Because You Know It’s … ALL ABOUT THAT EMAIL, ‘BOUT THAT EMAIL (No Mailman)

A quick roundup of a few virtual show sessions that will really hone in on the copy, creative and design aspects of email marketing.

Readers, pop quiz: What’s so special about Nov. 12? 

Is it:

  1. My birthday!!!
  2. The date of the famous Hill Valley Lightning Storm which allows Marty McFly to power the DeLorean with 1.21 gigawatts of electricity, sending him back to the future.
  3. The All About eMail Virtual Conference & Expo presented by eM+C and Target Marketing.

The answer, as you might have guessed, is ALL OF THE ABOVE! However, as awesome as A and B are, only option C will bring you the hottest email marketing topics, experts, and technology, right at your computer and totally free.

You can click here to sign up.

All About eMail Virtual Conference is a one-day virtual event packed with the latest and greatest in email marketing, from a robust agenda of live sessions to a lineup of expert speakers, to a virtual exhibit hall filled with the latest email marketing tech and free resources from the best in the industry.

That’s pretty much lightning-striking-the-clock-tower levels of cool for emailers like us, right?

(And yeah whatever, I know what you’re thinking, Back to the Future references were so two weeks ago. Well you’re on my blog now and every day is Back to the Future Day for me.)

I thought I’d give you just a quick roundup of a few of the sessions that will really hone in on the copy, creative and design aspects of email marketing — though really any of the content you can check out that day will be well-worth your 60-second sign-up.


You Won’t Believe It! Clickbait and Email Subject Lines
Starts: 11:50 am | Ends: 12:20 pm

If you know copywriting, you know the name Pat Friesen. She’s the author of The Cross-Channel Copywriting Handbook and a copywriter and content developer with years of experience behind her. Any session featuring Pat is bound to work magic on your email campaigns.

In this AAeM session, Pat will  examine of the controversial merits of using clickbait — made popular by sites such as Buzzfeed and Upworthy — particularly when writing email subject lines. A few talking points she’ll cover:

  • What is clickbait (and why you should care)
  • Pros and cons of its effectiveness
  • How to build curiosity that delivers
  • When is clickbait appropriate for your audience, offer and objective?
  • Plus, plenty of examples of the good, the bad and the ugly

The Truths and Myths of Email Deliverability
Starts: 12:30 pm | Ends: 1:15 pm

I know when I first walked onto the marketing scene, I was told “never use exclamation points in your subject line, it’ll go straight to spam!” The ever-omnipotent “they” say to never use buzz words like FREE or even SALE. I’m sure you could name hundreds more spam-box urban legends. And yet, we continue to see these practices, and they continue to see success.

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Yeah, Oprah, what is the truth? That’s what Ken Magill, Publisher of The Magill Report and Laura Atkins, Founder/CEO of Word to the Wise will be covering in their AAeM session. Learn the surprising answers to questions like: How many different types of spam traps are there? How do they work? And what are some of the best methods to avoid them? It’s like Snopes.com but for your email program.


The Strategic Formula for Email Conversion Success

Starts: 2:45 pm | Ends: 3:15 pm

Here’s a session I know I need for myself. Your creative process is only as good as the conversion it earns. I may think I’m hilarious for working an Oprah meme into my blog post, but what turns that Oprah meme into action?

Ben Filip, Data Scientist at MECLABS Institute, and Daniel Burstein, Director of Editorial Content at MarketingSherpa are leading this session to help you find a method to the madness. Join them to learn a strategic formula for optimizing promotions and newsletters via email and provide case studies on companies that have done so themselves. They’ll cover:

  • How to create relevant messages that will resonate with your prospects
  • Using testing to optimize your email program
  • How to mitigate the impact of friction and anxiety on emails

All About eMail Virtual Conference will also feature sessions on leveraging technology to link direct mail and email in real time, drip marketing, using first-party data for successful CRM retargeting, the secret to creating outstanding customer engagement, how brands’ email strategies evolve across 5 key vertical markets, and really just a whole lot of true blue email marketing awesomesauce.

If you want to make Nov. 12 even more memorable than it already is: Click here to sign yourself up right now!

