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60% Say Email Marketing is Biggest Source of ROI: Going Back to School To Hit Your Benchmarks

Practical Marketer - Reading Time: 9 Minutes

60% Say Email Marketing is Biggest Source of ROI: Going Back to School To Hit Your Benchmarks

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Benchmark 5: Splendid Infographics

Beyond • June 14, 2009

All week long we’ve been running an iTunes gift card giveaway with daily infographic tips. If you haven’t participated yet, don’t miss your chance. I picked Pinterest to hold this contest, because we’ve been having such a good time with our infographics board. For this week’s Benchmark 5, I’m going to share my favorite infographics that I’ve come across so far. Facebook IPO Particulars. The content is only half of the fun with infographics. Design is the other part. I like this one especially, because they made it look like the Facebook timeline. So meta, so fun! 37 Years of Saturday Night Live. On Fridays (and pretty much whenever I come across them) I like to share infographics that aren’t necessarily on subjects that would be considered in the Benchmark Email space. SNL has had its off years, but this past season was strong and I’ll always be a fan. Here’s a look at the show’s entire cast history. I’ve also had fun with infographics on the Back to the Future Timeline and All the Ways They’ve Killed Kenny, among others. 15 Grammar Goofs That Make You Like Silly. I went to journalism school, and some of these were even new to me. To be fair, I’m no stranger to being made look silly, regardless of grammar. This one is both fun and informative, so it makes the list. The Psychology of Color. This one was super popular when I blogged about it a couple months ago. Picking your colors is something you need to do for your designs in your email, website, place of business and so much more. Knowing how people will react to them is key. You don’t need design experience to read this infographic, and apply it to your own company. A Day in the Internet. I love this one. In part, because it shows how small my marketing efforts are, in compared to the scope of the Internet. It motivates me to get bigger, take up more of the space. When I pinned it, I wrote that I wished “A Day in the Life” played when you open it. I still do.


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Image-Only HTML Emails Getting Blocked

Image-Only HTML Emails Getting Blocked

Beyond • June 13, 2009

Do you think one image will convey your message more effectively than 50 words? Well, certainly not, at least as far as email marketing is concerned because your email message containing only an image might be categorized as spam by leading search engines. So, what\'s the key to this little scenario? Balance. You need to balance out every single email. Instead of featuring a large image and a small amount of text in your email or newsletter, give each element adequte proportion. A large image in your emails, with an equal amount of text, will work. But never let your images dominate your email as doing so will bring you bounce rates like you would not believe.


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Email Marketing Frequency: Sending on a Regular Basis

