Yahoo Mail Ramps Up Add-to-Sender-List Imperative

A new inbox-sorting feature for users of Yahoo Mail, one of the world’s most popular Web mail clients, makes it more important than ever that your subscribers add your e-mail address to their sender lists (which e-mail clients call contacts, address book, safe senders, or other variations).

The new “View From:” feature allows users to view e-mail only from their Contacts lists (all the addresses they’ve whitelisted by clicking the “Add Sender to Contacts” icon in the header field) or their “Connections” (a new social-networking feature based on the Contacts list).

Here’s a sample inbox scene with “View from: All” chosen:

View From: All

With “View From: Contacts,” almost all of the commercial e-mail vanishes. (Both images are from the June 2, 2009 Yahoo Mail blog post, “Important Emails Always Win in Yahoo! Mail.”)

View From: Contacts

Can you see where I’m going with this? If you aren’t listed in Contacts, and your subscribers choose this more restrictive view of their inboxes, your messages won’t show up in their inboxes unless they choose the “All” view.

Note: The “View From:” feature doesn’t prevent delivery of your e-mail messages. Assuming your messages don’t trigger blocks or spam-folder filtering, they’ll still be in the inbox. But, viewers have to enable “View From: All” to see them unless they add your address to their sender lists.

Consider a Dedicated Add-to-Sender-List Campaign

I always recommend that e-mail marketers send a sender-list request or reminder e-mail whenever they change gears, such as switching e-mail service providers, changing e-mail sending addresses, or warming up a new IP address.

Even if everything is status quo with your e-mail program, a stand-alone sender-list campaign can help boost deliverability. That’s because this form of personal whitelisting is often counteracting the spam filters and helps direct your message to the inbox.

Now, with Yahoo Mail instituting its “View From:” feature, and other e-mail clients potentially following suit with similar services, your add-to-sender-list campaign moves up in priority.

As ISPs find ways to prioritize messages for users by increasing filters of friends/contacts, you as a marketer must find ways to stress the value of all of your messaging and drive consumers to add you to their sender lists.

Best Practices for Sender-List Campaigns

  • Ask for inclusion at the start. Don’t wait until you begin sending messages. You want to be on that personal whitelist even before you send a confirmation or welcome e-mail. So, make your add-to-sender-list request right on the subscription form. However, you should still repeat your request in your confirmation and welcome e-mails as a reminder to those who overlooked this step or neglected to do it at opt-in.
  • Explain why whitelisting benefits the recipient. Don’t expect much action if you simply say, “Add our sending address to your address books or contacts lists.” Show them the value of doing so, or what they’ll miss if they don’t do it. Explain that adding your address to the personal whitelist will keep your messages coming. This works, if you make a compelling reason to the recipient that your messages have value. If you simply ask without showing any value, few will respond.
  • Add a quarterly whitelisting campaign. This campaign should remind subscribers to add your address to their sender lists. It’s also a great opportunity to test segmenting and targeting of e-mail messages if you are generally a broadcast sender.

    Create segments for low responders — those who seldom open or click, or recent openers or clickers who have stopped responding. Target those segments with messages that not only spell out the benefit of adding your address to their sender lists but also provide more explicit directions.

    Track actions on these messages. Also, watch your delivery reports to see if delivery and inbox placement improve.

  • Include the request in every e-mail, but not necessarily at the top of the message. In most cases, your preheader line – the first line of copy in the message – should show your call to action or sum up your e-mail contents, because it might be all the reader sees when viewing the message in a preview pane or with images off. Unless, of course, you’re sending your quarterly sender-list message.

    However, it definitely belongs in the footer information of every e-mail message, where you include other standing information, such as postal address, contact addresses and phone numbers, etc.

    Every e-mail should have add-to-sender-list language in the footer. Again, don’t just ask to be added. Highlight the benefits subscribers will miss if they don’t do it.

    For example: “Don’t miss out on future subscriber-only offers. Add to your address book or contact list.”

  • Create a reply campaign. Most e-mail clients will either automatically add your sending address to the sender list if the subscriber sends you e-mail, or it will present the option to add the address. Instead of the lame and off-putting “Do not reply to this e-mail address because we won’t read it,” turn your reply address into a place subscribers can ask questions, comment on products, or even enter to win prizes.

    This allows the e-mail channel to work the way it is intended: as a dialogue with your subscribers, not just a one-way street pushing out offers.

Until next time, keep on deliverin’!

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