Series Posts: Practical Marketer

What Should I Do With My Nightmarish Open Rate?

What Should I Do With My Nightmarish Open Rate?

Practical Marketer • October 4, 2016

Perhaps you sent an email campaign recently, reviewed your reports and did a double take. No! It can’t be. That open rate can’t be right! Let me refresh the page and see if it changes. Shoot! It’s true. That open rate may be the thing of nightmares, making you shoot up in the middle of the night with a cold sweat on your brow. So, what can you do to fix it? Clean Your List Perhaps your open rate is low due to a large number of inactive subscribers filling up your list. It is important to maintain good list hygiene. Look to see who hasn’t opened your last several campaigns. You can remove them outright, or at least attempt a re-engagement campaign to see if you can bring some inactive subscribers back into the fold. Work On Your Subject Lines The subject line is your foot in the door of your subscribers’ inbox. It’s the first impression each campaign makes and the best chance at enticing them to open your email campaign. Remember, the subject line needs to show them the value in your email campaign. It’s not about you! If you’re writing subject lines that service your needs, that may be the cause of your nightmarish open rates. Make it about the subscriber and make sure your campaigns deliver on the promise of your subject lines. Adjust The From Name People don’t like feeling that they’re being marketing to. Sometimes, sending from just your brand name does just that. Try using the name of your CEO, your email marketing manager or an account manager with which your subscribers may have some familiarity. Or combine the two. For example, if you were receiving an email from me it may say “Andy from Benchmark Email.” Run An A/B Test Enough with the guessing games. A/B Testing is one of the most important things you can do with your email campaigns. It tells you how your subscribers are most likely to react to your email campaigns. You can test subject lines as well as From Names against one another to see which are most likely to get your campaigned opened. The A/B Test will send a small portion to a percentage of your list and then send the winning email to the remainder of your list.


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How Can I Use Email Marketing To Promote My Webinars?

How Can I Use Email Marketing To Promote My Webinars?

Practical Marketer • September 30, 2016

When a person registers for one of your webinars, it’s important to keep them engaged and interested so that the day in question is something that they look forward to. In other words, how you promote your webinar is very important. People tend to sign up for the webinar weeks in advance, but forget when the time comes around. Reminder emails are excellent because it is versatile and best of all, the most cost effective. It’s common to start promoting your webinar two weeks prior to to the event. So it would make sense to also send a reminder email one week prior, then three days prior. What we’ve done here at Benchmark, is we sometimes send our reminders on the day of and that has shown to increase our attendance rate overall. What is important is that you keep your registrants in the know about the webinar. Sending them updates or even information about that cool special guest that will be attending. Something to include in those emails that you send is a button to add this event to their personal electronic calendar. Google’s Gmail can sometimes pick up the event from within the email and automatically place it in their Google Calendar. But not everyone uses Google; others like to use Microsoft or Mac calendars. Adding this button allows them to set reminders with just a click. Others may be less inclined to add it to their calendars manually. Now we’re not done yet. After the webinar, it’s best to thank your registrants, and also provide them with a recording of the webinar to save and reference. Discussions and interactions that occur during webinars are invaluable pieces of information and by providing a souvenir gives great valuable to your future webinars as long as you keep this standard. Now we’ve gone through, basically from beginning to end, what an email marketing promotion should look like for a webinar. Remember that you want to engage your audience and ensure that have the capability to save the date and to keep them looking forward to the event. Nobody wants to host a webinar for an empty room.


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Why Are Birthday Emails Such An Effective Tool?

Why Are Birthday Emails Such An Effective Tool?

