Series Posts: Practical Marketer

How to Harness the Power of Emails at Every Stage of Your Buyers’ Journey

How to Harness the Power of Emails at Every Stage of Your Buyers’ Journey

Practical Marketer • July 16, 2018

Understanding the buyers’ journey allows you to get the database sorted based on their lifecycle stages namely Awareness, Research, Comparison, Purchase, Relationship Building, Retention and Advocacy. You can move your leads down into the sales funnel by nurturing them and convincing them to convert. The most commonly used lead nurturing tool is EMAIL - as it is scalable and cost-effective. However, if you want your email marketing strategy to work, you should understand that every campaign should be tailor-made to match the buyer’s journey. Let’s understand how you can utilize the power of email marketing at every stage of the buyer’s journey. 1. Awareness The first step of any prospect is Awareness. As the name suggests, this is when people get to know about your brand and your offerings. You can help your subscribers evaluate the product in the awareness stage. Send out emails that let them know about the benefits of your product and explain to them how your product would troubleshoot their problems. It is important to understand that customers purchase the solutions to their problems and not just a product. Make sure you entice your subscribers right in the awareness stage so that it is easier to take them further in the sales. After all, well begun is half done. See the welcome email sent by Heyo and how they have included the various tutorials of their solution to help the new subscriber with the contest creation. 2. Research Your subscribers are trying to figure out which solution is the best to resolve their problem during the research stage. It’s in this phase where you can leverage content marketing to educate the subscribers and build credibility for your brand. Examples of emails to be sent in the research stage: Various types of content resources You can have your content published in various formats, namely webinars, white papers, instructional videos, ebooks, slide decks, etc. As your subscribers might have distinct tastes when it comes to consuming information online, you can even ask your subscribers to choose the format preferences for receiving information. Content sharing the challenges faced by the subscriber You can share relevant case studies to explain to the subscriber about the similar challenges faced by fellow customers and how your solution helped to address their concerns. Content sharing actionable tips Your subscribers look forward to getting some valuable advice and actionable tips through the email. If your emails cannot deliver value to them, the brutal truth is that they would not want to hear from you. Content that convinces the subscribers that you offer the best solution A subscriber who is almost at the end of the research stage would want to know why he or she should choose your solution over your competitors. Convey your brand promise in such a way that they are eager to know more about you and are keen on buying from you. The email by Tinder cleverly informs the subscriber about how to use the App and entices them to try it at least once. No wonder, it is so popular among the youngsters nowadays… 3. Comparison After the research stage, comes the comparison stage. Leads who are in the comparison stage demand a special treatment and exclusive emails tailor-made for them. This is the stage where you should send out customer-focused marketing emails. Talk about your USPs and how you STAND OUT from your competitors. You can involve your sales team and schedule a personalized demo or meeting with the prospect. Here are some email examples to be sent in the comparison stage: Wanna schedule a demo? Need help? Have a look at the buyer’s guide. 5 reasons why our solution is the best match for you. It is not always necessary to send a visually attractive email. There are occasions when a plain text email can work better than an HTML email. Check out the below example. That’s plain text emailing done right! 4. Purchase The entire sales process is very much like proposing someone. If you goof up, you are likely to lose the sale. Make sure you do not disappoint your interested subscriber and offer them the resources that would warrant a pleasant shopping experience. Take a look at the type of emails to be sent during the purchase stage: Address the probable objection of the customer proactively. Guide the customers to use the product correctly. Once they make the purchase, send out a follow-up email to tackle the issues, if any. Check out how Code Camp has included a subscriber’s feedback, to encourage the recipient to do the same. (Applauds for the idea!) 5. Relationship Building and Retention The stages of relationship building and retention go hand in hand. After a customer completes the purchase, you should consider building a long-lasting rapport by using an emotional appeal in your emails. Doing so can help you retain the customers and enhance your customer lifetime value and loyalty. A regular email newsletter talking about new products, updates in your services, promotional offers and discounts goes a long way in retaining the customers by keeping your brand at the top of the customer’s mind. Chewy sends out an engaging feedback email to make sure that they can retain the recent buyer. 6. Advocacy Advocacy is the stage where a prospect turns into an evangelist. This implies that your customer becomes the brand ambassador of your business and helps you drive more sales. Word-of-mouth marketing works wonders for any business. In fact, it brings the best ROI and maximizes conversions. Consider sending rewards to ‘patrons’ in your elite list of customers to encourage them to purchase again. You can even leverage referral email marketing, which works towards retention of existing customers as well as the acquisition of new ones. Saying “Thank you” without any marketing or sales pitch also helps in getting evangelists for your brand. Check out the type of emails you can send in the advocacy stage: Refer us and earn a referral bonus. Allow us to serve you better by providing feedback. Mind referring us to your friends and family? Here’s 50% ‘elite customer’ discount for you. Thank you for choosing us. Lyft offers rewards to their top customers in their email with a catchy CTA that would prompt the user to take action and ride with them. Wrapping Up According to the 2018 report by Econsultancy, email has once again maintained its position as the most effective channel for marketers, with 74% rating its ROI yield as either ‘excellent’ or ‘good’… And to use this channel to its full potential, email marketers ought to respect the stages of the buyer’s journey. There’s no other way out.


