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Are You a VIP in Your Recipient’s Priority Inbox?

Beyond • February 23, 2011

Forgive my brevity today as I write this blog through a congested haze. My allergies are acting up and I think I broke the record for the most in-office sneezes in an hour... I lost count at 15, not kidding. Time to Get Active Anyway, I have been receiving a lot of concerned emails about priority or ‘smart’ inboxes that the major ISPs are employing to better service their customers. We know that if an inbox owner activates a Priority Inbox then the behaviors of the inbox change based on the owner’s behavior. An email campaign that always got into the inbox before may not have inbox privileges anymore if emails are not opened after a certain amount of unopened deliveries. It is essential that your campaigns carry a message that is current and pertinent to the client’s needs and wants to result in an opened email. If you’re noticing fewer open rates, try sending more specific subject lines or even resend an opt-in request to make sure your subscribers are still engaged. If your relationship with your recipients is an exceedingly good one you can even ask them to place you on their whitelist. If the user is amenable then they may register both your send address and your domain. Doing this ensures that your emails will avoid the junk box and cements your status as ‘priority’ mail. Of course, not all users are quite so kind...


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New Complaints Can Come from Stale Email Campaigns (Part 4)

Beyond • February 11, 2011

So far we\'ve discussed renewing your email marketing strategy rather than rehashing old content and layouts, steered clear of purchased email lists and reexamined your content to stay out of spam filters. Where does that leave us? You have your product and/or service. Now you need to build a world around it. Here are a few things that you should include within your emails to make them a showing (or a showcase, if you will) of your product, instead of telling the recipient what you are bringing into their inbox. Success Stories - A video within the email, something you can add with the Benchmark Email Editor, can give the recipient a firsthand show of how using your pt/services can benefit the end user. Data - Show the reader how much better you are vs. your competitor, by compiling and comparing pros and cons (well, maybe just the pros) between your products. Invitations to Specials and Events - These work. Plain and simple. Making an offer exclusive, to each customer, will keep the reader wanting to see more. Get them to say, \"I wonder what they\'ll do next?\" Associations - Put the logo of each association you are partnered with in the email. This gives your organization validity in the reader\'s eye. Your associates bolster your reputation and persuade others to do the same. Please research \"content + email marketing\" on the internet, because there are a plethora of websites out there dedicated to this topic. Here we\'ve only scratched the surface. If you are serious about your email campaigns, you have a lot of work to do. But stick to it and that work will pay off with greater ROI. Next week: abuse rates...


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New Complaints Can Come from Stale Email Campaigns (Part 3)

Beyond • February 3, 2011

I\'m going to keep this one brief. Last week we talked about the look and feel of an email campaign. Today we\'ll talk lists. In short: 1) DON\'T BUY LISTS! Purchased lists are flooded with spamtraps. Enough said. 2) Keep your lists small and relevant to the message at hand. Find out who your demographic is so that you can market a specific product or service as efficiently as possible. 3) Get rid of old lists. What is the definition of an old list? 6 months or older. I know this seems short but if your recipient wants your services or product they will contact you. Consumers are creatures of habit. Once a brand has made a good impression, chances are that brand will be purchased again. But if I get an email every week for Brand X\'s dishwasher detergent, chances are I\'m going to buy their competitors\' product just because Brand X has become despised. 4) Make sure you have a one-to-one relationship with your clients. Third party affiliate lists aka \"association lists\" are convenient, but will your name be recognized (and more importantly, welcomed) by the recipient? If not, you\'ll have a 50/50 chance of being flagged as spam. 5) DON\'T BUY LISTS! Just to drive that mantra home. Since my 49ers are not playing in this year\'s Super Bowl, I hope whatever team you\'re rooting for wins. See you next week.


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New Complaints Can Come from Stale Email Campaigns (Part 2)

Beyond • January 28, 2011

Last week I talked about the reasons for changing stale email campaign practices. If your numbers are underperforming, look to your newsletters and emails. Are you using the same layout as last week? The same copy? The same greeting? Let your campaigns grow and breathe. Today we\'ll discuss emails that satisfy the minimum standard of aesthetic competence. What you DO want: A healthy balance of text, image and code. Relevant pictures that represent the theme of your message. Hyperlinks embedded within the text, not the full URL. (For example, Welcome to Benchmark Email!) Text that matches the content of the images. Correct grammar! What you DON\'T want: A marketing email that’s just text. A marketing email that’s just an image (also a sure way to get snagged by the spam filter). An email with nothing but code. (How can you have an email with just code? Yes, I have actually seen these.) Your message to contain any of the Seven Dirty Words. Incorrect grammar. You do not want to look like a fool. Physically hearing incorrect grammar is much more forgivable than reading it. This will be a good starting point for your newly refined campaign. After a while this will become second nature and you should see a better response to your marketing practices. Next week we\'ll tackle lists and talk about why you should segment your contact lists to hone in on your target demographic. Stay tuned.