Practical Marketer • September 26, 2016

I have lived away from my family for seven years now. It doesn’t get easier, but it makes the times I do get to spend with them even more special. This year, it just so happened that I was able to be back in Chicago around my birthday. My grandma was so excited that she planned a special dinner at a great steakhouse with all of my cousins and aunt and uncle. The meal was fantastic and we greatly enjoyed watching my baby cousin toddle around the private room my grandma had reserved. When it came time for dessert, the waiter brought out an empty plate with a candle on it. I looked at my family and asked what the were trying to tell me. Everyone had a good laugh and the waiter explained they just weren’t sure which of several desserts my family had ordered that I would want. While the whole evening was wonderful, that special birthday dessert at the end made it feel complete. Everyone enjoys something sweet on their birthday! That’s why birthday emails are so effective. Getting those birthday emails in your inbox throughout your special day will bring a smile to your face each time. It makes it feel like they were thinking of you. In reality, it’s probably an automated email that was sent based on data the company obtained when you signed up. Aside from the time-saving, feel good aspect of birthday emails, another reason they are so effective is that they bring in business. If you’re a restaurant, offering a free dessert means they’re purchasing a meal. Outside of the restaurant world, it may be a discount or percentage off of your purchase. It’s earning you money that you otherwise may not have … all while making your subscribers happy to hear from you. So why are birthday emails such an effective tool? Save you time thanks to automation Gain good feelings about your brand Increase business you may not have had previously


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How Can I Use Videos Effectively In My Emails?

How Can I Use Videos Effectively In My Emails?

Practical Marketer • September 21, 2016

Using videos in email marketing is not as simple as embedding a video. Unfortunately, some of the big names in email software, like Gmail and Outlook, do not support video playback within the email. However, there are some tips and tricks to not circumvent the video playback inability, but at the very least get attention to your videos and make them effective in your strategies. Call to Action Every email you send out needs a Call To Action (CTA). Something that compels reader to reader to click on something in your email. A video itself can be a CTA, but since it can’t be played in the email, it will need to go somewhere else. Depending on the content you would send the readers to: HTML version of the email if the users should continue reading the rest of the email like a newsletter Web page with the video embedded to direct readers to content on your website Video source because the video may be monetized and that is the focus of your email You would take a still of your video and place a play button over it to simulate that it can play, but then send them to any location you need them to end up in. Otherwise, it can be difficult to get them back to the email Use an animated .GIFs Using .GIFs in emails is also difficult because not all inboxes support them either. Using them in conjunction with videos can provide an amazing reading experience for your subscribers. Because videos can\'t be played, in place you could use an animated .GIF to draw attention to the video. The animated picture should provide a preview of the video and entice them to view more of it. What about the inboxes that don’t support animated .GIFs?  Well, fortunately, the behavior in that situation is predictable. The .GIF will display the first frame of the image and will use that to display a still image. Take advantage of that and use a still for those who won’t be able to see the cool animation. Create videos specifically for your subscribers People love exclusivity and your subscribers are no different. What\'s even better is that you can segment your list based on the information you collect. It is good email marketing practice to segment your list. Based on those segments, you should also create videos specifically for them whether it is showcasing or demonstrating products and services, or customer testimonials from local people of that region. So even though you can’t play the video in the email itself, videos still can be a powerful tool to use and to garnish attention. It also makes reading more enjoyable to your subscribers. Remember to keep in mind where you want your readers to watch the video to keep their attention and to avoid distractions.


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How Do Dead Email Addresses Get Turned Into Spam Traps?

