61 posts categorized "List Management" Feed

Are we conditioning our non responders?

I attended the list attrition presentation at the EEC Conference in February and as expected, the subject of non responders arose.

I guess my concern is similar to Stephanie Miller's in her recent blog about subscribers becoming hooked on discounts, so much so, that they don't respond to regular emails. Albeit a different subject matter - the principle is the same.

As marketers, we need to use re-activating campaigns wisely so that we don't condition our subscribers to tuning out from our regular email campaigns unless they are immediately 'rewarded'.

Ideally we need to encourage long term re-activation of the subscriber, rather than rewarding those who are in it for the 'goodies' and then sit dormant until another reward is offered. In this recent interview for the DMA UK's newsletter, Stefan Pollard has some suggestions for long term subscriber reactivation and better still, just plain keeping them interested.

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Five Levels of Permission

There are essentially five levels of permission you need to consider when designing your email programs. Each has their pros and cons and its usage depends on the type of program you are developing and the subscriber experience you want to provide. When trying to decide which one to implement, it might be helpful to assess the amount of risk that is associated with your opt-in program and take into account the relationship you want to build with your subscriber.

1. Opt-out
You obtain an email address for a subscriber (it doesn't matter how) and begin emailing that person. In order to get off of the list, the subscriber must email or click to opt-out of future mailings. While you may end up with a lot of subscribers on your list, opt-out mailing is the lowest form of permission and is too close to spam to be advisable.

2. Negative Opt-in
You offer subscribers an email subscription form - usually as part of an order form - with a check box that has already been selected for an agreement to receive emails. This person must uncheck the box in order not to receive emails from your company. Again, while you may rapidly build your email file, you could also end up with a lot of angry customers who did not realize that they had agreed to receive your emails. As a result, your mailings may be received as spam.

3. Opt-in
A subscriber must proactively select a box in order to receive your email communications. Opt-in is the most common form of subscription because it is voluntary on the part of the subscriber and keeps things simple.

4. Confirmed Opt-in
A subscriber opts in for your emails and then receives an email message confirming their subscription and offers them the option to immediately unsubscribe if the subscription was a mistake in any way. This level of permission increases the value of your list, and on some level, protects you against charges of spamming. Moreover, you can use this first email to establish a connection with your new subscriber and showcase the value that they will continue to receive from your mailings.

5. Double-Opt-in
A subscriber opts in to your email list and then receives an email message from you that requires them to reply to your email in order to be added to the list. This is the gold standard for permission because consumers must essentially subscribe to your list twice indicating that they really want to receive your emails. However, some subscribers may not realize that they need respond to the confirmation email causing you to lose them after the initial opt-in.

Source: Return Path

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List Hygiene and Relevance Are Key

In this article Ken Magill reminds us that if enough recipients think our e-mail program is garbage, no e-mail service provider in the world will be able to prevent spam complaints, and the resulting delivery troubles. Likewise, if we refuse to clean dead addresses off our list because one of those addresses just might, maybe, someday make a purchase, there isn’t a single ESP out there who will be able to stop Yahoo, AOL, and Microsoft from diverting our messages into recipients’ spam folders or blocking them altogether.

He's dead right! So is this quote:

That we still have marketers—the majority of them, apparently—who believe that the ESP they choose will have a significant effect on their deliverability means some ESP reps are selling marketers on lies, or the marketers are deluding themselves.

Source: Direct

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5 Ways to Keep the Conversation Going

In this article Wendy Roth offers five ways to salvage the relationship when readers want to unsubscribe:

1. Let subscribers choose how often they want to get email from you.
Offer a weekly alternative if the links stay active that long. Think of it as a cheap way to repurpose your daily content and keep the clicks coming in.

2. Let subscribers pick the content they really want, not just what you think they like.
You don't even have to have a fancy content-management system that generates dynamic content down to the most granular level. Just create a new list that spins off one segment of your market and could appeal to a lucrative niche in your subscriber base.

3. List all the ways subscribers can receive information from you.
Sure, I love email, but I know it's not the only way people want to receive information. Today, your subscribers have so many communication channels open to them that if one doesn't work anymore, another one surely will. RSS feeds, blogs, podcasts, IM deals, even old-fashioned paper catalogs are all ways you can keep the relationship alive if email no longer works.

