Email Marketing

Email is a very important part of any multi-line marketing approach. But, email alone is not the key to more leads, appointments and revenue growth. When used effectively, email still produces the best Return On Investment.

We are email marketing experts, with state of the art infrastructure, proprietary software and highly trained experts that work in unison to achieve the goal of maximizing results for our clients and partners. 

Our proprietary algorithms have been updated to select recipients based on factors such as engagement, frequency or response and click patterns – finding the right balance for maximum results.

De-mystified

In the not so recent past, digital marketers would source a list (build or buy), create a flyer like content piece, use a simple email marketing software program and be off to the races. Spam filters (ISP's) were ill equipped to handle the barrage of emails from marketers. That has, however changed - rapidly in the last few years. As a result there is significant confusion and questions that often have conflicting answers -

  • Should my recipients be double opt-in?
  • Will a text email perform better than a pretty, responsive email?
  • What is 'responsive' email?
  • Should I outsource my email marketing?
  • What open rates can I expect?
  • Can we send the same content to the same list every month?

We are going to answer these and other questions and de-mystify the world of email marketing for you.

The Spambox

This is where most of your emails go to die. Spam boxes are in the cloud, and when the spam score gets past a certain threshold (rule and factors vary by ISP), your email goes straight to the spam box. Only the user can release the email from their spam box to their inbox, and even then, some email client programs will drop the email in the junk email folder. The user then has to mark it as 'not junk'. That is a lot of 'whitelisting' work for the user to do to read your email.

Negative Engagement

You have to get your email past a wall of defenses - server reputation, IP reputation, content filters, spam word filters, etc - once you do that and get into the inbox, if the user 'negatively' engages with your email, then that can significantly and negatively impact the delivery of the rest of your campaign.

The recipient of your email can hit the 'This is Spam' button. This is the easiest thing to do for a reader, and if that happens, then it does not matter if the recipient is a double-opt in, a member, subscriber - none of that is relevant once the spam button has been hit.

There are other less negative actions - such as -

  • Clicking the unsubscribe link
  • Deleting the email
  • Moving it to the bulk email folder.

Cumulative negative actions add up to trigger the anti-spam system to start delivering any pending emails (from the campaign) to the spam box.

Positive Engagement

You want the recipients to do positive things like -

  • Clicking on a link (call to action)
  • Moving the file to a folder
  • Creating an automatic move rule
  • Forwarding the email

The more positive reaction your early recipients have, the better overall inbox delivery you will have.

Digital Footprint

Every email gets a digital footprint or signature. Spam filters can tell when bulk email is coming through to their networks. They see very similar footprints. So, clearly, after the filter seeing a few hundred of similar emails come through, email from that sender (IP, domain) can be temporarily flagged as sending bulk email.

In addition, a history (for up to a year) of email footprints are archived for future lookup. So, if you send a successful email this month and repeat the exact same email next month, you are going to get less email into the inbox.

Some tips -

  • Inserting mail merged data into each email helps.
  • Varying the message and content is important.
  • Using different subject lines is a best practice and inserting variables into the subject helps too (like first name, for example)

The Spam Button

SilverPop.com (an IBM company) did a detailed survey and found that "A clear majority (76 percent) said the messages they reported as spam were simply those they "felt" they had never registered to receive. They may very well have actually subscribed to receive the companies' emails, but don't remember doing so."

Most of these recipients did not know that when they hit the spam button, it prevented other recipients from receiving the same email. And if they know, they really do not care - they will hit the spam button any way based on how they 'feel' at that moment. The IBM survey found that "(67 percent) said that they would continue marking unwanted emails as spam despite knowing that hitting the spam button could block senders' emails from reaching people who really want to receive them."

Permission Based Email

Multiple surveys, including the aforementioned IBM survey found that subscribers really do not care if they subscribed before; most of them do not remember whether they subscribed; regardless of the source; they will hit the spam button if they feel like it!

So, where does that leave us in terms of opt-in, double opt-in or any other subscriber based bulk emailing - simply put, it does not really matter if your recipient is single or double opt in or even opt-in any more - they have the all powerful 'Spam Button'. So, if your subject line is not engaging, your content does not add value to the recipients, they will hit the button that can derail your well placed efforts.

Responsive Emails Design

Responsive design is an approach to designing the content to be optimally view-able in a variety of mediums and devices. When it comes to email, however pretty or responsive design can hurt rather than help. The bottom line with email marketing is - get into the inbox, get opened, get the reader to engage (act accordingly to plan).

Responsive design, heavy HTML, large images, etc can sometimes take away from the goals - get desired results.

A simple, well worded, text based email that is personalized and comes across like a one-on-one email will almost always get email marketers better results than any other technique.