Practical Marketer • September 20, 2016

Brands that depend on email marketing always ensure that they check the spam scores of their emails before hitting the send button. Regardless of following all measures of legitimate email marketing, are you falling into the prey of spam traps? This happens when you fail to keep your subscription list updated enough. ISPs choose inoperative addresses to use as spam traps A spam trap is an email address which is specially created by ISPs to find spammers.  ISPs pick random dormant email addresses and customize them into their version of spam traps. It could be those email IDs which were once active, but after a period of inactivity, they started returning hard bounces. If theses addresses receive emails, ISPs will understand that the list is either purchased or rented. Mostly rightful though enervated digital marketers fall into this trap as they fail to revise their list regularly. Drop your Hard Bouncers or get stacked into the spam can Mailers should be clear about the types of bounces they receive for their email campaigns. Hard bounces occur when the email address is either invalid or it doesn’t exist. All types of terminated email addresses including Hotmail aliases return hard bounces even if their primary addresses are still active as Mailer Daemons are unable to identify them. If you continue to send emails to hard bounces ISPs smell it as spamming and will finally lump you into the spam can. Attrition rates can overshoot one-third of your list Churn rate is an important factor for any business with a subscriber-based service model. It can multiply up to one-third every year. There could be numerous reasons for which people drop their email addresses but one of them could be the rapid increase in the use of Hotmail aliases by customers. People hide their primary email information from the marketers by creating aliases and dispose of them later. The primary reason driving email churn is the value and efficacy of your marketing campaign. Lack of relevance of your content, over-emailing could be some of the marketer driven reasons. The other reasons could be the change of domains, perhaps a start-up business failed to flourish and all the email addresses associated started returning hard bounces. The common types of spam traps are: Pure, Pristine or True Spam Traps are either created by ISPs, mailbox providers or blacklists services like Spamhaus, Spamcop. They place these email addresses on public websites in a way that is hidden from a normal user but can be scraped by email harvesting bots. Mailing to pristine spam traps can cause several deliverability issues and can even lead to blacklist. Recycled Spam traps are those email addresses that were used by real users in past became abandoned and then converted into a trap by mailbox providers. If you follow unclear list collecting practices you may pick recycle spam trap. Is it possible to remove 100% spam traps from your list? ISPs, anti-spam authorities and inbox providers such as Gmail, Yahoo, AOL and Hotmail never disclose which email addresses are traps. Revealing this list will certainly weaken their purpose of catching spammers. The optimum possible solution is to follow proper list acquisition process. It is always preferable to monitor your reputation proactively using Return Path reputation monitoring. The biggest small change to your email marketing strategy Your company must delete all the hard bounce email addresses on priority. The result will be visible in your campaign reports as an increased open rate. Companies relying on email marketing can put to an end by the blockage of their email marketing campaigns. Hence, it is important for a legitimate email marketer to consider their list cleaning as imperative as making payroll. Benchmark Email adds these addresses to a suppression list which ensures that even if you send emails to them will not get delivered as we understand they are of no use. We want our customers to practice lawful email marketing, therefore we have decided to educate them.


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5 Tips to Lower Your Unsubscribe Rates

5 Tips to Lower Your Unsubscribe Rates

Practical Marketer • September 13, 2016

Are you suffering from high unsubscribe rates in your email marketing campaigns? Are you at a loss as to why this is happening? Are you wondering what the reason for this dilemma is? Take a look at some common reasons that cause subscribers to unsubscribe and the solution to these problems! Read on for five great tips to lower your unsubscribe rates! 1. Provide alternate ways to stay in touch One of the biggest reasons for recipients’ unsubscribing is because they feel they are being flooded with emails. Unfortunately, when this happens they usually land up unsubscribing from the majority of emails they have been receiving. The sad reality of this situation is that these recipients do not consider your email to be anything special. Therefore they do not think twice about unsubscribing from your emails. However, there is a way to salvage this situation. Let them know that there are other ways for them to stay in touch with your business. Provide them with links to your blog, web feeds and any other means of communication. 2. Stop overwhelming recipients with your email Often you are the cause of your recipients’ decision to unsubscribe. This happens when you get carried away and flood your recipients’ inbox with numerous emails. The good news is there are many solutions to fix this problem. You can provide your recipients’ with an option to remain subscribed and change the frequency of the emails sent by you. This option should be offered when they click on the unsubscribe link. This option should also be present at the time of sign-up so that your recipients’ can select the frequency most suitable for themselves. You could also consider testing different frequencies and analyzing your recipients’ reactions to discover the best frequency to be used. 3. Provide an option for changing the email address Your subscribers may simply want to change their email address. However, if you do not provide them with an option to do so, they will end up unsubscribing. Leading Email Service Providers like Benchmark Email, etc. already have such options inbuilt into their application. Failure to do so may result in you needlessly losing subscribers. 4. Give subscribers what they are looking for Your recipients’ subscribed because they expected you to fulfill certain expectations. If you don’t give them what they want, they will have no reason to remain subscribed. Keep an eye on your emails and ensure that they contain what you promised to deliver. If you have promised to send informational emails, avoid placing excessive promotional tactics within your email. Ensure that at least 70% of your information is promotion free. Provide your recipients with a list of topics and subjects and let them select what appeals to them. Also, provide them with the option to unsubscribe only from a particular topic or subject. Analyze your reports and make a note of the topics and promotions that get the best response from your recipients and tailor your emails accordingly. You could even think about implementing trigger emails and segmentation to better target your audience. 5. Get people to use subscriber preference centers Make an effort to motivate people to use subscriber preference centers. This is a great way for your recipients to let you know what’s lacking so you can adapt accordingly. Unfortunately, most people only seem to use this option after they have already decided to unsubscribe. Give them incentives to visit the preference center by notifying them about special offers or requesting them to update their profiles for upcoming events. Do you know any more tips for lowering unsubscribe rates? Do tell us about them!