4. Tell them in each email message how they can change or update their subscription records.
Think of this as a pre-emptive strike. Assuming they still open their email messages from you, you can put this important information where they'll see it quickly, no matter whether they see a truncated version of your email in their preview pane or on their cellphone, or the whole message in all its HTML glory on a 21-inch desktop monitor.

Not everybody who unsubscribes really wants to leave. They might just want to change an email address because they're switching email providers or dumping their current address because of spam from other senders. (Certainly not from you!)

5. Wrap it all up with an easily accessible subscriber page that loads with their data and lets them update with just a few clicks.
This means "no passwords." If their records include sensitive data such as credit-card numbers or bank accounts, save that information on a separate page and restrict access to it there.

Look for other barriers, too. Do you still force confirmation on opt-outs as well (I hope!) as on opt-ins? Drop that barrier too. Instead, put a resubscribe line in a follow-up email or a confirmation page on your site. If they really did screw up and unsubscribe when they just wanted to change, they can resubscribe there.

Source: iMedia Connection

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Email Address Updates: Best Practices

In his latest Email Insider column, Loren McDonald recommends these best practices to get more subscribers to change their addresses instead of letting the relationship wither away:

  • Call out the change of address explicitly. Label a text link high up in your message body as “Update Preferences/Email Address” or “Change Email Address.” If subscribers can change their addresses only by unsubscribing and then resubscribing, explain that clearly.
  • Link directly to the profile or preference page.
  • If your email technology enables it, pre-populate the Web site form with the current email address.
  • Remove as many barriers as possible. Subscribers often either forget or don’t want to take the time to look up their log-ins or passwords, so make sure your password-recovery system delivers the info fast to their email.
  • At minimum, put the change-of-address/preference-update link in an administrative or footer area in the message.
  • Send a confirmation email to the new address to make sure it was entered correctly, and to confirm any other details the subscriber might have changed.
  • Acknowledge the change immediately. Post a thank-you page or send a confirmation email. If you can, include a link to a discount, whitepaper download or other relevant incentive.

Source: Email Insider

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9-Step Checklist for Your Email Sign-up Process

In this article, Simms Jenkins share a couple of questions to ask yourself to ensure you treat your email sign-up form/preference center like a binding contract:

What did you say you do?
Offer up the benefits and a general overview of what they would be receiving.

Can you show me what you are talking about?
Samples can help seal the subscription deal or alleviate any fears of potential subscribers that they may just be receiving "a bunch of emails" with little value.

How often will we be talking?
Spell out how often a subscriber will receive your emails. Don't mislead users.

What's in it for me?
An enticing reward can often help create the email relationship and convert many would-be email subscribers.

May I make a suggestion?
Let your new email subscribers choose some content and have some control over their subscription, whether it is HTML vs. text, the frequency, the language or just a nice menu of newsletter and email offerings.

How well do you want to get to know me?
The general rule is that with more than four to five fields of information you may start to lose potential subscribers. If you are not using the information for segmenting, than just ask for a first name and email address.

Why should I trust you?
Make your privacy policy accessible for your future subscribers with just a simple link.

How easy is it for me?
Ensure your sign up form can be found (and completed for most) on the home page.

Can you please confirm that with me?
Tying in with the incentive aspect, your confirmation email/page is a great spot to receive the actual coupon/white paper and engage the new subscriber right away.

Source: iMedia Connection

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Reactivating Inactive Subscribers

A reactivation campaign will identify which addresses you can safely drop from your list without killing off live ones and re-establish connections with past customers.

How do you identify inative subscribers? Wendy Roth suggests to create a separate mailing list, and add anyone who hasn't opened or clicked on a message in, say, six months or longer, to it. Send a message with a pleading subject line, such as "We miss you! Please come back!" and include a special offer or invitation to fill out a new profile or encourage them to unsubscribe once and for all.

Move any responding addresses back to your active list. Send the message again, this time saying you'll take them off your list if they don't respond in, say, a week. Then, scratch them from your list if they don't respond. It might kill you to do that, but a smaller, more vital list will do you more good than one where nobody's home anymore.

