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The Advantages of Using A Dedicated IP in Email Marketing

The Advantages of Using A Dedicated IP in Email Marketing

Practical Marketer • June 19, 2017

In this second article of our deliverability series, we’re going to be looking at the importance of using a Dedicated IP. If you’re not sure what that is, or if you’re finding that your emails often end up in the spam folder, get comfortable, take note and get ready to put our second installment of expert advice into practice. If you’re running your own business or working in email marketing, you’ll expect that your emails arrive safe and sound in your recipient’s inbox. What you\'d least want, of course, is that they end up in the spam folder. To reduce the chances of this happening, one of the things that you can do is use a Dedicated IP. Boosting your chances of avoiding the spam folder is just one of the advantages of using a Dedicated IP in your email marketing. Let’s have a look at a few more. What is a Dedicated IP? Most of you have probably heard of Dedicated IPs but you may not be sure of exactly what they are. Let’s imagine then that an IP address is a road where, instead of having cars, we have lots of people\'s emails using the road. This would be a Shared IP. A Dedicated IP, on the other hand, is a private road where only the owner’s emails can travel. The advantage is that emails on a Dedicated IP move quicker and remain unaffected by the potential “accidents” of other users along the way. A Dedicated IP is for your very own use and not sharing it with others means that you don’t have to worry about how their quality and quantity of sending could affect you negatively. For example, if, from a Shared IP, one or more users sends spam, all users in that group could be marked as spammers. In the case of a Dedicated IP, only you would use it so your campaigns will depend on your actions alone. If you are using or choose to use Benchmark as your email marketing specialists, we will work to protect your reputation, even if you opt to use a Shared IP. We apply a quality protocol that groups clients by their public reputation. So, to give you an example, this protocol might qualify clients as good, bad or average. If you have good quality lists but don’t work by best email marketing practices, then you might belong to the average group. We monitor this behaviour constantly but you can also work to make sure you’re always in the best possible group by ensuring that you abide by best practices. You should also bear in mind that the various ISPs (like Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail etc.) have lists of IPs called “blacklists” and they use them to help to reduce spam. These lists contain IPs that are known to be used to send spam and they’re used to filter email messages and help when categorising a message as spam or not. Some examples of organisations that compile blacklists to help combat spam are SPAMHAUS, Trend Micro and spamcop.net. Of course, maximising the advantages of having a Dedicated IP requires that you use good email marketing practices. You don’t want to risk its reputation or end up on a blacklist. Some of these good email practices include: Good quality lists: You must have permission from your recipients. Double opt-in contacts are best. Minimal spam reports: The more your email campaigns are marked as spam, the more your reputation suffers. Avoid sending from public addresses like @gmail, @hotmail etc.: Using a private domain (like me@mydomain.com) looks more professional, but it also helps build your reputation. A private domain allows you to add an SPF record too, providing an extra layer of authentication that you wouldn’t get with a public address. List compilation: Don’t buy lists, avoid using lists that belong to third-parties and do not harvest addresses. Keep an eye out for future installments of this series for more definitions and advice. Other advantages of Dedicated IPs Dedicated IPs offer greater reliability when it comes to time-sensitive promotions. Those campaigns that require special attention also benefit from the timely delivery offered here. If you’re a high volume sender, we recommend that you buy various Dedicated IPs, apart from the one(s) that we will configure for you, as this will improve send speed. If you’re a client on a smaller plan, then one Dedicated IP is beneficial for the reasons mentioned above. At Benchmark, when we finish configuring a high volume plan, we will send a maximum of 20,000 emails at a time for your first 5 campaigns. Why? Because the various ISPs don’t like receiving lots of emails all of a sudden from an IP address with no history. Your campaigns would run the risk of ending up in the spam folder or being blocked. What about Dedicated IPs that are not on high volume plans? In this case, we “warm” the IP up for you beforehand and then it’s up to you to build your reputation and keep it as close to 100% as possible. In fact, you can keep an eye on your IP’s reputation on sites like https://senderscore.org/. Remember that your Dedicated IP with Benchmark costs just $28.95/month. If you’re a client with a high volume plan, contact us to find out how many Dedicated IPs you already have included in your plan. Adding another takes just 24 hours to set up and will boost your send speed. Did you like this article? Have you spotted any areas of your email marketing that you can improve? This is the second article from our brand new deliverability series. Next up, \"The 5 factors that affect your newsletter’s deliverability.\" Follow us, subscribe and don’t miss out! Help others learn more about email marketing best practices by sharing on social media and spreading the word. And, if you have any questions for us, just leave a comment below and we’ll get back to you. Enjoy learning with Benchmark Email!


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Spotlight on Benchmark: Have You Seen The Wonderful News?

Spotlight on Benchmark: Have You Seen The Wonderful News?

