Email Marketing Best Practices

Win back non responders

The One-Way Conversation

Building active, long-term relationships with your customers should  be one of the prime objective of email marketers. At the core of doing email marketing well is remembering that building a relationship requires conversation.

 So what do marketers do when email recipients aren’t interested in conversing? We found that, as a whole,  marketers showed a lack of conversational skills in dealing width the apparently uninterested subscriber. The idea of email as a dialogue is missing. By pushing out email without regard for consumer interests or preferences, marketers are putting their email reputation at risk. A poor sender reputation, in turn, creates deliverability problems for their entire email program. By moving from a “one-way conversation” to a true dialogue, marketers can re-engage inactive recipients.

Preference Based Subscription

We recommend that email marketers ask subscribers about their preferences for email frequency and email subject matter when they subscribe or make their initial purchase.

Once preferences are known, they should be honored. While this best practice may not be realistic for all businesses, marketers should, at a minimum, make sure that expectations for mailing frequency are appropriately set.

Where customers are not offered the opportunity to express their frequency preferences, they should be offered the option of reduced frequency once a pattern of inactivity is seen.

Message Frequency

While there are some circumstances where an increase in message frequency is appropriate (e.g. before a holiday, to match recent subscriber activity or in response to a purchase), it doesn’t make sense to consistently increase message frequency on a monthly basis to inactive subscribers. If a subscriber does not respond when receiving an email message every day, they are not likely to respond when receiving more than one—and in either case, they are likely to be extremely annoyed. That increases the risk that the subscriber will click the spam button, contributing to deliverability problems for your company’s entire mailing list.

To maintain optimal frequency, monitor subscriber response—opens, click-throughs and conversions – over time. Note the points at which each metric shows a drop-off in response, and put business rules in place to manage your mailing strategy accordingly. For example, you could specify that you will only mail once a month to any subscriber who has no opens, clicks, or response for six continuous months. A re-permissioning policy (discussed below, page 4) should be a part of the overall email marketing strategy.
Deliverability at Risk

The longer marketers continue to mail to large numbers of inactive subscribers, the greater the chances that their entire program will suffer as the result of reputation problems. Lack of response indicates that a subscriber is not interested in the messages. Eventually that lack of interest will lead to spam complaints by subscribers who have reached their saturation point. Spam complaints directly and negatively affect a marketer’s sending reputation, adversely affecting deliverability  to all subscribers.

This risk is compounded when companies fail to include clear permissioning for promotional emails during the initial checkout (sign-up) process. Without clear permissioning, “subscribers” never really subscribed, and they have no expectation of what will arrive in their inboxes. These recipients are naturally less engaged and more likely to complain due to lack of disclosure.

In addition, some ISPs are increasingly paying attention to whether or not their users respond to commercial mail. If a marketer is mailing at a high frequency and receives a disproportionately low response or no response at all over a consistent period of time, their sender reputation could be negatively impacted. This could lead to having all of the company’s email end up in the spam folder or, worse, having it blocked outright.

Missed Opportunities

Marketers are missing the opportunity to increase sales by re-engaging subscribers in the conversation. In addition, they may be interfering with their ability to optimize email content for their entire email list. This occurs because totally uninterested recipients dilute email response patterns, skewing email metrics and making optimization hard to achieve.

Recommendation:

Don’t experiment—ask! Implement a strategy to get subscribers to renew their permission with your email program, ideally in combination with a preference center, to find out what subscribers want to receive, if anything, and when. Testing does have a place in refining your approach to re-permissioning and finding out what approaches are most effective in generating expressions of continued and future interest.

Recommendations

Include win-back messages in your strategy for re-engaging non-responsive subscribers. Use a methodical analytic approach to determining what offers and creative are most effective, as well as identifying the most effective message timing. Consider basing your offer on the subscriber’s previous purchase. The strategy should specify how many win-back messages will be sent, at what intervals, and at what point in the sequence you will send a re-permissioning message.

Former purchasers represent “low hanging fruit” in email marketing, as it is always less costly to reach out to former customers than it is to acquire new ones. By focusing on developing and maintaining a dialogue with subscribers—a dialogue in which the subscriber sets the terms—email marketers can re-engage subscribers who have been nonresponsive, and reap the benefits of increased sales.

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Why a Fully Managed Email Service Provider (ESP) work best for sending bulk email communication?