Source: 6 tips to win back inactive subscribers (iMedia Connection)

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Preference Centers And Targeting

David Baker wrote an excellent article about preference centers and targeting a couple of weeks ago which I didn't get round to reading until this morning. Here's what he says:

While the concept of an online consumer preference center is a great idea, does it really add value to an email program or consumer experience?  In theory it works. You ask your customers to profile themselves, manage their subscriptions and hope they'll manage this over time.  In theory, this would help with customer targeting, timing and overall customer management. 

While I've seen some really great approaches to preference centers, consumer adoption and interaction is a product of the consumer brand involvement with the product and service (how frequently and how often), the perceived value in contributing to this enhanced profile (what's in it for me), and your ability as a marketer to continue to motivate your customer to contribute to this profile over time. 

Many preference centers are great ideas that are poorly executed -- not because the registration page isn't functional or the users can't update their profiles, but because of  mismatched expectations.  When many marketers are still grappling with permission management practices (opt-in vs. opt-out), why add another layer of consumer management to the problem? 

Many in the email space propose preference centers to help with subscription practices. Some do it for depth of profile, some do it thinking this level of management will help you understand what percentage of your audience will get that involved in your brand.  Which are you? 

If you decide to develop a preference center, which I personally think has value for the marketer -- and, if done creatively, for the consumer -- there must be a connection between a consumer, the appropriate depth of content and value in a program, and a commitment from the marketer to continue to build value in keeping profiles updated.  Remember, a bad or outdated profile is potentially riskier to a customer relationship than little-to-no profile.  Would you rather market broadly to your customers with a common voice -- or show them you still have their old address from 10 years ago?  I have several profiles I set up in 2001, and I continue to get local marketing ads for Texas with poor use of personalization that is designed to show how smart the marketers are.  They simply showed me how inept they are in carrying a profile for 10 years without first attempting to get it updated.

If you decide to bring this on, here are some things that you should consider:

  • How do you want to introduce it?  (At enrollment/membership, one-step or two, a condition of membership?)
  • How can you support this through alternative channels (offline? Television, radio, POS)?
  • Do you have a "big idea" that can carry this program message?
  • Is your organization behind it and the value it can add? (this means all channels committed to building and leveraging this information)
  • What level and type of data is actionable vs. nice to have? (the 4-Ps of Data, Personal, Profile, Preferential and Performance)
  • Do I try to build a profile in one sitting or build it in stages?
  • How will I entice the consumer to participate today and tomorrow?

As a professional marketer, I'm a bit skeptical of customer preference centers.  Yes, they make sense for transactional relationships and managing functional tasks.  But if your goal is one-sided (only value is to the marketer), your program and the perceived value by the consumer is likely that as well. 

Pull a comScore report and look at all the sites that your ideal customers visit regularly; look at their demographic traits, their interests and genres, and see how many of these sites and brand relationships they are willing to go to the next level. Then do a reality check and try to determine whether your idea of a preference center would really "hold water" with all these connections the consumer has today.  If your brand has this connection and persistence, then you have a chance.  If you have a preference center in place and have completed profiles of less than 15% of your base, then you need to rethink the value this serves.

Source: Email Insider

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How to Use Sweepstakes to Build an Engaged Email List

Here's some great advice from Stephanie Miller regarding the use of sweepstakes to build your list:

Despite the number of sweepstakes this season - and the predictable traffic boost they create - it's still hard to hear the cash register ring for email marketers trying to use this tactic to build an engaged file of new customers.

No wonder, since our experience suggests sweepstakes-sourced subscribers actually convert less than half as well (40-70% less based on recent client campaigns) than opt-in subscribers. Why? Because entrants are primarily interested in the prize and not necessarily in buying the products or service. That means in order to achieve a positive ROI, you need at least 2x the number of leads, or you need 2x the average order size - just to leave your email file as responsive as it was before you started.

