The From Line

Sending, Managing & Monetizing Email

Email Trends to Follow Into 2009

As we all know, email marketing is an ever-changing marketing form. It is easily adaptable to market fluctuations, economic hardships, and sudden changes in marketing strategies.

There are so many trends that can impact email marketing, but I’d like to cover four that I feel most affect our clients. It’s important to keep these in mind while devising your email marketing strategy for 2009.

1) Control is in the subscriber’s hands now more than ever.

It used to be that subscribers had little or no control over a sender’s email program. Times have surely changed. With eLoop (as is true with most email tools today), subscribers are able to decide many things for themselves:

• Whether to opt-in to your communications
• When, where and how they will read your messages
• If and when they want to change their preferences for content, format and frequency
• Whether to report your email as spam
• When to end the relationship

2) Emerging channels are creating shifts

Email has begun the shift to allow for the multi-channel approach. There are so many communication channels available to get your message delivered – you’ve got text messaging, email, and voice among the most prominent. These days, it’s easy to combine these mediums and provide a “combo” to your recipients. Preference selection comes into play here – allowing the recipient to decide how they’d like to receive certain messages.

For example, travelers might prefer promotions via email, flight delay notifications via voice, and weather updates via text messages.

3) You find your email list shrinking – your number of inactive records is way up!

This may come as a shock, but you should expect to lose about one third of your list each year due to bounces, opt-outs and spam complaints. To add to the shock, you can pretty much bank on 25-50% of your email list being stagnant, meaning they have not opened or clicked on your messages in 12 or more months.

Now that I’ve got your attention, rest assured…you can reduce these scary numbers! In order to do so, you’ve got to make some improvements to your email program.

• Give more control to your recipients (as discussed above).
• Manage subscriber’s expectations from the start
• Create welcome programs
• Use trigger-based messaging and a relevant target approach

4) Design Emails to Render Across Multiple Environments

There are so many environments out there in which you can read your email. Desktop email reading has taken a backseat to mobile email. The downside of this is that many mobile phones turn your fabulous-looking HTML messages into a mess of URLs and code.

The majority of recipients view emails several times and on different devices. The message may initially come to their Blackberry or iPhone, but later that day, they may view it in Outlook, Gmail or Yahoo.

The importance of designing your email to render properly across the board can’t be stressed enough. In eLoop, we offer enhanced rendering testing which shows you how the message will render on mobile devices and in various email clients. If you are interested in learning more about enhanced testing, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

So there you have it…four trends that are not going anywhere anytime soon. Luckily, email tends to adapt very well to change in trends. If you have any questions regarding the information provided, do not hesitate to contact me directly at 301-990-9857 x213 or via email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Deliverability is a Collaborative Effort

With new advanced spam filtration technology, getting email delivered to the inbox is the biggest challenge with email marketing. And contrary to a lot of sales talk, no email service provider (ESP) can guarantee deliverability. There is no magic formula or service that can guarantee to deliver your email directly to the inbox. However by following technology and list management best practices coupled with monitoring and relationship building can substantially increase your probability of reaching the inbox.

Gold Lasso has a dedicated delivery staff to help its clients follow technology best practices, manage black list and ISP relationships and contribute to the ISP and spam fighting community. Gold Lasso expects its clients to do their part by adhering to acceptable ISP list gathering practices, basic message design guidelines and list cleansing processes.
The Three Components of Deliverability:

Reputation:
Many consumer-based ISPs determine deliverability based on the sender’s reputation. It is important to understand that email reputation works similarly to the financial credit system. If you have a good sending reputation, your chances of good deliverability increase just as your probability of getting a good deal on a loan increase with good credit. You might be thinking how does an ISP identify me as a sender? An ISP uses your IP address since it uniquely identifies machines on the Internet similarly to how a social security number identifies you as an individual. Just as an IP address acts as a social security number a domain name functions as your face displaying to the world your unique characteristics. Pairing your domain name to a unique IP address provides a complete identity allowing for transparency with your recipients and ISPs. Based on this, ISPs have developed or outsourced reputation scoring systems, similar to a credit reporting agency, to determine the sending reputations of IP address and domains. The scoring system, based on a host of information such as authentication, volume of email sent, internal complaints, black lists, etc., assigns your unique IP address and domain a score that will ultimately decide if your email goes to the recipient’s inbox or to a black hole.