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New Complaints Can Come from Stale Email Campaigns (Part 1)

Beyond • January 24, 2011

Right now you are looking at your email campaign, reading reports, and discussing marketing strategies with your campaign designers... STOP! Does the email you are sending out look like the one you sent 3 months ago? It better not. Emails need to be fresh and up to date, they need to have a competitive edge that shows the recipient a pertinent message. But more importantly, your demographic may get a bit moody and hit that spam complaint link if your marketing practices are stale. Think of marketing as a river, constantly moving, changing with the environment. Sometimes it changes the environment i.e, branding. You can\'t measure successful marketing with email campaigns that are identical, but you sure can measure the spam complaints. Now that I have your attention, next week with Part 2 we will go over strategy on how to fine-tune the aesthetics of your campaign. Part 3 will go over lists, and part 4 will deal with content. Stay tuned.


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The Subject Line, Friend or Foe?

Beyond • January 13, 2011

The email subject line. Friend or foe? Well, that depends on how you word it. I see hundreds of campaigns that have OK subjects but very few make me want to open up the email. The fist thing I look for is who the sender is: if known or a person\'s name, my eyes move to the subject line; if the sender is not known, delete, plain and simple. When I look at the subject, I will delete any mail that sounds like: - A VIP deal waiting just for you! - Someone is wanting to talk to you! - Remember me? - Do want to make more money? - $aL3!!!! (this screams spammer) You have to put pertinent information in your subject that encompasses the email. For example: - 50% off everything in the store! - Your account needs updating. - Take a look at our new product line! - Our top ten products! - New <blank>! These are very generic, but whatever your specific industry is, you need to be expressive. Expressive, but not verbose. This won\'t guarantee that an email will be opened, but you will get a pair of eyes to glance over the subject line. And besides your sending domain name, it is the most important piece of information that the recipient can read. Tell us what subject lines get the best result for you.


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Continuing Education with Email Deliverability

Beyond • January 7, 2011

Our recent manual on Building Healthy Email Lists should set you on the right track for building a sustainable house list. But for those of you who are no longer green at email marketing, now more then ever is the time to be diligent with your contact lists. If you want to boost your email deliverability and steer clear of the spam filters, follow these lessons to the letter: Make sure you have not gathered addresses in your new list that are more than 6 months old. Never use an email address from social networking websites. Just because someone\'s email is listed on their profile page does NOT give you permission to contact them with a solicitation. Remember those permission reminder emails? Send one out every 6 months (at least) and keep contact lists fresh and valid. Send relevant, targeted and personalized messages. By now it\'s a known fact that the more relevant and personalized an email is, the more effective it will be. Not only will better-targeted, more personalized emails achieve better conversion rates, they will also improve deliverability due to fewer complaints and better sender reputation. Have a sound balance of code, images and text within each campaign. Lastly, check your reporting data. Make sure you are not gathering complaints and ruining your sender reputation. Also, change your email marketing practices if your complaint rate is too high or your open/click is not up to the level you want.


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Who Can Fatten Your Inbox? The Spammer Man Can (Part 3)

Who Can Fatten Your Inbox? The Spammer Man Can (Part 3)

Beyond • December 31, 2010

A Brief History Leading to Botnets It all started with a moth. In 1947, Grace Murray Hopper, a researcher at Harvard, notes a system failure and finds a moth trapped in relay panels - and there you have it, the first computer bug. Skip to 1981, the first virus (the term hadn\'t been coined virus until \'83) is released into the wild. The Elk Cloner reflected the camp spirit of the frontier days of computing in the early \'80s. It was written by 15-year-old Rich Skrenta for Apple II\'s DOS 3.3 operating system and passed along on floppy disks to his friends (as you can imagine, Skrenta went on to work in Silicon Valley and co-founded the search engine blekko). The next milestone was the coinage of the phrase computer virus; in 1983 Professor Len Adleman at Lehigh University demonstrates the concept at a seminar. Fast forward to 2008, and enter Conficker: the worm that infected so many computers that as of February 13, 2009, Microsoft is offering a $250,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the individuals behind the creation and/or distribution of Conficker. Now, looking at spam and how much spam can be sent, check out this wikipedia link for a full list of the most notorious pieces of malware ever to slime their way into your system. We know around 200 billion spam emails are sent per day. Yeah, per day. So this brings the series to a close. I want you to take an active part in making malware a thing of the past. But it will only happen if you are constantly on guard. It doesn\'t take much effort, just a few simple good habits to live by. Don\'t open any attachments from people you don\'t know or open files you aren\'t expecting to receive. Do not click on any pop-ups that encourage you to download anti-malware software; reputable anti-malware companies DO NOT advertise in that manner. Keep your anti-malware programs up to date. But most importantly, DO NOT PIRATE YOUR OPERATING SYSTEM; this leaves you vulnerable to a plethora of hazards that can bring your computer and your IP address to the mercy of the botnet bandits.