When running a sweepstakes you pose a risk to your email file health. Having a lot of subscribers who are not interested in your company or products could lead to higher complaints, and hurt your deliverability for all subscribers. Consequently, your response rates will decrease as you flood your file with non-responsive subscribers who will, frankly, never respond. However, there are ways to use sweepstakes effectively to grow a house email file:

  • Choose Your Audience Wisely: Promote your sweepstakes to potential buyers of your product or service. Don't go broad just to bulk up, as you will flood the email file with disinterested consumers who are very likely to complain about your messages to the ISPs.
  • State Your Intentions: At the point of collection make it very clear that they are also being added to the email file. Make it clearer than you do at checkout since a sweepstake entry is not as engaged an action as a purchase.
  • Confirm Your Relationship: Follow up with a sweepstakes entry confirmation followed by a very clear welcome message. You can use the welcome message as a prime opportunity to encourage a first purchase and communicate the value of being on your email file.
  • Don't Rush Into Anything: Minimize risk to your email file by quarantining the sweepstakes data for some time (maybe as long as a quarter, depending on your business) and then add only the active subscribers to your primary email marketing database.
  • Give Them an Easy Way Out: Provide prominent unsubscribe instructions in your email. If they want to opt-out of your list, don't make them jump through hoops.

Always do an ROI analysis and see if you can make a positive business case for your sweepstakes. Factor in the risk to your sender reputation (deliverability), unsubscribe rate and overall file responsiveness.

Source: ReturnPath

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Using Contests and Competitions to Build Your List? Read this!

The folks at Campaign Monitor found that competition entry lists seems to get a disproportionate amount of spam complaints.

A competition entry list is a list where you have entered your email address to win some kind of prize, and at the same time agreed to receive email in the future from the company running the competition. This is completely legitimate, assuming it is made very clear to people signing up that are giving that permission.

"However, even when it is clear we still see a lot more complaints from campaigns to these kinds of lists", says Mathew Patterson.

Why is that?

  • There can be a significant time lapse between entering the competition and the first email campaign.
  • A big chunk of entrants only signed up for the competition and never wanted extra email anyway.
  • It's often easier to hit the spam button than the unsubscribe link.
  • The emails often have no apparent connection the original competition.

Fortunately, these issues are all quite simple to combat with small changes.

  • On the competition entry page, make it obvious what people are signing up to receive. Don't use vague 'offers from selected partners' language if you can avoid it.
  • Send the first non-competition email soon after signup. The longer you wait the less likely people are to remember giving permission. (My advice: send it within two weeks after signup)
  • Include a clear permission reminder in each email. It should state specifically that the subscriber signed up by entering the competition (link to the site if it is still available), and also let them get off the list easily.
  • Make the competition list double opt-in, so people have a second chance to understand what they are doing, and take a positive action to give permission.

Thanks Mathew for providing us with these guidelines!

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9 Tips to Build Your Email List

In this article Gail Goodman gives us a couple of tips on how to build your list:

1. Add a "Join My E-mail List" sign-up box on your website.
Your website is usually the first place people look when they want information about your business. Don't miss the chance to start building a relationship with them when they visit your website.

2. Ask your customers for their e-mail addresses and permission.
Whether it's over the phone or in person, tell customers about your e-mail communications and ask if you can add them to your list. If you have a physical store, put out a sign-up book in a prominent place. If your business is internet-based and your only customer communication is through e-mail, send a follow-up e-mail after an order and ask if they want to join your list. If you have employees who interact with customers, train them to ask as well.

3. Ask those you meet at networking events and at trade shows.
When you meet people at networking events and trade shows, tell them about your free e-newsletter or your e-mail-only specials and ask if they would like to join your list.

4. Offer incentives for signing up.
It's amazing how a freebie or a chance to win a prize can be just what a person needs to "take the plunge" and sign up for your e-mail list. Your giveaway doesn't have to be costly; it can be as simple as sharing your expertise in the form of a free white paper or guide. Make it clear to those who sign up that they will be added to your list.

5. Run a "Forward to a Friend Contest."
In your e-mail newsletter, let your contacts know that if they use the "Forward to a Friend" link to send this month's newsletter to at least one new recipient, they'll be entered into a drawing for a prize. An e-mail marketing service provider lets you see which subscribers forwarded your e-mail to a friend.

6. Partner with a related business or organization.
Think of a business or organization that's related to your business, but isn't a competitor. Work together to promote each other's e-mail communications to your customers. Some good partnership examples are a tax accountant and a financial planner, a public relations firm and a website designer, or a theater and a nearby restaurant. Highlight your partner as a guest writer in your newsletter and ask that they do the same for you. At the end of each article, invite readers to join that author's e-mail list.

