12 Mar 2019

Beginners Guide to Email Marketing

Beginners Guide to Email Marketing

For many clients who utilise our services, buying a list of key decision makers which they can communicate with, is just the starting point and we often say to these clients that “it doesn’t help having a list of key contact people, if you don’t know how to use it”

AfriSeek offers it’s clients a critical service and product that if used correctly can not only drastically shorten the sales cycle and improve the bottom line, but can have a marked impact on the long term sustainability of their business. The basic goal of any employee within the sales, marketing and business development disciplines is to actively identify and communicate with new prospective clients. This function, although very simple in purpose, is much more complicated in action. For instance, identifying the relevant companies, obtaining up to date contact information, knowing which industry segments to apply (if these are at all available), identifying the relevant decision makers within these companies and ultimately communicating with them can be extremely complex when you take into account that there are a plethora of online resources available, all with their own categorisation systems, and with very differing levels of contactability.

AfriSeek aims to simplify this process and enable our clients to immediately start contacting prospective clients and decision makers and spend more time on generating leads and closing sales, than on researching these prospects. For many of our clients the preferred method of communication is to send an introductory email to their target audience and depending on the list size, there are certain mistakes to avoid as outlined below:

For clients with less than 1000 key contacts, some clients prefer to do individual sends using an email signature in their email sending programme and send a small batch of emails out each day. This is perhaps one of the most effective methods to use as deliveries are maximised, but the workload in doing each email individually, as well as tracking which emails were opened, responded to etc can be time consuming and can often require the services of a dedicated employee or excellent organisational skills. It is however feasible to do a mail merge within the Microsoft stable of products, by using the “MAILINGS” function within Microsoft Word (How to use Mail Merge to send bulk email message), creating a template, and then sending a personalised email out to your target audience.

It is advisable to contact your hosting company / ISP to determine what the hourly/daily email sending limit is. Most ISP’s will have a cap of anywhere between 50 and 400 emails that can be sent per hour. You will need to ensure that you keep each mailmerge send below this hourly limit to avoid having your domain and IP address blacklisted. Additionally if you do simply send all emails out at the same time you will end up with a large number of emails being returned as your ISP will block you from sending further emails once your hourly/daily threshold has been met. We have had clients that have had their domain and IP address blacklisted for flouting these sending limits so take care.

With larger sending volumes it is imperative to ensure you use a sending system that is geared to larger volumes and can handle things such as bounces and unsubscribes. Unsubscribe links are actually required by law within South Africa and most email sending platforms incorporate this so that people can opt-out from receiving further emails from you. It is also important that you utilise a system that can provide you with proper feedback on how many emails were sent, opened, clicks etc. Different systems have different pro’s and con’s with some of the more technically challenging systems providing more control on your IP address reputation which can mean much better delivery, open and click through rates, while others allow you to share IP addresses with other senders, but the downside of this is your delivery will be lower as reputation issues with other senders will mean a higher percentage of soft bounces.

We have some clients that utilise email validation software to check emails prior to uploading them to their sending system. These systems work fine for small quantities but as soon as you start sending larger email validation requests to specific servers, these larger volumes trigger soft bounce responses whereby validation requests are blocked due to volume limits being exceeded. We utilise two main validation processes, the first being an smtp ping response service which helps us identify hard bounces, and the second is when we actually send emails out and we analyse the detailed results of the campaigns we carry out to remove confirmed hard bounces. A valid email can be undelivered for a variety of reasons but typically fall into two categories as outlined below and it’s important to differentiate between these reasons:

A. Hard Bounces – Address could not be found, Address unknown, Address Rejected, Address does not exist etc

B. Soft Bounces – Denied by policy, Suspected Spam, sending IP Address blacklisted, Banned Sender, Blocked Sender, temporary receiving issues etc

Spread the load. By this I am referring to a few practices that many clients are unaware of. As our lists typically have a higher concentration of business emails you can end up with cases of a few hundred or even thousand emails belonging to the same domain. The domain is that part of the email address after the ‘@’ sign in an email address. In these instances if you send ALL of the emails to the one company at the same time, the bulk of your emails will NOT get delivered. High volume sends originating from the same sending IP address within a narrow timeframe will be flagged by receiving servers and they will simply block the emails from being delivered. It is advisable to randomise lists by first name, and split the lists into smaller parts (e.g. split 50k emails into 3 lists of 16k each) and spread the send over a few days.

