only way for you to determine what works best for you is to, as always, test, test, test!

 

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