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CASL Compliance: What You Need to Know

CASL Compliance: What You Need to Know

Beyond • February 4, 2014

Pull up a chair, maybe grab a steamy cup of coffee and kick off your shoes in favor of some nice slippers. After endless hours of dredging though the new laws, our team has created the ultimate guide to CASL Compliance and how it applies to you. Benchmark Email and CASL As its name would suggest, the Canadian Anti-Spam Law (CASL) is based in Canada, and only has reach on Canadian senders and recipients. While Benchmark Email and most of our userbase is not located in Canada, we will be fully compliant with the new standards, and will remain to be as transparent as possible to any ISP or Government organization that contacts us with regards to a complaint. This means that if you are using Benchmark Email as your email service provider and you are sending emails to, or are based in Canada, you will also be expected to comply with these standards. Opt-in Status of a Recipient In order to send emails to a recipient, you MUST have obtained the consent of the recipient. There are two formal titles to consent, both of which are explained below: Express consent is the most desirable form of recipient as there is no legal time-limit on sending emails to such a contact. These contacts are defined as a recipient who has specifically requested to receive emails from the sender via an approved signup form. In any case of a complaint or legal matter, the burden of proof will lie on the sending organization. This makes it imperative that the sending organization records and stores any and all details regarding the recipient’s opt-in status. Subscriptions must be of the recipients own volition. Pre-checked boxes or “implied subscriptions” do not qualify, Make sure that your signup forms clearly let the recipient know what they are signing up for; and make sure that the subscription is optional. Confirmed Opt-In is not required, however it is highly recommended as it is the only way to ensure that each of your contacts are legitimate. Note: Up until this point, Benchmark email has not had any policy regarding pre-checked boxes qualifying as opt-in. Any contact that was gathered using this measure would no longer be considered as an “Express Consent Recipient”, but rather as an “Implied Consent Recipient.” Be sure to verify that each of your signup forms are in compliance with the new standards. Implied Consent is when a recipient implies that they would like to receive your emails without having completed an approved signup form. Up until this point, implied consent has consisted of: A recipient who has purchased or had some contacract from the sender any time in the past. A recipient who has had a business relationship with the sender any time in the past. A recipient who has inquired about products or services any time in the past. As of July 1st, the definition of Implied Consent is as follows: A recipient who has purchased or had a contract of some nature with the sender within 24 months of the current date. A recipient who has had a business relationship of a professional nature with the sender within 24 months of the current date. A recipient who has inquired about products or services within 6 months of the current date. A recipient has been a member of a club, organization, or voluntary organization within 24 months of the current date. A recipient has made a donation/gift to, volunteered for, or attended an event hosted by an organization where the sender is a registered charity, political party, or political candidate for a publically elected office within 24 months of the current date. Note: There are two key differences here. The first and most important is that there are now time limits on implied consent email addresses. Any sender who has contacts falling into this category should make every effort to confirm that recipient’s address as quickly as possible. The second key component here is a bit harder to identify since it isn’t specifically stated; unlike the CAN-SPAM Act, Politicians are not exempt from the CASL standards as some of the above points directly relate to their own operations. Being that this new law is unprecedented, there are bound to be questions that may not be answered by the above information. Our support team stands at the ready to assist you if you have any questions or concerns; you need only to reach out to us. We can be reached anytime via our Live Chat & Email, or during our normal operating hours of 7am – 5pm PST.


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Ding Dong, Net Neutrality is Dead