Email Marketing Frequency: Sending on a Regular Basis

Beyond • June 11, 2009

Most email marketing experts warn you against sending too frequently or even too infrequently. But few address the basic concept of consistency in your email marketing campaigns. In other words,  not sending on a regular basis is the same as sending too frequently or infrequently. Imagine email marketing to be like a new relationship. If you see the other person on a regular basis, you get some steam going. You build trust. Things feel more natural and normal. But if you show up twice in one week, but not for the next two months, things are going to be weird. And it\'s exactly the same with your email marketing recipients. So, how do you do it? How do you create a plan that makes certain you send your emails on a regular basis? We\'ve got some tips for you, so keep reading: 1. Create an editorial calendar Editorial calendars are what magazine editors and writers use to keep track of what they\'re doing months or weeks ahead. As an email marketer, you should create the same kind of calendar.  Mark the days that you plan on sending your emails. Now, try to figure out what you\'ll focus on during those days. For instance, suppose you run a stationary shop. You don\'t know for certain what you\'ll be doing six months from now, but you can guess that you\'ll probably be gearing up for wedding season, Easter, and even college graduation. Ballpark it and mark your calendar and you\'ll always know how much time you\'ll need to get your specific emails together. 2. Appoint a newsletter guardian Running a business takes lots of time, which is why many business owners and managers tend to shuffle their company email and newsletter campaigns to whoever seems to have a light moment. But by not giving your email or newsletter to the same person every time, you\'re not only putting out a different product each time, but you\'re increasing your chances that your email will be sent out irregularly. To combat this scenario, make your email the job of only one responsible person. Let that person shepherd it from start to finish. Not only will this person make sure it goes out on time, but they\'ll be there to make sure everyone turns in what they need (artwork, shipping schedules, product schematics) long before the email campaign is finally sent. 3. Bank Evergreen copy Start putting together copy for your newsletter that can be used at any time. This copy might include  tips on how to use a product, or even a how-to list that helps recipients save time and money. The key to this copy is to have it ready to drop in when you\'re short on time and need to fill space in your email campaign or company newsletter. So, how do you create this copy? Every day, create a task for yourself. Come up with one tip on how to save money, one “do you know?” factlet about your realm of business, or even just one way customers can use your products or services that they might not have known about previously. Add these things up and in a month, you should have at least three or four articles or tip sheets you can use in a pinch. 4. Create custom email or newsletter departments Break your newsletter or email down into sections. What do you write about each time? New features? General industry news? Tips? Once you have a good idea of what you\'ve been doing every time, you can adjust your template accordingly so that all you need to do is drop in the appropriate section-focused text or images every single time. The key to this exercise is not to reinvent the wheel, but rather come up with a system that helps you easily stick with a schedule. As an email marketer, you want a routine that you can stick to all the time, even during the busiest parts of the year. By putting these measures into place, you\'ll know well ahead of time how much time you\'ll need to dedicate to every single newsletter, and exactly what\'s needed both text and art-wise to keep your campaigns on schedule.


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Understanding Email Authentication

Understanding Email Authentication

Beyond • June 8, 2009

Today ISP\'s are seriously working to rid their networks of spam. Email authentication can help these ISP\'s to validate that the email is originating from a legitimate source and the recipient can validate the mail source. So if an email message appears to come from one domain, while actually it is delivered from another, the recipient can verify if the mail source is valid based on additional header information passed in the email. This is a great technique to prevent spoofing and phishing scams. ISP\'s uses different techniques to authenticate the incoming emails, and the three major standards prevailing are Sender ID Sender ID is a Microsoft protocol which validates one of the email\'s header fields. It retrieves the Purported Responsible Address (PRA) for the email and then validates that address against the sender. It is used by Hotmail and Windows Live Mail. Sender Policy Framework (SPF) SPF authenticates the envelope HELO and MAIL FROM identities by comparing the sending mail server\'s IP address to the list of authorized sending IP addresses published by the sender domain\'s owner in a \"v=spf1\" DNS record. It is used by AOL, Google, Earthlink, Hotmail, and many other providers. DomainKeys DomainKeys uses cryptographic authentication to validate the domain name that is associated with the message. What are the benefits of email authentication? All major ISP’s like Hotmail, Gmail , AOL, Yahoo! and use email authentication to filter out suspected spam emails. By setting up Email Authentication, you can enable these ISP’s to verify that your campaign are from a “legitimate” source, and being delivered to your target’s inbox, instead of being flagged as spam. For example, here\'s an authenticated and non-authenticated email in Hotmail: What email header difference will my contacts see if I use Benchmark Email Authentication? Benchmark Email includes the Sender ID if you have enabled the Email Authentication. This information is part of the email header. Outlook, Hotmail, and MSN webmail clients would display these headers to the recipients. Email Clients displaying only From Name (friendly name) From: ABC Sales These includes Outlook Exprees, AOL, Comcast, MacMail Email Clients displaying From Name (friendly name) and From Email If Email Authentication is set off If Email Authentication is enabled These includes Microsoft Outlook, Hotmail, Entourage, Thunderbird


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Introducing The Benchmark Email API