Why Email Marketing?
Email is consistently rated as the world’s most popular and most widely used application on the internet and is now by far the leading means of business communication. It is second only to search in online marketing budgets with 97% of consumers and 94% of marketers using, piloting or planning email marketing programmes with 88% of people anticipating the effectiveness of email to increase in the next 3 years. In short, promoting your organization and its services via email is one of the most powerful, flexible and cost-efficient means of direct marketing and therefore it’s imperative that when choosing an Email Service Provider (ESP) that you select the right one who will
match your needs perfectly.

What are the Different Types of ESP’s?
If you’re new to email marketing then embarking on your research can seem extremely daunting as initially there appears to be lots of organizations to choose from. One of the fundamental decisions you need to make is whether to outsource your email marketing or keep it in-house, and making this decision could have far-reaching consequences. There are a number of ESP’s on the market who provide a wide range of products, services and functionalities, so it’s imperative to understand the different types of ESP’s and their different areas of focus. To make things easier for you, we have analyzed the market and segmented it into four key categories as the following diagram shows:

 

 

Whilst each option has its merits, for the majority of organizations, an outsourced solution – whether a fully managed or ASP (Application Service Provider) solution – can be the most sensible option. ASP solutions are always up to date concerning any email
marketing legalities and you automatically benefit from any system upgrades and new versions. Outsourcing will allow you to concentrate on your marketing strategy, letting your ESP take away some of the workload from you.

 

Solutions and Services Offered by ESP’s
Now you have seen a snapshot of the four different segments of the email market (Managed, ASP, Software License and In-House as seen in picture) you are now in a better position to take a look at the different solutions and services that each sector and ESP offer. These vary considerably from supplier to supplier so as always you need to make a hotlist of the most important services and solutions you are looking for. To point you in the right direction, take a look at the following guidelines, taking note of the solutions and services mentioned below which you feel are relevant to your organization:

  • Types of solution offered: Look at whether the ESP offers one product or a range of services such as end-to-end services, a technology, media campaigns, lead generation campaigns and market research.
  • Types of services offered: What types of services does the ESP offer. These can vary massively and can include some of the following: List provision; data management; data cleansing; best practice consultancy; broadcast, personalization and segmentation; real-time reporting; full campaign management; creative design and copywriting services; dynamic content solutions; hosting services; event triggered messaging and sequence messaging; integration with web analytics; if multicountry/ language campaigns can ESP support this – and so on!!
  • Email Deliverability: Does the ESP have an ongoing commitment to deliverability? How do they ensure that they don’t appear on blacklists and do they have a relationship with all the major ISP’s for white listing? Do they have a dedicated deliverability team?
  • Product Features: What features are important to you? E.g. rich media content capability, videomail, audio, integration, multi-channel capabilities, split testing, digital signatures to avoid phishing emails, management structure within the system, email receipts on online transactions etc. Build a list of all ESP’s who have these features as part of their solutions to aid your decision-making process.
  • Product Flexibility: Can the ESP be your partner today and in the future providing you with advice on market trends and new product capabilities?
  • Functionality: How comprehensive is the ESP’s functionality for planning, designing, executing and measuring email campaigns, compliance functionality.
  • Technology Platform: How easy to use is the technology? Can someone with no HTML training or know-how use the technology easily?
  • Email Data Security: Has your ESP taken all measures to secure your customer’s email data? Is the technology infrastructure of your ESP has been hosted in a tier 4 data center? and policies are put in place for data security? and being audited by third parties? Is your ESP certified for Data security like DMA’s Data Seal?
  • Reporting Capabilities: Does the ESP provide you with reports in your desired format allowing you to measure the success of the campaign? Whether you’re opting for an ASP or in-house solution you should be able to get comprehensive reports including open rates, click rates and bounces as well as advanced functionalities such as complex real time reports and the ability to link revenues generated from a specific campaign to individual email addresses etc.
  • Integration with Other Applications: Does the ESP easily integrate with your other applications like Web Analytics, CRM, E-Commerce, ERP and databases?
  • Training: Will the ESP provide you with full training and support on their product or service which you will be adopting?

What Now?
Now you have had the chance to do some research into the different types of ESP’s on the market and the solutions and services they offer, you are now in the position where you can make an informed selection.

 

 

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Guide to a Better HTML Email Design – Part 20

19. Five common flaws that you can avoid in Email Marketing Campaigns

 

Messages stopped as spam:

Kenscio identifies this as the key error in email marketing and the easiest to fix. Subject line headings such as “WIN A GREAT PRIZE” will not get past spam filters.

All image, but no text:

Companies often send mails that are purely image-based but contain no text, Kenscio says. Many ISPs don’t automatically download images so recipients are left with blank boxes. This makes it hard to track response rates. The company recommends this is considered in the email design and that marketers use a tool that demonstrates different ISPs or send a test email first.