7. Include a "Join My E-mail List" link in all online content.
Do you have articles on your website or on other websites? Do you have your own blog? This is another great opportunity to add people to your list. Include a link that takes readers to your sign-up page. Your copy could read, "Like this article? Get more like it in your inbox. Subscribe today for our monthly e-newsletter."

8. Include a "Join My E-mail List" link at the bottom of your e-mail signature.
This is great advertisement and it's free. Add one line that describes the benefits of your newsletter or e-mail promotions like, "Get our monthly newsletter with tips on how to grow your business" or "Receive weekly coupons for exclusive discounts."

9. Promote your e-mail communications in all printed materials (including your business cards).
It's easy to forget about e-mail when doing a printed piece. Whether it's a brochure or a direct mail postcard, don't forget to add a line asking the receiver to sign up for your free newsletter. Business cards are a great place for a quick promo as well.

Source: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21083965

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Tips to Set Up a Successful Preference Center

In this article, Jeanne Jennings provides some tips for setting up a successful preference center:

  1. Organize your newsletter choices. If your company has more than five e-mail newsletters listed, arrange them into logical groups so readers can figure out which ones might interest them.
  2. Ask for additional information. When visitors return to update their preferences, take that opportunity to grow your database of knowledge about them. Never ask for more than three new pieces of data at a time. In addition, prioritize and ask only for useful data. For example, ask for a ZIP code if your company offers regional workshops, so recipients can be informed of upcoming events in their areas.
  3. Offer incentives in exchange for more data. Some companies offer a small incentive for visitors to update their information, for example, every three to six months. Also, ask for another bit of data when they update for that incentive.
  4. Always send an e-mail confirmation. When visitors alter or add information, send an e-mail confirming changes made to the user profile. Provide a link to the updated page if the change wasn't anticipated.
  5. Think hard about requiring a password for preference centers. If that part of your Web site doesn't contain sensitive data about the visitor, such as credit card information or salary details, you run the risk of turning off people who don't have the time or inclination to remember user names or passwords.

Source: BtoB

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Tips for Introducing Your Subscribers to Your Sister Brands and Partners

In his Email Insider column, Chad White tells us to keep our subscribers' email addresses out of the hands of partners and even sister brands. Why? Because you don't want to abuse your subscribers' permission -- once you lose it it's nearly impossible to get back.

Here are some ways to introduce your subscribers to your sister brands and partners:

  • During the sign-up process, present customers with the opportunity to subscribe to sister brands.

  • Send an email of introduction from your domain and give your subscribers an opportunity to sign up for the sister brand or partners' email program.

  • Highlight the sister brand or partner in your regular emails, preferably in a way that relates it to your offerings. For instance, in a March 6 email from Banana Republic, there was a secondary banner about some shoes from Piperlime, the shoe store brand that Gap Inc. launched late last year, that coordinated with the pants that Banana Republic was promoting in that email. That's a highly relevant way of incorporating a reference.

  • Include links to sister brands and partners as part of your email template, but only if the brands are complementary. Also avoid this tactic if there's a risk of blurring the lines between two brands. RitzCamera is one retailer that includes links to its sister brands, which include BoatersWorld.com and FishingOnly.com. While I question the synergies between RitzCamera and BoatersWorld, there are presumably much stronger synergies between BoatersWorld and FishingOnly so those two brands' emails could have links to each other.

One of the methods that Chad doesn't recommend is repeatedly sending email on behalf of the other brand using your domain. When Gap Inc. was introducing their Piperlime shoe store brand, for months and months on end they sent what were essentially Piperlime emails to the subscribers of the Gap, Old Navy and Banana Republic newsletters. While on a few occasions, the emails would try to recruit subscribers for Piperlime's email program, usually they would just promote Piperlime's products. That tactic hurts the relevancy of your email program because you're no longer sending the content your subscribers signed up for and expect.

Source: Email Insider

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Don't Misuse Send to a Friend to Build Your Database

"Send to a Friend (STAF)" or "Forward to a Friend (FTAF)" are very good ways to get your message across to readers that are not on your list. However, you should not add these email addresses to your list! It's just not good email practice and in some countries it's even illegal to do so. These people have never opted-in or gave you permission to email them. If you do add them to your list, you'll be hurting both your brand (you'll be perceived as a spammer) and your deliverability rate (you'll see a spike in spam complaints).

