Cold Email Templates: Who Do You Trust and Why?

From CEOs to inside sellers with no experience: Each week, I meet sellers using the exact same cold email templates … sourced on Google. They all report the same results. Nearly zero response. No meetings. Here’s why: Because they’re sending the exact same templates everyone else is.

From CEOs to inside sellers with no experience: Each week, I meet sellers using the exact same cold email templates … sourced on Google. They all report the same results.

Nearly zero response. No meetings.

Here’s why: Because they’re sending the exact same templates everyone else is.

Have a look at your own inbox. Do you see the same email template patterns over-and-over? For example, how many times per week do you get the “eaten by an alligator” or “chased by a wild hippo” follow-up message?

Do your emails start with, “Whenever I reach out to someone I have to have a reason. That reason needs to be timely and helpful based on research that I have done on your industry and potential risk exposure.”

How about, “My name is ____. Whenever I reach out to someone I make sure to have a reason in order to not waste your time.”

Or, “I read your comments in _________ [magazine] regarding [initiative/trend/issue].”

Or this follow-up template:

We’ve tried to reach you a couple times to introduce you to ________, but haven’t heard back which tells me something:

1) You’re all set and I should stop bothering you.

2) You’re still interested but haven’t had the time to get back to me yet (scheduling link listed below).

3) Maybe this is out of your wheel house, if so, is there some one you’d recommend connecting with?

4) You’ve fallen and can’t get up and in that case let me know and I’ll call someone to help you ….

Of course, you can replace No. 4 with herds of hippos, rhinos or alligators.

Like thousands of other sellers you’ve found your way to the same cold email templates. And like everyone else you send them, looking for customers to meet with.

But your direct competitors use the same templates. In fact, those you don’t compete with (directly) but do compete for inbox space use the same templates too.

That’s a problem.

Because recipients easily spot your messages and mark it as spam. Inboxes are becoming saturated with virtually identical messages.

The Problematic Source of Cold Email Templates

Why would you expect to find a better-than-average way to start conversations, using cold email templates, via Google? (everyone’s top go-to source for short-cuts!)

Why would you trust what you found? I suppose because of Google’s perceived clout to aggregate “only the best” answers to questions.

However, consider today’s most popular (ineffective) email templates come from dubious sources. Yes, Google aggregates them. But consider the end source.

  • Cold email gurus and wannabe gurus
  • Lead generation experts and agencies
  • Email software companies
  • LinkedIn and LinkedIn gurus

At face value this seems fine and logical. A handful of online gurus, guru wannabes and consultants claim expertise in cold emailing. Most offer free templates and webinars. In return for free wisdom they hope to earn your participation in an online class or hiring them to consult … to write emails for you.

Fair enough. But why would these experts provide good advice for free? Answer: They don’t.

Likewise, lead generation experts and agencies often give away B2B and B2C cold email templates designed to start conversations with prospects. But why would these businesses give away “what works” for free? They have no incentive to. In fact, they’re under incentive not to.

Answer: They don’t give away useful information either.

Instead, they trade what doesn’t work (perhaps worked years ago) for your email address.

The biggest source of templates, hands down, seems to be software providers like HubSpot and outreach.io. There are many, these are just 2 very fine companies.

Point is: Software tool providers want your email address too. In return they hope to sell you email management sending & analysis tools. As bait they offer tips-and-tricks … better ways to use their tools set.

If you’re a customer they’ll also provide recommendations on how to best use their solution. After all, you’re a paying customer.

Why don’t these tips pay off?

Answer: Building trust and credibility using LinkedIn and email is a skill. It’s not template-able.

Why We Trust Those Who Aren’t Experts

I’m not attacking gurus and legitimate software providers. I’m questioning their authority as experts in communications techniques. None of them officially claim this domain expertise, bye the way.

Software companies operate businesses providing a suite of email management tools. Fair enough. But they are not providers of sales and marketing copywriting services, nor do they claim to be communications educators. Instead, they tend to work with gurus to curate (and add legitimacy to) experts, consultants and gurus publishing free templates. All as a service to customers and a lead generation tool for themselves.

But what if these free tips don’t work? (hint: they don’t) And why would they to begin with … when considering the source? (hint: most folks don’t consider)

Everyone likes short-cuts, after all. Templates are short-cuts to success. Or are they?

Amazon’s Just Taunting Me – When Retargeting Goes Wrong

I’m generally pretty happy to be marketed to, especially when it’s well-personalized. But when retargeting is done wrong, it can go really wrong. And Amazon, with me, has gone really, really wrong. To the extent that this e-commerce scion isn’t just wasting its money, it’s actively ticking me off.