Missing information:

Some campaign emails go out with fundamental information missing, such as a name. “There is nothing worse than Dear____ because the first name field is not completed. Even writing ‘Dear customer’ is preferable. Getting basics like this right is a must and a simple fix to avoid looking unprofessional,” Kenscio advises.

 

Invalid Sender Address:

ISPs validate the Sender Address in the email message and see if it has been sent from a valid inbox. Spammers and phishing mails don’t provide a valid sender address or a reply address. If you are a genuine email sender, there should be no hesitation to provide a valid sender address which the recipient can recognize and respond to.

Right to reply:

Provide a convenient reply to email address for your recipients to send feedback on the mails receive. ISPs now have a greater emphasis on replies and show such messages in priority inbox or regular inbox of the recipients.  Hence soliciting replies and acknowledging them is a greater benefit for the marketers.

Trying too hard:

Designing an email as if it was a website is the fifth most common error in email marketing, Kenscio says. “Heavy use of flash or java script often doesn’t render properly in the finished email and can be complicated to design. It’s better to keep it clean and simple, allowing the reader to click through to a website,” the company recommends.

“In today’s economy, return on investment has never been more important as marketing spend is now analysed and questioned by senior stakeholders, Companies can’t afford to be making such simple mistakes and missing potential sales.

The fundamental aims of any campaign should be high deliverability, targeted mailing, maximum click-through rates and basic personalisation – don’t let the email be the reason customers go elsewhere.”

Read earlier blogs on the subject “Guide to a Better HTML Email Design” on Kenscio Blog.

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Guide to a Better HTML Email Design – Part 19

18. Most Essential things in an email communication

After you have gotten your design right, you must still verify that your message includes these items:

  1. A working unsubscribe mechanism. You want to make it as easy as possible for your recipient to stop hearing from you. Not only is it a CAN-SPAM requirement, but a properly-designed and well-promoted unsubscribe process builds trust with recipients and reduces the likelihood they will report your message as spam.
  2. Your company name and street address (no PO Box allowed) — a requirement of the CAN-SPAM law.

Kenscio recommends marketers to combine this information with other best practices into a custom footer . By combining the above information with a few other useful pieces of information, you can keep all of the housekeeping items bundled together into one neat package. While not all marketers put this information in a footer, most email recipients now expect to find this information at the end of the email. This location obviously makes people scroll to the end of their emails, but having a standard location across all emails is ultimately better for the entire industry.

The footer should include these items:

  1. A quick explanation of how you got the recipient’s email address (e.g., opted in on your site or a partner’s Website, purchased a product from you, etc.).
  2. Your recipient’s email address.
  3. Link to your privacy policy or email policy. You can also put your terms of service link here if appropriate.
  4. A request to be added to the recipient’s address book to ensure delivery, which also helps to ensure images will be turned on.
  5. Update-profile link where the recipient can change the format, frequency or email address.
  6. Your feedback and contact information: phone number and email address
  7. Forward-to-a-friend link.
  8. Subscription link to help people who received your email from a friend and wish to subscribe.

Read earlier blogs on the subject “Guide to a Better HTML Email Design” on Kenscio Blog.

 

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Guide to a Better HTML Email Design – Part 18

17. Rich Media/Flash in Email Message

The consensus on using rich media in emails is: Just don’t do it. Most email clients do not support Flash or other types of rich media. If JavaScript is needed to launch the rich media, it is often stripped out due to security concerns. If you must use animation, use an animated GIF, but watch the file size. If you’ve developed a really cool rich media application you want to showcase, include a link to a Web-hosted version, which gives you more control and broader browser acceptance.

The animated gif’s will not be displayed on outlook, When you receive an e-mail message that contains animated graphics, such as animated .gif files, only a static image appears on outlook.

You can also look at converting your flash files to animated gif images and then link to the flash website through the link click, so that users can visit the web page for a good streaming experience.

Read earlier blogs on the subject “Guide to a Better HTML Email Design” on Kenscio Blog.

 

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Guide to a Better HTML Email Design – Part 17

16. Navigation and Search in Email Message

 

Your email is basically an extension of your Website so, where appropriate, make the navigation of your email message consistent with your Website — but also highlight key areas of your Website that are likely to get customers to take action. If you have Bargain Basement, Closeouts, Featured Products and other areas on your site — use them in your email.

If your Email Service Provider provides the feature of visually providing the user attention through the links clicks, You can analyze which sections of your email message are generating more clicks and optimize the offer placements to areas where the users are more likely to click.

