The new year is already well underway—and it promises to be one of the most challenging yet for email marketers.
Artificial intelligence, ongoing budgetary concerns, and new standards from Gmail and Yahoo (among other developments!) pose challenges for marketers trying to stay ahead of the curve.
In this climate, it’s more critical than ever for marketers to approach the year with a clearly defined strategy and goals.
Consider these three key “marketing resolutions” when planning for a successful 2024. They may seem familiar—but changing forces in the email marketing industry have made them more important than ever.
This year, Gmail and Yahoo are implementing new requirements for bulk senders. (Note: Gmail defines bulk senders as those who send >5K messages to Gmail addresses per day).
These new requirements include email authentication. Specifically, both mailbox providers (MBPs) will require email senders to publish a DMARC record, ensure alignment with their SPF/DKIM domains, and implement a DMARC reporting solution.
Need a quick refresher? DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance) allows senders to specify a policy for handling non-authenticated messages (for example: “p=quarantine”, “p=reject”) and provides a reporting mechanism for monitoring those messages.
Senders will also be required to authenticate messages with both SPF and DKIM. SPF is an email authentication protocol that helps protect senders and recipients from spam, spoofing, and phishing attacks.
DKIM allows senders to claim responsibility for emails sent by cryptographically adding a signature in email headers. Email clients can read this signature and use it to verify whether the email truly comes from the domain it claims to come from.
Both mailbox providers have indicated that enforcement will begin in February 2024, although, according to Yahoo, “enforcement will be gradually rolled out, as we monitor compliance through the first half of the year.”
If your emails are not already authenticated with SPF, DKIM, and a DMARC policy, consider making this your #1 priority to start the new year. Not only are these requirements of Gmail and Yahoo, but they also protect you and your subscribers against impersonating senders.
Before determining your priorities for the year, it’s important to have a clear sense of your current email program performance. Which metrics are most important to you? How are you performing in those areas? Benchmarking your program’s performance and comparing it to industry standards is a great starting point. Where you see downward trends in performance, it will be easy to identify opportunities for optimization.
In addition to monitoring and benchmarking performance, your audit should also include an assessment of the critical email touchpoints that are set up across your subscriber lifecycle journey.
Consider the “set it and forget it” aspects of your program that are vital to performance: the opt-in page, welcome email, email preferences page, abandoned cart email, re-engagement email, and opt-out page. A good practice is to review these evergreen aspects of your program quarterly to ensure they are functioning properly and provide the best possible subscriber experience to promote engagement.
Garbage in, garbage out. If you don’t already have a strategy in place to ensure you are only adding valid addresses to your list and sending to engaged subscribers, resolve to make list hygiene a priority this year.
Prevent bad data from entering your CRM by incorporating email verification at all points of collection. Tools such as Everest’s List Validation or BriteVerify help with verification. In addition, reject malformed email addresses such as [email protected] or role accounts such as postmaster@ /sales@—unless the latter makes sense for your business.
Implementing a confirmed opt-in process is also a great way to ensure you are only capturing legitimate email addresses for subscribers who want to receive your messages. What was once seen as a barrier to sign-ups, confirmed opt-in is now seen as an easy way to build a quality list of engaged subscribers.
Prevention goes a long way, but you also want to have a process in place for ongoing list cleansing. List validation is especially important to run prior to sending re-engagement campaigns to inactive segments. Also, be sure to remove any email addresses which are consistently bouncing (soft or hard bounces), any who have complained about your messages, and any addresses you suspect are spam traps.
If your unsubscribe process isn’t already automated, ensure anyone who unsubscribes is immediately removed from your list, or at the very least, removed before your next email campaign. Technically, CAN-SPAM allows 10 business days for processing unsubscribes, but the law was passed in 2003, when it wasn’t common for senders to send multiple emails per week (or day).
Nowadays, subscribers don’t expect to receive another email after unsubscribing and are highly likely to mark any additional messages received as “spam.”
Resolutions are easy to make, but often hard to keep. Sticking to these three resolutions can ensure you meet your email program goals and enjoy a successful year ahead.
But this is just the beginning. If 2023 proved anything, it’s that change is the only constant in email marketing! To stay ahead of the curve, tune in for our monthly State of Email Live webinar series.