Ding Dong, Net Neutrality is Dead

Beyond • January 14, 2014

If you haven’t been keeping up with the times, a federal court just signed away net neutrality in favor of allowing broadband providers to segregate data types and provide preferential treatment as they see fit. Many experts, (myself included) are very concerned about the implications of this decision. Up until this point, the rules of the internet have basically stated that “all data is created equal” and that ISPs cannot legally give preference to one form of data over the other. Now however, that’s all gone out the window. ISPs now have the ability to interfere with their own network and client base and give preference to whomever or whatever they deem fit. There are some very good reasons for ISPs to want this ability; however it can also be the figurative Pandora’s Box as ISPs can just as much use this for good as they can for a semi-monopolized profit. Imagine if you will, an extra fee to be able to stream videos, or play video games online, or even access your favorite website. Basically, if they wanted too, an ISP could treat your internet service like satellite television, restricting access to certain parts of the web unless you pay for the more expensive package. On top of that, it also paves a path for preferential treatment of websites. Imagine if a company paid an ISP to give their website faster connection speeds than their competitors. Suddenly, not only does a company have to worry about their SEO value, but how much they are willing to pay ISPs to actually let a web-surfer visit their website. Whether or not this will actually happen is up to the ISPs, but I personally wouldn’t be surprised if we started to see certain websites or services disappear from the view of certain ISP users. As mentioned, in some cases, this is probably a good thing. But, we can only hope that it is not used in a malicious manner. The big question for us right now, is how this will affect email marketing. We can only speculate right now, but let’s all cross our fingers that we are not affected by these changes.


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If I Were … A Healthcare Office

If I Were … A Healthcare Office

Beyond • January 7, 2014

For this week’s “If I were” series, lets dig a bit into how a healthcare provider (such as a dentist office) might use email marketing effectively. As always, let’s look at the 4 major components of an email marketing plan. 1. Building your list 2. Automation 3. Campaigning 4. Monitoring Engagement Step 1. Building your list Unlike other industries, healthcare professionals will focus on sending out emails that are more notices, reminders, and possible alerts. Because of the sensitive nature of the email content, chances are that you will want your recipients to sign up in person during a visit. In this case, it is preferable that your email list is comprised solely of people whom have previously utilized your services. Of course, it can’t hurt to have an online signup form, but remember that by doing so, you will effectively have two separate lists; those of current patients and those of potential patients. Step 2. Automation The heavy majority of your emails will be automated and could be classified as “transactional”. In the case of our dentist office, the emails would be reminders about upcoming appointments, or reminders to schedule an appointment (ex. “It’s been almost 6 months since your last cleaning”). You may also consider sending out birthday wishes. Step 3. Campaigning Besides maybe a few select circumstances, I would expect that a health-care industry professional would only send out a newsletter type email once per month or less. The email would likely follow the below pattern: [Header Section] This would probably be a nice image, branded with the company logo, and set the visual theme of the email. [Newsletter] This section would be a short newsletter, maybe showcase some recent success stories, or show of some new tech/breakthroughs in the industry. [Warnings/reminders] This section is your call to action of sorts. Remind your reader-base about any current trending issues (such as spring allergies or eating too many sweets over the holidays). Remind your viewers about how to be safe and healthy. [Footer] The footer section of your campaign would be very similar to the header. It might contain a small sentence and signature thanking the recipient, and include phone numbers and hours of operation as well as appropriate links if any. Again, this is just an example. Campaign design is ultimately up to you, so while the above is just an example of what I would do myself; don’t let that limit you to what you want to do with your campaign design. The main focus here is to create an email that will compel your recipients to engage with it. When preparing your campaign, remember to review past campaigns and their performance. Use some investigative skills to figure out what recipients did and didn’t like, then design your campaign around that. Step 4. Managing Engagement As with other industries, managing engagement is a key component of your marketing plan. Monitoring the open rates of your emails, and removing any contacts who are not opening your campaigns is always a healthy practice. Remember to perform your reconfirm campaigns on older contacts, and don’t hesitate to reach out to your recipients via other means (phone, physical letters) when they are not engaging with your emails. In the case of a healthcare professional, your recipients will appreciate that you show concern for their health and vitality. That’s it for this week. Hopefully some of you retailers out there can use some of this advice to build a successful email marketing plan.


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If I Were … A Daily Deals Site