Chad White was recently hit with such an email from Sony at an address where he’d never been a subscriber but had received a Sony email from a friend who used Sony’s send-to-a-friend (STAF) functionality. That forwarded email arrived more than 6 months ago. Read what he has to say about the subject.

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Bounce Handling Best Practices

Last week I was doing some research on bounce handling best practices. My main questions were these:

  • Is marking hard bounces as undeliverable after the 3rd consecutive hard bounce within one year the right way to treat hard bounces? Personally I think 3 is too many.
  • Should we set different thresholds for hard bounces, soft bounces and spam complaint bounces? If yes, what should that threshold be?

Today, I'd like to share my findings with you:

Matt Vernhout referred me to his blog where he had just posted a piece on bounce handling. In this article he explains the difference between a hard bounce and a soft bounce:

  • A hard bounce (or permanent failure) is one which is not likely to be resolved by resending the message in the current form. English translation: "Do not try to deliver this message again as it currently exists".
  • A soft bounce (or transient failure) is one in which the message as sent is valid, but persistence of some temporary condition has caused abandonment or delay of attempts to send the message. English translation: "Try to deliver this message again, but later".

and he gives some examples of each and links to more information about bounce codes. Read more here.

In response to my question on the Email Marketer's Club forum he share some more of his wisdom:

  • Does the system differentiate between "571 I don't like your content" and "550 User unknown" - or do these both count as the same thing toward your disable threshold? The first should have the opportunity to try again based on business logic like you speak of (3 hard bounces in one year), while the second one should be removed immediately.
  • Soft bounces are a little different these are usually temporary errors and should be built around business rules, but take into consideration - 1 soft bounce followed by a success should reset your counter to 0.
  • Spam Complaints should be removed immediately from that mail stream. These should also be reviewed and measured against some metrics (such as opt-in source, time on list, # of messages) to see if there are potential relevance or recognition issues for these members. These should also be considered as an opt-out from your emails - only resuming after a valid opt-in. Keeping these number below 0.1% is imperative. Check this by measuring against domain volume and not total volume (i.e. AOL sent/AOL complaints < 0.1%).

I also posted my question on the EmailRoundtable and got some more insights:

Stephanie Miller responded that "one hard bounce and off the file is the best rule.  Hard bounces are just that - hard.  There is no one there and won't be".

Dennis Dayman agrees with Stephanie: "At 33% address churn per year, your list may contain a high number of undeliverable records if it hasn't been recently mailed or too much time has elapsed between data capture and mailing. We suggest removal on the first hard bounce. There is no reason to attempt delivery a second and third time. With the fundamental change in anti-spam methodologies going from primary being content based filtering to more reputation based filtering these days, it becomes more important to ensure removals of hard bounces quickly."

When it comes to soft bounces he says "you need to examine the specific failure types to determine the likely causes:

  • Resend records that fail for temporary conditions such as mailbox full
  • Invalidate records only if the same result is received on subsequent mailings over at least thirty (30) days. Look for 3-5 times
  • Contact the recipient for replacement or corrected email address or flag for Address Recapture either by postal mail or another emailaddress from ECOA programs like what ReturnPath has"

Finally, when it comes to dealing with complaints, Dennis says: "The number in your reporting should include both complaints received from established feedback loops (AOL) and formal abuse complaints filed with system administrators that come back as bounces.. Managing your complaint rate is important because they trigger ISP blocks and blacklisting, and are a key component to your reputation as a legitimate email sender. Since only a handful of ISPs offer complaint feedback loops, you should use this data as a proxy for customers you may not be hearing from..."

Bill Kaplan added to that: "I'm in agreement with Stephanie that "one hard bounce and you're out" is the best rule.  This should also be the rule for spam complaints. ISPs basically watch three list hygiene thresholds in deciding whether or not to block your email: a) bounce thresholds, b) "This is Spam" complaint thresholds, and c) spamtrap/honeypot email address thresholds. "Better safe than sorry" is your best course of action these days if you want to maximize your deliverability.  Or, as we instruct our clients, "When in doubt, throw it out.""