Content:
Although most ISPs use reputation filtering processes, corporate networks and consumer security software use content filtering as their main weapon for fighting spam. Gold Lasso provides basic and advanced content analysis tools to help client increase their probability of bypassing content filters. Clients need to be flexible with their message design and copy to be successful with content filtering deliverability.

Authentication:
Authentication uses a set of protocols to verify that an e-mail message has been sent by the domain name in the from line since spammers falsify the from line to conceal their identified. These protocols include Spenders Policy Framework (SPF), SenderID, DKIM and DomainKeys. They all rely on DNS records, either to obtain sending mail server addresses or public keys for decrypting a digital signature. Both ISPs and corporate networks use authentication to filter spam. Gold Lasso configures all client domains with these authentication protocols.

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Email Service Providers' Dirty Little Secret

There is a dirty little secret with email service providers (ESPs) and it’s about time it has been brought to the forefront of industry discussions.  I learned about the intricacies of this secret while culling Gold Lasso customers that exceeded our spam complaint threshold. After politely showing a few of them the door, out of spite they revealed to me that they were simultaneously using the services of five other competitors unraveling a twisted web of ESP “switch-a-roonie” that promotes spam and hurts the industry.  This dirty little secret is so obvious that I’m surprised it hasn’t been exposed by privacy and anti-spam advocates and used to smack the smug faces of ESP executives.  Surprise!  The dirty secret is that most ESPs have no economic incentive NOT to do business with customers who refuse to use good list practices.  Let me say it this way: Email service providers make good money from bad customers who in some circles could be considered spammers.  You might be scratching your head thinking most ESPs have strict anti-spam policies and lobby hard to clean up the industry.  For the most part this statement is correct, however there are always a handful of bad customers that are tolerated because of the big checks they stroke.  These customers come in the forms of traditional direct marketing agencies that have to blow their client’s budget, affiliate marketers, and idiots who have deep pockets but not a clue about how email marketing works.  One thing these types of customers have in common is that they want or have to send large volumes of email and have either purchased an email list or have appended a purchased direct mail list.

Contrary to popular belief most ESPs don’t give their high paying bad customers the boot.  Most try to force them through a reformation process, however if the customer continues to ignore best practices some ESPs will do one of the following; either isolate the customer on an IP block reserved for wrongdoers (a sort of purgatory) or mix their bad customer’s email across multiple IP addresses of customers with good sending practices increasing the bad customer’s chance of making it to the inbox.  In the first scenario, the ESP milks the customer as they are well aware their email will either wind up in an ISP black hole or get bounced faster than an Atari Breakout ball. The bad customer, fed up with bad deliverability, will feverishly switch to a new ESP as soon as their contract is up.  In the second scenario, the ESP increases the deliverability risk of their good customers.  The attitude is akin to “so what if some customers get 90% deliverability instead of 96%.  What’s 6%?” Eventually this attitude catches up with reality and good customers start complaining.  This is when the ESP gives the bad customer the boot as their foot is already in the door of another ESP.  Contrary to what Ken Magill of Direct Magazine says “a marketer can’t ride an ESP’s e-mail reputation, folks” a marketer CAN ride the reputation of an ESP’s customers… for a while at least.  In either case the ESP is doing a disservice to not only their customers (good and bad) but to the industry at large.

The time has come for ESPs to get together and create their own blacklist of customers who they have booted because they refused to clean up their act.  This would prevent these bad customers from trying to hop ESPs causing headaches and silently undermining the industry.  The secret is out!  Let’s do something about it.

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Where Did All The Follow Ups Go?