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How Can I Keep A Clean Email List?

Practical Marketer • September 13, 2016

The key to good email list hygiene is diligence. It is important to be proactive, pay close attention and maintain good list hygiene at all times. Keeping a clean list will save you money in the long run and ensure your emails will hit the inbox as expected. An important part of maintaining a clean list is to let go of the fear of losing contacts. You want to be sending to the individuals who want to hear from you. If your subscribers are consistently not opening your email campaigns, their actions are speaking to you. It’s sending a loud and clear message that they’re not interested in what you’re emailing them. It’s time to let them go. Say you’re sending a monthly newsletter. A subscriber who hasn’t opened your past six campaigns probably isn’t going to start next month. They can be removed from your monthly newsletter list. However, you don’t have to say goodbye forever. Export inactive subscriber to a separate list. Then,  you can attempt a re-engagement campaign designed to regain interest in your monthly newsletters. If they don’t respond to that, it’s time to say goodbye for good. And that’s OK! As I mentioned above, it’s going to benefit your deliverability. Also if you’re actively cleaning your list, that means you’re not growing a list full of inactive subscribers. The benefit of that is that you won’t need to upgrade to a larger list plan as quickly. ESPs such as Benchmark Email make cleaning your list easy. With Benchmark, all you need to do is go to a given list. In the Contact List Activities menu, you simply select Clean List. Then, you have the choice of selecting the types of subscribers who you would like to clean from your list. You can select the bounces or contacts who have not been opening your emails (and the amount of time they have been inactive). It’s that easy!


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How Can I Use Email Marketing To Promote Transparency If/When I Make A Mistake?

How Can I Use Email Marketing To Promote Transparency If/When I Make A Mistake?

Practical Marketer • September 7, 2016

We all make mistakes. After all, we’re human. We can always strive for perfection and put a failsafe into place to avoid mistakes going public. Somehow, those slippery little jerks of mistakes still find their ways through and can affect customers, readers, etc. in negative ways. However, the way in which you respond to those mistakes can define who you are as a company and the way individuals feel towards your brand. So what’s the best way to respond? Transparency (and saying sorry obviously). Email marketing remains a top option for reaching your customers, readers, etc. and that’s especially true when you’ve made a mistake. It allows you to connect in a way that the fast-moving timelines of social media do not support as well. Now that you know the mode of communication, let’s get back to the idea of transparency. Nobody wants to hear your excuses, nor do they want to feel like you’re hiding something from them. You need to instill trust with your audience. Transparency is how you keep that trust, even in the face of a mistake that could harm it. Here’s how you accomplish that: Be open and honest about what occurred. Apologize for it happening. Make it right or as close to it as you possibly can. Promise you’ll do your best to keep it from happening again. Your audience will appreciate your honesty and maybe even feel better about your company than before. Especially if you go above and beyond to make things right. The steps to transparency closely resemble the method Starbucks instilled in their employees to teach them willpower. In his book, The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg dives into this concept and has even shared it in a Ted Talk. Understanding this concept will provide you with an easy acrostic way to remember if/when the time comes to say you’re sorry. Check it out:


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What Should My Expected Bounce Rate Be?

What Should My Expected Bounce Rate Be?