Beyond • May 26, 2017

“If you could choose just one moment, what would you choose?” That’s what a colleague asked me recently as we discussed everything that’s happened at Benchmark over the years and, honestly, I can’t choose just one. We’ve never really seized the opportunity to tell you all about what we’ve achieved internationally although we have, of course, been keeping you up to date on all the improvements we’ve made to the platform itself. You’ve surely noticed that the tool and site have just undergone a rebrand. We’ve got a brand new logo and released the game-changing Automation Pro a few months ago as well. That’s not it either and we’ve got a few more surprises coming your way very soon. However, what about awards? Did you know that in 2016, we won the award for Best Email Marketing Solution at eShow Brazil, or that, more recently, we appeared in Forbes as one of the top B2B tools to try in 2017? The truth is that we hardly ever make enough of a song and dance about these small victories, but each and every one is something that we’re all incredibly proud of. So, instead of just choosing one, I’ve chosen 6 of my most recent favourite moments to share with you. Business News Daily named us Best Email Marketing Software for Small Business Overall in January. They researched and analysed dozens of other platforms, but fell in love with our templates, powerful and easy-to-use editing software, detailed reports and dedicated support. You can click to read the review in full. Last year, we participated in eShow Brazil 2016, a major digital marketing event in Sao Paulo attended by over 4,000 digital professionals. The show also celebrates the most innovative digital services, e-commerce tools and agencies with an awards ceremony where we were voted Best Email Marketing Solution. You can see photos from the event, our shiny award and also practice your Portuguese by clicking to view our special eShow blog post. There are lots of great email marketing blogs so it was very exciting to see that ours has recently been ranked 7th best of all of them! We are genuinely passionate about sharing our email marketing knowledge and experience so knowing we’ve made a difference helping so many marketers with practical, insider tips and advice, really means a lot.You can see the entire ranking here. We recently became one of a select few companies that have been shown to comply with the Privacy Shield’s data protection requirements. This agreement imposes stronger obligations on US companies to protect the personal data of Europeans and also enforces greater transparency while offering several redress possibilities. Getting certified is a rigorous process but, if you’re still wondering what’s involved and why it’s important, then you’re in luck because you can learn more about the agreement and also find out which of your favourite companies comply with the requirements here. Privacy Shield wasn’t the only certification process we passed with flying colours either. After a thorough assessment, which involved reviewing our Privacy Policy and data collection practices, TRUSTe certified our commitment to privacy. It was quite the honour to have Dan Reich, writing on Forbes, the leading business and financial news publication, include us among his 20 B2B technologies to try in 2017. Dan is an entrepreneur and business expert with years of online and technological experience. If you’d like to read more about what he said about us, as well as explore his other favourite B2B tools for 2017, click the link above. Finally, we truly believe that these successes aren’t just ours. We couldn’t have won these prizes and acknowledgments without you because it’s thanks to you that we’re where we are today so, thank you :-) What about you? What were your big successes and favourite moments from recent months? Share them in the comments below.


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Your Questions Answered: List Uploads & List Verification

Your Questions Answered: List Uploads & List Verification

Beyond • May 2, 2017

Your list is your most valuable asset in email marketing. Having a good quality list plays a huge role in the success of your campaigns and your deliverability, and you should make sure that you do everything you can to send only to valid email addresses. To help you understand the quality of your list before you send a campaign and make sure you don’t damage your reputation in the meantime, we run checks on every single list uploaded to our platform. What does this mean for you? Read on to find out. What are the benefits of list verification? Lower bounce rates. If you send to an invalid email address, it will bounce. The more bounces you have, the lower your sender reputation will fall, and a low sender reputation has a very negative impact on whether or not your emails go through to the inbox. You might not have considered how important your bounce rate is but ISPs, anti-spam groups and corporate email protection services all set thresholds for bounces, spam complaints and unsubscribe requests and they use this info to prioritise emails in the inbox. Additionally, if you get too many bounces, your ESP may suspend your account. Better sender reputation. It might help if you think of your sender reputation a bit like a credit score. If the results of a campaign aren’t very positive, then this will leave a negative mark on your sender history. Also, just like a credit history, once your reputation drops, it can be tricky to build it up again. Clearer campaign results. Verifying your list means that you’ll no longer be sending to undeliverable emails. With these removed, your open and click-through rates will be more meaningful. Save money. Verifying your list might mean having fewer subscribers on the list, but they weren’t valid email addresses anyway. Having fewer people on your list may mean being able to move to a smaller plan and this saving will help you make back the investment made to verify. What happens when I upload a list to Benchmark? When you upload a list to Benchmark, our system runs a statistically significant sample of it through email validation software to understand the quality of the list. From this sample, results are grouped into four categories: Valid: emails marked as valid have a valid account associated, and it’s safe to send campaigns to them. Invalid: It is not possible to deliver emails to these addresses. It may be that this address is no longer in use or that the format of the address is incorrect. Accept All: Sending to email addresses marked as Accept All is risky because the server has been set to receive all emails sent to a specific domain making the address seem valid at first. The company will have a firewall or other spam filtering tool in place though which may cause emails to bounce when you send your campaign. Unknown: The email looks ok, but the domain isn’t responding. We don’t know whether it’s not responding due to a temporary or permanent issue so sending to these addresses is also considered risky. Once the sample has been taken, your list with then either be accepted or rejected based on these results. If your list is rejected, it will be because too many of the addresses were marked as invalid, risky or both. If your list is rejected, then you will not be able to use it without verifying it first as, in its current state, you would receive an amount of bounces that would be damaging to your sender reputation. How can I verify my list? All customers on paid plans can verify their list with us. The process is extremely easy and hassle-free. All you have to do is send your list to your account manager or our support team, and we will do the rest for you. If you do not have a paid account, then we strongly recommend that you use BriteVerify, Kickbox, QuickEmailVerification or one of the many other good options out there to verify your list. There are many companies that offer email validation, but the quality of the technology used to determine the state of the address varies a great deal between companies. Your provider will determine if the syntax of the email address is correct (e.g. me@company.com) and it will then verify the validity of the email domain for the email address. Finally, it connects to the email server directly to see whether the email address exists on the server. What does list verification cost? The price we charge for list verification is very affordable at just $3 per 1000 emails. So I just verify the list once and then I’m done? Not exactly. It’s smart not to just clean your list and then leave it until you’ve got a sky-high bounce rate again. Verify your list at least once a year and use our in-platform clean list tools at least every 3 or 4 campaigns. Our clean list tool is included in all accounts and allows you to choose what you’d like to clean: confirmed and hard bounces, or people who haven’t opened a campaign of yours in X campaigns for example. To find this tool, click on the list that you’d like to clean and click clean list as shown in the image below: List verification is easy and makes both financial and email marketing sense. I hope this helps answer some of your list related questions. If you have any others, leave a comment below or contact your Customer Engagement Specialist.