Thanks to everyone for responding to my question! If you have something to add, feel free to post it in the comments or on the Email Marketer's Club.

Source: EmailKarma, Email Marketer's Club, EmailRoundtable

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How Not to Build Your List

Go to any internet marketing forum and ask the following question: If you had to start your internet company all over again but were allowed to incorporate just one item from your previous business what would it be? Some marketers may say a certain traffic generating technique or advertising method which has made them a lot of money. Others may pick a specific product or service. But you can bet that the overwhelming majority will say if they had to decide on just one thing, it would be their opt in email in list.

According to Direct Marketing Association, revenue generated last year from email marketing was projected at 18.5 billion dollars and that was just in the United States alone. The advent of filters due to spam email makes it tougher to contact your target audience but having your own email marketing system remains essential to online success.

But you can take it to the bank, that anytime a good thing comes along, some people will do everything in their power to shortcut or game the system and ruin it for everyone else. They will then try to convince many people who are just starting out to do the same. If you want to build your email list the wrong way then.

  • Buy the List: there are many distributors online who will sell you an email list. This is a very ineffective way of marketing since these lists are usually to general in nature. You make a list mailing purchase of 10,000 names and addresses but the number of people who are going to be interested in your product or service will be minuscule. Another problem is that many people on the list never asked to be sent a solicitation, which brings up the question of how did the distributors compile the list? Unsolicited emails are a good way to get accused of spamming.

  • Email Harvesting: a few years back many a website offered software to gather emails from online profiles, forum postings, mailing lists and various other places. The software would look for anything that appeared to be an email address and then compile it into a list. While not as prominent as before, this software still exists. You may be able to find a legitimate email distributor to buy a list from but email harvesting is spamming; pure and simple. This method will get you in a lot of trouble.

Opt in email marketing is arguably still the best way to generate a steady stream of customers and revenue. Yes it's been made tougher but that does not mean the system has been rendered useless. Just stay away from the shady practices or quick fixes and you will have no trouble building a responsive opt in email list of people who cannot wait to hear from you.

Source:  Daryl Campbell on ezinearticles.com

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Learning to Let Go: Be Very Careful with Confirmation Reminders

by Justin Premick

It's a common temptation: email addresses are entered into your form (or imported), sent the confirmation message… and then… Nothing. They sit there, pending. They haven't confirmed. And it's looking like they might not at all.

So the publisher starts thinking…

"What Can I Do to Get Them to Confirm?"
This is a great question to ask — before subscribers fill out your form, or even before they come to your website at all. The trouble starts when you ask this question after someone submits your opt-in form. This can send you down a path that, while often well-intentioned, leads straight to email deliverability hell.

Al Iverson points out an example of how an organization that many would consider to be reputable — a veterans' affairs site — have found their way out of the inbox and into the Spam folder by emailing people who didn't complete their registration.

Yes, It's an Extreme Case… These guys sent him at least five requests to complete his registration over the course of just one month. I don't think anyone who has ever asked us about sending a reminder had that in mind.

So how many reminders are too many?
Our view is, one "reminder" email is too many.

Simply put, too many problems arise when sending out email to unconfirmed subscribers, and while there's a chance you might not encounter any negative consequences, the benefit of this tactic is far outweighed by the potential costs to your email deliverability and to your reputation as a business.

So How Do I Get People to Confirm?
Focus on people who are interested and engaged with your campaign. And for the people who still don't confirm, let 'em go. As Iverson says, "The whole point of confirming is to validate them as a user, counting them as engaged, knowing they want your mail." If they're not confirming, they're not engaged. Focus on the ones who are engaged rather than wracking your brain over how to get marginally engaged people to click a link.

Source: AWeber

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"I don't recall signing up to receive this"

by Denise Cox

One of our clients, who of course practices permission email marketing, told me they received this message after a recent mailing of their newsletter:  "I don't recall signing up to receive this." They did the forensics and were able to provide the details to the individual regarding when they opted-in, but wanted to know if they should be concerned.

You can have all the correct and current permission in the world, but if you get an email like this it needs your immediate attention. For some reason you are not being recognised - which is one of the cornerstones for building successful relationships.

