More than half of marketers are now using some level of automated email, and the capabilities of email marketing platforms continue to proliferate. There are some basic relationship-centric principles every automated marketer should follow in order to keep their audience. ddm Automated Marketing Manager Christa Savickas shares some insights into growing and maintaining an email list.
Q. If a company wants to add automated solutions to their email marketing, what’s a good starting point to understanding the field?
First off is to know what email is and isn’t for. Something that is really important for clients to understand is that email is not used for lead generation. List acquisition is part of lead generation, but email is not going to grow your list. Email with automated marketing is more for nurturing and cross-selling than it is for acquiring.
Secondly, it’s important to have your data all in one place. Clean—and consistent—data is a frequent issue when we start with a client new to marketing automation. Ideally, you have it all in a CRM or a data warehouse. Data that’s not connected to anything is useless.
Q. Okay, so where does an effective emailing list come from?
For a good list, we’re talking about leads that you earn. For that, you’re going to need to talk about your social strategy, your media strategy, and your referral strategy. And let’s not forget your sales team—how they are utilizing and updating your company’s CRM is key. That’s how you’re going to grow your list. And putting out really good content is going to grow your list the most. From an automation standpoint, you can only automate what you have data for. Your collection of content and data is what’s going to get you the information you need.
Q. What’s the most important overlooked consideration when it comes to automated marketing emails?
What I think people don’t put enough emphasis on are the permissions around sending to their recipients. Many don’t take the opt-out process seriously. Those things are easy to miss when you just want to get up and running. But if you don’t have an organized, transparent way for your recipient to choose what they will receive, people are going to opt out of all email communication—and now you won’t be able email them anything because you didn’t give them a choice.
One of the best solutions is to have a subscription center for your automated emails. When you let people manage their subscriptions and determine on their own what they want to receive, retention and new subscriptions improve.
Related to that, we see a lot of success in onboarding campaigns. An onboarding campaign is a great way to ensure your subscribers understand their options. You can inform them they have been added to a subscription and allow them to manage all subscriptions, so they are only receiving what they want. This is a great time to ask for additional information as well if you are only asking for an email address at sign-up.
Q. You have your list and you’re ready to set up automation. Should you be worried when you’re basically putting your communications on autopilot?
Let’s not think of your automations as being on autopilot. Think of them as an efficiency. Just because you’ve automated a process doesn’t mean you should set it and forget it. One of the biggest benefits of automating emails is that it frees up more time to optimize rather than having to rebuild time after time. All automated processes should be regularly audited to ensure the content is still relevant and everything is still functioning as expected.
Q. That makes sense. Still, where automations are involved, should you be worried about sending too many email communications to your prospects and turning them off?
Honestly, you don’t have to worry too much about bothering people with email if you are following best practices. If you have a clear opt-in and opt-out process, they are choosing to get it from you and know how to tell you they’ve changed their mind. If the recipient is expecting your email because they’ve opted in, you’re not running any risk of turning them off unless your content isn’t relevant. Many companies that send emails more than once a week add an option to their preference center to choose the cadence of emails.
When we talk with clients, the frequency of the send isn’t the fear. It’s more about cadence. When someone abandons a cart, do we wait a day, or do we send something in an hour? Do we send another email in a day, in a week, in two weeks? Those are the types of things we generally have to consider.
Q. Lists of leads are available for purchase in just about every segment of any industry. What about using those?
Don’t. A lot of people still think it’s OK to buy a list and send to it because, technically, it’s not against the law in the United States. But it can easily lead to being sent to spam and having high bounce rates—which could prevent you from reaching people who want to receive your emails. Many marketing automation platforms have strict rules about who you can upload into their system. They expect that you’ve received explicit consent from subscribers before an email is sent.
Q. What bad things can happen if your list isn’t acquired or maintained properly?
Being reported for spam is the worst thing that can happen to you, because that tells the email provider that probably everything you send is spam. That could mean that now, even that person who wants to get your emails can’t get them.
Things that would send your email into spam and eventually hurt your sender reputation: if they don’t expect the email from you. If you hide your unsubscribe option. If you have spammy subject lines. If your content isn’t relevant. Sending too many, eventually. If you’re sending a couple of emails per day and you’re not giving your recipient a way to opt out. If you don’t process their opt-out request.
Q. By law, if you use email marketing you have to have an unsubscribe link, correct?
Yes. Some marketers are tempted to make the unsubscribe link subtle, or even hide it. But that’s counterproductive. You’d much rather have them unsubscribe than have them report the email as spam… and that’s what they’ll do if they can’t easily find the unsubscribe link.
Even when you have a subscription center, you have to make sure you’re clear on how to unsubscribe from all.
Q. You mentioned bounces. What could result from sending too many emails that bounce?
Ultimately, your marketing automation platform can lock you out of your account.
All marketing automation platforms have you make agreements, usually with a series of check boxes. You need to verify that you have permission to send to your list. And if your emails hit too high of a bounce rate, they will lock your account. Your bounce rate should be less than 1 percent, always.
Q. What makes an email bounce?
In the B2B environment, the biggest reason for bounced emails is that your recipient no longer works for the company. An email address that has been decommissioned is treated as a bad email address, just like one that’s unmailable because it’s misspelled.
There are also soft bounces, which are temporary. An email server could be down temporarily, or the user’s inbox could be full. Usually, it’s a temporary problem and has to do with servers. But after a certain number of soft bounces, the platform will stop trying to send and consider it a hard bounce. And when you have a hard bounce to a recipient, the platform will never try to send to them again.
This is all helpful information. Anything else I should to know?
There’s plenty! Automations enable us to optimize our marketing and it’s always important to focus on the basics. I’d encourage anyone wanting to learn more to check out our resources for crafting high-performing emails and auditing your company’s campaigns, as well as advice on how to keep automated parts of your marketing campaign authentic and personalized.