As published in MediaPost

I’ve witnessed a destructive trend in the last year with lead generation. If the lead isn’t hot with an immediate readiness to convert, it is often shoved aside, long to be forgotten –leaving the person who initially made an inquiry with a bad impression. When I question marketers about this practice, the typical answer is “we simply don’t have the time and resources to call every lead.” This answer often leaves me to ponder how much waste there probably is in a typical lead generation campaign. With a simple long-term follow-up strategy I am confident you can squeeze the remaining value out of your lead gen budget using inexpensive technology such as a time released email campaign or personalized postcards. Using one of these tools will the typical excuse doesn’t hold much merit. Just think about it, you spent the time and money to educate a prospect on a product or service who indicates they aren’t ready to buy only to allow a competitor to take your future sale because you didn’t follow up. Yes, these leads are tire kickers, but tire kickers do eventually buy and research has it that after these laggards are armed with enough knowledge they will buy from whoever is the most convenient and matches their purchasing criteria.

To implement a quality follow up campaign you may first need to define what a good follow up is and then determine the good times to do it. Some companies fall short with their follow up efforts by placing their cold leads on their house e-newsletter list hoping that that if they get in front of the prospect enough times they will be top of mind when they are ready to convert. This misconception only leads to confusion and contempt by the prospect since most of the time they didn’t opt into the newsletter list and the information presented is irrelevant to their initial inquiry. Cold follow-ups should be personal, friendly, have a call to action, and most important, be relevant to the prospects initial inquiry. Once you figure out what a good cold follow-up should be, the next step is to determine the time intervals to execute them. Time intervals should be based on feedback collected from your sales team’s experience with longer sales cycles. The idea here is to try to mimic an offline follow-up approach as much possible while gaining the efficiencies of an online follow-up.

Once you have developed quality follow-up messages and determined good time intervals, the next step is to test. Just as with any other campaign the follow-up campaign needs to be tested at every time interval until a sale or a death can be determined. This is easier than it sounds since you’ll be testing messages and intervals, not lists. Eventually, you will hit a eureka moment when the right combination of message and intervals start yielding maximum conversion rates from your cold leads.

Implementing a solid follow-up campaign shouldn’t take more than a few days with a good email service provider as long as its messages and intervals are well thought out. The time invested in this exercise will not only yield higher conversion rates but also greater goodwill as prospects are reminded that you care enough to follow-up.

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Referrals--Start Asking For Them

As published in DM News

A few weeks ago I had an Aflac agent in my office. After we closed a deal he pleasantly asked me if I knew of other business owners in need of Aflac’s products. As a result of the good sales experience, I gave him five referrals. Every sales person knows the value of a referral however the concept doesn’t resonate well with email marketing practitioners. Now is a great opportunity to change that. Instead of relying on an inadequate forward-to-a-friend process, a more formalized referral program is needed to ensure success. A good referral program is automated, timely and usually starts where the original opt-in process ends. Once a website user has gone through the motions of opting-in, it is a perfect opportunity to ask for a referral. Ask the referrer not only for an email address but also a full name. When soliciting the referee to opt-in, always personalize the message, and most importantly, reference the referrer. A reference to the referrer gives you instant credibility and will produce a much higher conversion rate.

The above tactic works well with new signups however tapping your existing subscribers for referrals takes a little more creativity since they are often an afterthought. Most existing subscribers have little incentive to give you a referral since opting-in is a distant memory for them. The simple solution here is to provide an incentive. Trade associations are notorious for doing this by turning their referral campaigns into contests, rewarding lavish prizes to individuals who recruit a large number of new members.

Referral campaigns and tactics are an effective and proven way to grow a list organically. The good thing is that a number of email service providers offer some sort of automated referral mechanism to help you implement such programs. However, just as anything worthwhile, growing lists by referrals takes planning, effort and tweaking to make perfect.

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The Email Monetization Playbook
Email Monetization Playbook
69 Must Scan Pages For Publishers!

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Email Monetization Playbook
69 Must Scan Pages For Publishers!