I’m generally pretty happy to be marketed to, especially when it’s personalized. Facebook ads, retargeting me across the Internet, direct mail … All of those things were on display in my Christmas post.

But when retargeting is done wrong, it can go really wrong. And Amazon, with me, has gone really, really wrong. To the extent that this e-commerce scion isn’t just wasting its money, it’s actively ticking me off.

Amazon Retargeting
And God help you if you click on one of those ads to see if the size selection changed …

Clothes are hard for me to find. I’m very tall and very big, and going to anything but big-and-tall stores is pretty much a waste of time (big-and-tall stores are basically the place to pay Brooks Brothers prices for K-mart quality and fashion sense, but that’s for another post).

So I do a lot of clothes shopping online with search terms like “3xlt” and “56 long.”

The problem is, search technology is baffled by this arcane language! Look up “men’s trenchcoat 3xlt” and you’ll see this:

Google Search for Men's TrenchcoatNone of those links takes you to trenchcoats in xxx-large tall. It doesn’t matter if I spell it “trenchcoat” or “trench coat.” It doesn’t matter if I use “3xlt” or “xxxl tall” or “long” or “XXX Tall Coat.” (Admittedly, the last one works a little better, but not by much.)

It’s hard to zero in on clothes in specific, uncommon sizes. So I wind up clicking on a lot of links that lead to clothes that do not come in my size.

And then, I start seeing ads for things like this:

Asian Large Trench Coat
I’m sure it’s huge in Japan.

That’s actually a nice-looking coat! I’d love to get that … Except once I click around, I see they only make it in Asian sizes that sound about as big as one of my socks.

I can get over that. That’s been my life since I was 10 and grew out of “huskies.”

But then these ads, in the immortal words of Denny Hatch, Start. Chasing. Me. All. Over. The. Internet.

Seriously, I’m seeing Amazon ads for trench coats in essentially children’s sizes on Facebook, Yahoo, every article I visit, and even occasionally in our own Today @ Target Marketing newsletter (which sometimes serves network ads via LiveIntent).

Some of the dangers of retargeting are well documented. Yes, it’s annoying to see ads, sometimes even sales, for things you just bought and products you could’ve bought instead. It’s annoying to see ads for things you shouldn’t buy but tempt you, even after your willpower won the battle against temptation once.

It’s another thing altogether to see hundreds of ad impressions for a piece of apparel that is actively making you angry because they don’t make it for you.

That’s when the customer experience goes from “OK, this can be useful, but today it’s annoying” to making me go full Picard.

Amazon PicardTargeting algorithms aren’t going anywhere. I’ve personally been enticed to spend way more thanks to them — when they’re not actively taunting me.

But the deeper we get into this uncanny valley, the more we see instances where your AI sales assistant acts dumber than your pimple-faced summer stock boy. And I wonder if that will ever change.

The Big Problem With Sales Email Templates  

Spending time doing cold email outreach to new prospects? Trying to reignite smoldering discussions with existing customers? Then you’re probably using voicemail (the phone), LinkedIn’s InMail and email. Sales email templates are a big part of day-to-day life. The problem is they don’t work.

Nothing screams “impersonal” more than a templated email. Yet most sellers use templates.

EmailSpending time doing cold email outreach to new prospects? Trying to reignite smoldering discussions with existing customers? Then you’re probably using voicemail (the phone), LinkedIn’s InMail and email. Sales email templates are a big part of day-to-day life. The problem is they don’t work.

Nothing screams “impersonal” more than a templated email. Yet most sellers use templates.

Stop Using Templates, Now

Templates don’t work. Now, I know you know this. But you still use ’em. So allow me to issue you permission to stop. Right now — today.

Think about the last templated message you received. How quickly did you delete it? More importantly, how easy was it for you to spot?

Was it the subject line — the one that told you precisely what was inside the message? (A.K.A. a terrible pitch.)

Or did the subject line trick you into opening it — only to earn your immediate deletion because the first line was offensive?

After years of helping folks write sales email letters, I can tell you why this happens. The reason sales email templates rarely work is simple: Most use the same, “telling” communications format.

Are Your Emails Asking Questions?

One common reason potential buyers delete cold email templates is because they start with a question that causes them to roll their eyes: the kind that signals “terrible pitch ahead.” Most sales email templates rely on a lazy, transparent formula. They sabotage you.