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Want to Build Your Email List Faster? 
Here is How to Choose the Right Lead Magnets

Want to Build Your Email List Faster? 
Here is How to Choose the Right Lead Magnets

Practical Marketer • July 11, 2018

Most people used to be thrilled to receive anything via email. Two decades ago. Today everybody’s inbox is so flooded with messages - both wanted and unwanted - that even being able to send your newsletter has become a privilege. So, if you are a business willing to build a list for email marketing, how do you earn this privilege? How do you encourage more of your website visitors to become loyal subscribers? Two words. Lead magnets. What are lead magnets, anyway? Lead magnet is a real buzzword these days, and you probably hear it a lot. That’s because using a lead magnet is known to be an excellent email opt-in conversion booster. A lead magnet is a specifically targeted item that you promise in exchange for a sign-up. Something that can be delivered within a few minutes. Something irresistible. An ethical bribe if you will. [caption id=\"attachment_11400\" align=\"aligncenter\" width=\"468\"] Crate&Barrel offers a 10% discount for a subscription[/caption] Adam Connell, the author of Blogging Wizard, states lead magnets can increase conversions by a factor of 7 and even more. Tim Soulo, the Head of Marketing at Ahrefs, shares a 300%-growth case study on his blog. If you’re still skeptical, read this post where Hubspot provides an impressive example of a 42% conversion rate achieved with the right lead magnet. Can you imagine that? Almost half of all page visitors chose to subscribe. [caption id=\"attachment_11401\" align=\"aligncenter\" width=\"468\"] Shane Barker, a digital marketer, offers a free 30-min consultation in exchange for a name and an email[/caption] When you think of options, almost anything can be a lead magnet: a tool, a guide, a cheat sheet, a discount, a demo version of your app, a webinar, a video course. And yes, even your time can become a lead magnet, should you be willing to provide consultations in exchange for an email. Chances are, along the way you will have various incentives for your audience to subscribe, so when choosing the very first lead magnet, you should probably pick something you’re able to produce relatively fast – ideally, between a few hours and a couple of days. How do you deliver a lead magnet? Remember, I said lead magnets must be delivered instantly because that’s one of their key values? So, technically, there are two ways to do it. #1. Use Benchmark Email autoresponder feature This one is quite obvious. If you use marketing automation to send welcome emails, simply place a link to your promised lead magnet in the email body and schedule it to be sent instantly. #2. Use a Success Page feature in your email list building tool If you collect subscribers using email, contact, or survey forms by GetSiteControl (or any other lead generation app), you can redirect them to any URL after they share their address. It can be a hidden post on your blog, a page to download a lead magnet from, or even a link to a closed Facebook community you invite your fans to. [caption id=\"attachment_11462\" align=\"aligncenter\" width=\"700\"] This is how you set up a success page to redirect your subscribers to in GetSiteControl[/caption] Tips for choosing a lead magnet So... since there are so many lead magnet ideas to choose from, does it mean you can just pick any of them to create an incentive to subscribe? Of course, not. The key to creating a good lead magnet is precise targeting. You want to make sure you’re offering something your audience wants. Something to solve their “pain” quickly and efficiently. And just like you take a serious approach to choose the right call to action, you should understand that not all the lead magnets might be equally effective. If you have an e-commerce store, the first lead magnet idea you probably have is a discount. Or free shipping. But should it end there? And is it the best lead magnet for just anyone landing on your website? Let’s talk about this in the next few paragraphs. Tip #1. Identify your audience pain points Regardless of what business you’re in, there must be few requests you repeatedly receive from your audience. Something that, if addressed, could make their life instantly easier, and something you are willing to give away. [caption id=\"attachment_11403\" align=\"aligncenter\" width=\"468\"] Jeff Goins, a best-selling author of 5 books, offers a free web masterclass for writers[/caption] If it’s not obvious to you, there are plenty of sources for inspiration: emails from customers, support tickets, comments on your posts, live chat conversations, discussions in the niche communities, or on even competitors’ websites. Write down 3-5 problems your target audience mentions most frequently and pick one you could easily provide a solution for. That’s your lead magnet. Tip #2. Avoid providing generic solutions to generic problems As banal as this may sound, using a wrong format for a lead magnet is one of the biggest traps beginners fall into. Remember, I asked you to find 3-5 “pain points” you could help your audience with? One mistake marketers make is combining solutions to several problems into one piece of content. That’s how a potentially perfect lead magnet loses its specificity and becomes inefficient. Compare