If I Were … A Daily Deals Site

Beyond • December 10, 2013

For week two of our “How I would do email marketing if” series, lets dive into the recently popular business model of daily deals. As usual, let’s focus on the 4 steps of building your marketing platform: Building your list Automation Campaigning Monitoring Engagement   Step 1.  Building your list Daily Deals are pretty simple on this point. Building your list should be comprised almost completely of signup forms on your website. While there are some other acceptable methods, the best choice is to use other marketing methods to funnel your potential recipients to your web signup form. Be sure to customize your signup form and provide as many options as possible. In the daily-deals industry, sending targeted emails is key to seeing good recipient engagement.   Step 2. Automation Automation for daily deals will not be quite the same to other industries. Obviously, to save work, you may consider automating the email creation process via conditional formatting. Since you are sending daily however, it is probably not a good idea to send more than a single welcome email to your new signup. Step 3. Campaigning Since you are a “daily deals” sender, obviously, you are going to be sending your recipients emails on a daily basis. One key component is the subject line. Your subject line should refer to the top deals of the day. A good example of a subject line might be: DailyDealzCo 12/15/13 - Skis, Snowboards, and Lift Tickets Not only are you identifying your brand, you are giving the client a quick snapshot of what the email is about. The idea here is simplicity. Keep things short and sweet. Campaign Design as always is up to you; however I would imagine a simplistic campaign that has an easy flow: Header Section. Company Logo Header Reminder. Remind the recipient when they signed up, and what their preferences are. Offer a link to update their preferences. Deal 1. First Daily deal Item Deal 2. Second Daily deal Item Deal 3. Third Daily deal Item Deal 4. Etc… Footer. – A small branded footer reminding clients to update their preferences, or how to unsubscribe. Again, this is just an example, be sure to design your campaign in a way that fits your needs, and matches the theme and branding of your product. Step 4.  Managing Engagement In direct contrast to ToyzCo from last week, we are sending emails to recipients on a much more frequent basis. Because of this, we may not want to be quite as aggressive with our list hygiene policy. Here is how I would approach List hygiene: Three days after each campaign is sent, run a report on your list, and find any contact that has not opened the past 30 consecutive emails sent to them.   Move this list of contacts into a new list, and prepare a re-engagement campaign for them. “Hello {firstname}, We noticed that you haven’t opened the DailyDealzCo newsletter in a while.   We do our best to make sure that we don’t send any unwanted emails, so we have automatically removed you from our list.  Don’t worry, you can always re-subscribe if you want too, so that you can continue to receive our monthly newsletter and great deals on educational toys for your children. If you would like to re-subscribe now, please click on the button below, or visit our website at any time. {Subscribe_Button} All the best, Your friends at DailyDealzCo I know what you are thinking. “He just copied that from last week’s blog.” You are correct. While there are some key differences to how you treat your email marketing efforts, the truth of the matter is that the ground rules remain the same, and because of that, many practices carry over identically. That’s it for this week.  Hopefully some of you retailers out there can use some of this advice to build a successful email marketing plan.  If you would like to suggest an industry for me to do next, feel free to contact me at Richard@benchmarkemail.com.


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Canadian Anti-Spam Law (CASL) to Take Effect July 2014

Beyond • December 4, 2013

If you don’t keep up with the email industry news, I can’t blame you. It’s pretty boring stuff most days. However, I am happy to say that there has been a big hubbub in the email world due to the announcement that CASL has been signed into Canadian Law. The Canadian Minister of Industry, James Moore, has announced that the long-time-coming anti-spam legislation will be put into effect as of July 1st, 2014. This leaves email marketers a little over 6 months in order to review the changes, and ensure compliance on their part to the law. We already have the CAN-SPAM, why is CASL so important? Unlike the CAN-SPAM Act, the CASL law specifically prohibits sending unsolicited email except for a few select circumstances. Per the new law, all commercial emails are required to obtain opt-in permission from their recipients before sending any commercial/bulk email. Even more specifically, the CASL Law has laid down a pretty clear-cut definition for what is considered to be “Opt-In”. This has been a major flaw with the CAN-SPAM Act as the definition of “Opt-In” was implied, rather than specified. This makes the CASL Law the most inclusive and most powerful anti-spam law to date. So what do we think? Myself, and the rest of Benchmark Email are very excited for these changes. As members of the anti-spam community, we are always happy to see new standards set that can help reduce the spam footprint on inboxes. Our only disappointment is that this law is specific to Canada. If it were our choice, the law would be global. How will it affect you? For now, our team is still dissecting the documentation of the law to get each detail. From what we have seen so far there are no major changes that will impact Benchmark Email’s service, since our service has always been permission based. We will have a more detailed blog post on this later, once all of the details have been hammered out.


