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How to handle emailing properly?

14-06-2012, Category Online Advertising

There comes a time in each company when it’s necessary to send mass emails. And here I’m not talking about the internal distribution of communications to employees because this is usually dealt with by the administrators of the company mail, e.g. through recipient groups. What I’m thinking about is the external distribution, i.e. emails to potential or existing clients, partners or journalists.
Before the need arises, no one is aware that such an action is not that easy and involves various risks.

emailing

Risks

The most frequent mistake is to send emails in such a way that all recipients see all their addresses in the distribution list. And it’s not about that one of the recipients may copy the list and use it for their own purposes.
It’s enough that one recipient has their system infected with a spamming virus/trojan and all addresses will land in spammers’ lists.

By sending mass emails in an incompetent way we may do harm not only to our recipients but first of all to ourselves. Bulk of emails sent to many recipients who have their accounts on the same servers, at one time and without any breaks can result in the sender being blacklisted.
That will be the least of our worries if this is a local blacklist of a given server. It will get worse if our email address or the whole domain lands in one of the global blacklists. Then, thousands of mail transfer agents from all over the world will stop accepting our messages.

Elaborately designed emails (layout) that are sent improperly may be wrongly displayed at some or all users. It’s probable that graphic images won’t load, elements will be shifted or buttons will be unclickable. The worst scenario is that a wrongly structured message may get caught by an anti-spam filter and diverted to a SPAM or Junk mail folder.

Ways

Popular email clients such as Microsoft Outlook, Mozilla Thunderbird or The Bat! as well as webmails aren’t fit to be used to send mass emails. It’s true that you can use them to send messages to even more than ten recipients but then you absolutely need to enter their addresses in the ‘BCC’ (Blind Carbon Copy) field and not in the ‘CC’ (Carbon Copy) field. Thanks to that no recipient will receive the addresses of all other addressees in the header.
One of numerous drawbacks of emails sent in this way is a total lack of personalization: each recipient will see the same thing in the ‘TO’ field of the email and this won’t be their email address. This means the recipient will right away know this is a mass email.

One of the proper tools to send mass emails is specialist software such as Group Mail for Windows. Such applications have been developed for years. They solve lots of problems connected with the sending of mass emails and are becoming easier to use. They offer many functionalities. The most important of those are:
– they send a separate email to each recipient (it can’t be seen this is a mass email),
– personalization (they insert data from the base, e.g. expressions like ‘Dear Mr Brown’),
– advanced communication with mail servers (right order, frequency and breaks that prevent the sender from being blacklisted),
– they optimize the HTML code and email headers against mail applications and webmails,
– comfortable management of recipient bases and mailings.

An increasingly popular alternative to desktop software for mailings are online applications (SaaS) offering the same functionalities and even more, e.g. MailChimp, CampaignMonitor or GetResponse. The major advantages of such applications are:
– flexible pricing models that make the costs proportional to the volume and frequency of emails sent,
– mails are sent by a server, which means our computer doesn’t have to be working the whole time massages are being sent,
– built-in function that tracks whether emails are opened and whether links included in the emails are clicked,
– API, i.e. it’s integratable with our software, e.g. with the administration panel of our website (CMS),
– the software is continuously developed and you get support from the producer and community.

Of course, an interactive agency can also be commissioned to deal with emailing. Each such agency has appropriate software – and it’s very often the case that the software is the agency’s own product – and above all, it has experience that lets it avoid a lot of problems. It’s certainly not the cheapest option but it surely guarantees that the emailing action will prove highly effective.

SPAM

To avoid our messages being classed as spam is one thing – but are you sure your messages aren’t spam at all?
In the USA there exists a CAN-SPAM Act which is also respected by a lot of other countries. The gist of the act are 7 sound principles:
1. No false or misleading information can be contained in email headers.
2. The subject must be real and consistent with the email content.
3. If the message is an advert it should be clearly marked as an advert.
4. The message must contain information about the sender and their location (address).
5. It is obligatory to provide information about how to opt out and be guaranteed no messages are sent any longer.
6. Any opt-out request must be processed immediately and involve no charges.
7. Both the author of the message and the agency, if any, which sent the message are responsible for any violations.

Newsletter

A specific kind of mass emails are newsletters. These are sent periodically to the users who ordered them. Email marketing is a powerful marketing tool. Very valuable content (e-books, reports or courses) and tools (e.g. calculators) are made available on the net by lots of marketers building in this way bases for the newsletters.
The newsletter mechanism is often built-in in the CMS of a website. But you may as well use the online applications mentioned above which are able to handle not only the sending of mass emails but also registrations and opt-outs.

Autoresponder

The newsletter’s close relative is the autoresponder. This is a way to make the contact with users more automatic and it’s still underestimated by Polish marketers. It makes it possible to be in touch with thousands of clients and prospects with the use of a once prepared always valuable content.
The autoresponder mechanism is very simple. You register in the same way as in the case of the newsletter and the moment your registration is confirmed you start to receive messages from a defined queue. Those may be a course in parts, a series of case studies, the most important FAQ concerning the offer etc.
One message every two weeks or once a month won’t get on anyone’s nerves and will make an impression of being in touch with the brand. And that is still true despite messages being sent automatically.
What’s the best in the autoresponder is that it doesn’t matter when the user orders the subscription. They will anyway start to receive the same messages in the same order as placed in their individual queue. Unlike with the newsletter, that makes the user receive all content that is most important from our perspective.

Email advertising

Emailing is also a form of advertising offered by most portals and large websites. Email adverts are sent by the portal operator, which means the advertiser never has any access to the base but only provides the content of the email advert. Though there are many ways of how the message can be targeted, emailing of this type isn’t particularly effective. Free email accounts to which such mass emails are most often sent are usually additional and used when there’s a need to register on a given website. Besides, such inboxes get so many adverts that their owners pay hardly any attention to what they receive.

Tracking effects

Talking about online applications used to handle emailing I mentioned a functionality which lets you track whether emails are displayed and whether links included in the emails are clicked.
It’s easy to monitor clicks. You can do that using a redirection script or simply the additional parameters for the mechanism you normally use to track website traffic.
Counting how many emails have been opened is a different story. Few-pixel graphic files are used for this purpose; they are placed in the layout of the message. When such a file has been loaded from the server a report is generated that the message has been displayed. Unfortunately, values counted in this way are subject to substantial error. Firstly, not every user has their email displayed as HTML. Secondly, a lot of email applications block by default the downloading of graphic files from servers. That means the counted number of message displays is always lower than the real one.

Recap

If you need to send mass emails on your own, forget about your email client. You’d better use one of the online applications that offer such services.
If, however, your company’s security policy forbids you to make the recipient base available to the outside, invest in a specialist program and install it on your computer.
Before sending emails ask yourself a question whether you are sure they aren’t spam. And if they aren’t, make sure they are fully compliant with the law and contain required elements and above all the opt-out option.

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