the following incentives: “Get a list of free tools for beginning online entrepreneurs” “Get a list of 37 email templates for e-commerce I personally tested and recommend” The first one might sound exciting at first, but unlike the second one, it doesn’t look like a specific “here and now” solution to a specific “here and now” problem. There are dozens of pain points a beginning entrepreneur has – how do we know this list addresses exactly what they are struggling with at the moment? [caption id=\"attachment_11404\" align=\"aligncenter\" width=\"468\"] After a sign-up, Muscle&Fitness blog instantly shows a set of exercises for the muscle groups you choose[/caption] Bottom line: don’t try to squeeze in too much information just for the sake of it. Boil down your expertise into one piece of content that provides a clear way to solve one particular problem. Tip #3. Choose shorter formats over lengthy lead magnets Less is more. Yes, e-books used to be the most popular type of lead magnet. But are they still as efficient? Let’s see. Most e-books take forever to create, what’s more – they take forever to consume. At the same time, most people today anticipate immediate value and hate waiting. That’s why more often than not, bite-size pieces of information are more enticing than lengthy content or month-long courses. Ready for the most important piece of advice? Trade size for relevancy. Because the more precisely targeted your lead magnet is, the better it will convert. Here is how the lengthy “entrepreneur’s toolset” could be revised: “Accounting checklist for a beginning entrepreneur” – offered on a page where you talk about bookkeeping, taxes, and financial advice for entrepreneurs. “100 business blog ideas for the times you are out of ideas” – offered on a page where you talk about content marketing, blogging, and self-branding. “My 10 favorite sources for getting free traffic that converts” – offered on any page related to traffic, conversion optimization, and marketing in general. And if you doubt that creating a post-specific lead magnet is worth the effort, read how Brian Dean increased email opt-in conversion rate by 785% using exactly this method. Tip #4. Ask your website visitors what they want Have you ever thought of that? Because there are quite a few tools and plugins available today for surveying your audience, asking them what they want, and validating your ideas. If you have a decent traffic volume on your website, that might be the easiest and the fastest way to choose a lead magnet. [caption id=\"attachment_11464\" align=\"aligncenter\" width=\"700\"] An example of a GetSiteControl survey form[/caption] You can use the Benchmark survey feature or one of the apps it integrates with, such as: GetSiteControl Survey Monkey Wufoo JotForms Tip #5. Vary lead magnets for different funnel stages Wait, aren’t lead magnets already part of the funnel converting website visitors into leads? Well, it depends on how you attract the audience and what your sales funnel looks like. But if you think about it, offering various lead magnets to people on different stages of their customer journey might be quite reasonable. Here is an example, explaining why a discount is not the ultimate lead magnet even for eCommerce stores. Imagine, you sell organic detox juices online. To get traffic to your website, you actively employ content marketing techniques, so there are many educational articles about detoxification, eating clean, and DIY recipes on your blog. Now, if you get this traffic organically, most people landing on these pages are probably on the awareness stage, right? Most probably, they don’t even know your brand yet, let alone thinking about making a purchase. So, will a discount for your product or free shipping be the best incentive for them to subscribe? Probably. But chances are, at this stage, they might be even more incentivized to sign up in exchange for a detox grocery shopping checklist or a printable detox calendar. [caption id=\"attachment_11406\" align=\"aligncenter\" width=\"468\"] LeadQuizzes offers early access to the new version in exchange for an email[/caption] Of course, you might want to test this assumption – and that brings us to the next chapter of this post. The key takeaway here is that thinking from a customer’s perspective might lead you to the conclusion, what they want is not always exactly what you initially wanted to offer. Tip #6. A/B test your lead magnets There is no way around it. At the end of the day, your lead magnet will either bring you new subscribers or it won’t. And when starting your email list building journey, you may want to fully rely on some expert’s opinion. You may be bold and copy your competitor’s strategy. Or you may trust your intuition and try to guess. The only legit way to find out what works and what doesn’t is to test it. Often, you’ll be surprised by the results as a lead magnet that took weeks to create might not perform as well as the one you created overnight. Besides, remember, it’s not just the lead magnet itself you can test, it’s the call to action, the creative, and – yeah – the button color too. After all, you’ve already invested time and energy into creating a compelling incentive. It would be neglectful not to try and optimize it properly. Do you use lead magnets to collect email subscribers? If not, what stops you? If yes, share your insights in the comments below.