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How Design Impacts Deliverability

How Design Impacts Deliverability

Practical Marketer • April 19, 2017

Just before we get started, this article isn’t about us showing you how to make an email look beautiful. This is the sixth article in our deliverability series and the intention is not to teach you design tips here, but to explain the kind of design that your email campaigns need to pass spam filters and get to your recipient’s inbox. So, what works best? The answer is, in fact, surprisingly simple. What works best are emails that are 100% text. No images. That’s the answer when looking at the topic purely from a deliverability perspective. I know, though, that you need to balance this ideal with your need to make campaigns that convert and are aesthetically pleasing. It’s up to you how you balance one goal against the other. The important thing is that when you finish reading this article, you’ll understand how to design your campaigns so that your designs don’t harm your deliverability. Here’s what to keep in mind when designing for deliverability: Keep your use of images to a minimum As I mentioned above, in an ideal world, your email would be 100% text. I know that that doesn’t make for beautiful emails but it’s true. If you want to include images, you should aim for a ratio of 70% text and 30% images. The further you are from this 70:30 ratio, with images taking a heavier weighting, the more trouble you’ll have with your deliverability. Single column designs Yes, it might not be very exciting but simplicity is the key to success. Creating multi-column or complex emails won’t help you get to the inbox. Designing single-column emails offers several benefits: content clarity, order and, importantly, your responsive email campaign will be able to more easily adapt to all screen types. Be careful with colours The most highly recommended colours are #FFFFFF for the email’s background and #000000 for the font colour. You can imagine which colours they are, can’t you? That’s right, a white background and black text. Again this would be what you’d use in a perfect world. I know you’ll want to use your company colours but, be careful, don’t go wild with them. Don’t put them as the background colours for example. I’d also recommend that you keep an eye on making sure that there’s a strong contrast between text and background colours. They should not be similar as it makes reading your email a lot more difficult for your recipient. Font type and formatting We’re often asked why we only have 17 fonts in our drag & drop editor. The answer is simple. They are the only fonts that are read and accepted by all inbox clients. This means that when you use one of them, you know that it will be shown in that exact format across all inboxes. Besides choosing the font itself, it’s also best that you keep the text formatting simple. Going all out with bold formatting, for example, could help land your campaign in the spam folder or, if the text is quite large, it might simply SEEM LIKE YOU’RE SHOUTING. Try to keep in mind that usability and the experience of your recipient when interacting with your email is important here. Spammy words and symbols This is a classic. You’ve probably already heard that you need to be careful with the kinds of words that you use in your emails because if you abuse words like free, earn money, millions, extra income, free access, work from home, amazing, limited time, mortgages, credit, opportunity, act now, price, thousands, lose weight … or use several exclamation marks, capital letters, currency signs, asterisks or unusual symbols, it’s very likely that you will see poor deliverability. We often get asked about emojis and, while you can use them, make sure your use of them is relevant and not excessive. Be careful with links too. Make sure they work and that they are sending your recipient to the right page. An email with false, incorrect or misleading links will look suspicious to spam filters and won’t help further your objectives either. Subscription links You probably weren’t expecting to see this last section, but it’s part of the design of emails created in our Drag & Drop editor and has an important impact on deliverability. In this block, you can choose the links to include although the unsubscribe link is not optional. We also recommend that you always include the following at least: Manage subscription Sent to information Report abuse These links will silently but effectively look after your reputation. Don’t be afraid of including them and always keep things open and transparent for your subscribers. That’s it for today’s article. Be sure to apply these 6 basic but essential pieces of advice to your email marketing and let us know how you get on. Help others learn more about email marketing best practices too by sharing on social media and spreading the word. And, if you have any questions for us, just leave a comment below and we’ll get back to you. Enjoy learning with Benchmark!


