Why I Never Got Your Email

By Greg Crandell, Executive Vice-President at DigitalMailer

On any given day of the month, I get between two and three hundred emails. No, that’s not a typo — two to three hundred emails, every day. Around one hundred of those emails are work-related. Another hundred or so are solicited emails that I invited into my life. That’s correct, I willingly subject myself to extra email. “Mithridates, he died old”, the poem says.

But where do those last one hundred emails come from? A lot of them get dumped into my spam folder, and our company’s quarantine program catches many more. But plenty emails I was expecting to get are falsely flagged by the spam system and withheld.

What a shame. After all these years, you’d think marketers would have a better understanding of “best practices” in email marketing, but it continues to be a struggle. Why is that? Here are three reasons:

1) We never solved spam. Spammers still exist. According to this article, 81% of all email sent is spam. In a world where as many as 90 trillion emails are sent every year, that means we will never be able to live without spam. Sad, but true. The shields will always be up, which means you have to know your way around them.

2) More programs, more problems. Each email program comes with its own definitions of “spam” and its own rules for classifying junk. Same thing with internet service providers. So, even if you leap over the first IP blocking layer, you might not make it past the spam detection included with email apps like Outlook and Gmail. All these layers of programs and apps create headaches for people like me whose paycheck depends on bulk emails hitting the mark.

3) Ruthless scrutiny. As a user, sometimes I get so frustrated with the deluge of emails that I’ll just delete everything that’s not mission-critical simply to get my inbox in order. Some people in similar situations will naively mark everything they don’t have time for as spam because… well hey, why not? They don’t understand that by flagging an email as spam rather than merely deleting it, they are punishing the sender. Every email marked as spam negatively affects the reputation of that particular email sender. All those apps, programs and layers of security are keeping score. If too many people mark your emails as spam in a given time frame, you can get blacklisted. Then nothing’s going in or out.

It’s enough to make you crazy. How do we avoid this kind of insanity? By working smarter and harder on the things that affect your email deliverability.

Improving the Deliverability of Your Email Promotions

Content. Many of the phrases financial marketers depend on to get their message across to consumers are some of the most common spam triggers. Take a look at the ultimate list of email spam trigger words, and you’ll see terms like “credit,” “investments,” “loans,” “mortgage” and other expressions frequently used in the financial industry. Make sure whatever email marketing service you’re using has a built-in spam checker so you can scan your content before you send. Make sure to include your subject line when you spam check your content. The subject line is often neglected in a spam check and is often what keeps an email from hitting the inbox.

Image-to-Text Ratio. That’s a beautiful email you made there. Look at all the great art! Look at those beautiful color choices! And look at how many “blocked due to content” bounces you got! Why? Because images aren’t text, and email programs and spam catchers can’t parse anything from an image. A picture is only worth a thousand words in a figurative sense — what you need are actual words. It’s not impossible to send an image-heavy email, but bear in mind a few things:

  • Alt Tags and Title Tags – They’re not just for show, they’re essential for those who can’t see images. Instead of the image, you get text, so the message isn’t totally crushed by an image that isn’t downloaded.
  • Have a little text – Often the thing that separates a blocked email from an opened email is a paragraph of text for each image. One major image with one paragraph of text can make a world of difference.
  • Optimized images – Size does matter. Larger images mean more time needed to download from the server means a greater likelihood of never being opened. Make sure you “travel light” with regards to content.

Sender Policy Framework. This might sound foreign to you, but understanding SPF and its impact on your deliverability rate is very important for financial marketers who want to send large volumes of email regularly. Why does SPF matter so much? Because spammers are less likely to try to imitate emails from an SPF-protected domain. Ask your email provider or your IT people about your SPF and DNS records. Make sure they’ve been implemented and are up-to-date.

Who The Heck Is This? What if you called someone every day and used a different name each time? Or a different phone number? Don’t “mix it up,” be consistent. Spammers will send the same message with a hundred different made-up names and fake addresses to try to slip through the protective layers around an address. Furthermore, when consumers that knows what your emails look like, whom they’re from and what to expect inside, they are much less likely to dismiss your messages or mark them as spam.

There are instances where a changes need to be made to increase deliverability. One credit union saw that emails from the “Collections Department” didn’t get opened, so they changed their sender name to the “Member Services Department.” Then emails about missed payments gently titled “Did You Forget Something?” would get opened by members nearly every time.

Sending to Ghosts. Maybe the reason I’ve stopped getting those emails you’ve been sending me is the fact that you’re using an address I haven’t used in three years. After the past few years of economic woe, people are leaving jobs, changing careers, and starting over in many other ways, so what’s to say that you have the right address?

Every year-to-eighteen months, make it a point to get your staff involved in updating information for your customers and members. Put bounties on corrected or updated email addresses and reward the staff member or teller that brings you the most in a cycle. Why is this important? Because sending a lot of messages to nobody makes you look like an idiot, that’s why.

Here’s hoping you take all this to heart. Maybe now, I’ll get your emails.

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