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Opportunities For Improvements in Marketing Automation

Opportunities For Improvements in Marketing Automation

Practical Marketer • July 5, 2018

Nobody is perfect. We all make mistakes. We also strive for continuous improvement. It’s a universal truth. And sure, part of the allure of marketing automation is its “set it and forget it” nature. However, letting an automation run without looking for opportunities to improve is a mistake. So, what should you be looking out for? Here are three places where you can strive for the continuous improvement of marketing automation: Fix Mistakes It’s a horrible feeling when you’ve sent out an email campaign only to notice a typo in it later. You quickly fly through the five stages of grief when it happens: Denial. Rubbing your eyes and hoping you’re not seeing what you’re seeing. Anger. You beat yourself up. Tell yourself you should have proofread it one more time. Blame a coworker you sent a test email to. Bargaining. Sitting there wishing a feature existed to unsend an email. Depression. We’ve all been there. Hiding in our office or cubicle. Deciding it’s the worst thing we could have done. Acceptance. It is what it is. You can’t change it. You’ll be better next time. That’s all in the past with marketing automation. Thankfully, you can update any email in your sequence, without interrupting the customer experience. You won’t be able to change the ones who have already hit the inbox. We’ll pour one out for those fallen homies. However, you don’t have to create a whole new automation or risk losing the customers who are already further into the sequence of emails. Update emails when needed to fix typos, broken links or other errors and do your marketing automation with confidence. Get Better Open Rates It’s important to track the success of your marketing automation. If you look at your reports and see that the open rate isn’t what you’d hoped it would be, you’ve found yourself another opportunity for improvement. Adjusting your subject line can help you see better open rates for the emails in your automation. Here’s what makes up a great subject line: It feels urgent. It won’t work if you do it with every subject line, but making your subscribers feel like they have to act now is a helpful tactic to get your emails opened. It makes you want to know more. Craft the perfect teaser that leaves your subscriber wanting to know more. The allure will get them to open the email. It delivers value. Make an offer in your subject line that cannot be refused by your subscribers. If they see the benefit right in their inbox, then they’ll surely open the email. It’s personal. Feeling like you’re being marketed to is not a pleasant experience for anyone. If you can make your subscriber feel like you’ve reached out to just them, rather than sending something that feels like a blast to a large number of people, they’ll be far more likely to engage. It tells a story. We’re all told stories from an early age. It’s wired into us. If you begin your “once upon a time” in the subject line, your subscribers will open your email to discover the happy ending. It’s one thing to know what is considered a good subject line. It’s another to be able to write one. Here are some tips on crafting great subject lines: Quick and to the point. You only get 50-60 characters in a mobile device. Make the most of it. Tell them what to expect. Let them know what they’ll find when they open your email. Use action-oriented verbs. After all, a subject line really is just a Call To Action (CTA) to open your email. Inspire your subscribers to take action by using the right action verbs. Use flattery. Make your subscribers feel special by offering a “private invite” to an exclusive event or an “offer just for you.” Numbers help. If it’s a list of resources for them or tips for success, tell your subscriber how many tips there are. It helps to set expectations. Questions work. Ask something that your subscribers will want to seek out the answer to. It goes back to leave them wanting to know more. Don’t use ALL CAPS or too much punctuation. Your subscribers don’t want to feel like you’re yelling at them. A subject line in all caps and with a whole bunch of