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One Simple Way To Rescue Your Email Marketing Strategy

One Simple Way To Rescue Your Email Marketing Strategy

Practical Marketer • April 12, 2017

We have seen in previous articles why it’s so important to build your own database but did you know that it’s also extremely important that you keep it up to date? If your subscriber list isn’t up to date, then you’ll certainly see deliverability issues and this not only means that you won’t see as many conversions as you expect but also that you risk your emails being marked as spam. Keep reading to find out how to get better results from your email marketing campaigns. Manage your list to optimise email deliverability I hinted at this above but my first piece of advice is that you need to make sure that you’re creating your database yourselves, from scratch. Forget about buying lists of thousands of subscribers. It’s much better to start with nothing and encourage people to sign up bit by bit than buy a list or harvest addresses from the internet. Sending 100 emails to people that have given you their email address voluntarily is much more effective than sending to 1000s that have never even heard of you before. To create a list, you need to get people interested enough to give you their email address. To do this, you’ll need to think up a strategy for each of the different channels on which you intend to be present. Here are some ideas that are 100% practical and effective: Website: Not only do you need a signup form but your contact form must be visible and easy to find. You must also inform all those that contact you via the contact form that they are also opting in to receiving future info and updates from you. Blog: It’s likely that your website has a link to your blog. If that’s the case, make sure that you request email addresses via a popup that appears when your readers visit. You can tempt them to share their valuable information by letting them know that, in return, they’ll receive inside info, a special offer, a report etc. Create a group on tools like Meetup and organise face-to-face events with people that have interests in common with yours. Organise online courses and webinars where all participants must register with their email address to attend. On your landing pages, offer ebooks, manuals, checklists or any other content of value that can be downloaded when an email address is provided. Competitions and giveaways on social media. Exchange business cards with new contacts at business shows, fairs, events and networking sessions. Once you have subscribers, it’s very important that you communicate with them in a way that keeps them opening your emails, going back to your website and clicking on your links. Automation Pro makes doing this really easy. It’s an excellent tool for keeping people engaged and interested as it allows you to create personalised journeys for each of your clients based on what they do or don’t do on your website or in response to your emails. Let’s have a more detailed look at how to engage and keep engagement high. Every time you send a campaign, you need to keep an eye on who is and who isn’t opening your messages. If you have a group of people who haven’t opened any of your messages in some time, they may not be interested in your product anymore, or the email address might no longer be in use. In cases like these, the risk of being marked as spam is increased. Here are a few practical tips to follow: On Benchmark, you have a “Clean List” tool. It’s very important that every 3 or 4 campaigns, you review the quality of your list and delete confirmed and hard bounces. If you have a high percentage of people who haven’t opened your emails in several campaigns you can: Delete them from the list. They’re not interested in what you’re offering and deleting them may mean that you can move onto a smaller plan. Not only are you saving money but you’re increasing your open rate by only focusing on your core subscriber. Separate those that open from those that don’t. With this strategy, it’s best to create a subaccount where you’ll place only those that don’t open your emails. To this group, you’ll send a reengagement campaign. Those that come back on board can be moved to the master account. Doing this will make sure that your master account has an excellent reputation as you’ll be sending to only your most engaged subscribers from here. Also, make sure that the campaigns sent to the non-openers are built specifically to re-engage. You should not be sending the same email to someone on a reengagement campaign as to someone who is already showing an interest. Consider creating segments too. As you know, the more personalised and targeted the campaign, the more relevant and successful it will be. Lastly, remember that within your Benchmark account, you have access to a Targeted Emailing tool. Take advantage of this tool and create lists of those that have opened several campaigns or a specific campaign, those that don’t open, those that click, those that click on a specific link and so on. You can find out how interested your subscriber list is in particular products, for example. Just include the products in question in a campaign and wait to see who clicks. Once you’ve sent the campaign and have the results, you can create lists segmented by who was interested in each product. Not only does this give you more information on who’s interested in what but you can also follow up with future campaigns based on these interests. In our next article, we’ll be looking at how an email’s design can impact its deliverability. Follow us, subscribe and don’t miss out! Help others learn more about email marketing best practices by sharing on social media and spreading the word. And, if you have any questions for us, just leave a comment below and we’ll get back to you. Enjoy learning with Benchmark!


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How Do Abuse Complaints Affect Your Newsletter’s Deliverability?

How Do Abuse Complaints Affect Your Newsletter’s Deliverability?