Beyond • June 5, 2009

We\'ve planned. We\'ve created. We\'ve tested it until we knew it was perfect. After all this hard work, dedication and sweat, we\'re thrilled to announce the Benchmark Email Marketing API, version 1.0. The Benchmarkemail API is a powerful tool that can allow you to integrate your email programs with our systems. Users managing subscriptions or message content on different systems may use the API to programatically transfer data from the internal system to their Benchmark Email account. Pull data for campaigns and store it on external systems Easily push contact information into your Benchmark Email contact list from your website or software Create and manage contact lists. Easy to export exists active contacts into your systems Create campaigns with content from your site. Send test emails to your own accounts without having to actually login to Benchmark Email website Get performance summaries for your previous email campaigns If you\'re not sure how to use the API, don\'t worry: we\'ve created lots of material to show you how to do everything stated above. We\'ve also crafted a document that shows you exactly how to pull the details you need from your account, just so you can get started. And we\'re happy to say that what\'s listed above is only the start – we\'re working on releasing even more capabilities soon, including some sample wrappers that use different languages. Are you ready to get started? What\'s stopping you? Jump in, look around and tell us what you think!


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Tips to avoid spam filters

Beyond • June 5, 2009

As an email marketer, you\'ve probably felt the frustration of knowing that because your emails are competing against thousands of others, there\'s no guarantee they\'ll get the attention they deserve. A big reason for this is spam: recent studies show as much as almost 70% of email sent out is spam. That\'s the main reason the spam filter was created. The spam filter, in its most pure form, is supposed to weed out the spam emails so all that\'s left in your inbox is opt-in emails that you\'ve subscribed to. Unfortunately, with so many factors affecting the job spam filters do, sometimes good email gets blocked with the bad. Despite making mistakes like blocking good emails, spam filters are here to stay. And it would probably help you tremendously as an email marketer to understand exactly how they work. First off, spam filters can be set up a few different ways. They can either be set up to follow certain rules, or used exactly as programmed. Because there are so many ways they can be set up and used, it\'s quite common to have one email get to the inbox with one email service, and one be placed in the junk file with another. Here are some tips to get your emails to the inbox, regardless of the spam fiilter used: Good HTML code matters. Period. If your capaign layout features sloppy code that makes your emails or newsletters look strange in different email service inboxes, expect it to be blocked. And missing code? That\'s bad too. Make sure you spell words correctly. Bad spelling is the hallmark of spammers. Use a spellchecker to prevent misspellings. Title your email properly. Any email without a title will raise the ire of spam filters. Don\'t send an email that only features an image. Many spammers use a single image in their emails. Use both text and images in all your emails. Send a plain text version along with your standard, HTML version of your email. By sending a plain text version, your mobile phone and PDA-using recipients can also read your emails. Make certain your plain text version of your email matches your HTML version as much as possible. DON\'T USE CAPITAL LETTERS. This will trick spam filters into thinking you\'re sending out spam. Don\'t use non-standard colors, italics or large-sized fonts. Try to personalize your emails by calling your recipients by name. If you don\'t have their names, feel free to use sir and madame. Don\'t use the word “free”. The word free is a big fave when it comes to spammers. The use of the word free can land your emails in the trash bin, especially when you\'ve used all capitals to spell out the word you want to write. Other spammy words and phrases ito avoid are: No risk, risk free, click here, click below, order now, money back guarantee, guarantees, click to remove from mailing list, home loan, bad credit, buy now. Avoid bringing up spam or spam legislation in your campaigns. Spammers use spam legislation as a way to try and dodge filters. Don\'t fall into this trap. So, what\'s the solution? If you\'re not sure if you\'re sending out spammy emails or not, your best bet is to use a spamchecker. For the record, Benchmark Email features a spamchecker tool that analyzes your email and not only shows you which words and phrases will set off spam filters, but gives you an overall score showing your chances of getting to the inbox. Another technique is to set up free accounts with Yahoo!, Gmail and other email services, and sending your campaigns to these accounts as a test. If they make it through, chances are your overall campaign will. If not, you have some work to do.