exclamation points will do just that. Don’t do it. If you’re still looking for a bit of help with your subject lines, you can try great resources like Kopywriting Kourse’s Subject Line Generator or CoSchedule’s Subject Line Tester. Aside from improving your subject line to increase your open rate, you may also want to consider your From Name. It’s important to have a From Name that is familiar and recognizable to your subscribers. If there is a sales team or support member they’ve been working with the entire time, it might help to have “Their Name from Your Business” as the From Name. Improve Your Click-Through Rate (CTR) Say you’ve solved the issue with your open rates, but your subscribers aren’t clicking on the links in your emails. That’s your next opportunity to improve. After all, you’re not selling anything directly in your emails. You need them to click-through to your site. There are a few factors that may come into play: Content Is what you’re sending relevant to your subscribers? If they’re not clicking-through to your website, the answer to that question is very likely a resounding “no.” They’re simply not going to engage with an email that is of no interest to them. How can you know what they want? The links that are being clicked on are one clue. However, you don’t need to play a guessing game to determine the rest. Create a survey and send it to your subscribers. Let them tell you what they want to hear about from you. Is your customer support team receiving the same questions over and over again? Use that to inspire your email content. If you’re more proactive about answering customer questions, you’ll both be providing relevant content and maybe even relieving your support team a bit. Design Even if the content of your email campaigns is high quality, it’s possible the design is what’s keeping your subscribers from clicking. Here are a few things you can do to optimize the design of your email campaigns to help improve CTR: Consider your image to text ratio. Your emails should contain 80% text and 20% images. Image heavy emails that don’t go to the spam folder will be slow to load or turned off. That won’t bode well for creating engagement with your emails. Include captions with your images. Some subscribers may have images turned off. A caption will help them get the gist of the email even without seeing the image. Add a clear CTA. Don’t make it hard for your subscribers to click-through to your site. Your design should not distract from the CTA. Some email marketers see success with both having a text link and a button. That way, you increase your chances of getting a click and cover your bases with how subscribers interact with your emails. Also, make sure any buttons or links you use are mobile friendly and easily clicked on from any device. The design of your email when it comes to CTAs is important. It’s not the only part of creating effective CTAs. CTAs The ability to write a great CTA is just as important as the design of it. The way to do it is very similar to crafting a subject line. After all, I did tell you your subject line acts as a CTA to open your email. So, I’ll reiterate some points and add some new ones: Begin with a command verb. Words like “buy,” “shop” or “order.” It can also be “download” or “subscribe. Elicit emotion. If you can make your subscribers feel something, they’re far more likely to engage. Include your value proposition. Tell them why taking action will be worth their time. Something like “Schedule a time for your free demo” tells a subscriber what action you want them to take and why. The FOMO is real. Create a sense of urgency where your subscribers will fear missing out if they don’t act. Now that you know where you look for opportunities to improve your marketing automation and how to improve them, I want to take a moment to discuss how you can do this with Benchmark Email. Update An Active Automation in Automation Pro If you’re already a Benchmark Email user and you’re ready to improve automation, you can log in and get started. Any thoughts or suggestions on opportunities for improvement in marketing automation? Please share them in the comments below!


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How & Why To Use Emojis In Your Subject Lines