Practical Marketer • April 5, 2017

In previous articles, we’ve had a look at the definition of deliverability, key factors and the advantages of having a Dedicated IP. In this installment, we’re going to have a look at abuse complaints as this is another aspect of email marketing that, when not dealt with correctly, can negatively impact your sender reputation and, therefore, your deliverability. Unfortunately, it’s just as bad to be marked as spam as it is to hit spam traps. But, what is an abuse complaint? If you’re using Benchmark, an abuse complaint can come from one of two sources: When a client marks an email as spam using the button in their inbox. This is the most serious of the two because it’s Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo etc. who will receive the complaint and take measures against your emails. Via Benchmark’s “Report Abuse” button. If the recipient chooses to complain via this button, Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo etc. don’t receive the complaint and this gives us time to resolve the issue. This doesn’t mean that it’s not serious, though. At Benchmark, we take abuse complaints very seriously and, while we will work with you to help you resolve the issue, if any client has a ratio of abuse complaints that\'s over 0.05%, their account will be terminated. To put this in perspective, this means we allow one abuse complaint per 2000 emails sent. What gets my emails marked as spam? This is a very good question. Many factors may be behind your recipient marking you as spam. For example: The database that you’re using is too old. A database being old may mean that the information that you’re sending is no longer relevant or they don’t remember signing up to your emails. The information that you’re sending isn’t of interest to your subscribers so they incorrectly mark you as spam instead of unsubscribing. You’re sending too many emails and your recipients are tired of receiving them. If you think that this could be the case, it’s time to stop and review your strategy. You’re sending emails to people that haven’t opted-in. This isn’t only bad email marketing practice but it’s also illegal and can have consequences that are much more far-reaching than bad campaign results. You’re sending content to people that had requested/expected information about something else when they signed up. For example, if they signed up to receive a webinar series on carpentry, don’t send them one on haute cuisine. People will be happy to receive more information related to what they originally signed up for but not offers for other things. The recipient was simply having a bad day and decided they weren’t interested in your email so marked you as spam.  It hardly happens but you’ll learn more on resolving this below. You’ll see now then that there are various factors that can be behind an abuse complaint and, while this isn’t intended to be an exhaustive list, you must ask yourself if you’re guilty of any of the above because your abuse complaint ratio is something that you can control. At Benchmark, when you send a campaign, you can see if you receive an abuse complaint in your reports: Don’t forget though that you can only control your abuse complaints if you add the “Report Abuse” link to your campaign. If you don’t use this link, the recipient will only be able to complain directly to their inbox provider and this will seriously damage your sender reputation. How can I avoid being marked as spam? We’ve already seen some of the reasons behind why we might get labeled as spam so let’s have a look at some possible solutions: If your database is old, send only to those that open your emails. Why pay for the big plan if it’s not being effective? We often think that what we’re sending is very interesting and relevant but, are you completely sure? Take a minute now to go and have a look at your last campaign’s click-through rate. Are you satisfied? If you’re not, consider changing your content so that it really is something that provokes engagement from your subscribers. Tip: Our “click heat maps” within your email reports can give you some valuable insights into the type of content that your recipients are interested in. Create a strategy around the emails you send. Consider your content and the best time and day to send that particular message. Also, don’t ever send the same content twice in the same week. Less is more. Don’t send spam. Make sure that you’re only sending to people who have opted in to receiving news from you. Segment your clients by the type of content that they want to receive. This will boost relevancy. If a recipient has marked you as spam, review your reports and contact them personally to find out why they did it and understand what actions you need to take. Final recommendations Remember to always add our “Report Abuse” link to your emails Keep an eye on your reports Listen to your recipients and learn from their actions In our next article, we’ll be discussing why it’s important to keep your lists up to date. Follow us, subscribe and don’t miss out! Help others learn more about email marketing best practices by sharing on social media and spreading the word. And, if you have any questions for us, just leave a comment below and we’ll get back to you. Enjoy learning with Benchmark Email!  


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The 5 Factors That Affect Your Newsletter’s Deliverability