You can also use multi-variate testing to test the email content and subject lines that provide the highest open and click through rates, before sending the email message to the entire audience.

If you have a search capability on your Website, add it to your email. Your customers can type in their search phrase, hit submit, and it will take them to your Website’s search-results page. You now have those people on your Website, where you have the potential to convert them to customers.

Allow your landing pages to be searchable by the search engines and look for user search phrases. This can provide what users are looking for on the web and this will provide very useful information on the subject lines for your email message.

Read earlier blogs on the subject “Guide to a Better HTML Email Design” on Kenscio Blog.

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Guide to a Better HTML Email Design – Part 16

15. Length and Size of the Email Message

 

The optimal length for email messages can vary dramatically based on your objectives, audience demographics, the type of content, frequency, the competitive environment and other factors.

For example, subscribers receiving a monthly newsletter would expect it to be much longer than a daily or weekly one. A grand opening or seminar invitation is typically going to be very short, whereas a B2B newsletter discussing strategic and thought-provoking topics can easily run the print equivalent of 4-6 pages.

If the email message need to be longer than a more, provide an index of the articles, categorize them into sections, and provide details later in the body of the message.

The objective should be to create the retention of the subscriber in locating the relevant and interesting topics easily and moving directly to the location in the message to read the details.

Don’t be too concerned with message size. There is no data to support any negative effect on performance from messages above 50 KB, for example. Having said that, you should still try to keep message size to 40 to 50 KB, because some recipients might have size limits in the email client or receiver email server settings. To keep the HTML message sizes to less than 40 to 50KB, would require the images to be hosted on the email server itself or an external hosting place, that is capable enough to serve the images quickly and to a large number of concurrent requests that may be coming from opening subscribers.

Read earlier blogs on the subject “Guide to a Better HTML Email Design” on Kenscio Blog.

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Guide to a Better HTML Email Design – Part 15

14. Phishing and HTML Links

 

Many email clients are being updated to detect phishing attempts. “Phishing” is the industry nickname for the effort to collect sensitive personal and financial information by sending forged emails that look as if they come from an authorized agency, such as a bank, financial service, ecommerce provider or government agency.
Both Mozilla Thunderbird and AOL 9.0 feature phishing scam detection that will affect how your email is treated. To determine whether an email could be a phishing scam, the client looks for a link in your HTML campaign where the display text is a URL.

If the displayed link is different from the actual URL, the client alerts the user.

Most email service providers encode your URLs for tracking, and change the URL within the <HREF> tag.

<a href=”http://www.yoursite.com”>http://www.yoursite.com</a>

The change might look like this:

<a href=”http://ESP.com/c.html?rtr=on&s=3d2,l8xr,pt,37e5,6bav”>http://www.yoursite.com</a>

To avoid having your emails erroneously tagged as phishing attempts, don’t use a URL as the display text for a link in any HTML emails. Instead, use a word or phrase which describes the link itself.

<a href=”http://www.yoursite.com”>Visit us here</a>

Most of the email clients also mark the mails with Phishing tag, if the email message contains any hardcoded IP addresses in links, instead of domain name.

Hence it is advised to use only domain names in all links.

Now a days more and more ISPs are recommending the email senders to implement DKIM for authentication of the sending domains that actually send the mails, to restrict senders to use the sender address to the email sending domain or DKIM to be setup for each sender address. ISPs give higher preference for such senders for inbox deliverability and provide spam complaint feedback loops.

Hence Marketers are advised to get the DKIM setup for their email infrastructure through their service providers.

Read earlier blogs on the subject “Guide to a Better HTML Email Design” on Kenscio Blog.

 

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Guide to a Better HTML Email Design – Part 14

13. Number of Hyperlinks

 

The main job of your email is to motivate recipients to click through to your Website. Hyperlinks in an e-commerce email, for example, should not be like in-store retail salespeople — there when you want to be left alone, but nowhere to be found when you need help and are ready to buy.

Be sure to place text, image and navigation links throughout your email so that a customer can’t go anywhere without tripping over a link. Make sure that all images, especially your logo, are clickable links. Consumers are trained to click on images and expect them work.

In fact, it’s been proven time and again that increasing the number of hyperlinks in an email message leads to increased open and click-through rates. Even if you are promoting a single product, you should still have multiple links throughout the email, including your logo, navigation links at the top and bottom of your message and the call-to-action. The key is to make the links relevant to the message and the recipient.

Emails with 25 or more links have an open rate 12% higher than those containing fewer than 25 links, and a click-through rate that was 29% higher than that for emails with fewer than 25 links. However, you should not merely list a bunch of links at the bottom of the email. Doing this could hurt delivery, as it is a common spam tactic.