How & Why To Use Emojis In Your Subject Lines

Practical Marketer • June 18, 2018

It can be hard to express ourselves when words limit us. Sometimes a feeling we’re experiencing just doesn’t seem fit for the box a given word puts it in. Sometimes, an emoji communicates what we can’t put into words. Using emojis is also an opportunity to deliver a little bit of joy and delight. As of June 2018, there are 2,823 emojis in the Unicode Standard. In case you’re wondering what we’re all trying to express with emojis, these were the most popular emojis in 2017: 🤷 Person Shrugging 😂 Face With Tears of Joy ❤️ Red Heart 😍 Smiling Face With Heart-Eyes 🤔 Thinking Face 🔥 Fire 😊 Smiling Face With Smiling Eyes 😘 Face Blowing a Kiss 👍 Thumbs Up Emoji usage is growing in our everyday lives. By the middle of 2015, 50% of all Instagram comments featured an emoji. It was inevitable that emojis would find their way into the world of email marketing. Email Marketing and Emojis are Fast Friends The inbox of the average consumer is a crowded one. Brands need to find a way to stand out. Using an emoji in your email’s subject line can be a great way to make your email campaigns stand apart from the crowd. In fact, 56% of brands including emojis in their subject lines had a higher open rate, according to a report by Experian. Businesses are taking note of the success of emojis in subject lines. From 2015 to 2016, emoji use in email increased 7100%. A small business app developer, Swiftpage, conducted tests on emoji use in subject lines. The emails with subject lines that included emojis saw impressive results: 29% increase in unique opens 28% increase in unique Click-Through Rate (CTR) 93% overall increase in CTR Certainly, the individuals that make up your audience will factor into the success of your emoji use. However, there are other factors that may come into play in regards to why emoji use is effective. Why Emojis Are Effective The numbers support the fact that emojis work. Let’s look at a few reasons why that’s the case: Emojis Help with Brevity Depending on the inbox client, there are only so many characters displayed from the subject line. You can say more in less space by using an emoji. The cliche of “a picture is worth 1,000 words” rings very true in this case. Emojis Convey Emotion As I mentioned before, sometimes it’s hard to put emotions into words. Emojis do that for you. However, they can also trigger an emotional response from your subscribers. When they see your subject line smiling at them, chances are they’re going to smile right back. Emojis Are Easy-To-Use In today’s mobile-first world, emojis are supported on practically every device and in every inbox client. Adding an emoji to your subject line could be as easy as copy and pasting. However, Benchmark Email just made it ever easier… Introducing the Benchmark Email Emoji Picker Our product team has just rolled out an emoji picker directly in the email creation process. Now, as you’re writing your subject line in Step 1: Details, you can easily pick out an emoji to include. This feature is available to you in our Drag & Drop Editor, HTML Code Editor and Plain Text Editor as well and can be used in the creation of regular emails, RSS emails and a simple automation via Automation Lite. Various devices will display the same emoji differently. Our emoji picker will display the emojis the way your native device defaults. However, the way your subscriber experiences the emoji will be dependant on their own device, operating system or inbox client and how they display emojis. If you’re curious to find out how emojis may display in various elements, you can check out Emojipedia to see how they’ll look on different devices or operating systems. We’re currently offering Emoji 1.0 from the Unicode Standard. They’re currently on 5.0. This is to ensure that the most possible emojis display properly for the most amount of people. However, if you have your heart set on using a newer emoji, you can always copy and paste one into your subject line. Examples of Using Emoji in Subject Lines If you’re ever not sure where to get started with a new strategy in email marketing, it can always help to see what others have done. This will let you take gain some inspiration and help you to consider what you liked and think you can improve upon. Email Marketing Tipps put together a long list of examples of emoji in subject lines from reputable businesses across the globe. Here are some favorites: A New Twist on M♥M’s Day Gifts + More Great Savings In Stores & Online ☀ sun’s out, sale’s on! ❄ A Winter Advisory you NEED to check out → ✈ Fabulous Flight-Inclusive Offers from £269! | Your Sunshine & Golf Await…✈ Score Pizza With A FREE Kick! Factors To Consider When Using Emoji In a perfect world, we could all use emoji in our subject lines willy-nilly. That’s not the case. There are some things to take into consideration when using emoji in your subject lines. Much like with fonts, there are better emoji to use than others. Some may not yet be compatible on certain devices. One example of that is skin tone variations. Also like fonts, emoji display differently based on the device they’re on. Don’t forget to send test emails or use Inbox Checker to see how they’ll appear. Just as you want to be careful about using excessive punctuation, you shouldn’t overdo emoji use either. You still have to keep character limits in consideration. Those aren’t the only reasons to be careful with your emoji use. You might be very excited to tell your subscribers about the new Farmer’s Market you’ll be peddling your wares out, but as 93% of emoji users aren’t using 🍑 to represent a fruit...but rather as a posterior. Share Your Tips Have you successfully employed emoji in your subject lines? Share examples or some tips on what has or hasn’t worked for your business. We’d love to hear your feedback in the comments!


