“I don’t give a damn ‘bout my reputation. I’ve never been afraid of any deviation.” Talk about BOLD lyrics we love jamming to! But as much as we love the queen of rock and roll’s BOLD music, we’re going to have to agree to disagree with Joan Jett on this one.
We DO give a damn about our reputation, and yours too. Your email marketing sender reputation that is.
It’s all about your rep
Sender reputation is a score you’re assigned by an Internet Service Provider (ISP). It’s based on a number of factors including the quality of the content you’re sending, the amount of emails sent, the quality of your contacts (active/inactive email address), the level of engagement your emails receive and more. A bad sender reputation can result in the beautiful email you just crafted landing in the spam folder, never to be seen by the intended receiver, or worse being blacklisted. (More on that below!)
With 78% of marketers seeing an increase in email engagement over the last 12 months, it’s critical to keep your sender reputation sparkling. One way to do that is by focusing on your email list.
Here are three tips to keep your email list in tip-top shape and your sender reputation squeaky clean.
Put the credit card away
The first, and we think most important, practice is never, EVER purchase email addresses. We know it can be tempting when you’re trying to build an email list, but trading dollars for emails isn’t the way to create an email list that will convert. While the act of purchasing a list of email addresses isn’t illegal, sending bulk unsolicited emails without permission falls under the CAN-SPAM Act and is punishable by fines. Non-compliance of this act is costly, like up to $43,280 costly. Most of these email lists contain what the industry likes to call a “spam trap”, a fake email address created by an ISP or blacklist provider that is used to identify spammers. When you purchase a list and unknowingly send to a spam trap, it recognizes you as a spammer and could possibly lead to your organization being blacklisted. All these things sound terrible, right? Right.
Instead, take advantage of all the resources you have, like social media. Use your social posts to promote valuable free offers, like an eBook or a whitepaper, that users can download in exchange for their email address. Or host a giveaway – users can enter in their contact info (like an email address!) in exchange for an entry. (Bonus tip: Always make sure to check out the rules for giveaways for the social platforms you are using.)
Other options? Reach out to prospects you’ve connected with personally and ask if they would be interested in opting in to your email list. Or are you a member of a trade association in your target buyer’s industry? (You should be!) Connect with fellow members personally and ask permission to add them to your list or see if the association provides sponsored email campaigns you can use for that opt-in offer. You’ll find that building a healthy, organic email list will result in much better results. In this case, quality is much more important than quantity!
It’s always a great time for a little spring cleaning
If you’ve already got an email list built, you might think you’re ready to send that blast out. Not so fast! How long has it been since you’ve given your email list a good scrubbing? “But ODEA, why would I want to delete folks off my list that I worked so hard to build??” Great question! Say you send out your masterpiece of an email to all your subscribers. But five of those were invalid email addresses. Maybe a subscriber misspelled when opting in or the email address is inactive due to a job change. Even if you’re not intentionally trying to send to an invalid email address, it still results in a hard bounce on your email record. A couple of hard bounces won’t hurt your reputation but continue to send to too many invalid email addresses and it’s going to lower your deliverability rate. And where will that land you? Once again, the spam folder!
So take a look at the data from your last few emails before hitting that send button. Check into the hard bounces to see if you can identify any easy fixes, like misspellings of format errors. Once a quarter ask your sales team to take a look at contacts to see if they can quickly identify prospects who have moved to a new position or are no longer active.
Remember me? Just checking in.
You rolled up your sleeves and cleaned up that email list. Ah, it feels good, doesn’t it? But you’re not done just yet. Graymail still lingers! Graymail is email contacts that have opted in to receive your emails but have never or not recently opened or clicked. Spam filters recognize that the receiver is unengaged, and your email ends up sitting in the spam or junk folder while bringing down your deliverability rate. HubSpot, for example, will categorize a contact as unengaged if they meet one of the following criteria:
- Never opened a marketing email from you and hasn’t opened the last 11 emails you’ve sent
- Previously opened a marketing email from you but hasn’t opened any of the last 16 emails you’ve sent
Instead of letting these contacts remain unengaged, create a sunset policy – a plan for how to decide which contacts are unengaged, how to re-engage them, and when it’s finally time to say your final farewell. When it comes to attempting to re-engage, we recommend a three touch method:
- The initial “Hey! We miss you and would love for you to re-subscribe!” email
- A second touch that includes some of the benefits of being a subscriber, or a freebie if they resubscribe.
- A third and final email letting them know this is your tearful last touch before removing them from your list.
If they re-subscribe, high-five! If not, you can feel good about removing them from your list. Bigger is not necessarily better!
Sorry, Joan Jett
Unlike Joan, we do give a damn about our sender reputation (and yours too!). The best way to keep your sender reputation in good standing while increasing your email marketing ROI is to keep up best practices when it comes to your email list.
Interested in more marketing best practices? Reach out to us here and say hello!