Providing that these kinds of emails do get opened, the contents usually:

  • Ask a question known to be on the buyers’ mind.
  • Take longer than 30 seconds to read.
  • Present a solution, rather than provoking the buyer to hit reply and talk about their problem.

These are just a few characteristics. There are a half-dozen more. Today, I want to focus on the root cause of your cold email being deleted:

That silly question you are asking.

The one you are asking to try to appear relevant. Trouble is it’s a dead give-away. It’s lazy, and off the same cookie sheet as 95 percent of competitor emails pouring into your buyers’ inbox.

For example, one of my students was using, “Did you know that printing is typically the third highest office expense behind payroll and rent?” He sells managed print services to CEOs, COOs and IT managers at small and mid-sized businesses.

Opening with a question is always dangerous. If it is perceived as a “leading question”, you’re deleted. Because if your question feels like a setup to a sales pitch the message will fail to provoke response.

The prospect will think, “I know why you’re asking … ” — then roll his eyes and hit delete. You will have signaled the “sales pitch ahead” alarm, sabotaging your provocation.

If the only obvious answer to your question is “yes” or “no”, it may risk insulting the buyers’ intelligence.

“Did you know printing is expensive?” is an obvious yes.

This approach is risky as compared to a question that forces the buyer to introspect on a more complicated issue.

All About eMail 15: The Great Twitter Roundup

Here’s the deal, fam: This past Thursday was the All About eMail Virtual Conference, the live virtual event that brings together the best and brightest minds in the industry for a full day of sessions, resources and chats that are (say it with me now …) all about email.

Here’s the deal, fam (and if you read my last blog post, you should already know this): This past Thursday was the All About eMail Virtual Conference, the live virtual event that brings together the best and brightest minds in the industry for a full day of sessions, resources and chats that are (say it with me now …) all about email.

I was lucky enough to be able to attend the show for its full course, and walked away from my desk stuffed full with new email tips and strategies, and a heaping side of downloaded resources to peruse even after the show had ended.

If you didn’t get to check it out, don’t you fret — the show and all its content is available on demand until Feb. 16. Click here for immediate access!

I also got to scope out the social scene during the show (try saying that 10 times fast). Lots of great activity in the #AAEM15 hashtag, and I thought I’d share a little roundup of bite-sized takeaways and observations from the show I found on Twitter.

A-five six seven eight!

Of course, there’s only so much 140 characters can tell you about 6.5 hours of content. So if you’re hungry for email expertise, be sure to sign up to check out the show on demand. I think these tweets do a good job of showing why it’s worth your while. Hope you enjoy!

And now for a little announcement unrelated to virtual shows or tweets. Recently I’ve taken over as marketing manager for one of Target Marketing’s sister publications, and it’s been an exciting and fulfilling whirlwind but, as you can imagine, busy and demanding. That being the case, I came to the difficult but necessary decision to put this blog aside for the time being.

My hope and my intention is to be back and better than ever in 2016 once I’ve gained my sea legs with this new undertaking, gotten all my ducks in a row, and other various water-related metaphors for “gotten my **** together.” Just think of it as … taking a short caffeine break! (Waka waka!)

Thanks so much for all the fantastic support so far — hope to see you back here in 2016!

Subject Lines in Sheeps’ Clothing: A Go or a No?

I’m sure you’ve seen it, if not used it yourself: Marketing emails wearing a friendly disguise, boasting “RE:” or “FW:” in their subject lines, usually with a real person’s name in the from line rather than a publication or company name. Obviously, the objective is to give the recipient a sense of familiarity. But is it worth the risks?

I’m sure you’ve seen it, if not used it yourself: Marketing emails wearing a friendly disguise, boasting “RE:” or “FW:” in their subject lines, usually with a real person’s name in the from line rather than a publication or company name.

Obviously, the objective is to give the recipient a sense of familiarity, or curiosity about whether this is a correspondence they were previously involved in, thus hopefully prompting an open.

I can tell you that in my three years copywriting for the Target Marketing Group’s marketing department, I’ve used subjects like these several times, as have most of my colleagues—and to be perfectly honest, we’ve seen impressive results as far as response and conversion rates.

Many marketers feel strongly that this method is simply too dishonest, erring on the devious rather than the clever side of crafty. Integrity and ethics are never negligible factors in what we do, even when a high open rate seems like the most important goal.