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If I Were … A Retail Store

If I Were … A Retail Store

Beyond • December 3, 2013

By popular demand, over the next few weeks, “The Weekly Engagement” will be focusing on how I would use email marketing if I were a ________. While the basic platform of best practices is a great way to get started, there are plenty of ways you can customize your campaigns to improve engagement and ROI. For week one of this series, let’s focus on a Retailer. For our example, we are going to be creating our marketing platform for ToyzCo, a small chain of educational toy stores. There are 4 steps to building your marketing platform: Building your list Automation Campaigning Monitoring Engagement Step 1.  Building your list This is commonly the most difficult part of email marketing. Building your list can take a lot of time, and effort. There are a few great ways to build your list on the cheap though, here are few suggestions: Place a signup form at the point of sale (Use our EasyList App or a good old fashion pen and paper). Place signup forms on your website Ask recipients if they would like a receipt emailed to them and include a “confirm subscription” link in their emailed receipt. Offer discounts / free items for birthdays or anniversaries. Raffle off some prizes, all they need to do is sign up. Offer bring a friend deals (Word of mouth can be extremely powerful). Step 2. Automation Automating some basic emails can help warm your recipient up to your emails by sending a welcome email after they have signed up. They can also perform some other great communications without the need for you to click send. Common emails like this are annual event emails. In the case of ToyzCo, the email would be an upcoming birthday reminder to a parent, and offering a 10% discount in-store or online. Step 3. Campaigning For the case of retail stores, I hesitate to send emails weekly. In some cases this can be appropriate, however it will take judgment on the sender’s part to think about how their recipients might receive said volume. In the case of ToyzCo, a monthly newsletter is probably best, it’s enough to keep the parents engaged, but not so much that it overwhelms their inbox. The ToyzCo Campaign would have a fairly simple layout. Of course it would be branded to match the company, but overall would flow in organized and simple sections: Header Section. This would probably be a nice image, branded with the company logo, and set the theme of the email Newsletter. This section would be a short newsletter. What has been going on with ToyzCo? Has there been any Industry News lately that parents should be aware of?  Maybe a recall on a toy that could be dangerous? Give a shout-out to your local community, and give the recipient something interesting to read. Maybe a local park installed a new jungle-gym that parents should have their kids check out? Ads. This section would include your monthly advertisement. Maybe its 15% off all dolls, or clearance on remote control cars.   For bonus points, consider conditional content that changes depending on a recipient’s preferences.  This is an advanced tactic, but sending targeted emails usually results in stronger engagement since recipients aren’t being sent information or deals that are irrelevant to them. For more information about how to do this, see our FAQ on conditional formatting. Footer. The footer section of your campaign would be very similar to the header. It might contain a small sentence and signature thanking the recipient, and include store phone numbers and hours as well as appropriate links if any. Of course, this is just an example. Campaign design is ultimately up to you, so while the above is just an example of what I would do myself. Don’t let that limit you to what you want to do with your campaign design. The main focus here is to create an email that will compel your recipients to engage with it. When preparing your campaign, remember to review past campaigns and their performance. Use some investigative skills to figure out what recipients did and didn’t like, then design your campaign around that. Step 4.  Managing Engagement Engagement is the key most important component of your campaigns, so you want to do whatever you can to improve open rates. The most effective option is to remove unengaged contacts. The recommended system works in this way. Three days after each campaign is sent, run a report on your list, and find any contact that has not opened the past 5 consecutive emails sent to them. Move this list of contacts into a new list, and prepare a re-engagement campaign for them. A re-engagement campaign is usually quite simple. In the case of ToyzCo, It would read something like: “Hello {firstname}, We noticed that you haven’t opened the ToyzCo newsletter in a while. We do our best to make sure that we don’t send any unwanted emails, so we have automatically removed you from our list. Don’t worry, you can always re-subscribe if you want too, so that you can continue to receive our monthly newsletter and great deals on educational toys for your children. If you would like to re-subscribe now, please click on the button below, or visit our website at any time. {Subscribe_Button} All the best, Your friends at ToyzCo You would be surprised at how many people click on the re-subscribe link. Even if they don’t, it’s pretty clear that they aren’t going to interact with your other email campaigns either. This system ensures that your emails stay well clear of spam-traps and will have the very best deliverability possible. That’s it for this week. Hopefully some of you retailers out there can use some of this advice to build a successful email marketing plan. If you would like to suggest an industry for me to do next, feel free to contact me at Richard@benchmarkemail.com.


