7 Things Every Team Should Know Before Hitting "Send"

As a member of Return Path’s Professional Services team, I’ve had the opportunity to help many clients make positive changes to their email program. Among all these interactions, one common discussion point is the importance of following email best practices and how failure to do so can negatively impact their overall program. And sometimes, my work with clients includes creating customized training to help, as one client put it, “prepare the team to do no harm.”

Think about it: every email deployed from your system or IP impacts your overall sender reputation. As a result, if there’s even one group in your organization sending out campaigns that don’t follow best practices, they could be negatively impacting your ability to get the mail delivered.

Help prepare your team to “do no harm” by following these basics:

1) Follow the law. The CAN-SPAM Act was established to set the standard for sending commercial email. Some of the basic requirements include:

  • Ensure the subject line is not misleading and reflects the email content.
  • Identify all commercial email as an advertisement if the recipient did not provide consent to receive it from you.
  • Include a functional way for the recipient to unsubscribe that is available for at least 30 days after you send the email.
  • Honor all unsubscribe requests within 10 business days of the request.
  • Include your physical address in the footer of the email.

Failure to comply with these standards can result in fines up to $16,000 per email address that was sent noncompliant email. Yep, that can add up quickly! I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want to be the person responsible for that kind of fine.

2) Set goals for your program. Don’t just create a pretty email, hit “send,” and hope it performs. Hope is not a strategy! Define how every email you send will support your overall program goals and add value to the customer relationship. Do you need to focus on the retention or acquisition of new subscribers? Drive customers to your site to purchase? Get them to take a particular action like update their email preferences? Whatever it is, make sure you also know how you will measure the success of the email and what key performance metrics will be used.

3) Get permission. There are many ways marketers obtain their email lists, but the best way is to get opt-in permission from your subscribers to receive your email. People that expect and want to receive your email are more likely to be engaged with your program and less likely to complain about it. And remember—permission is not forever! If someone wants off your list, they should be able to remove themselves via a functioning unsubscribe. If you don’t provide one, you’re increasing the likelihood they will complain. Unsubscribes don’t hurt your reputation, but complaints do! (Check out our whitepaper for 50 ways to effectively build your email list.)

4) Check with your IT guy. Before you ever deploy an email, you want to ensure you have a solid infrastructure set up to send and receive mail. If you work with an ESP they usually have this buttoned up for you. However, if you mail from an in-house system you may have a little work to do:

  • Ensure the proper email authentication (SPF, DKIM, DMARC) is in place to tell the Mailbox Providers you are who you say you are when they see mail coming from your IPs and domain.
  • Send from IPs with a solid reputation versus a brand new one that has never deployed any volume. If it’s new, you need to properly warm it up.
  • Ensure you have the ability to process bounces and can effectively remove unknown users from your file.
  • Have the proper connection and throughput settings are in place so your system doesn’t try to send too much mail to a Mailbox Provider at once. (They can defer your mail if you do!)
  • Get set up on all available feedback loops and effectively remove complainers from your file.

Your infrastructure set up is probably the most black and white things about email. You’ve either got it or you don’t—get ‘er done!

5) Know your reputation. Sender reputation is an indication of whether or not you are a good sender based on the email you send, who you send it to, and how those people respond to it. Several factors  impact your reputation, including complaints about your email or having an email list full of bad addresses—for example, unknown users (defunct addresses no longer in use), spam traps (addresses created to identify poor data practices), or inactive addresses (people that do not engage with your email).

Mailbox Providers consider reputation factors in their filtering decisions. A poor reputation will negatively impact your inability to get your email to the inbox, which in turn means your subscribers won’t be engaged and your ROI will go down. Keep tabs on your reputation by checking your IP at senderscore.org.

6) Keep your subscribers engaged. Mailbox provides know If your subscribers don’t care about receiving your email, because they are watching. While you likely monitor opens, clicks, and conversions, they are looking to see if people are marking your mail as spam (or not spam), forwarding email, moving it to folders, deleting or ignoring your messages. They can tell if people are active in their mailboxes and whether it is with your mail or everybody else.

Keep your subscribers interested in your mail by sending them targeted and relevant email they truly want to receive. If your engagement declines, your ability to reach the inbox will likely follow suit. Ensure you have a plan in place to attempt to re-engage subscribers and decide when you’ll stop sending to those that remain unengaged.

7) Create good content. You’ve got their permission; now send them what you promised. Note the key message here: send what you said you would send. You can create the prettiest content ever, but if it isn’t what the subscriber wants they won’t care. Worse yet—they may hit the spam button to complainif it’s not what they were expecting to receive from you. A few things to consider:

  • Ensure your message is properly branded so your subscribers recognize that it’s coming from you. Maintain consistent branding in the “from” line, the content itself, and any landing pages you link to within the email.
  • Have a clear, compelling subject line and test to determine what works best.
  • Ensure your content is skimmable and has a clear call to action. Encourage the subscriber to do something, whether it’s going to your website or visiting your store.
  • Test to ensure your content renders like you expect it to in various environments.
  • Don’t forget the unsubscribe!

Interested in a customized best practices training for your team? Contact us and let’s chat about how we can help you!

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