The 5 Factors That Affect Your Newsletter’s Deliverability

Practical Marketer • March 29, 2017

You can spend hours planning and creating the perfect newsletter, tweaking it until you’re sure that it’s going to help bring in new clients and boost profits, but it doesn’t matter how well-thought-out or well-designed it is: if it doesn’t get to your recipients, it won’t fulfill your objectives. This is why working to ensure that the email arrives in the inbox needs to be your number one priority. Deliverability is all about getting to the inbox and avoiding the spam folder. Basically, If you don’t look after your deliverability and it takes a turn for the worse, it’s likely that your emails will end up in spam. The consequence of this is usually that your recipients will start to think of you as “that company that sends spam”. This isn’t only a problem for your marketing but it can also bring with it legal problems, being added to a blacklist or your account being permanently blocked. Ignoring deliverability, or not actively working to improve or maintain it, is not an option for anyone working in email marketing. There are 5 factors that can affect a campaign’s deliverability. Each one needs to be considered and optimised, as deliverability can be negatively impacted by just one of them going awry. The Email Marketing Manager   The person that decides the email campaign’s content. They’ll choose the subject line, the layout of images, text etc. and they’ll also have the final word on how many emails to send and when. They’re responsible for ensuring that the list is up-to-date, correct and cleansed of old addresses that no longer exist, spam traps and generic email addresses. Sender domain By sender, we mean the name, the address and the domain used to send the campaign. While the name and address have the biggest impact on whether the email gets opened or not, the domain can be key to guaranteeing good deliverability as it’s the first thing that the different organisations and filters will analyse to classify the newsletter. The domain’s reputation and not having been classified as spam previously is essential for the success of your campaign. As a general rule, it’s recommended that you don’t use a public domain like Gmail, Yahoo or Hotmail. Instead, opt to use a private domain that in itself doesn’t contain expressions that can be interpreted as spammy. You also need to make sure that it’s not on any blacklists. Configuring the SPF record that we provide is also good practice as it helps prove that we have permission to send campaigns on your behalf. No excuses! It’s quick, easy and free to do so if you’re not sure how, please contact your Benchmark representative who will be happy to assist you. Email Marketing Platform The platform you choose has a decisive impact on deliverability. It must have a good infrastructure for sending bulk email campaigns and it should also provide statistics on each one you send. Check to see if they can show you how many abuse complaints,  bounces, clicks etc. you receive as this information will help you optimise your database and strategy for upcoming campaigns. It’s also useful if they have good customer service available in case you need it. The Recipient The person that receives your email also has a relevant part to play in your deliverability as it’s them that has the power to configure their account’s anti-spam filter. Not only this but their inbox will learn from and monitor their actions. Do they open your emails? Do they interact with them? Do they mark them as spam? The ISP will learn and filter the emails accordingly. Suggest to your recipients that they whitelist you and that they remove your emails from spam if they find you there. Inbox filters will learn that you are a good sender this way. It’s also important that the recipient interacts with our emails and this can only be achieved with relevant content and thoughtful design. Don’t forget either that, even before they open the email, the subject line has to win them over so take the time to think about it and make it a good, eye-catching, non-spammy one. You can also use our Targeted Emailing tool to create segments of, and target, clients based on their open and click behaviour. Additionally, Inbox Checkers are another great way of double-checking your campaign before it gets sent out. Use them to see what your email will look like on different devices and browsers and avoid surprises when you’ve already sent out the campaign. Spam filters This is who decides whether the recipient receives the email or not. We don’t have control over this but it will analyse the factors that we’ve been looking at in this article. Now we’ve seen the 5 main actors in the email marketing process, consider how your deliverability is being influenced by each one and be sure to optimise each area for campaign success. Did you like this article? Have you spotted any areas of your email marketing deliverability that you can improve? This is the third article from our brand new deliverability series. Next up... How abuse complaints affect your deliverability. Follow us, subscribe and don’t miss out! Help others learn more about email marketing best practices by sharing on social media and spreading the word. And, if you have any questions for us, just leave a comment below and we’ll get back to you. Enjoy learning with Benchmark Email!


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The Basic Principles of Deliverability in Email Marketing

The Basic Principles of Deliverability in Email Marketing

Beyond • March 15, 2017

This paragraph marks the first in our brand new series dedicated to deliverability. Use this series to get your email marketing results back on track (or avoid them going off track in the first place!) as we guide you with insider tips, tricks and know-how that’ll help you get the most out of your Benchmark Email account. Today’s article is a general introduction to the concept of deliverability with some key points to consider. Email marketing: an essential online marketing channel Let’s use an example to illustrate the concept of deliverability. Imagine a company whose marketing team has spent a good few months ignoring the alerts and messages from their email marketing platform. Now, unfortunately, the Head of Marketing is having a look at the quarterly reports that he’s received from his  team and he’s worried. The last campaign had looked promising. It offered a good product, a clear message, it was well focused on the target market, they had a structured plan, the design was attractive and timings had been optimised. Sadly though, the numbers are less than satisfactory so, what went wrong? All channels had performed as expected, except that of email marketing. The amount of leads generated via this channel had been in steady decline over the last 6 months. It had been the star channel, a key aspect of the sales funnel, but things have definitely taken a turn for the worse. Let’s try to understand why. Analysing the deliverability of your messages It’s a common story and you’ve probably seen a similar situation before. The team needs solutions to be found fast. Fortunately, after looking over the reports, one of the team members has offered up some interesting ideas that she thinks could put the team back on the right track: she thinks that the downturn could have something to do with the deliverability of their email marketing messages. Take it from us, deliverability is complex but fascinating to work on but, what is it? In short, it’s about optimising the rate at which your email arrives in the inbox, regardless of who your target public is and which ISP they use. In our imaginary company, no one has been evaluating even the most basic components. The abuse complaint rate and bounces are far too high and the lists haven’t been sufficiently segmented. The consequence of all this is a poor reputation that harms results. Key factor 1: Your sender reputation A brand’s sender reputation is intrinsically linked to their Domain Authority and each ISP keeps a record of the sender’s activity. When evaluating your sender reputation, ask yourself: Do we have many or few spam complaints? What’s our average open rate? Do recipients interact with our campaigns and our content? Bear these questions in mind, review the data and act to improve each of these points. For more details on doing this, keep your eyes peeled for new installments of this series. Key factor 2: A clean list It won’t matter how many campaigns you plan if your lists aren’t in tip-top shape. If your lists are full of spelling mistakes, if you don’t delete unsubscribes or if you keep sending to expired email addresses (hard bounces), you won’t be helping your deliverability. Using double opt-in for signups is vital for confirming that email addresses are both correct and that they exist. To this you must add adequate segmentation. This goes hand in hand with an appropriate analysis and study of open and bounce rates which will let you appreciate just how engaged each recipient is or isn’t. For example, one segment may be those that always open and read your campaigns or have done in the last X months. These will be the ones that will be most interested in reading your promotional emails.  You need this level of planning and preparation to make sure that only relevant content reaches each of your targets, giving you the kind of impact and return that you expect. Key factor 3: Quality email marketing software Now you’ve seen a few tips and understood a little more about what deliverability involves, we need to look beyond the actions of the marketing team alone. None of all of this will be enough if you don’t choose a quality email marketing platform from which to send your carefully planned email marketing campaigns. How to choose? Firstly, you need to make sure that your email marketing service provider is dedicated to providing the right infrastructure. This involves them keeping on top of their server reputation and keeping their systems updated while working with you to optimise your sender reputation. With the right tools, relevant content and clean lists, your email marketing strategy will be on the right path to success. At Benchmark Email we guarantee that we will offer you the right infrastructure for your email marketing success. We always follow best email marketing practices to ensure the best possible delivery rates:  we verify lists, clients and we keep an eye on campaigns too. All of this helps keep sender reputations high and ensures that emails get to their destination. Try it for yourself. Open an account with us and explore our platform for free! This is the first article from our brand new deliverability series. Next up, \"The Advantages of Using a Dedicated IP in Email Marketing.\" Follow us, subscribe and don’t miss out! Help others learn more about email marketing best practices by sharing on social media and spreading the word. And, if you have any questions for us, just leave a comment below and we’ll get back to you. Enjoy learning with Benchmark Email!