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5 Issues That Hurt Your Email Deliverability and How To Correct Them

5 Issues That Hurt Your Email Deliverability and How To Correct Them

Practical Marketer • June 6, 2018

Email deliverability has been a challenge that even the most seasoned marketers combat on a regular basis. There’s probably nothing more painful than realizing that the email you had carefully written and designed never reached the subscriber’s inbox - it was likely pushed into the Junk or Spam folder where it won’t be ever read. Email deliverability - the ability to place emails into your subscribers\' inbox as intended - is the key metrics that marketers try to get right. If your email is not placed where it can be read, everything else is useless. The Spam Filter Despite everything you do from your end to get an email placed in the inbox of the recipient, it’s the mailbox provider that takes the final decision on where your email should be placed: the Inbox or the Junk folder. That means if you’re focusing on improving email deliverability, you should understand emails from the point of view of the mailbox provider. All mailbox providers have a spam filter - a mechanism that blocks incoming spam. Every single inbound email has got to pass through the spam filter of the mailbox provider, so avoiding the spam filter, by whatever means, is impossible. However, by following email marketing best practices, you can convince the spam filter that the email it has received from you is not spam. Factors Impacting Email Deliverability A ReturnPath study suggests an average of 13.5 percent of all incoming email is placed in the Spam folder. You don’t want your email to be one of them. Different spam filters use different standards to keep unwanted emails from reaching the inbox of the recipients. However, there are some common practices that all spam filters follow. Below is the list of issues that impact email deliverability and ways by which you can work on each to significantly increase your deliverability rates. IP address reputation Sender Reputation Email subject line and contents Email Service Provider - your automation partner Email list quality IP Address Reputation An IP address is a numerical label unique to each device that’s connected to any computer network using the Internet Protocol (IP) to communicate over a network. IP address reputation is the extent to which the IP address (actually the sender using the IP address) has acted responsibly while sending emails. Spam filters judge incoming emails on the basis of, among other characteristics, the IP address reputation of the sender. While sending email campaigns, you can either use a shared IP or a dedicated IP. A shared IP is where multiple senders use the same IP address as you do, to send their emails from. The reputation of a shared IP address is the aggregate of the reputation of all those who’ve used the IP before you do. So sharing an IP also means sharing the reputation of everyone else using the same IP. Poor practices of any of the previous sender will negatively influence your email deliverability. A dedicated IP, on the other hand, is one where you are the only user of the IP address. Hence the reputation of a dedicated IP is influenced only by your own practices, since you are the only user of that IP. That gives you absolute control over the IP reputation. How You Can Get Your IP Address Reputation Right If your volumes are small, using shared IPs helps you control costs. But as your sending volume grows, you’ll need to move to dedicated IPs. When you begin using a dedicated IP it has no previous history. So it has no reputation, good or bad. Your task will be to build the IP reputation by following email marketing best practices. You can’t immediately send a large number of emails the moment you get a dedicated IP; you’ll have to gradually increase the number of emails you send (a practice called throttling), as mailboxes slowly start recognizing you as a responsible sender. Begin by sending to your most engaged subscribers. That way, you get a much better open rates and a zero bounce rate. This sends positive signals to the mailbox provider regarding your reputation. 2. Sender Reputation Sender reputation is a composite result of the IP address you send emails from, your domain reputation, SPF (Sender Policy Framework) authentication, the bounce rate of your campaigns till date, subscriber complaints, engagement, whether (and how many) spam traps sit on your subscriber list and other factors. Email engagement - what subscribers do when they receive your email - is key. Subscriber actions that suggest they are willing to interact further with you, like opening the email, reading the email, clicking on a link, following a call to action, forwarding the email and so on is considered ‘good engagement’. Actions like not opening the email or deleting the email without reading it is considered ‘poor engagement’. How You Can Improve Your Sender Reputation Keep new subscribers in a separate list. Add them to the regular list only after new subscribers respond to your double opt-in. Or add them to the regular list only if the welcome email doesn’t show a hard bounce. Maintain the right frequency of emailing to subscribers. Long gaps between emails raise the chances of valid email addresses being converted into spam traps. If you email to your subscribers at irregular intervals, they might forget you and are more likely to mark your incoming email as Spam. Have a plan of action to handle inactive subscribers. Give it your best shot to win them back. But once their inactivity crosses a certain threshold, stop sending them emails. Finally, never use purchased lists. 