After some consideration, our marketing department decided to stash away the “RE”s and “FW”s for a while. Still, I thought I’d check out the stats for a few of these emails, to see if it was at all possible that the benefits outweighed the risks. Here’s what I found at a glance:

Subject 1
Re: Your Direct Marketing Day @ Your Desk Registration

Subject 2
Re: 2014 email marketing plans

Subject 3
FW: Reasons to register

Registrants:

340

Registrants:

336

Registrants:

15

Open rate:

28%

Open rate:

18%

Open rate:

21%

Unsubs:

372

Unsubs:

309

Unsubs:

90

Spam Complaints:

6

Spam Complaints:

7

Spam Complaints:

4

The first two examples were used in promotions for free virtual conferences, while the third promoted a paid workshop. You can see that the open rates were rather good, especially the first of the three. You wouldn’t know from the table, but I can tell you that these registration numbers were among the highest of any email in these events’ respective campaigns.

Now for the bad news: Example No. 2 had the highest number of unsubscribers and spam complaints in its campaign by far. Nos. 1 and 3 were not the “winners” in this respect, but certainly too close to the top to be in the clear. We also received a small handful of, shall we say, colorfully phrased (so colorful they’d have been bleeped on network cable) criticisms from offended readers.

So, what’s the conclusion? Does the fact that all of these emails were huge successes purely in terms of conversion mean that a large majority of recipients were fans, or at least not bothered by the tactic? Or are those unsubs, spam complaints, or simply the principle of the thing too significant to handwave?

As of now, I treat them as I treat wasabi: Use sparingly and with extreme caution. I’d love to hear what you think, or if you’ve done some testing with it yourself!

When Viral Marketing Goes Too Far

A couple of years ago, our local newspaper, The Philadelphia Inquirer, ran a disturbing story about how a mortgage loan company in Phoenix had sent spam advertising messages which appeared on the screens of thousands of wireless phone customers. Not only were the messages not requested, but these customers had to pay to retrieve them.

A couple of years ago, our local newspaper, The Philadelphia Inquirer, ran a disturbing story about how a mortgage loan company in Phoenix had sent spam advertising messages which appeared on the screens of thousands of wireless phone customers. Not only were the messages not requested, but these customers had to pay to retrieve them.

In the United States, phone numbers are allocated to wireless companies in blocks of 9,999, all beginning with the same three-digit prefix following the area code. The text messaging address for each mobile phone is derived from the phone number assigned to each customer’s handset and the wireless company’s name. This means that an advertiser can simply choose any three digit prefix in an area code and send a message to 10,000 people by changing the last four digits after the prefix

One industry analyst noted that this is just the tip of the iceberg. This type of spam is cheap and easy for advertisers to use. Wireless text messaging is widely used in the U.S.; and, while some carriers are taking precautions to protect their customers from text message advertising, so far neither the direct marketing industry nor the federal government has been able to control this form of spam. As the president of the mortgage company noted, the advertising had brought in new clients and “There still isn’t any rule against emailing.” Online, the concept of “permission marketing” is similarly tossed aside each day with the receipt of unsolicited promotional emails.

We call this indiscriminate solicitation of prospective customers one variation of the “Casanova Complex” customer acquisition model, reflective of the 18th century Italian adventurer, perhaps best known for his many female “conquests.” In the haste to bring in customers, companies can often forget to court the right customers, those who represent the best long-term revenue potential, or who won’t overtax the company’s customer service and support structure.

If offline instances of the Casanova Complex are a disease, then it is an epidemic among Internet companies. Many online retail sites have engaged in sweepstakes and other customer generation programs. Their objectives, they say, are to create “viral” promotions which create excitement for their sites and build their databases of available names both inexpensively and quickly. In one instance, a portal site which runs more than 1,000 websites featuring links to other sites signed up 50,000 registrants in a “Win Up to $4,000” game. Another sweepstakes program secured 126,000 registrants. An online travel products retailer, offering 1 million air miles to the winner, generated more than 60,000 names in 90 days, almost all of whom were new to the site.

The big issue for any of these sites is—do these promotions and schemes draw attractive customers who can then be cultivated over time through the various marketing tools available today? And, once these customers are on board, are companies doing enough of the right things to keep them? Or is this just another extrapolation of the Casanova Complex? As one site marketing executive said: “This is a great, low-cost way for us to acquire new names. The jury’s still out on how many of those new people will come back.” Companies involved in developing or using promotional tools like sweepstakes, unsolicited email, or wireless spam seem inclined, though, at least for the moment, to believe that these possibilities generally don’t apply to them.