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Deliveribility Tip: Why URLs Shouldn’t Be Used As Link Text

Deliveribility Tip: Why URLs Shouldn’t Be Used As Link Text

Beyond • June 4, 2009

Phishing is one of the greatest menaces on the Internet today and miscreants are using it increasingly to extract information from unsuspecting individuals. If you don’t already know, phishing is the process of getting personal data from people (such as their names, emails or credit and debit card numbers) surreptitiously by luring people into clicking on a link to a malicious website. Fortunately, some email clients now have filters that block out phishing. The problem, however, is that these filters often block legitimate mail in the process making it difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff. This happens because the phishing filter compares the actual hypertext reference (href) URL of the website with the link text displayed in the email to decide if it is a case of phishing. Your email tracking software converts your otherwise regular href URL into a format that enables tracking. This is done so that you know who has clicked on the link, you know the click rates and so that the reader goes to the desired web page on clicking. The Problem: Any Email Marketing Software including Benchmark Email redirects links in order to track them in your reports. Using the actual URL can cause the redirected link to look suspicious, causing some anti-phishing filters to disable the link or possibly block the email. For example, your original HTML link could be something like this: <a href=\"https://www.xyzfarms.com\">https://www.xyzfarms.com</a> However, after processing the code through an email tracker, your HTML code might end up looking like this: <a href=\"https://xyzfarms.create...com/t/y/l/dijkdh/l/t\">https://www.xyzfarms.com</a> The Solution: To prevent this from happening, we recommend that you not use the actual URL or your web address but rather use words in place of a URL. For example, an effective solution to the problem illustrated above could be: <a href=\"https://www.xyzfarms.com\">The XYZ Farms Website</a> This ensures that phishing stays out and authentic email reaches its destination.  


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Inside the mind of spam filters

Inside the mind of spam filters

Beyond • June 3, 2009

As an email marketer, you\'ve probably felt the frustration of knowing that because your emails are competing against thousands of others, there\'s no guarantee they\'ll get the attention they deserve. A big reason for this is spam: recent studies show as much as almost 70% of email sent out is spam. That\'s the main reason the spam filter was created. The spam filter, in its most pure form, is supposed to weed out the spam emails so all that\'s left in your inbox is opt-in emails that you\'ve subscribed to. Unfortunately, with so many factors affecting the job spam filters do, sometimes good email gets blocked with the bad. Despite making mistakes like blocking good emails, spam filters are here to stay. And it would probably help you tremendously as an email marketer to understand exactly how they work. First off, spam filters can be set up a few different ways. They can either be set up to follow certain rules, or used exactly as programmed. Because there are so many ways they can be set up and used, it\'s quite common to have one email get to the inbox with one email service, and one be placed in the junk file with another. Here are some tips to get your emails to the inbox, regardless of the spam fiilter used: Good HTML code matters. Period. If your capaign layout features sloppy code that makes your emails or newsletters look strange in different email service inboxes, expect it to be blocked. And missing code? That\'s bad too. Make sure you spell words correctly. Bad spelling is the hallmark of spammers. Use a spellchecker to prevent misspellings. Title your email properly. Any email without a title will raise the ire of spam filters. Don\'t send an email that only features an image. Many spammers use a single image in their emails. Use both text and images in all your emails. Send a plain text version along with your standard, HTML version of your email. By sending a plain text version, your mobile phone and PDA-using recipients can also read your emails. Make certain your plain text version of your email matches your HTML version as much as possible. DON\'T USE CAPITAL LETTERS. This will trick spam filters into thinking you\'re sending out spam. Don\'t use non-standard colors, italics or large-sized fonts. Try to personalize your emails by calling your recipients by name. If you don\'t have their names, feel free to use sir and madame. Don\'t use the word “free”. The word free is a big fave when it comes to spammers. The use of the word free can land your emails in the trash bin, especially when you\'ve used all capitals to spell out the word you want to write. Other spammy words and phrases ito avoid are: No risk, risk free, click here, click below, order now, money back guarantee,guarantees, click to remove from mailing list,& home loan, bad credit, buy now. Avoid bringing up spam or spam legislation in your campaigns. Spammers use spam legislation as a way to try and dodge filters. Don\'t fall into this trap. So, what\'s the solution ? If you\'re not sure if you\'re sending out spammy emails or not, your best bet is to use a spamchecker. For the record, Benchmark Email features a spamchecker tool that analyzes your email and not only shows you which words and phrases will set off spam filters, but gives you an overall score showing your chances of getting to the inbox. Another technique is to set up free accounts with Yahoo!, Gmail and other email services, and sending your campaigns to these accounts as a test. If they make it through, chances are your overall campaign will. If not, you have some work to do.