3. Email Subject Line and Content Nearly 60% of the email traffic worldwide is spam. That suggests spammers are getting aggressive, so spam filters need to stay a step ahead. One way spam filters identify spam is the email content. Poor grammar and high-risk words like “Free” and “Easily make $$$ online” are some of the first things that make your email look suspicious. Other content that looks suspicious to spam filters includes weight reduction, body enhancement and related pharmacy products. An all-caps subject-line is almost a guarantee your email won’t get past the spam filter. Moreover, subject-lines with too many exclamation marks is another indicator the mail is spam. Earlier, emails with shortened URLs in the content were commonly red-flagged; today instances of a shortened URL being red-flagged are a lot less frequent, thanks to its heavy use in social media platforms like Twitter. Messages that contain only a link or only an image are widely treated as spam. How You Can Get This Right Run your email draft through the Spam Check feature Benchmark provides. It gives you an excellent feedback on whether you need to improve your content. Build a compelling Subject Line. If the subscriber doesn’t like the Subject Line, she’ll likely delete your email without opening it. Mailbox providers, especially Gmail, believe that when recipients delete your emails without opening them, recipients are not interested in your email - a sign you’re sending spam! Over time, your subsequent emails to the same recipient may be pushed into the Spam folder. It’s best to use clickable keywords in place of lengthy URLs. Make sure the Unsubscribe link is clearly visible. This may sound a bit counter-intuitive but it works. When recipients can’t find the unsubscribe option easily, they tend to mark the email as Spam! 4. Email Service Provider (ESP) - Your Automation Partner Select your ESP on the basis of their experience and technical competence, and not some tall claims. For instance, claims by ESPs about overnight improvement in your deliverability rates when you switch to their service from elsewhere are mostly too good to be true. Actually, something opposite is equally likely to happen! Remember, when you switch ESPs, you are also switching IP addresses. So when the recipient mailbox providers notice you’re suddenly sending from a new range of IPs, they will, rightfully, turn cautious and may place fewer emails in the inbox than they did with the older IP address. If your new ESP doesn’t understand the importance of throttling, the recipient email box provider might actually push more of your emails into the Spam folder. How the Right ESP Matters Choosing the right email marketing partner is more than half the job done. The right partner will have most things figured out for you. To begin with, they have the right technology in place that can handle hundreds of thousands of emails. They can, for instance, help you maintain segmented email addresses lists, based on the engagement patterns or interests of the subscribers. You can also set a variety of subscription options. For instance, instead of losing your subscriber entirely, you can let her choose the frequency of her subscription: a weekly newsletter, a fortnightly compilation or may be a monthly digest. Finally, a good ESP will have strong measures in place that will have you covered. For example, even if you’ve opted for shared IPs, you can be sure the IP reputation has been maintained at optimum levels by your ESP. 5. Email List Quality One of the factors influencing the deliverability rates of your emails is also the one you can swiftly act upon: bad email addresses. Maybe there was a typo when the subscriber keyed in the email address while signing up, maybe the subscriber knowingly entered a wrong address, maybe the subscriber is using a disposable address…Reasons like this lead to your list containing a number of email addresses that are not safe to send emails to. Sending campaigns to these addresses lead to bounces, poor or no engagement (if the address is role-based or disposable), or complaints. For instance, BenchMark notes sending emails to role-based addresses results in high complaints. Poor list hygiene, therefore, influences email deliverability. How You Can Deal with Bad Email Addresses Consider double opt-in. After the subscriber signs up, send them a confirmation email, asking them to click upon a link to activate their subscription. Subscribers who do not follow this action do not receive further emails. Next, improve your list-building practices. When collecting email addresses manually, e.g. when your team is writing down addresses, spelling errors are most likely to creep in. While collecting email addresses online, use an email verification API service to validate the email address at the entry point, such as signup forms or applications, before the address gets added into your subscriber list. Use an email verification service to verify email addresses of all your subscribers. It is strongly advised that you validate email addresses at least once a year. These, by no means, are the only steps you can take to improve email deliverability, but these are some of the most significant ones. Wish you great success in your email marketing!


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