There are many urban legends and superstitions related to email deliverability, primarily from the early days of the industry. Lots of best practices and never-ever's that float around and get shared on discussion boards and at trade shows. In honor of Halloween, here are a few of the misconceptions still haunting email marketers that I think it's time to debunk.
The misconception that I hear the most is about subject lines. The biggest one is that there are certain words or characters that will flag your email as spam and no one will ever see your email again. Words like" free," a dollar sign, using all capital letters, or lots of exclamation points. Or even words like "lose weight" or "Xanax." Now, if you're Weight Watchers, or Pfizer, the manufacturer of Xanax, you're probably going to be using those supposed "spam triggers." In today's deliverability climate, whether or not messages get delivered is based more on overall IP reputation than specific words in the emails themselves. The only thing you need to worry about when crafting a subject line is whether or not it will motivate the recipient to open the email. Of course, it never hurts to do some A/B split testing to see which subject lines work better, and whether using a dollar sign leads to more opens than a percentage off message. And to be sure that your creative or content won't cause trouble, run it through one of the many spam assessment tools before sending your campaign.
Obviously, list building is a priority for all email marketers, and figuring out how to grow a list, usually quickly, has lead to some questionable practices. One that just won't die is trading your email list with another business. This one probably comes from the direct mail world, where it's common practice to buy access to a mailing list of a company similar to yours and mailing to it. In email, this doesn't fly. While it is technically legal under CAN-SPAM, it is likely your spam complaints will spike because people getting your email don't know why you are speaking to them. Instead, think about reciprocal marketing. Share space in your email with another marketer and ask them to do the same. You'll both get exposure to new customers and the opportunity to grow your list.
On the surface, it makes sense that consumers are more welcoming to emails at certain times of day or on particular days of the week. There's been research done, looking at the metrics to find out when the most opens and clicks happen, but I don't think it's something you can pin your program's success on. It's a moving target. It varies from person to person, and can depend a lot on where the person is and what they're doing. Focus instead on sending relevant messages and people will open them.
Finally, as we move full steam ahead into the holiday season, email marketers continue to think that mailing to inactive subscribers will somehow wake them up just in time to contribute to the bottom line. In fact, if they haven't opened an email from you in the last nine months, they probably won't start now. You've missed your chance to reengage. It's painful, but use your energy to create compelling messages for your active subscribers and you'll get more bang for your buck.
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Rick Buck is vice president of privacy and ISP relations, CIPP at e-Dialog, a provider of advanced e-mail and multichannel marketing solutions. Rick works with clients, ISPs, and privacy organizations to promote best practices around responsible marketing. He is an active member of the Direct Marketing Association where he sits on the Ethics Operating committee and previously served as the Ethics Policy committee chair. Rick is also a board member of the E-mail Sender and Provider Coalition (ESPC). Prior to his current role Rick served as vice president, business lists and data for Harte Hanks.
Rick is an accomplished speaker and author on such topics as e-mail deliverability, privacy, and CAN-SPAM compliance. Rick has over 20 years of experience in privacy, acquisition strategy, database management, and Internet marketing. He joined e-Dialog in 2000.
March 19, 2014