The deluge of spam has affected the legitimate marketers goal of reaching their customers email boxes. Email filters are becoming more sophisticated, even to the point of being excessive. The firewalls and email guardians filter out even permission emails –which the customer has signed up for and agreed to receive. Studies in fact show that as much as a third of permission emails that customers have indicated they want to receive are being blocked by email filters and corporate firewalls.
The challenge for Internet marketers includes, not just enticing customers to open their emails, but to make sure that the email reaches the inbox in the first place. Sending emails is no longer a matter of just hitting the ‘Send’ button; the marketer needs to carefully think how to craft every element of the email to make sure that it reaches the inbox.
How you say your message and craft your email will help you get through to your customers email inbox. Filters and firewalls commonly work on points system to test an email message: an email that reaches a set threshold will be immediately junked.
Knowing what trips the filters, however, is a constant challenge given that spam filters are continuously moving targets. The rules and threshold scores of firewalls and filters are constantly changing as spammers continue to circumvent them.
Emails tagged as spam result in increased bounce rates in addition to decreased open rates, basically reducing the effectiveness of your email marketing campaigns.
Below are some tips to get your marketing emails pass through the filters and have them opened by the customer:
1. Make sure that the recipient agreed to receive your emails.
Before sending your marketing emails or newsletters, make sure that you have verifiable opt-in records showing the affirmative consent of the customer. Keep the emails or form submissions that you’ve received (even how many years old!) showing proof that the customer actually agreed to receive your mailings. At the very least, you need to have implied consent such as proof of customer history or failure to opt out. Remember: if you don’t have the expressed permission of your recipients to market to them, then your emails are considered spamming (and applies to most purchased or rented lists).
Watch Your Language. Spam filters penalize marketers with a penchant for words that spammers use with greater frequency. Avoid ‘spammy-sounding’ words and phrases, such as ‘free’, ‘opportunity’, ‘money back’, ‘incredible’, ‘targeted’, and ‘offer’. Even home business can trip the filter sometimes. It’s difficult to totally avoid using these phrases, particularly given that they have been very effective in the past (the word ‘free’ for example), but use them sparingly. Consider it a chance to show your creativity and add personality to your e-mail by avoiding standard sales phraseology.
2. Know the Don’ts to Avoid.
There are a number of things that you need to avoid in your email message (which are the common techniques employed by spammers) as these often call attention to the spam filters, such as:
- Don’t mention that the recipient was on an opt-in list and/or you obtained the email address legitimately (if you have, you wont even declare it)
- Don’t claim that the recipient was registered with one of your marketing partners, especially if you do not mention who that marketing partner is.
- Don’t claim that you comply with various regulations/laws/regulations whether enacted or pending.
- Never suggest that the recipient might have received the email by mistake (only shows that you do not have any proof that the person actually agreed to receive your email)
- Avoid using ‘click here’ for links.
- Don’t claim that you respect all removal requests or link ‘remove me’ to an email address.
- Avoid having too much HTML or graphics (whether correct or not, the assumption is that HTML = spam).
- Don’t use the CC or BCC lines in your email
- No attachments
3. The ‘From’ line is your initial attention-getter.
The “from” line is an extremely important element to get your e-mail opened. Avoid using lower case characters or all-caps, and ending it with a number. Put your website or company name in the ‘From’ Line, and not just an e-mail address and stick with it. Email users are more likely to open communication from companies and businesses they trust. Hence, emails from top companies make sure that their company’s name is in the ‘From’ line such as Amazon.co.uk, Ebay.co.uk while the maker of childrens’ toys Fischer Price uses ‘Fisher Price Family’. Unless you have established your name as a brand, avoid using the name of one of your personnel lest you be mistaken as one of the spammers. As you may have noticed, spammers are now using a real name in the From line in the hopes of misleading the email recipients into thinking that they know the spammer.
4. Run your emails with spam analyser tools.
Before sending your emails, check with spam analyser tools to know how your email trips the spam filters. Some email deployment software provides this type of feature; but if not, you can use free spam-scoring tools such as Gravity Mail (www.gravitymail.com/spamscore.php). Spam scoring tools can help ensure that your email can actually go through to your customers’ inboxes by alerting you to factors that will trigger in the filters (e.g. free in the subject line; and extensive use of HTML). You can then tweak your copy or change the overall layout of your emails if they will simply not pass through the spam filters.
5. Test your emails.
In addition to your current recipient list, have a separate test list that can consist of email accounts from various free email providers (Yahoo, Hotmail, etc.) or email addresses from your ISP. Before sending out your emails to your main list, send them first to your test list and check if they are tagged as spam, or if they can actually go through.
The challenge for marketers nowadays is to balance the need to ensure that emails can pass through spam filters while using what we know is otherwise effective direct marketing copy. The tricky part is that what we know works (the word free and HTML emails) are often at odds with the spam filters. The key is to carefully review the results of your email campaign and see whether the positives outweigh the negatives.
These simple rules work for us. We have been calling then mailing and eventually emailing our prospective customers for fifty years. It worked and many of our customers have stayed loyal to us for decades since. Nothing is more important than the offer of real value and true customer care and our national, family business has proven this simple truth – finding customers is always hard – keeping them can be easy if you live up to all your promises.
(Martin Button is the Managing Director of UK Vending (Britain’s longest serving vending business)