Also change the subject line for each send, as well as the ‘from’ name. Do NOT sort the list by company name and send out as this will mean people will be grouped by company name and as such ALL people in that company will be sent the email at the same time which will mean a higher chance of emails NOT getting delivered. Some systems allow you to throttle the sending volumes to a certain volume per hour which can mean better delivery and hence better opens.

After your initial send, it is advisable to split those people who opened your original email from those who did NOT open the introductory email. This way you can ensure delivery to those people who have opened/responded will not be adversely affected by those people who do NOT open. You can also send different messages to each group, thereby maximising your chances of generating leads/sales. You must also remember that sending systems consider a variety of factors when maintaining your account. If you send high volumes but get very few opens, while getting high unsubscribe rates, this will indicate to the sending system that your recipients do not find what you are sending them to be of interest. Subsequently you can end up being put onto a poorer reputation batch of sending IP addresses, which adversely impacts your future sends.

Some clients take it as far as removing their active records and putting these on a separate sending system where delivery will be maximised, and then maintaining their unopened records on a volume sending account which is targeted at getting emails through to prospects, and once they interact, moving them to an ‘active’ sending account where the open and response rates will be much higher.

What about Popi and GDPR? South Africa has recently made progress in beefing up it’s legislation to clamp down on the unauthorised processing of private information. This legislation is largely aimed at ensuring companies adequately protect the information of their clients and even goes as far as threatening large financial penalties and even prison sentences in cases where companies are found to have not sufficiently protected the information of their clients. In Europe similar, but more stringent regulations in the form of the GDRP (General Data Protection Regulation) have been implemented with a view to ensuring companies protect the data they hold. We often have clients that mention these regulations and ask about the legalities around acquiring lists for B2B initiatives and there are a few things to take into account here.

AfriSeek specifically researches it’s data through publicly available records found on company websites, directories, social media etc. As such the details we hold for companies and decision makers is publicly disclosed. We do NOT hold any information relating to bank account details, ID numbers, account numbers, dependent details etc. Additionally, there has already been a precedent set in the European region whereby companies offering b2b products / services can send unsolicited email communications to people on their business email addresses, assuming there is ‘legitimate business interest’ to do so. So if you have a product/service that operates within a specific industry (e.g. Manufacturing & Production) or you provide a solution that is targeted at for instance HR Decision makers, you can contact these people to introduce your offering.

You will still need to ensure you offer an unsubscribe option to comply with ECT and CPA requirements. The purpose of these regulations is not to prevent people and companies from prospecting and introducing their product/services to new companies and decision makers, but rather to prevent the abuse and unlawful processing of people’s private information.

Email broadcasting is not an exact science! We often encounter anomalies where a valid email that was in fact delivered and we receive a reply on today, does not work or accept a delivered email the next day. There are a multitude of factors that can affect the delivery of an email such as the inclusion of spam trigger words in the subject line or body of the email (e.g. Free, Discount, Special etc), a temporary issue with the receiving email account, the hosting being suspended because of non-payment, mailbox being full, sending IP address rules, receiving server trigger rules etc. There are a variety of additional issues that can occur, however, it is important to be aware that diagnosing possible campaign delivery issues is a complex matter and as long as you take reasonable steps to follow best practice for sending your emails you should by and large avoid high non-delivery rates.

These are just some of the issues to be aware of when carrying out email sends. If you would like some recommendations on sending systems do get in touch at: sales@afriseek.com.
The AfriSeek Team

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