With spam folders being flooded with junk emails in enormous quantities, there’s no doubt that email marketing has formed a rather dodgy reputation in recent years. Nonetheless, email remains one of the most rewarding marketing platforms of all, not least because of the exceptionally high return on investment it can offer. However, far more promotional emails end up being blocked by the spam filters than those that make it to the inbox, let alone appeal to their target audiences.
Deliverability is one of the key priorities of any successful mailing campaign, since you’ll only end up wasting your time and money if your target audience isn’t receiving the content they want when they want to see it. Building a quality mailing list consisting of engaged subscribers and making sure your newsletters don’t raise the suspicion of the spam filters are both important steps to take. The following tips will help you to improve the reach of your content:
1. Get Your Timing Right
Timing is an important factor in social media and email marketing, since it has a significant impact on whether or not your content reaches the largest audience. Getting the timing right will have a positive impact on your response rates, whereas sending your newsletters at the wrong time will likely mean they get overlooked. Unfortunately, there are few set rules, but you will need to take the season, time of month, week and the time of day into account. Specific market timings, such as the holiday season and half term, can also play an important role in certain industries. Following are some general tips and advice:
. Late evenings tend to get the highest response rates for consumer promotions and customers seeking to make last orders for the day.
. Early mornings, before the typical working day, tend to see relatively high open rates when consumers are more likely to be distracted by offers.
. Lunch breaks tend to see high open rates, since consumers often check their personal emails at this time.
. Afternoons, particularly later during the week, tend to see job-related apathy set in, leaving consumers more open to receiving promotional content.
. Late afternoons generally see higher response rates in B2B email content among those who are working late or looking for holiday promotions.
. Email newsletters received during the night typically have the lowest open rates for obvious reasons. 10PM is generally the cut-off time for marketing.
Statistically, email open and response rates are at their highest in the early morning, but specific types of promotions are often better sent towards the end of the week in the late afternoons when people are more open to receiving promotions distracting them from their working lives. On a final note, be sure to segment your mailing lists by time zone if you serve a wide geographical audience.
2. Avoid the Spam Filters
Obviously, the best way to avoid spam filters is not to send spam in the first place. Quality, relevant content delivered to a clearly specified audience should be your number-one priority, but avoiding the spam filters isn’t always as simple as that. Even an excellent email newsletter does not guarantee that it will always bypass the spam folder, and even a solid email marketing strategy will see around 10 percent of its newsletters fall victim to overly zealous spam filters.
Most importantly, you’ll need to make certain that the content of your email newsletters and mailing lists meet the requirements of the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 in the US at the very least. Violating the law can lead to astronomical fines, depending on the number of bad addresses on your mailing list. The key points of the law are as follows:
. You must include a physical address in all correspondence.
. You must provide a working unsubscribe link that remains active for at least 30 days after the email has been sent.
. You must never use deceptive subject lines, headers or incorrect from names and reply addresses.
Although the CAN-SPAM Act only applies to US businesses, many other countries have increasingly strict antispam laws of their own, so it’s always a good idea to familiarize yourself with the laws of your own country before building your email marketing strategy.
Meeting local laws and requirements is only one part of the battle. It is also important to understand how spam filters identify junk mail. For the most part, they search for key words and phrases commonly associated with spam, and if they find too many violations, the newsletter will end up being automatically filtered into the spam folder. Some common features of spam emails are as follows:
. Focusses excessively on monetary value by talking about money-back guarantees, huge savings or other overly embellished financial goals.
. Reads like a typical sales pitch by describing some sort of invented breakthrough or tries to instil a false sense of urgency.
. Excessive use of weak calls to action, such as ‘click here’ and ‘buy now’ among others.
. Excessive use of capital letters, particularly in subject lines and headers. This practice is basically akin to shouting.
You can often tell if your emails are landing in the spam folders by analysing your open rates and testing your newsletters before sending them.
3. Build an Opt-in Mailing List
By far the most important step to formulating a sustainable email marketing strategy is to build a quality, opt-in mailing list. Sending unsolicited promotional emails is illegal in many jurisdictions, and it’s a guaranteed way to have your content flagged as spam and devastate your brand’s public image. It takes a long time to build a quality mailing list, but with the right approach, it will eventually become one of the most valuable assets your business will ever have.
While great content tailored to meet the desires and needs of the specific type of consumer you intend to target is essential for nurturing your leads, you’ll also need to work hard to get people to subscribe. Attracting prospects relies on a number of important factors, such as quality and relevant blog content, high engagement on social media and premium content offers for the most dedicated among your followers. You should be wary of gating content behind compulsory sign-ups as well, instead focussing on making an irresistible value proposition and asking people for their express permission to receive promotional emails from you. Following are some essential tips for building a quality mailing database:
. Keep your email sign-up forms as simple as possible, asking only for the information you really need. No one will want to spend more than a minute filling in a form just to receive promotional content, so all you should ask for at this stage is a first name and email address.
. Make your sign-up forms easy to find, but make sure they’re not obtrusive or overly distracting. Your website will be the primary platform of attracting subscriptions, so it’s a good idea to have a signup form in a sidebar so it appears on every page of the website.
. Use the opportunity to gather email addresses whenever your customers make purchases by providing an option to accept promotional content. Make sure this box is unchecked by default, however, since you need express rather than implied permission to enjoy the highest engagement rates.
. Always include a forwarding feature in your email newsletters as well as social sharing buttons. These features will allow recipients to easily share content they like with others, and it also gives you the opportunity to track the engagement levels with your newsletters.
Above all, you need to have a solid value proposition to encourage people to sign up, and you’ll need to deliver on your promises to successfully nurture your target audience and decrease the chances of them unsubscribing.
4. Find the Optimal Sending Frequency
A common characteristic of spammers is that they tend to send an excessive number of emails all vying for attention. They rely on numbers alone in the hope of attracting the most gullible among consumers. Getting your sending frequency just right will also take a bit of testing, but it’s generally better to start slow rather than risk annoying your recipients by bombarding them with too much promotional content. On the other hand, not sending emails frequently enough will lead to your audience forgetting about you.
As is the case with social and email timing, there are few rules in place that determine the optimal sending frequency. Anything between one and four emails per month tends to work best, but it is important to remember that frequency and engagement are often negatively correlated. In other words, the more often you send out email newsletters, the lower your engagement rates will become, even if your open rates might remain high. On the other hand, any digital marketing strategy earns better results the more businesses keep in contact with their customers and prospects.
By starting out with fewer emails, you’ll have the opportunity to analyse your results by tracking things like click-throughs, open rates, unsubscribes and conversions. You can email as frequently as you like, provided you are able to continue offering genuine value to your target audience, and that this is reflected by the aforementioned metrics. As a general rule, however, you’re probably best off avoiding emailing daily unless you have a huge and growing number of products and services on offer of the type that consumers rely on for everyday life. Other businesses might stick to no more than one email per week, which tends to work best for those targeting busy consumers or companies that don’t have something new or interesting to offer all the time. Sporadic emailing can also work, particularly in the case of businesses that are heavily reliant on seasonal sales or sales of products and services that are only required on an irregular, infrequent basis.
To ensure your efforts come to fruition, you’ll need to take a patient approach to build an outstanding mailing list, deliver excellent content and track your results. You will also need to thoroughly test your email newsletters before sending to determine that they meet your deliverability requirements across the full line-up of Internet-enabled devices.