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3 Priceless Email Marketing Lessons from Fatherly Advice

Practical Marketer - Reading Time: 11 Minutes

3 Priceless Email Marketing Lessons from Fatherly Advice

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How to Create A Series as a Part of Your Holiday Marketing

How to Create A Series as a Part of Your Holiday Marketing

Beyond • September 29, 2016

Around December 1st, most companies will start planning their annual holiday email marketing campaign. For many, it’s going to just be a digital card that gets pushed on December 25th. What’s even more sad about this dismal effort to expose your brand during the most busiest time of the year is the total lack of effort most companies are willing to make. Fact: more time gets spent planning and fussing over the holiday party than it does over a vital part of your marketing efforts. Marketing during the holidays is ultimately about three things. First, it’s about capturing the spirit of the season. Your goal is to direct the warm, fuzzy feelings people have during that time of year to your business and brand. Second, it’s about using those warm, fuzzy feelings to stay in someone’s head as they connect and talk with hundreds of people over the next month. They’re going to need something to talk about - so why not have that something be you? And finally, it’s about using all that to prime yourself for success in the coming year. This way come January 1st, you’re not having to say “Hey, remember us?” Instead, you can smoothly transition into increased engagement. Now that I’ve captured your attention, the next thing you need to know is this: running a series is one of the best ways to create a holiday marketing strategy. A one-off campaign is possible, but it also relies on the fantasy that people are paying attention. Those warm and fuzzy holiday sentiments mean that a lot of people are distracted during this time of year. The one-off campaign is better than a last minute, and quite frankly cheap, holiday card, but it’s not as impactful as the series. Here are a few quick ideas: Get Inspired By the 12 Days of Christmas Run your own themed campaign that starts after Thanksgiving and runs about twice a week. It can be on just about anything you want, but it should hit 12 cycles that are uniquely but consistently designed. Run a Heart-Led Cyber Monday Have a Cyber Monday coupon people can use, but infuse a way to give back or invoke generosity where a portion of each Cyber Monday spend gets routed to a charity in need. Make a big deal about that charity in the campaign by profiling it in a different aspect each time. This allows people to treat themselves while also giving back. Keep in mind earlier Cyber Monday runs will likely be gifts for others, and latter runs will be presents to oneself. Run a Giving Series If you’re a heart-led company, you can run a profile series on charities or campaigns your company is passionate about. If this is the route you take, make sure you’re weaving in your brand messaging and values in with the profile and giving people an option to act along with visuals and talking points to share with others. Everyone’s looking for something cool to talk about during the holidays with the spike in socializing. Believe it or not, this creates a lot of anxiety and tension. But your campaigns can cater to that, especially if your industry is philanthropy or education.


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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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The Art of “How-To” Videos for Your Email Marketing Campaigns

The Art of “How-To” Videos for Your Email Marketing Campaigns

Beyond • September 21, 2016

It’s a commonly known fact that people hardly read anything anymore. If you want to grab someone\'s attention, you’re going to need to throw in some pictures, wrap it in a pretty design, or feature a video. There’s no contest on which one of these has more traction when it comes to increasing followers, conversion, and generating brand loyalty: videos. What Creating Videos Used to Look Like When I first started out in marketing, smartphones weren’t even a thing. Videos were big clunky productions that took way too long to execute and process, and they required some basic knowledge about lighting and staging. You still need to know how to stage your product or person, which is simple because all you really need is a clear uncluttered area. Even if it’s a creative and celebrated space with lots of (let’s say) art and books, it shouldn’t be cluttered. The other issue is lighting. Make sure the light is falling directly on the product or person. Yet, most video editing apps now have features to edit the video easily. Plus, smartphones themselves are of a much higher quality that pretty perfectly grab what you need as long as you’re not recording in the dark. A Prevailing Myth of Marketing Videos The reason I’m telling you this is fear of production or the idea that you need some special knowledge is a debilitating mindset that will keep you from pursuing videos. However, there’s another thing you should really embrace and that’s the concept of Facebook Live. Facebook Live is a “live” recording feature that lets followers see you and engage with you in real time. How this benefits you with email marketing videos is this: no one expects perfect, but they do want real. People want to see your authentic self. So grab your phone, set to record, and explore the roulette of these winning ideas. Nailing Your How-to Videos The most popular of these is the “how-to” video. This sort of video doesn’t need to take a clinical approach. You don’t need to go step by step to break down a subject matter. In fact, doing that is pretty boring and goes against the earlier idea of just being yourself and being organic. So if you are giving step-by-step instruction, keep a natural rhythm in the video and keep the steps limited to three or four key points. If you’re in retail, a how to can just be about showing people how to pair products or change things up. If that’s the route you\'re taking, please don’t treat people like they are fools. Most of these style videos show minimal respect to the audience by adding cheesy music or showing the simplistic one-step change and acting like you’ve discovered a new element in the periodic table. Keep it honest. Maybe add in your own experience of how you struggled with a transition, and maybe even mix up the story. Most people going from the office to work are already dressed for the most part. But how about people who are working from home and aren’t used to investing an hour to get ready that people working from an office regularly invest every morning? What kind of video could you show them? How about a how to get ready in fifteen and show maybe 3 or 5 different pieces they can use to make that happen. You can still take advantage of how-to videos even if you’re not in retail. How-to videos are great conversation starters. They can be used to offer guides that point to a landing page, a webinar that will go into the subject in greater detail. How-tos are also fantastic for dealing with tough issues that require a real conversation with people, especially where there isn’t always a ready opportunity to have that conversation. The “how-to” video lets you create a doorway to that chat. And still another fantastic how-to idea is to problem solve, especially when you envelop your own brand or services back into the equation. You can show a study on your company overcame a challenge internally or for a client’s campaign - and rather than produce a complicated infographic or write out a boring study, you can just talk about it. You’ll get more eyeballs on it, more people in your corner, and it will be much faster to produce especially if you’re not worried about scripting it.


