The secret ingredient to successful e-mail marketing is a high delivery rate. Businesses that understand and manage their bulk e-mail campaigns will enjoy a higher than average delivery rate. Here are five tips to improve your delivery rate and take your e-mail marketing to the next level.
1) Know your e-mail delivery rate. As with everything in business, if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. Your first goal in improving your delivery rate is that you must be able to put a number on it. What is a reasonable delivery rate? If your company has a 95 percent delivery rate, you are doing well, but if the delivery rate is at 40% you have to make improvements.
Your e-mail service provider or IT department should be able to provide you with the exact delivery rate of your bulk e-mail sends. Once you have a baseline understanding, you can start making improvements. The goal is not perfection; rather it’s continuous improvement. Try to bring your delivery rate as close to 100 percent as possible.
2) Use a static IP address. An Internet Protocol (IP) address is a unique number that identifies a computer or server on the Internet. Don’t send your mass e-mails from a server with a shared IP address. Doing so can get your domain blacklisted by Internet Service Providers (ISPs). Blacklisting marks you as a spammer, and this can happen even if you run a completely legitimate e-mail system. Once blacklisted, your e-mails will not go through to recipients.
Let’s say your company is using a hosted or online e-mail service that hundreds of other companies also use. If the IP address is shared and one of those companies gets blacklisted, then your company’s emails won’t get through to recipients.
Now that you know all this, you can demand a dedicated IP address for your company. When your company is the only entity using the IP address for e-mail, your chances of being marked as a spammer mistakenly are miniscule. Before you accept a dedicated IP address for sending e-mails, make sure that the IP address is not currently on any e-mail blacklists. Use a service like http://www.spamcop.net, or http://www.spamhaus.org. Being on any of the above blacklists tends to indicate a real spam problem, and suggests you need to investigate what’s going wrong, and you need to fix it. Your first step should be to get a dedicated IP address for your e-mail system.
3) Stay off of e-mail blacklists. Your first line of defense should be monitoring ISPs by making sure that your e-mail is delivered to inboxes. One way to do this is to have several e-mail accounts on the largest 15 or so ISPs, and check to see if your e-mails reach the inboxes. This is an expensive and time-consuming task. The fast and inexpensive way to check is to use a service such as http://www.deliverymonitor.com. For a fairly small monthly fee, they will monitor the largest ISPs to see if your e-mail is reaching the intended inbox or lands in the dreaded spam folder. If you find that your e-mails end up in the spam folder, you can directly contact the ISP to find out the reason.
4) Manage your e-mail lists. Review your e-mail lists with an eye to finding and removing incorrect email addresses, bounced e-mail addresses and inactive addresses. A bounced e-mail is usually the result of an incorrect or nonexistent e-mail address. As you remove bounced and incorrect e-mails, you will save money because you’re sending a smaller number of e-mails.
Removing inactive e-mail addresses is another essential list management practice. Inactive e-mail subscribers–those who have not opened your e-mails in a long time– should be required to re-opt-in.
5) Only send bulk e-mail to people who have subscribed. Don’t pre-check the subscribe button on the website forms. Pre-checking the subscription form may result in more subscriptions, but the quality of subscriptions will diminish. Customers expect reputable companies to ask for permission instead of assuming it. If you include a pre-checked sign-up box, people may either forget to uncheck the box or just miss it in their haste to complete the form. How people got on your list is a major driver of their likelihood to open future e-mails. Subscriber lists must only include e-mails of people who have specifically opted-in. It is better to have a smaller but higher quality list.
If your e-mails offer real value to people, you will have no problem getting people to opt-in. If there is no perceived value to subscribe, you should have all the power to create value. Original useful content always attracts subscribers.
Bonus Tip: Ask people to designate your e-mail address as “safe,” “not spam,” “friend,” within their e-mail program. This way, you will reduce the chance of landing your e-mail in the subscribers’ bulk folder. Do this on the subscription form page or on the sign up form’s thank you page.
Vistage member and speaker George Meszaros is the founder of Webene (http://www.webene.com), a Web development and online marketing firm based in San Diego, CA. George is the author of “Triumph On The Web,” a book dedicated to building a successful web presence.