Review all aspects of your newsletter to see where the recognition process may be disconnecting:

  • The sign up process: Make sure there's not a long gap between when they sign up and when they first hear from you. For example, after they sign up, send them the most current edition of the newsletter so the subscriber is aware of what it looks like in the inbox.
  • The from and subject line: Are you clearly branded in the from field, is it the same branding as the newsletter itself? Don't have it come from a personal name if that name won't be immediately recognised by your subscribers. Check that your subject lines are not coming across as spammy.
  • In the content: Ensure you have why-you're-receiving-this text. At the most basic level it can be a general reminder at the opening of the newsletter (e.g. Thank you for signing up to our opt-in monthly newsletter.) Consider a segmentation process where upon the first mail the recipient receives from you has very specific details on why they're hearing from you, e.g. "You are receiving this because you gave us permission at the [specifics here] event to send our monthly newsletter to you."
  • In your embedded housekeeping text: Have a general detailed description about the newsletter and what you promise to provide in every edition. E.g. "You will receive this newsletter once a month, and it will contain information about our new [specifics here] releases, etc." This can be in the footer or in the subscription area of your newsletter.
  • In your unsubscribe process: Have a very easy unsubscribe. Permission isn't permanent, and relevance can change - recognise that and make it one-click easy to leave.

Source: Newsweaver

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What's the Difference Between Confirmed and Double Opt-in?

In this blog post, Al Iverson states that confirmed opt-in and double opt-in both mean the following and only the following:

"A potential recipient submits an email address at a web page. This triggers a confirmation request email. No further emails are sent to the end recipient until and unless they take positive action to confirm the subscription in response to this confirmation request email. That means the person who received the confirmation message has to click on a link (or respond to a token, but I prefer the link method) to confirm the subscription. If they didn't do that, then you don't consider them opt-in, and you don't email them further.

If somebody uses the term confirmed opt-in to mean filling out a web form and receiving an email saying “Your subscription is confirmed. If this is incorrect, click here,” then they are mistaken. This isn't confirmed opt-in or double opt-in. It's a signup form with a welcome message. The welcome message lets the recipient opt-out if necessary, and that's great – but it's not confirming anything as far as the opt-in police (ISPs, blacklists, etc.) are concerned. I see a lot of confusion surrounding this and it's important to remember the following: It's not confirmed opt-in or double opt-in unless the recipient has to take that active step of clicking on a YES link or taking some other YES-affirming action."

Continue reading here.

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Best Practices for Handling Email List Unsubscribes

There are many reasons to make unsubscribing from your email list as easy as possible, including protecting your reputation with both subscribers and Internet service providers, who can blacklist your firm or report you as a violator of the CAN-SPAM act. But if you need one more reason, the law requires it. Failure to have a working “unsub” system is a violation of CAN-SPAM.

Some best practices for handling e-mail list unsubscribes include:

1. Simplify the unsubscribe process. A one-click unsubscribe that is instantaneous is best. Most major ISPs offer this option. If you make it too difficult to unsubscribe, you may be reported as a spammer. A subscriber should have to take no more than two steps to exit your list, and one is better. Never require a subscriber to log in or reply to an email in order to unsubscribe. This may actually violate the law because if they have forgotten their password, they can’t unsubscribe.

2. Provide a link at the bottom of every e-mail that brings subscribers to an unsubscribe page. This page should be different from the Subscriber Profile page, which should have its own link. Test unsubscribe links regularly to ensure they work. You can offer a subscriber profile page allowing them to unsubscribe from one of several email communication options; however, one must be to unsubscribe fromall. Clicking “All” should remove them automatically.

3. Back up your unsubscribe process and make the process secure. In addition to the unsubscribe link, provide an email address that subscribers can use if the Web form fails. Make your system hackproof so others so others cannot unsubscribe someone from your list without their knowledge.

4. Follow the 10-day guideline set by CAN-SPAM laws. Spell out the time line on your unsubscribe page so subscribers know what to expect.

5. Make sure that your unsubscribe list is secured, and that you can not accidentally add the names back to the list. Also, if you move to a new email provider, make sure it can maintain your current unsubscribe list so that unsubs cannot accidentally be added.

Source: btobonline.com

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