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Who Can Fatten Your Inbox? The Spammer Man Can (Part 2)

Who Can Fatten Your Inbox? The Spammer Man Can (Part 2)

Beyond • December 23, 2010

As the launching point for so many bulk emails, here at Benchmark we strive to uphold email marketing best practices. That\'s why it\'s of the utmost importance for us to prevent spam and block the spammers that want to get to you. For 2010, Microsoft cleaned over 20 million computers of malware(s) in the United States alone. Ladies and gentlemen, this has got to stop. It is time to squash this passive attitude about your computer, it is time for a grand catharsis! For those that do not have a genuine copy of Windows, tsk-tsk, shame on you. The one thing that you should not be cheap with is your OS (Operating System). For those PC users that have a genuine copy of Microsoft Windows please download Microsoft\'s Security Essentials and install it on your machine. MSE is lightweight and intelligent, to say the least. I\'ve tried Norton, Kaspersky, AVG and McAfee, and they all gave me headaches and used too many system resources. MSE was a breath of fresh air and I haven\'t looked back. Now, why am I plugging this software? Because some of you are unknowingly running a bot (virus, trojan, etc.) on your computer. The number of infected machines change from quarter to quarter, but in 2007 it was estimated by the BBC that one-fourth of all machines on the Net were infected. The above picture breaks down how a botnet is used to send spam (illustration comes courtesy of Tom-B of Wikipedia). To explain the illustration, it works like this: The red guy with the bandit mask is a botnet operator. A botnet operator infects a user\'s computer with a virus or worm (often multiple). The goal is to store a malicious program (dubbed \'malware\') inside the user\'s computer. This bot, or malware, is usually stored unbeknownst to the user. It masquerades as a useful program - much like the Trojan horse carried inside the gates of Troy contained Greeks waiting to siege the city. Once the bot is installed in a user\'s computer, it can independently log into an Internet Relay Chat (IRC) server or web server and do the bidding of the botnet operator. Spammers can then buy the information these bots relay or pay the operator to program the spam messages they wish to send. The infected computers are programmed to send out spam messages, the user\'s reputation is damaged, and his entire system is compromised. For those who truly understand the intricate devilry of botnet operators and spammers, it is difficult not to feel violated, distraught, or just plain angry. In part 3 of this series we\'ll examine the history of spam, bots, and the future of malware. We can only hope malware doesn\'t have a future, but that is up to you to deny it one. Stay tuned.


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Who Can Fatten Your Inbox? The Spammer Man Can (Part 1)

Who Can Fatten Your Inbox? The Spammer Man Can (Part 1)

Beyond • December 16, 2010

How many of us have received an email from an online casino, or some grand tale of how a certain individual made millions and millions of dollars by following an unorthodox formula; or how you can lose twenty pounds without exercise or changing your diet (a tapeworm doesn\'t count, folks); or if you take this pill you\'ll become the ultimate bedroom casanova; or you can have an actual Louis Vuitton purse at a fraction of the cost? I can go on and on... This week we are going take a look at some high risk industries that are the instigators of most of the world\'s spam. Now, most industries that engage in email marketing best practices are not high risk, but there are a few that, even while using best practices, cannot lower their risk. It\'s the nature of the beast. So, without further adieu, here\'s the list: Gambling (online casinos, sports book) Stocks and Investment advisories Sub-Prime Mortgages Pharmaceutical Media or services of an adult nature Celebrity Get-Rich Quick Schemes Luxury Designer Goods (non-authorized, usually counterfeit) Diet Methods We have all seen an email from one or perhaps even all of these industries. How these emails are being sent is interesting to say the least - and you may be an unknowing accomplice...but we will investigate that next week. This week, try to keep track of how many of these spammers show up in your inbox (but steer clear of clicking on any of them). Remember what tipped you off when you chuck them into your trash. Chances are there are little hairs on the back of your neck that rise, instinctively, when you see their subject lines wriggle across your screen. Where do they come from? And how are they finding you? We\'ll cover that and more in next week\'s installment. Stay tuned.


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