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Discussing Digital Marketing, Email & Engagement with Smart Insights

Discussing Digital Marketing, Email & Engagement with Smart Insights

Beyond • March 1, 2017

Smart Insights is famous for offering expert, practical and actionable advice on digital marketing so I was very excited to have had the pleasure of chatting to Robert Allen, Editor at Smart Insights this week. We discussed all things digital marketing and you’ll find some of the highlights below. He offers tips on writing excellent email copy, engaging a community and much more so be sure to grab a pen and paper: you don’t want to miss any of his exclusive tips! Rob, as editor at Smart Insights, you write on all manner of topics related to digital marketing. Do you have a favourite area or topic? What do you love most about digital marketing? Great question. There are a lot of areas I find really interesting, SEO especially. I’ve been researching machine learning a lot recently which I’ve found fascinating, but I think what I love most of all is the big picture strategy stuff: taking a step back and thinking about the fundamental principles and then applying that to objectives and working out a strategy. It’s why I’ve written at length about marketing models and criticised the ‘tactification’ of marketing, where marketers forget to strategize properly and instead focus on tactics. How did you start out in digital marketing? I started off by volunteering to run a charity’s digital marketing while I was an undergrad at university. I learned on the job and then helped to market several other projects. Once I graduated, I went straight to work for a small marketing consultancy which grew fivefold whilst I was there. I learned loads about social media marketing, SEO, email marketing and content marketing there. When I saw that Smart Insights was looking for someone to run their blog, I jumped at the chance to be at the cutting edge of digital marketing thought leadership, and I’ve been there ever since! As an editor and someone who has had great success in contributing to creating a community and keeping that community engaged, how important would you say engagement is as part of a digital strategy? Engagement is absolutely essential but it’s the final part of a bigger puzzle. We always use the RACE framework when planning our digital marketing. For those unfamiliar with it, it stands for Reach, Act, Convert, Engage. Engagement isn’t about getting new readers, it’s about retaining existing ones and bringing them back time and time again. The key to engagement is being useful- you have to provide your audience with what they want. We publish four articles a day and try to keep our readers up to date with all the latest developments in marketing. We surveyed our readers and found out that what they really wanted was a place to get just the essential updates so they could stop wasting time looking through multiple sites for all the major developments. That’s why we created our ‘What’s Hot’ section to show readers just the key platform developments from each month. Do you agree that writing excellent copy is essential to engaging an audience? Absolutely and it’s important to realise that excellent copy is an art that can always be improved upon. I’m passionate about writing, and spend hours and hours on evenings and weekends reading the work of the best in the biz. You can learn so much from the writing styles of great writers. Scott Alexander’s writing has taught me so much about explaining complex concepts in simple language, whilst I love Mark Ritson and Bob Hoffman’s punchy and pithy style. What advice would you offer someone just starting out with email marketing? Test. It’s that simple. No one really knows what will work and what won’t. Sometimes you work hard coming up with a brilliantly compelling newsletter, and the test finds that’s a simple bullet point list beats it. Similarly, sometimes descriptive subject lines work, whilst for other audiences it’s best to try something unusual. For example, we once tested an email with the subject ‘Something for lunch?’. The email gave them the usual selection of Smart Insights articles we always send out, but we positioned it as something to read over lunch. The open and click rate was more than double the norm! Don’t be afraid to try all sorts of different ideas, just make sure you test them and then apply the lessons learned. What 3 tips would you give someone for making their email copy more effective? It’s always tempting to use industry-speak and buzzwords to try to sound knowledgeable, but I think it’s better to stick to Einstein’s famous dictum that you should ‘always make everything as simple as it can be, and no simpler’. So, if you really need to use an industry term to explain something then by all means use it but, wherever possible, use simple and easy-to-understand language. Think about the objective first and work backward. What is it that you want your audience to do? Do you just want them to click on a link? Then use compelling calls to action and keep it as brief as possible. If you want to entice and inform then use questions to draw people in. Repeat it aloud. Often people write in overly dense sentences when a simpler, punchier style would be more engaging. I’m as guilty of this as anyone else. I love a good comma. You’ll find that when saying it aloud, you’ll add pauses and finish sentences at natural points. Have you seen a blog article that made you think \"wow! what a great idea?\" All the time! I don’t spend hours a day reading blogs for nothing! A great example is when I came across this economics paper from 1970. It’s called ‘the market for lemons’ and I spotted it when reading an economics blog. It made me realise a fundamental principle about how Google’s content ranking algorithm has to work. The paper’s author went on to win a Nobel prize. I’m still working on that one. How do you see the role of email evolving alongside other digital channels, social media, or even artificial intelligence? Email remains one of the most effective of all marketing channels. I don’t see that position being threatened by new tech developments, quite the contrary. Machine learning and AI hold the possibility of incredibly tailored personalisation, which can be applied to email marketing better than most other channels. What do you think will be big in email in 2017? I’ve already mentioned the growing ability of marketers to use machine learning and AI to achieve incredible levels of personalisation. I think the big trends in email this year will be about using the growing power of these technologies in tandem with big data. These will allow the sending of highly relevant offers tailored to individual customers. Thank you for so  many excellent tips and insights, Rob! I’m sure this post has left you with plenty of food for thought. Be sure to apply these tips to your digital and email marketing strategies and keep your eyes peeled for more articles packed full of practical advice. You can help others learn more too by sharing on social media and spreading the word. And, if you have any questions for us, just leave a comment below and we’ll get back to you.