In-source versus Outsource

In a whitepaper/study ("The Secret to Email Delivery," July 2008), published by Forester Research, around 90%-95% of all email sent is considered spam.

This makes the job very challenging for ISPs and spam filter providers. It also makes the job very difficult for email marketers. Interestingly, the volume of spam increases during holiday periods, and this reduces open rates across the board - regardless of sender, content, reputation or positive engagement of the recipient.

ISP's are paying attention to how often a sender sends email as well. If you send too often, you will see poor results. Send infrequently and the same happens, you get dinged. So, there is a balance between maintaining a clean list, send patterns, the value of the content and how you handle negative engagement and abuse reports.

Going a full circle, in the old days - marketers didn't have to worry as much about server reputation, list management and a whole bunch of other constantly changing environment variables. They could, with relative ease manage things in house. But, then complaints could destroy your in house networks reputation and pretty soon, your day-to-day operations emails would not get delivered to customers. So, in house is not much of an option any more.

In-source/outsource

When things got more complicated, there was a need for do-it-your-self (but mostly outsourced, the in-source/out-source option) services like Constant Contact. You in-source your list management, but outsource the actual sending campaign. But, soon, these service providers were forced to bar you from sending if they got any complaints through their ISPs. So, regardless of whether your list is clients, subscribers, partners - if complaints came through you were stuck.

So, that, coupled with 'spam traps', 'honeypots' and other anti-spam techniques completely rules out purchasing a list. Purchasing a list is just not a good idea all around.

Outsource to the right provider
That leaves only one real option, outsource to a reputable company that has a track record of innovation, inbox delivery and is industry focused.

A provider that -

  • Sources and maintains the subscriber list.
  • Has ISP grade infrastructure
  • Has world class service and support capabilities.
  • Handles all the IT related management that comes along with email marketing.

Open Rates

Open and Click rates are most common method of measuring an email campaign's performance. The fluctuation of these measurements can give you some idea of the impact your campaign is making on recipients, and also if an external source (like a spam filter) is preventing your message from being seen. Because so many variables can affect what your open and click rates are, you should try to establish a baseline for your campaign, so you can measure performance as it relates to your specific content and sending practices.

Bad content can drop your open and click rate to the floor just as quickly as renting a mailing list. For the insurance industry, and specific to B2B marketing, your campaign should come close to a 5% open rate. Some of the highest performing campaigns can get close to a 20% open rate. If you can pair great content with ISP grade infrastructure, you should do better than 5% on your first send and improve steadily after.

Remember that open rates can fluctuate for many reasons though, so whatever you do, don't jump to conclusions without researching everything. Here are some unexpected things that can affect your open rate:

  • Holidays – Especially between Thanksgiving and early January
  • Brand Recognition – You should expect to warm up more than just your email server's reputation, your brand should be familiar to the recipient also.
  • Time of Day – B2B marketing gets the best response rate when sent earlier in the day (and sometimes later in the afternoon if you are geo-targeting a smaller region).
  • Size of the Campaign – Sending twice the amount of emails will not get you twice the results, but it will get you closer to the spam box. Better to focus on quality, not quantity!

Your email delivery is in our ARMS

At CompleteMarkets, our team has developed a process we call ARMS - a little corny, but memorable we think. :-)

  • Authentication:
    • RDNS/PTR
    • SPIF/SenderID
    • DKIM
    • DMARC
  • Reputation
    • Blacklisting
    • Whitelisting
    • SenderBase and SenderScore
  • Monitoring
    • Delivery Rate
    • Greylisting Rate
    • Abuse Rate
    • Deferral Rate
  • Sending
    • Content / Messaging
    • Design (especially geared for the 'Least Common Denominator' of email clients.)
    • Interactive Recipients
    • Open/Click rates
    • Results

In Summary

  • Create valuable content
  • Vary the great content every send.
  • Use a reputable service provider, one that practices ARMS (above). :-)
  • Balance your send pattern (once a month, no gaps between sends)
  • Make sure your provider is not over-sending to their lists. One good rule of thumb is to send to only 20% of their subscribers at any given time.


"CITA Insurance Services considers CompleteMarkets to be one of its key partners. We have worked with similar entities and most turn out to over-promise and under-deliver. The opposite is true with CompleteMarkets. Their technology, service level, professionalism and responsiveness is undeniably the best when compared to other similar providers CITA Insurance Services has used.

The return on investment has proven positive as we can directly correlate new business and brand awareness thanks to CompleteMarkets. CITA Insurance Services has found the email marketing services to be the most valuable aspect of the relationship. If you are looking to grow your business, CompleteMarkets can truly help you accomplish that goal."
- Adam Babcock, Brown & Brown Program Insurance Services, Inc. DBA: CITA Insurance Services