Just as in most aspects of business, there are three groups of folks that work with email marketing; the good, the bad and the ugly.
- The Ugly: Spammers. Unethical, list buying, product misspelling, most likely they are phishing for your identity, spammers. These unprofessional 'marketers' send millions of pieces of spam without any regard for the damage they're causing.
- The Bad: By this, I mean bad at email marketing, not bad folks mind you. They're often very good business people, too. Most have been in business or sales for many years, but they're new to email marketing. Being so green, they make a few blunders and they typically have no idea what kind of mess they're about to create for their spam rankings. If this is you, we're glad to see you around The AgencyBuzz blog. Continue educating yourself, and your staff, on email marketing best practices. You want to create an email marketing strategy that encompasses your brand and ethical business practices, not one that will sink your spam ranking and throw you into the abyss of junk mailboxes everywhere. My goal is to make all of you part of our last group, the Good.
- The Good: Businesses who practice email marketing following industry etiquette and delivery guidelines. Today, let's talk about etiquette and delivery guidelines so each of you makes a step toward the good.
Rule #1: The first rule of email marketing is to obtain permission before you email your materials to anyone. This really is a must. Building your own mailing list through outbound calling is one of the best ways to do this. I'm sure you have clients who you've not collected their email address, start here by giving them a call. If you buy lists of email addresses they will be loaded with bad or old addresses, and these are people who didn't opt-in to receive anything from you. Good email marketers also collect their list of email addresses from visitors to their own sites. This can take some time to build up your list using a newsletter subscription through your site, but you will be sure that everyone on your list actually wants to hear from you. You can also ask your existing contacts to reach out to people they know and share your information with their friends and family. You may already have a referral contest in place, and you could expand on that by adding newsletter referrals as well. This definitely counts as a new lead, and there will be potential to quote them on coverages they need. Your response rate to emails sent to contacts who've opted-in to your list (delivery rate, opens and click-throughs) will be considerably higher than if you're just sending stuff out to any ol' email address that comes your way.
Rule #2: You should always clean your mailing list. Despite the fact that you will be using an opt-in list from now on (hint, hint), it is always necessary to check emails for validity. Some contacts change their email addresses regularly and forget to update their information with you. You can do this easily by checking your mailing stats after every campaign. By contacting your recipients who have 'hard bounced' right away, you can stay on top of changes to their information. Separate the hard bounces from the soft bounces before you contact any of your bounced emails. A hard bounce means the email address is no longer valid at all, and your message will never be received (these are the folks to call). A soft bounce is a delay in receiving your message and may mean their inbox is full or they are having a technical issue. You don't need to call the soft bounces right away, but I would recommend monitoring these addresses and if they show up as a soft bounce more than once you can contact them for better information.
You should also check for invalid domains and typos to domains or extensions when you're initially entering a new contact into your database. Make sure you stop sending to people who've unsubscribed from your list immediately. Having an automated unsubscribe system in place makes this a much simpler process. AgencyBuzz offers an automated unsubscribe feature and once an address is opted out of your account, you cannot change that status in the system to ensure they will no longer be contacted by email.
Rule #3: Know and understand the laws when it comes to email marketing. Before starting your email marketing campaigns for the first time, you should read and comply with the CAN-SPAM laws to ensure compliance. AgencyBuzz is CAN-SPAM compliant and we monitor abuse reports to stay that way. Being CAN-SPAM compliant will help your send score which helps you spend less time in junk mail oblivion. You can read about being CAN-SPAM compliant here: http://business.ftc.gov/documents/bus61-can-spam-act-compliance-guide-business.
If you're thinking about skipping this step because you're strapped for time keep in mind, each separate violation of the CAN-SPAM Act is subject to penalties and fines of up to $16,000 for each email. Is the 5 or 10 minutes of your time it takes to read over the rules worth more than $16,000?
Rule #4: Try not to send too many emails or send emails too often. Unless you're a news or market source, you should try to keep your emails to one or two a month to regular subscribers. This can include your monthly newsletter or information about a referral contest you're having, etc. This is not your active leads that you're pursuing; this is your list of regular email subscribers who look forward to your newsletters and information about your agency. You run the risk of annoying or harassing your contacts by overloading their inbox with articles, blogs, and advertisements over and over. Try to include as much as you can in your monthly newsletter. Put yourself in their shoes is what this rule amounts too.
Rule #5: Make sure all aspects of your email work properly and it looks the way you intend BEFORE you send your mailings to your contact list. Send yourself a test mailing and click through all the links, check your spelling and spacing as well. Also, make sure your placement of information is where you meant for it to be. By testing your mailings you will alleviate embarrassing mistakes that could create an unprofessional appearance for your agency.
Rule #6: If you're not using a dedicated email marketing system or software product, do not show your mailing list to all of your recipients. Many times someone new to email marketing makes the mistake of entering their entire email list into the CC field of an email. This is a problem for MANY reasons but the main two are: You've given all of your clients email addresses out to everyone on your list and "Reply to All".
By following email marketing etiquette, you're taking steps to increase your open rate and the overall success of your email marketing campaigns. You should strive to be as good of an email marketer as you are an insurance agent.