Practical Marketer • September 6, 2016

Your list of subscribers, customers and leads are worth their numbers of spreadsheet cells in gold. They are important and it’s important you value them in that way. On the other side, it’s also important to understand the lifecycle of your subscribers as well as list hygiene. The average email address can go stale after two years. You may think this is a short lifecycle, but many of your subscribers change their email because of a job or overall position changes and this can affect your delivery rate. It’s important to have a bounce rate under 5%. Accomplishing this helps ISPs understand that you’re paying close attention to your email list and its cleanliness. At Benchmark, we determine 3 types of bounces: Soft Bounce. This type of bounce refers to when an email is sent to an address we know exists but is unavailable at the time. This can happen for a series of reasons (inbox is full, the recipient server timed out or is just temporarily unavailable). Hard Bounce. In this case, you may have sent an email to an address that doesn\'t exist or has expired. This is common for subscribers who have typos or invalid email addresses as they subscriber to your emails. For this reason, it’s a great idea to ensure a double opt-in method for your subscribers. Confirmed Bounce. Once an email address hard bounces 3 or more times, our system will automatically consider this email address as an expired or invalid email address. This will ensure that no future email will be sent to your hard bounces. In order to keep a low bounce rate, it’s important to clean your lists every six months or annually. This will weed out expired and invalid email addresses. By doing this, you will keep a good reputation with the ISPs and see a better open rate. You can also pay close attention to your reports and try to re-engagement subscribers who may have lost interested by re-sending confirmation emails to ensure their subscription is still valid. Keeping a clean list will show your attention to detail with ISPs and will help to achieve a higher open rate. By weeding out invalid email addresses you will also keep a more focused list that will result in more valid data in regards to your open and overall click rate. If you have questions on list hygiene, please contact our customer service team via chat, phone or email!


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How Can I Improve My Email Delivery?

How Can I Improve My Email Delivery?

Practical Marketer • September 2, 2016

When signing up to an email marketing service, you eliminate a lot of the technical side of sending your emails to your subscribers. No matter what service you sign up to, they cannot guarantee 100% email delivery. Because so many variables exist both on the technical and sender sides, 100% delivery is almost impossible. So a big question that is asked almost all the time is, how can I improve my email delivery? Email delivery is a difficult process and takes a lot of checking and testing on the sender’s end. When you sign up to a service like Benchmark Email, or similar services, the service themselves take care of some of the technical aspects of sending. Things like sender score, authentication, feedback loops and more. There are many things on the sender’s end that can help improve email delivery. Checking your sending score is important. I know I mentioned earlier that services check this for you and that remains true. Basic services will provide you with IP addresses that may be shared with other users of the same level of service, and the score is managed by the service. That can vary in different ways from service to service. Dedicated IP addresses, or senders using their own technology, should check this regularly. You can check your sender score with Return Path who measure the scores by your email history. How well your email performs is crucial to your sending score and that leads us to our next topic, which is your list. Your contact list is the most important resource in email marketing. It’s not just the amount of contacts you have, but it’s also the engagement of your contacts that really matter. We know that your sender score depends on your emails performing well, so it makes sense to start with your subscribers. Having contacts that constantly bounce and just plain not open your emails is like cancer to your list. They bring your sender score down until you get rid of them, or at the very least stop sending regularly to them. Once you clean those out those contacts, you’ll then want to start filtering incoming contacts that just end up sitting there. Double opt-in methods for signup forms are highly recommended as it weeds out those contacts who are just in it for the contest or prize. You should then also send regularly to your contacts, never more, never less. So segmenting your contacts by daily, weekly or monthly subscribers is important. Speaking of segmenting, you should also segment by whatever information you have on your contacts. For those power users that l have a good idea of what they are doing and purchase dedicated IP addresses, or even use their own in-house technology to send their emails, this tip is for you. That is when you buy a new IP address or start off new, it is important to warm up your IP address and slowly ramp up sending. This is an important step because new IP addresses do not have a reputation. Just like racing, you’ll need to have some practice sessions before the real lap. Throttle your emails and slowly send to your contacts to build your reputation. Once you’ve built your reputation you can then try sending at full speed. If you start getting bounces that are “deferred,” you may want to slow down as servers are rejecting your emails because they are too fast. This can be seen in bounce logs. Last, but not least, is utilizing the Sender Policy Framework, or also phrased as publishing an SPF Record. Simply put, what an SPF Record does states that this email server or IP address is going to be sending emails for this domain. This is very helpful if you are using a service to send your emails. For some services, they may not mention it and some services they may require it. It’s difficult to complete because it does involve your website and the DNS server. By doing this, it authorizes your service’s email servers, to send on behalf of your domain, or whatever domain your from email address is. If you have difficulty on how to publish an SPF record, talk to your webmaster or your website hosting service like GoDaddy.


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