Can’t wait to see you there — I’ll be the one wearing the birthday crown!

The Email Hierarchy of Needs: Deliverability is the Foundation

If you’re not getting the most of your email messaging, you might not be asking the right questions. How many times have I been asked “What’s the best day of the week to send email”, “What’s the best time of day to send email”, “What’s the best Email Provider”? These questions are much less important than the big questions. “Is my email getting to my subscribers?” “Can my subscribers read my email on their device”? “Do my subscribers want my email or are they hitting ‘spam’?

If you’re not getting the most out of your email messaging, you might not be asking the right questions.

I can’t count how many times I’ve been asked, “What’s the best day of the week to send email?” “What’s the best time of day to send email?” “Which is the best email provider?” These questions are much less important than the big ones: “Is my email getting to my subscribers?” “Can subscribers read my emails on their mobile device?” “Do subscribers want to receive my email or are they hitting ‘spam’?”

Many times companies want to run before they walk. There are times when first to market or a beta version of a product is more important than getting it perfect the first time. However, if you take that approach with email messaging, you better make sure you have your fundamentals squared away first. What does it matter what time the email is sent if it gets sent to the “spam” folder anyway? It doesn’t matter what email provider you use if you keep mailing outdated lists.

The foundation: Deliverability and inbox placement
In the end, none of your email messaging efforts are going to make any impact if the subscriber doesn’t receive the email. The first barrier to overcome in email marketing is deliverability. Email services, ISPs that provide email services and the software on which subscribers view emails have an arsenal of anti-spam tactics they use to keep your email from getting to subscribers. In a world of spammers, phishers and corporate network admins trying to increase productivity by filtering distracting emails, the odds are stacked against you that your email message will be delivered to your subscribers. There are a number of factors that contribute to your deliverability and inbox placement, including the following:

Sending platform
This is the reason marketers use email service providers (ESPs) instead of sending emails via Outlook or Gmail. Brands also use ESPs instead of letting their developers with no email experience say, “we’ll build it.” Email delivery is complex.

The configuration of the mail transfer agent, the proper processing of bounces and unsubscribes, the feedback loops necessary to track and opt out spam complaints, and the proper throttle rates per domain takes a team. This is where the question “what is the best ESP” becomes interesting. All successful ESPs must have this piece down to a science. The first question I ask an emerging ESP is how many people are on its deliverability team. If the answer is “we all just pitch in” (that’s a real answer I received once), then I stay away.

Your data
The single most important thing you have control of to optimize deliverability is good data practices. This means list hygiene and validation to eliminate malformed and undeliverable email addresses. It means opting out subscribers who ask to be unsubscribed. It means regularly mailing your entire list, having clean and transparent opt-in practices, and keeping your database clean and centralized to allow you to target subscribers based on their actions and preferences.

Your creative
A terrible email message alone won’t land your message in the spam folder, but it certainly won’t help. Email can be marked as spam for a combination of things: content, IP reputation, from name/domain, etc. If you’re spamming people, your email won’t get delivered, even if your content doesn’t have “FREE” or “Viagra” in it. If you send emails that people open and click on like crazy and nobody ever hits “this is spam,” you can say free (almost) as much as you want. Most companies are somewhere in between. Test prior to sending. Usually one “free” won’t kill your deliverability.

Of course, this overly simplifies the complex issue of email deliverability to some basics tenants. Spam filters are updated regularly in an attempt to thwart the efforts of spammers. Companies will have the most success getting their emails delivered by respecting the permission and preferences of their subscribers, as well as working with a reputable ESP that has a deliverability team to tackle the technical aspect of bounce handling and email send settings.

Stephanie Miller’s Engagement Matters: Why Good Email Gets Blocked as Bad

Our first step in email marketing return on investment is to reach the inbox. Sounds pretty straightforward, right? Yet, I’m always amazed at how many email marketers either don’t appreciate the negative impact of blocked messages or don’t know what they don’t know.

Our first step in email marketing return on investment is to reach the inbox. Sounds pretty straightforward, right? Yet, I’m always amazed at how many email marketers either don’t appreciate the negative impact of blocked messages or don’t know what they don’t know.