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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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To Prep Email Campaigns for Fall, Think Winter

To Prep Email Campaigns for Fall, Think Winter

Beyond • September 15, 2016

Now that summer is closing out and fall is around the corner, there’s more you need to do than just bring out the Pumpkin Spice Latte. Fall is a pretty big season for email marketing because it’s doing to define your winter success. If you want to have a great end of year email campaign, you’re going to need to start now. There’s a way to go about this, and I’ll share it with you. First, you want to look at your calendar through Thanksgiving and see what you’ve got lined up. Are there any major events, announcements or sales? Anything people need to get on the calendar? Anything you need to start creating a buzz around now? That’s step one: get people interested in what’s going on during the fall, which means making them aware. Fall is one of those seasons where people sort of snap back into reality. The haze of summer holidays is over, and everyone is getting back into the grind. In fact, fall is the perfect time of year to be as serious as needed because this is the time you’re going to have people’s attention. Think of it this way, during spring attention is focused on getting outdoors again. People check out during the summers, and people are too busy with the holidays to truly pay attention during winter. So your fall game plan needs to tap into that state of mind. If you’re a retailer, for example, fall is a great time to encourage your clients to really think about something more deeply, like their personal style statement or their wardrobe image. If you’re in education, this is the time to get parents to invest in their kids because all around they’re still in an optimistic state on how much their kids can take on. Overall, remember to keep it fun. Even though it’s a season that resets us to be more focused, it doesn’t mean your campaigns can’t be fun and playful. One of my favorite email marketing campaigns are the ones that include the audience. If you’re in retail, get people to take photos of their favorite fall outfits and social share that with a hashtag. You can set up a prize and announce the winners in an email campaign that features the winners.Same goes for if you’re in education services for younger children. You can share a contest: “what’s your favorite fall activity” and encourage parents and children to share photos of their favorite fall craft or activity. Same goes for if you’re in education services for younger children. You can share a contest: “what’s your favorite fall activity” and encourage parents and children to share photos of their favorite fall craft or activity. Once fall necessities are out of the way, it’s time to start thinking winter. In fact, you should have a game plan sorted out by the end of September and things should be in production mode by winter. You’re going to need to give yourself time to plan, develop, assess and place all before anyone is off for Thanksgiving break. This means that if you have an end-of-year email campaign, a winter send out, anything that you want major eyes on, now is the time to start developing that. Since fall requires paying attention to fall and winter, it’s undoubtedly the busiest season of the year. However, it’s also totally doable if you plan well.


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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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Two Powerful Ways To Use Keywords & Hashtags In Your Email Marketing