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Email Marketing Services for Your School or PTA

Beyond • May 31, 2009

Schools and universities have always been centered on information, but that focus is even greater today. In fact, the technology in some educational institutions is as advanced as anything you’ll find in corporate infrastructure. Yet districts throughout the country are struggling, mainly due to strained budgets and the inability to conduct the marketing that is necessary for any entity to survive. Schools and organizations in these districts are perfect candidates for email marketing. Efficient Communications Communication is critical in the educational field. Faculty needs to be able to communicate internally, parents need to be able to get in touch with faculty and the school needs to have a line to its district partners and supporters. Traditional methods will always have their place in this area but in times when schools are being shut down left and right, one could say the budget they require is a part of the problem. Email marketing enables both schools and PTAs to communicate with the utmost efficiency. Not only is it effective in terms of cost but also from a standpoint that makes communicating simple and convenient. Coupled with existing channels, email can be the piece that rounds out a comprehensive communication system. A Solution that Truly Delivers Though it does require an investment, email marketing is known for providing an excellent return on the money you put into it. This technique can help organizations maximize their efforts in a variety of ways, and it all starts with delivery. Whether campaigns are geared for students, parents or faculty, a quality email marketing service can ensure that your message arrives at its intended destination. With the right solution, being falsely accused of sending spam or blocked by a recipient’s ISP will not be an issue. Track and Measure Your Impact One of the best things email marketing has to offer is its accountability. Every message you send can be tracked and every campaign can be measured. Through the integration of web analytics, comprehensive reports allow you to see how many recipients opened, clicked and interacted with your email in other ways. Schools can utilize this information to track campaigns sent to partners and sponsors while PTAs can use it to measure a message’s impact among its membership. It all amounts to valuable insights that will come in handy when it comes time for plotting future communications strategies. Leave It up to Us Backed by an award-winning platform, Benchmark’s email marketing services can meet the educational sector’s needs, from the amazingly simple to the extremely complex. Whether your plans revolve around sending out a monthly newsletter to parents and teachers, attracting sponsors or organizing an event to boost enrollment, we can work with you to make sure you send the right message to the right people at the right time. Rest assured that our team is with you every step of the way. Free PTA Sponsorship for PTAs, PTOs and PTSAs Starting in July, Benchmark Email will provide Free Email Services to PTAs. That means full accounts with all the award-winning Benchmark Email features. Check out the service by clicking on the link and signing up!


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Email Marketing Tip: Banking Evergreen Copy

Email Marketing Tip: Banking Evergreen Copy

Beyond • May 29, 2009

Newspapers do it. Magazines do it. Advertising firms do it. What we\'re talking about here is building up a nice, convenient library of text known as “evergreen” that you can use in your email campaigns. Simply stated, evergreen material is any sort of generic-type text or article that can be used at any time in the future. Here are the main reasons why you should write evergreen copy: When you don\'t know what to write about in your next email or newsletter, you can drop it right in and buy time until the following email or newsletter. It gives your recipients a break from a long string of emails pushing them to buy, buy, buy. Here are a few evergreen copy ideas: Seasonal articles that focus on the time of year, rather than a specific product General how-to sheets Tips on saving money and time Weather-related articles and tip-sheets To make things even easier, you can re-arrange or re-write a general article from the past. You can update the article to reflect modern developments, but the bottom line is you won\'t even need to hunt around and find new content.


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Email frequency: offer a “light” version of your email newsletter

Email frequency: offer a “light” version of your email newsletter

Beyond • May 27, 2009

Of your subscribers, trust us when we say that not all of them will want to receive your once a week or even once every two weeks emails. These recipients, for one reason or another, would rather just read your email in one fell swoop, most likely once a month. For this reason, we recommend a “light” version of your email. Now, we should start by saying that there\'s no difference between the content spanning several newsletters and your light version. The light version merely means that all your info will be folded into one email rather than two or even four. This gives the recipient the illusion that you\'re sending them less, even though you\'re not. Here are a few reasons who you should send out a light version: It helps cut back on spam and unsubscribe complaints It shows customers you care about them It keeps your email relevant with recipients Giving email subscribers the option of reading less frequent emails is a sure way to gain trust. If you can get away with sending a light version once a month rather than losing the customer, doesn\'t it seem like the obvious thing to do?