There’s no shame here. Every email marketer gets blocked occasionally, even if you have permission or generally follow best practices. The best defense is good offense: Be knowledgeable on the root causes of blocking, respect subscribers and measure inbox deliverability.

This is no tree in the proverbial forest. If your messages don’t reach the inbox, they won’t earn a response. It’s not something that happens to “that other guy.” In fact, about 20 percent of legitimate, permission-based email marketing messages and newsletters never make it to the inbox, according to a study by Return Path earlier this year. (Full disclosure, I work for Return Path).

Any lift in inbox placement goes right to the bottom line. All your metrics (e.g., opens, clicks, page views, conversions, ad revenues, etc.) will rise concurrently. The good news is that marketers can absolutely impact how messages are treated by ISPs like Hotmail, Yahoo and Gmail, and corporate system administrators.

Do not delegate inbox deliverability — a very important step to ROI — even if you delegate delivery. Your email broadcast vendor or ESP can’t do this for you. It’s a shared responsibility. A good broadcast vendor will operate an efficient delivery system, give you full reporting that includes actual inbox placement (Note: this is NOT your bounce rate) and help you follow best practices. However, no vendor can control your message content, frequency and acquisition practices. The buck stops with the marketer or sender.

You need the following four things to reach the inbox consistently and earn a response:

1. A solid infrastructure. For either an in-house system or a vendor, check frequently to be sure you know that your infrastructure is sound (e.g., proper reverse DNS, MX records, authentication and volume throttling) and your bounces are managed properly. Make sure you fully understand the metrics used in reporting as well.

2. Low complaints. There’s a penalty for irrelevancy in email marketing that doesn’t exist in other channels. It’s called “complaints.” A complaint is registered every time a subscriber clicks the “Report Spam” button. It only takes a few complaints to get all your messages blocked at Yahoo, Gmail or corporations (which use many of the same data sources). Subscribers complain when they’re not happy or interested in your messages, even if they’re customers and gave you permission. They complain even when they claim to love your brand.

Yikes! Imagine what would happen if Yahoo or another major ISP blocked all your messages for the next 30 days (the length of time many deliverability failures take to correct). Revenue would drop like a brick and you’d be under the spotlight to explain why your mailing practices earned such a wallop.

Relevant messages have low complaint scores. It’s the single most powerful factor in a good sender reputation, which dictates if your messages reach the inbox and earn a high response. It’s up to marketers and publishers to engage subscribers with every message rather than assume an opt-in gives you license to send whatever you want whenever you want.

Increase relevancy by developing a subscriber-focused content strategy. Address the editorial needs, buying cycles and life stages of your subscribers. New subscribers may welcome more email than long-time subscribers — or the opposite may be true. Tailor messages for subscribers who are up for product or service renewal, have recently purchased, visited a particular section of your website, abandoned their shopping cart, clicked but didn’t convert, downloaded a whitepaper, or haven’t opened or clicked in the last quarter.

3. A clean file. Keep a clean list by doing the following:

  • Be sure everyone on your email marketing file really wants to be there. Offer choices and make it easy to unsubscribe and change preferences.
  • Try to win back fatigued subscribers who are ignoring you early in the relationship. If you see a customer hasn’t opened or clicked in the past 90 days, you may have an opportunity to re-engage.
  • If someone hasn’t opened or clicked in 12 months, take them off your file.
  • Only accept subscribers from legitimate sources — e.g., your own website, partners you vet carefully and publishers with high sender reputations. It may be nice to have a large file, but it’s always better to have a file that’s more responsive and engaged.

4. Good reporting. You can’t manage or optimize what you don’t know. Track complaint data by signing up for all ISP feedback loops, and quickly remove those subscribers who complain. (Detailed instructions can be found here.) Be sure you actually know your inbox deliverability rate, by campaign and message type. This is not your bounce rate (typically 1 percent to 5 percent), but the actual number of messages that reach the inbox. You must seed your campaigns to get this data. If your email broadcast system or vendor isn’t reporting this to you, ask them for it.

What are you doing to better manage inbox placement as part of your response metrics? Let me know what you think by sharing any ideas or comments below.