Two Powerful Ways To Use Keywords & Hashtags In Your Email Marketing

Beyond • September 9, 2016

We’re all about keywords ... until it comes to email marketing. Yet, did you know that keywords and hashtags are just as powerful in your email campaign as they are in your website content and social posts? Now, this really only works if you’re posting your email campaigns to your website. Yet, even if you aren’t, you’re not sure if someone else plans to. The same approach here is to think online. Imagine every single email campaign is going to hit the web even if you’re not putting it up there yourself. I know I’ve pulled passages from email campaigns and quoted them in articles or shared them socially, giving credit back to the source. A keyword or a hashtag will spread your message and keep its longevity beyond just the “send” button. Here’s how you do it: Keywords in Subject Lines Even though the subject line may never hit the web, people use their email platform’s search tool the same way they’d use a Google search. This is even more important if your readers have a Gmail. Most email marketing campaigns will fall into the black hole that is the “promotions” tab. Most of us don’t even look at that tab or bother filtering through it – unless we’re looking for something specific, in which case we just do a search. So if your email campaign has keywords, hashtags and even phrases that help make it more identifiable in a search, it goes a long way in helping make sure someone finally gets to that campaign. Keep in mind that this is going to affect analytics. Not everyone reads the campaign the same day, week, or even month that it’s been read. If you have the time, it’s worth it to run a before and after test on campaigns to see how much the open-rates went up over the course of a month or even a quarter. This gives you more accurate data on how your campaigns are doing. Hashtags as Bait Hashtags work the same ways as keywords except they’re more popularly used and have an easier time drawing in a following or creating buzz. First and foremost, your company should have its own hashtag that gets used in every single email campaign. This is a subliminal way to keep reminding your audience of who you want to be talked about on social media. If you introduce the hashtag, people will use it. The same goes for email marketing campaigns. Each campaign should have a hashtag. The hashtag will be for either the main campaign or the key stories in the campaign. Keep in mind this works best if you haven’t stuffed a newsletter with too many stories that distract the reader. Keep it simple. Don’t have more than three things you’re telling a reader at any one point. Then introduce the hashtag for each. Because as people social share, they will most likely use that hashtag to increase their own visibility. And you can do the same. You can do the same as you social share your email campaign that’s now published to your website.


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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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India: The Early Years

India: The Early Years

Going Global • August 30, 2016

In January of 2005, I was creating pencil sketches of what benchmarkemail.com should look like. I must admit it was not pretty. I can remember taking some inspiration from our competitors at that time for sure. Basically, looking at their process and figuring out how to improve it. The process consisted of me drawing out on graph paper, scanning that and sending it as an email attachment. Initially, I took pride in being neat and trying to explain everything, eventually as we became more comfortable with each other, it started to look like chicken scratch. Our developers would in relatively short order create an asp web forms page for me to review. I would give my notes via a skype call (Skype was founded in 2003, so we were early adopters of their technology). We would continue to iterate that process in the ensuing weeks until I felt comfortable with our results. We did not have a testing server, only our production server, the changes we were making went live quickly. It was a very fast process to develop, but I must admit our creativity in terms of doing things differently was lacking a bit. Our technology stack back then was basic HTML and SQL and web forms all running on one server. We expanded and grew our technology out of that. I don’t want to chronicle our technology changes as that is not the purpose of this post. I simply want to show how we were doing things. The early conversations with our developers went quite well. Sometimes people ask me how I found this team and if it just by chance. I can honestly say that I went through at least two other teams trying to get them to execute my ideas. However, things were difficult with my initial developers, communication was difficult, fixes were tiring, Skype had more issues, etc. You get the point. It just did not feel right. Kind of like dating the wrong person, but you are trying to make it work. Eventually, you just give up and move on. Once I did find the right group things became much easier. They communicated well and spoke English fluently. Our early developers were quite personal as well. Ash, Kishore and Mark (two Hindus and a catholic) were willing to engage in just about any conversation and have a good laugh. This willingness and ease of communication were not easy to come by, as the cultural differences can be quite strong and an understanding of nuances and laughter are sometimes difficult to come by. My guys were from the southern parts of India (Mumbai and Kerala) where English is more prevalent. In fact, I have been told that the South (especially programmers)  prefer English even over Hindi (actually the four major languages of the south are Tamil, Telugu, Kannada and Malayalam) and this obviously worked to my benefit. So the development was proceeding smoothly and we were making excellent progress. Once we started seriously selling the product in 2005, I became convinced that Benchmark had legs and would become successful. We were having brisk growth and clients were flocking to us. Quick digression (my internet slang in the early days became QD, Quick Digression,  as that would allow me to digress onto many different  points I needed the developers to consider, they liked it as well, so long as we did not digress too much, like what I might be doing here :)),  I must talk about my first trip to Delhi. I was flying to meet Virender, our only support person at that time, in Gurgaon, which is a suburb of Delhi. The flight was a direct one from Chicago to Delhi. If my memory serves me correctly, it was at least a 17-hour direct flight (UGHH!). I flew coach in an older, uncomfortable 747. I did not sleep a wink. As I was walking through the airport, I saw many automatic weapons and armed guards which were a new experience for me. Handguns holstered and machine guns in their arms. It was a bit shocking to an average American who had not traveled to that part of the world. [caption id=\"attachment_2452\" align=\"aligncenter\" width=\"768\"] While this photo was taken on a later trip, it\'s amazing to look back to even this long ago and realize how far we\'ve come ... and how much younger our kids (and us) looked.[/caption] The language and fragrances (I do love curry) were foreign. The people dressed differently and I remember walking out to this big area and seeing a sea of faces and honking of horns, all waiting for others, with signs in Hindi and English. Virender finding me and welcoming me to India could not have come quicker. I felt relieved when we finally met and immediately felt at ease with this new land and my new friend and colleague. In my next blog, I will talk about how my early team and I overcame our challenges and kept moving forward.


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