For traditional offline companies, the Internet may be “commoditizing” their industry or undermining customer relationships. Many brick and mortar CEOs say a key corporate goal is to transition more of their offline customers to online, self-transactional usage. Why? Because an online transaction costs dramatically less than a brick-and-mortar transaction, there is less risk for service error, and the company can more effectively capture and leverage information from an online transaction, to cite a few advantages. Certainly, the transactional advantages of e-commerce are very appealing. But what about the effects on loyalty—especially for new customers?

One of the important ways both online and offline companies can discipline themselves to avoid the Casanova Complex is to apply personalization in all contact with customers, both new and established. This, at least, gives companies a better chance of establishing the basis of a value-based, viral relationship with these customers.

While it’s been estimated that more than 80 percent of e-commerce sites have customer and visitor email personalization capabilities (Opens as a PDF), less than 10 percent of the sites used personalization in follow-on marketing campaigns. For websites favoring incentive devices like sweepstakes and frontal assault “push” email programs to attract potential customers, personalized communication is the perhaps the best opportunity to demonstrate ongoing interest in customers—especially new ones.

Personalization is at the heart of the “relationship” in successful online CRM programs. Ultimately, it’s what makes any CRM effort viral.

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.

Be Warned of the “Professional Plaintiff”

A client recently received the ultimate “shakedown” letter—claiming violation of the California CAN-SPAM law as a result of getting eight emails, demanding $80,000 in statute-mandated damages, yet willing to settle for $2400. Unfortunately, this has become a cottage industry. The California law has a private right of action that has been taken advantage of by a few noteworthy legal vigilantes. Their actions have created a template for the “shakedown.”

[Editor’s Note: Gary Hennerberg is traveling this week, but attorney Peter Hoppenfeld has stepped in to supply this week’s blog.]

A client recently received the ultimate “shakedown” letter—claiming violation of the California CAN-SPAM law as a result of getting eight emails, demanding $80,000 in statute-mandated damages, yet willing to settle for $2400.

Unfortunately, this has become a cottage industry. The California law has a private right of action that has been taken advantage of by a few noteworthy legal vigilantes. Their actions have created a template for the “shakedown.”

To add insult to injury, the “professional” victim opted-in herself for each of the lists that she claims issued a spam email. I’m fairly sure that she probably has a cyber-ambulance chasing attorney ready to pounce on a contingency basis.

What do you do?

The American Corporate Counsel Association has issued a white paper that is very helpful. Seems like the SPAM demand toolkit left out one key defense—if your ISP has reasonable processes in place to prevent spamming, the statutory damages in California are reduced from $1000 to $100 per occurrence.

Quoting my letter:

First, it is clear that you are following a textbook (albeit outdated) approach of a “professional plaintiff” under the California anti-spam law. Attached is a copy of a White Paper prepared by the Association of Corporate Counsel that clearly rebuts each and every point that you have raised in an attempt to coerce my client to pay you monies.

We are in possession of proof that you opted into a number of email lists as proof that these emails are not unsolicited. Even if unsolicited, all of my client’s emails contain compliant opt-out links and you have not elected to take advantage of that option.

The element of the California law that you conveniently ignored is Section 17529.8 which reduces the potential statutory damages to $100 per occurrence. Please note:

” … working with reputable email service providers (ESPs), advertisers can be more confident that recipients did opt-into receive commercial email. ESPs generally maintain or can produce evidence of each opt-in, in the form of IP address from which the consumer opted-in, date/time stamp of opt-in, and other information. {NOTE: ALL IN OUR POSSESSION.}

While plaintiffs may contest the veracity of such evidence in a proceeding, once the evidence is produced, the burden to show it is inaccurate generally shifts to the plaintiff [NOTE: WE ARE UNAWARE OF ATTORNEYS WHO WILL TAKE A MATTER ON CONTINGENCY WHEN THERE ARE BURDENS OF PROOF SUCH AT THIS.}

More importantly, statutory damages under the Code of $1,000 for each spam are reduced to $100 for each spam, when there is evidence that a defendant established and implemented practices and procedures reasonably designed to effectively prevent spamming. {NOTE: SUCH PRACTICES AND PROCEDURES ARE IN PLACE.}

Accordingly, we deem your demand a “shake down” and a nuisance, and to save time and expense offer you the sum of $800 in full and final settlement of this matter. No monies will be provided to you unless you agree in writing: that no Spam violation took place; to maintain the terms of this arrangement confidential; and to agree to a penalty of $10,000 if it is determined that in the future you are engaged in any attempt to assist others to assert this type of claim against my client.