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Email marketing delivery: reviving an old email list

Email marketing delivery: reviving an old email list

Beyond • May 26, 2009

From time to time, we come across a customer that has a list they\'ve been hanging on to for years. At some point the people on that list opted-in, but for some reason these people have not been contacted or sent an email in a long time. The customer, naturally, wants to revive the list and start using it again. The truth is, there is no easy way to make an old list new again. But here are some guidelines if you absolutely must find out who\'s still interested in receiving emails from you. If the email address on the list is more than a year old, ditch it. Around 1/3 of email addresses change each year so if you\'re working with a list within a year, it\'s kind of a gray area. But if your list is older than that, count on 2/3 or practically the entire list being unusable. Set up a free account to send re-confirmation emails from if your list is small. If you have a smaller list and can comfortably send less than 200 emails a day and get your answers within a few weeks, set up a free account with a name that sounds similar to your newsletter. For example, if you usually send from joe@joesgardeningreport, you might want to set up an account like joesgardeningreport@yahoo.com Use your free account, if possible, to send emails asking people to re-confirm their subscription and interest. This email might say something like: “We\'re updating our database and want to know if you still want to receive Joe\'s Gardening Newsletter. Click on the link if you still want to receive emails from us”. Make certain that the email is plain text. Plain text emails have a far better chance of getting through spam filters than fancy ones with graphics. The main reason you want to send from a free account is to protect your regular sender account if your re-confirmation emails get blocked. It\'s quite possible you will get many spam complaints when you send the re-confirmation email. This way if you send from your free account and you get put on an email blacklist, it won\'t affect the account that you normally send your email and newsletters from.


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Adding Social Sharing Links to Your Email Campaigns

Adding Social Sharing Links to Your Email Campaigns

Beyond • May 18, 2009

In Benchmark Email, you can now add links to let your subscribers share your campaigns via twitter, myspace, facebook, digg and other social sites. To enable this feature, 1) Go to Step 5 of the Email Creation Process 2) Enable the \"Add this newsletter to the Benchmark Email Community\" option 3) Enable the \"Share this message with others:\" option 4) Save as Draft or Schedule Delivery of your Email Campaign. Now when this campaign would be delivered, your subscribers would be given additional options to share your campaign on social networking sites.


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Email Marketing Content: Trawling the Customer Service Files

Email Marketing Content: Trawling the Customer Service Files

Beyond • May 14, 2009

Has this happened to you? Step 1: You sit down to try and create your next newsletter or email Step 2: Your mind draws a blank on what you should write about / feature Step 3: You finally put together a list of ideas, but they\'re either lame or boring If you haven\'t gone through this, you will at some point. But the bottom line is that you still need to come up with good content, even if your mind is not cooperating at the moment. So, how do you find good email campaign content for your HTML newsletter or sales email? Three words: Customer service data Think of your customer service data as your “get out of jail free” card when you\'re plum out of good ideas. You can either sit down with your customer service reps or open up the program that tracks customer complaints, responses and suggestions. Here are the questions you want to ask – and answer: What are the top three customer issues with your Website? Answer these questions in your campaign. Maybe there\'s an easy solution you can give subscribers to avoid any headaches on their part. What are the top three products or services receive the most complaints? Is it because they\'re being used wrong? If so, send an email showing recipients, step by step, on how to avoid this problem. You may need to be a bit creative when answering these questions to avoid sending a basic FAQ. Try packaging it as an educational experience, titling your email something like, top “three ways to use lawnmowers more efficiently” or even “Navigating our forums: 5 easy steps”. True, it\'s not sales content that you\'re sending, but your recipients will appreciate the data. If you do your job correctly and your subscribers see that you\'ve eliminated a problem that\'s been holding them back from purchasing something, you might see a nice up-tick in sales that originate from your email or newsletter campaigns.


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