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Benchmark: One of Few Privacy Shield Certified Email Marketing Platforms

Benchmark: One of Few Privacy Shield Certified Email Marketing Platforms

• February 17, 2017

Transparency and protecting your data has always been of utmost importance to us. Even before the Privacy Shield was ratified, we ensured that we were TRUSTe certified and you can rest assured that the lists that you upload to our platform are yours alone. We will never use, rent or sell your client lists. That said, though, we are very excited to announce that we are now one of a select few companies that have been shown to comply with the Privacy Shield’s data protection requirements. I’m sure you’ve got plenty of questions on just what that means, so I’ve decided to answer five of the most pressing Privacy Shield questions asked by our customers. If you do have any others, feel free to leave a comment or contact us personally on support@benchmarkemail.com, subject: Privacy Shield. What is the Privacy Shield? Privacy Shield imposes stronger obligations on US companies to protect the personal data of Europeans. The agreement obliges the companies involved to enforce greater transparency and there are several redress possibilities. It also, for the first time, includes restrictions on the access that US public authorities have to the data. What does that mean? It means that your personal data can be transferred from the EU to a company in the United States as long as the company there “processes (e.g. uses, stores and further transfers) your personal data according to a strong set of data protection rules and safeguards. The protection given to your data applies regardless of whether you are an EU citizen or not.” How does it work? Any company that wants to be recognised as fulfilling the requirements of the Privacy Shield must get certified. Additionally, this certification is renewed on a yearly basis. If a company does not renew, they will not be able to receive and use data from the EU under this particular framework. How do I know if a company is Privacy Shield certified? Very easily. You can check by searching the official Privacy Shield list. Here’s the link: https://www.privacyshield.gov/list. If the company searched for is Privacy Shield certified, they will appear among the active results like this: What are the rights and obligations outlined in the agreement? You’ll find a full explanation of the Privacy Shield together with all rights and obligations in the following link http://ec.europa.eu/justice/data-protection/document/citizens-guide_en.pdf. A few key points include: You have a right to be informed generally. Whether that’s you being informed about how and why your data will be used, how to access your personal data or how to make a complaint There are now limitations on how your data can be used for different purposes The company is obliged to minimise the data it has on you and keep that data for only as long as can be proven necessary The company must keep your data secure In the case that it is necessary for your data to be transferred to another company, the Privacy Shield company must protect your data You have a right to access and correct your data You have the right to complain and receive a resolution. There are several ways to lodge a complaint You have the right to redress if your data is accessed by US public authorities Is there anything else I need to know? Yes, and it’s very important. We heard from a few customers that there was a rumour that any US-based company wanting to work with European data would need servers in Europe. This is completely false. The only requirement is that US-based companies comply with the Privacy Shield and we do. Your data is safe with us. If you are not yet a Benchmark customer but would like to know if your email marketing provider complies with current legislation, access the link we have provided above and search for them. If they don’t appear, they are not certified so your data and information may be at risk. Want to know more? Browse the following two official Privacy Shield documents or get in touch on support@benchmarkemail.com. Fact Sheet: http://ec.europa.eu/justice/data-protection/files/factsheets/factsheet_eu-us_privacy_shield_en.pdf Guide to the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield: http://ec.europa.eu/justice/data-protection/document/citizens-guide_en.pdf  


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