Potential Pitfalls for Do-It-Yourselfers

Just came back from two days at the DMAW (Direct Marketing Association of Washington) conference, where we had an exhibit. There is no better way to find out what’s happening out there than to actually talk with all kinds of different people who are marketing… and the experiences people have with email are vast and varied.

Many marketers are still of the belief that email is easy and “like any other communication I’ve sent over the years.” Email is an excellent tool, but you can damage your company’s reputation and customer relationships with the click of a button. So I thought it might be worth mentioning some of the pitfalls. This article is a broad sweep. Don’t be surprised if the topic rears its head several times under my watch.

1. Using your desktop email client to broadcast your messages is risky.

Use of a desktop client to send your marketing message seems like a very logical choice when your list is small and you are sending only text. “Just blind copy the list from your address book,” you might say; but either of the following follies may occur, and in some cases you may not even know it:

  • Any mail you send from your desktop client is going to affect your corporate network, and depending on volume and message size you could be creating email problems for your entire company. Between outgoing messages and incoming bounces and replies, you will affect the load on the servers. Check with your IT group if you are sending mail this way… and include it in those decisions you are making about your email marketing efforts. Sometimes you will encounter abrasion at first, but you have to make friends with the IT guys if you want to effectively get your mail out.
  • There are more and more articles in the news (mostly Internet news) about email messages that mistakenly get sent in such a way that the entire list of addresses is exposed or that subscribers’ replies or “unsubscribe me” messages go to the entire list. Suffice it to say there is no better way to “burn” your list than to expose it to spammers and clog up subscribers’ mailboxes.

Be very careful if you chose to use your desktop client. There are inexpensive programs and Web-based tools that can provide you with the ability to email to a list and protect yourself from this type of exposure. Constant Contact by Roving, MailKing by MesssageMedia, and products such as EmailFactory or Topica (just to quickly name a few) are those that my colleagues and I have had some experience with.

2. Remind the recipients who you are and how you know them.

Every email message you send should remind the recipient of who you are and how he or she came to be on your email list. Who you are can be in the “From” line, or you can actually state it in your opening. Your text or HTML messages should have an introductory statement that briefly says, “You are receiving this because…” Elementary? Maybe, but you might be surprised at how much this means to the recipient, and in turn what it will mean to your integrity as an email marketer.

3. ALWAYS include the unsubscribe/remove link.

I have actually fallen down on this one myself. I have forgotten to include this text in the benign messages that welcome a new list member. This may be one of the most important areas that the inclusion is needed in.

Make sure that your recipients are comfortable that you are watching out for them. Use language such as “if you no longer wish to receive,” or “if you believe you’ve received this in error…” And make sure that your unsubscribe link works — nothing screams spam louder than a broken unsubscribe link.

4. Don’t risk your corporate domain.

The biggest problem I foresee when people speak of sending from internal servers is the risk they are taking with their company’s Internet service provider (ISP). Hopefully, your IT department monitors what is happening with your email and will know if you have crossed the line. The ISPs are getting more sophisticated about determining spam versus wanted email. For years, they have been trashing mail that is perceived to be spam, and you may never know that your mail was not received. This applies not only to your marketing messages but also to any of your company’s email.

The major email service providers work with the ISPs to get “white hat” domain names that will ensure that mail coming from those domains will be delivered.

If you are going to send mail from internal servers at your company, again I implore you to buddy up to the IT department. Work with the mail administrator to help you get clearance from the ISPs, and make sure he or she knows how to help you if you end up on a Blackhole list or spammers list. It takes some work to get off once you are on, but it can be done — and you will need the administrator’s help!

That’s it from me this week. Hope you’ve found some morsel of information that will help you in your email marketing efforts. So long until August 3. Lynne will be in touch next week.

— Jackie G.

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