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The Ever-Raising (Inbox) Bar

The Ever-Raising (Inbox) Bar

Beyond • November 26, 2013

If you have read any of my previous blogs, you will know that I have mentioned that ISPs and ESPs have been making it harder and harder to get into the inbox for email marketers. This isn’t because they don’t like us, rather that spammers like to hide in our midst. In order to identify spammers, ESPs are constantly changing their formulas, trying to stay a step ahead of the evil junk mail. It’s usually pretty easy to tell when an ISP has made changes as my normally peaceful office is filled with our support team presenting tickets about delivery problems. Lately, Gmail has been up on the list, but before that it was Hotmail, and before that ... well ... you get the idea. These changes usually result in a lot of frustration on the marketers end, trying to figure out how to change their policies, or what new structure needs to be implemented to solve the problem. More often than not, the answer to the problem is the same: “Focus on list hygiene” and “review your list building practices.” The greatest part about using “best practices” for your email marketing efforts is that these changes never affect you. Postmasters have no problem with marketers that follow the rules, and if anything, they want to reward them for not causing problems. Whenever changes are made, the only marketers who are affected are those who aren’t following best practices. In many ways, it’s a like a political game. Somebody finds a loophole and abuses it, ISPs cover that loophole, and another is found. If you aren’t utilizing those loopholes in the first place, then you won’t be affected when the loophole is closed. This brings me to a point that can apply in all aspects of life: Just because something isn’t specifically prohibited doesn’t mean that it’s okay. The CAN-SPAM Act, and other laws governing email marketing have a lot of great guidance, but most of these laws lack specifics, meaning that in many cases, the law is what you interpret it to be. There have been many changes to help clear up questions, and the upcoming CASL Law in development should help clear up many of these unanswered questions. The problem is that the CASL law does not necessarily apply to senders outside of Canada, just as the CAN-SPAM act does not apply to senders outside of the USA. So the question remains, could a marketer setup an outfit in another country and legally send emails that do not comply with these requirements? Absolutely, but that doesn’t necessarily make it right. Sadly, because of the history created by spammers and bad marketing, it’s been left up to the ESPs to find solutions to those loopholes, which means that even legitimate senders who intend the best can make a single slipup and end up with blacklisted emails. In this case, doing your best is easier than doing your worst.


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When Is It Okay To Use Single Opt-In?

When Is It Okay To Use Single Opt-In?

Beyond • November 12, 2013

Let’s face it. If you don’t have a confirmed opt-in list, you are much more likely to hit spam traps, have high bounce rates and low open rates at some point. All around, it’s a risky situation, which is why Benchmark and I are huge advocates of Confirmed Opt-In Lists. You may ask yourself then, why we accept single-opt-in lists, seeing how error prone they can be? Well, while I am not a fan of single-opt-in, it does have a place in the email world, where even single opt-in can be used legitimately. The most common acceptable use of single-opt in is digital receipts. Many local shops have begun to offer this digital solution to me, and I have embraced it whole-heartedly. Finally, I can drive around town without a small ocean of receipts sloshing around the back seat of my car. Not to mention my smart-inbox which automatically organizes my receipts for me. Another great use of single-opt-in was one that I recently experienced while attending a convention. One booth I visited had team members walking around answering questions about their new video game. They carried tablets which they would enter email addresses into. After signing up, I received an email giving me more details about the game, as well as links to some resources. A surprise to me was that the email I received about the game was well setup. It provided some details about the game, and gave links to appropriate resources, but a key feature was that the bottom of the email had a subscription link; a call to action to ask the recipient to confirm their address in order to receive the monthly newsletter about the games development progress. (I signed up for the newsletter in case you were wondering). Both of these situations have two things in common: When I provided my address, it was in a physical transaction environment, I was physically present at the business/booth, and had to provide my email address verbally to somebody and confirm that the spelling was correct. I was not automatically subscribed to any recurring email blast. Though both emails provided that option, I only chose to subscribe to one as per my interests. In these cases, there is no need for a double-opt-in process, since the emails are being sent real-time, and only once, there is very little threat of sending emails to a spam-trap, or to a false address. True, you can still have issues such as misspellings, but not so much that there should be major damage to your email reputation. Beyond these types of situations however or whenever you plan on sending more than a single email, it’s better to implement a confirmed opt-in setup. In the end, it will be well worth the extra effort.