The more links there are, the greater the chance that one or more will resonate with recipients and motivate them to click through. And while 25 links might sound like a lot, navigation and administrative links in best-practices newsletters can easily reach 15-20 links by themselves.

Although these findings are compelling, it is essential that you conduct a/b split (multi-variate) tests across key variables to determine what works best for your customers and subscribers.

 

Read earlier blogs on the subject “Guide to a Better HTML Email Design” on Kenscio Blog.

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Guide to a Better HTML Email Design – Part 13

12. Preview Panes and Blocked Images

 

The two advances in email clients are combining to deliver a double whammy to email marketers:

  1. the horizontal/vertical preview panes which allow a reader to view just a narrow strip or square of an email message without actually opening it, and
  2. a blocked-images feature that prevents images from downloading unless the reader requests them. Around 75% of people who use preview panes prefer the horizontal version, while the remaining 25% prefer the vertical version. You can cover both pane configurations by placing the most important information in the top left corner.

Email Newsletter - Blocked Images
The Sprinklr India Newsletter in the Outlook preview pane: although the images are blocked, recipients can preview the email’s contents from the teaser text and a concise subject line.
Individually, each of these features can throw off your open rate and prevent users from seeing your most critical information. In tandem, it means your email performance may be reduced significantly if you don’t redesign your emails to deliver key information as quickly as possible. In fact, you should assume that you have only 2 to 4 inches of space to tell your story and persuade viewers to open your email instead of just previewing it.

Although this has implications for both business and consumer email marketers and publishers, the problem is especially acute for B2B emailers, because a significant portion of their readers are likely using Outlook and Lotus Notes — the two email clients that combine preview panes and blocked images.
Some email industry observers have even attributed drops in open rates to widespread use of blocked images, because an “open” is generally counted when a small, clear image within an email message is called from a Web server. If the image is being blocked, the “open” is not counted.

While most Web-based email clients don’t use preview panes, Yahoo Mail has a relatively new Web client that behaves more like a desktop client with a preview pane and default image-blocking. Yahoo Mail and other Web email clients also use image blocking as a default setting.

Take these steps to make your email more preview-pane/disabled-image friendly:

  1. Redesign the top of your email template so that key content shows in the preview pane even if images are disabled or blocked. Content-oriented newsletters should include headlines or “In This Issue” teasers. Newsletters with banner/image-based ads should switch to text ads and content teasers. Ecommerce and other promotional-type emails should summarize or highlight the key proposition, offer or products right up top.
  2. Study your click-tracking reports to understand where readers are clicking most often. Use this information to determine the best placement of images and links.
  3. Ask to be added to your subscribers’ address book. Images are displayed by default if you’re in the address book for all AOL and Hotmail recipients as well as anyone using Outlook or Outlook Express. Always send from the same address, since that is the address the recipient will add to the address book.
  4. Move less critical administrative information to an Admin Center at the end of the email or newsletter, especially if it draws few clicks. But consider keeping or including text links to key actions below your “In This Issue” or teaser text. At Sprinklr, we saw a fairly high number of newsletter subscribers clicking the “View Message Online” link. So, we kept that and added “Update Profile” and a few other key actions.
  5. Your From and Subject lines become much more important in this new reality. Sixty percent of readers told us they consult subject lines to decide whether they’ll scan the message in the preview pane or just delete it without a glance.
  6. In this new preview-pane format, the From and Subject lines become the top two points of a triangle, with the third point being the top of your newsletter or email. All three have to work together to snag a reader’s eye.
  7. Remember that email clients vary in how they show From and Subject lines in the Inbox. You should keep both to no more than 50 characters each.
  8. Use both text and HTML in advertisements, logos and branding messages rather than live images linked to your Website, such as JPEGs or GIFs. You’ll still be able to deliver key information even to readers whose email clients block images.
  9. Use alt tags that describe an image’s content or action.
  10. Review your HTML coding to make sure it complies with W3C standards.
  11. Review how well your format complies with the quirks and nonstandard rendering of Lotus Notes. Depending on your B2B readership, your Lotus Notes subscriber base might range from a low of 5% to as high as 15%.
  12. Eliminate skyscraper or vertically rectangular ads that go deeper than the pixel equivalent of 3 or 4 inches.

Whether your email subscribers are B2B or B2C, use of the preview pane will only increase. You should act now to redesign your emails for a world of blocked images and small preview panes.

 

Read earlier blogs on the subject “Guide to a Better HTML Email Design” on Kenscio Blog.

 

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