The matter settled, but the complainer remained indignant. Unbelievable.

Key takeaways:

  • Have a complete understanding of the CAN-SPAM laws.
  • Use an identifiable “from” email, a non-deceptive subject line, include a physical address, provide for an opt-out link and remove people who opt-out within 10 days.
  • Even more importantly, if affiliates are mailing for you, make sure they “scrub” their lists against your Suppression list.

Good Luck All. It’s a jungle out there.

Peter Hoppenfeld is an attorney and adviser in the representation of direct marketers, speakers, authors, information marketers, “thought leaders,” entrepreneurs and domestic and international training companies and their founders. Reach him at peterhoppenfeld.com.

Email Marketing: To Open or Not To Open …

For many of us, choosing the from name is a simple task. We send it from the person to whom we want the recipient to respond or connect, but hold on … did you test that?

For many of us, choosing the from name is a simple task. We send it from the person to whom we want the recipient to respond or connect, but hold on … did you test that?

One of our clients sends more than a million emails daily to their subscribers. They have built their list using a variety of resources, one of which was to purchase three million self-identified target recipients, but they also used co-registration with a daily newsletter offer to acquire another million names over a span of a few months. The co-registration names were a double-opt in so ideally should have produced stellar results and highly qualified names, but that didn’t actually turn out to be the case.

After sending to the purchased list, we tossed it completely due to the very high number of spam traps we managed to trigger in our first two sends. With those names eliminated, we focused on the co-registration list, which we segmented into large groups to receive the daily message they had been offered. This was done through more than a dozen different ESPs.

As we saw it, job one was to validate the email addresses were deliverable, not spam traps, and were—at best—being opened. As we suspected, a number of them were spam traps, so we dialed it back and a great deal of time to a deep-cleanse effort of sending in very small batches (about 200 per day per ESP) in order to more easily stop the cycle if we irritated more spam sensors. (It takes a long, damn time to send to millions of recipients at the rate of 200 per day.)

Using this process, once we reached 250,000 verified emails, we sent to those in larger groups through our three best-performing ESPs—those with whom we historically saw the best deliverability rates. We continued these two steps with the balance of the names and applied the deep-cleanse process for new names still coming in through the co-registration sites (about 500 names per day).

The combination of the deep cleanse and slow send improved our results drastically. All emails were deliverable, unsubscribes were low, but open rates were still lagging. Since this was a daily message to which the users had specifically subscribed, we were pretty sure there was room for improvement even though the list was growing faster than the combined attrition rate (unsubscribes + undeliverable + spam complaints), and traffic to this site was flourishing.

While our client does not sell anything on their site, they do sell ad space in the daily email, monthly newsletter and on their website. The number of views for these ads is critical to our client’s revenue. Emails going unopened, being marked as spam, or gaining an unsubscribe are not generating revenue in a click or impressions ad placement.

Regardless of which email application the subscriber uses, there are two things they see: from and subject line. Some email applications will also show the preheader text, a preview, or other snippets to give the recipient more clues about the content. We chose to tackle first the sender information, and then work on the subject line. After all, there’s only so many ways we could say, “Here’s the daily email to which you have subscribed.”

The target audience for this daily email is largely male—not all male, mind you, but nearing the 85 percent mark. I suspected males would rather receive emails from women, so we started there. We also used tried other sender names and email addresses:

  • Company name
  • Site owner’s name (she has some visibility in this space, so we tried to parlay that recognition into opens)
  • General email address
  • Mature-sounding woman’s name
  • Young-sounding, woman’s name
  • Sexy woman’s name
  • Mature-sounding male name (in line with the target audience age group)
  • Young-sounding male name

We didn’t just change the from name, we created a matching from address for continuity and credibility (rather than use a system address such as newsletter@companysite.com). For instance, if Brittni Jones was the from name, the address was brittni@companysite.com

What we found, and what I’m sure you already know, is sender matters—in a big, important way; at least for this client.

I was right on one front: This primarily male constituency did open far more emails from Brittni than Edith, but they also liked getting emails from Trevor, a very close second. They didn’t read nearly as many emails from Bob, though Bob was more popular than using the company name. The actual statistics for this campaign are not important; your company would experience completely different results. The takeaway here is about testing and being relevant—even at the sender name and address level.

If your opens are suffering, think first about whether or not John Smith is convincing enough to get me to open, then remember: test, track, tweak. Repeat.