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Top 5 Common Mistakes of Small Business Email Marketing

Top 5 Common Mistakes of Small Business Email Marketing

Beyond • November 5, 2013

I’m not sure if “Marketing Critic” is a unique title. While I am very critical of all marketing efforts that I come across, the same could be said for pretty much anybody else. Though our values may differ, the end result is the same. If the marketing works, you want the product. If the marketing doesn’t work, then the advertisement is probably annoying you. Either way, I am very sensitive to marketing efforts, and it’s almost become a game for me to weigh the performance of how those efforts affected me. Sadly, this means that most of the time, commercials are even more annoying than one might imagine. Not only am I now uninterested in their product, but now I have a sort of vendetta against the company as having a generic and lackluster marketing department. In my world, if you want to stand out, you need to make me laugh, cry, or stupefy me with some amazing or emotional revelation. This doesn’t happen very often, but that only makes those special companies appear that much brighter when it does. So, without further ado, here is a list of the most common mistakes that one can make when using email to market their product: Ignoring the basic premise of deliverability. You don’t need to be an expert to understand deliverability. There are no secrets, and it’s not about who you know. It’s all about how much you respect your recipients. A proper email marketing department will take every measure to maximize recipient engagement, and ensure that their experience as being part of your mailing list is an enjoyable one. Ignoring Data. The amount of data that Email marketing can offer is tremendous. Open rates, and click rates can be compared against hundreds of other data points that you may have available to help find trends and patterns. For example, plotting a map of all recipients who opened a certain email might help you recognize that recipients based in Montana probably do not have as much interest in surf-boards as compared to recipients based in California. This is a pretty broad example, but even the minute details can improve your marketing efforts. This data is invaluable, and it’s surprising how many senders are oblivious to it. Sending too many emails. This almost speaks for itself. Just remember that your recipients have a life outside of buying your products. In my years as a marketing professional, I have never seen any reason to send more than one email per day to a recipient. Even then, in most cases, once a week is more than enough. Sending too few emails. The direct opposite to the above, maintaining consistent contact with your recipient base is also key. Just like a television show, recipients tend to expect emails at a certain date or time. Focusing your efforts on consistency and reliability will improve open rates and recipient engagement. Content & Design. This is more common than one might expect. While we offer some pretty awesome templates to use, investing some time and effort into creating emails that match your companies branding is well worth the effort. Check out our “Emails that Do Work” blogs for examples of what great campaign design is all about. This might also be a good time to point out that Benchmark Email also offers a custom template service. For a one-time fee of $299, our team can assemble a template that perfectly matches the branding of your company.


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The Weekly Engagement: Organization Matters

The Weekly Engagement: Organization Matters

Beyond • October 29, 2013

One of my earliest memories is of my younger years, laid out on my bedroom floor searching through piles of LEGOs for that one single part to finish my masterpiece. This memory is shortly followed by the agony of accidentally stepping on that same missing piece as I stomped around my room in frustration. Not one of my fondest of memories, I’ll admit, but one that I have deja vu with seemingly every day. Be it looking for that wrench I just had sitting on the engine, or a file I just downloaded from the internet. Surprisingly, this is a common thread that I see for most accounts that have deliverability issues. Lack of organization may not be the root cause of all evil, but it’s definitely a piece in the puzzle. Here are a few examples of some of the things that you can change to improve your marketing efforts: Create a system for naming campaigns that is easy to understand and follow. Send your campaigns using a fairly regular pattern (bi-weekly, once a month, bi-monthly, etc.) Studies have shown that recipients like consistency and reliability. Segment and name your lists based on the marketing data that is relevant to you. If your services are region-locked, consider creating a different list for each region and naming them accordingly. Get rid of old/useless data by cleaning or deleting old lists. It may seem silly, but a little bit of effort now can pay off in huge later on, making it easier to discover patterns in your report data and giving you insight that you may not have seen before. More importantly, staying clean and organized is always more efficient, meaning that it\'s cheaper and more effective.


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