Make sure your email reaches its target
A few simple rules to maximise your email's chance of getting through to your potential client's inbox.
Writing the Email
Once you start writing about your own product, it is easy to become effusive about its superiority to the competition and the benefits it offers. Be careful not to use language that is too over-blown or your email may get caught up in a spam filter. Filters work by monitoring the content of emails and assigning each email a 'spam score'. The higher the score, the more likely the email is spam (defined as unsolicited bulk mail). Users, ie your prospects, can set the level of spam score that they are happy to accept in an email. Here is a list of phrases that will raise your email's spam score. Using one or two of them in an email is OK, but go overboard and your email will be picked up as unsolicited mail and will not reach the inbox.
- "ORDER NOW!!!"
- "Special Offer"
- "HUGE Savings"
- "No obligation"
- "Save £££"
- "Save money today"
- "MASSIVE DISCOUNT"
Multiple use of capital letters, exclamation marks, pound signs and dots to create suspense . . . . .(three dots is grammatically correct) are signs that your email is an advert that overpromises and is thus classified as unsolicited mail.
Linking To Your Website
Do not put too many links to web pages in your email. Two or three links are fine in a short email, but put in more than 6 links and your email's spam score goes up.
Using Pictures & Graphics
If you are using pictures, use them sparingly and try not to send one large picture with only a few words. Filters cannot read words inside pictures, so spammers often try to hide their message in a large graphic. Some filters are set to assume that emails with big pictures and few words are hiding banned content in the picture and are set to reject these emails.
If you are tempted to brighten up your email by using colours on the text, again do so sparingly. Colour does indeed draw the eye, but this is another tactic used by spammers (and sales people) and so some filters are set up to reject emails with multi-coloured writing. Would you send an email to your own MD using red, purple and green text? Probably not.
Sending the Email
If you are sending the email out yourself using something like MS Outlook (only suitable for email campaigns of fewer than 500 emails), make sure that your email comes from a personal email address, rather than a generic address such as sales@ or info@. This is another sign to the filters that your communication is unsolicited mail.
Use a server with a static IP address
Most companies will have set up their broadband connection and email server by paying a little extra every month to have a static IP address, which means that your email server always sends emails using the same IP address.
Do not use a server which is on a blacklist
If you send a large amount of emails which are rejected or picked up as unsolicited mail, your server will be blacklisted and its IP address added to lists of known spammers. The most well known of these lists is SpamHaus, but there are 100 others and they circulate lists of IP addresses to telecoms and ISPs in an attempt to prevent spammers and malware getting through to inboxes. If your IP address is on a blacklist, your emails will not be delivered and you will get a large number of emails bouncing back. Find out your IP address, type it into a blacklist checker and spend some time figuring out why this has happened. Then contact the blacklist and ask to be removed from the list. Get in touch with your ISP to get your IP address white-listed.
My Emails Bounced Back - WHY?
Within minutes of hitting send on an email campaign, your inbox will fill up with responses.
1 Out of Office - If you receive an out of office reply, this means that your email arrived in the inbox but the person is not sitting at their PC and has not read it yet. This is not a bounce-back, this should be taken as confirmation that the email arrived.
2 Mr Smith has left - a message comes back saying that the person you emailed left recently (usually within the last month) and either that the email has been forwarded to a replacement or gives you an alternative email. Make a note of the new address and send them your e-shot.
3 Undeliverable - Every email that comes back marked 'undeliverable' will have an SMTP error code in the text which gives you a clue as to why the email bounced back. A serious digital marketer will get to know these error codes and learn the difference between a 'soft bounce' and a 'hard bounce'. Note that email list providers such as Electric Marketing do offer refunds on 'hard bounces' so it makes sense to separate them out and claim a refund.
SMTP error code 4.4.1. Network Issues A soft bounce as your email did not reach its target because one of the servers it passed through was broken. Sometimes the message will say that the server will continue trying to send the email for 48 hours in which case do nothing. If the issue is fixed, your email will get through later. If you get another message after 48 hours saying the server is 'giving up', try sending the email to the address again a week or so later. Network issues are outside an email list providers control, so no refunds are available.
SMTP error code 5.1.1 and 5.5.0 Email does not exist (usually a spelling error in the person's name) or email no longer exists, so the person has left the company. These are hard bounces, completely down to the email provider and worthy of a refund. Gather all your 5.1.1 and 5.5.0 responses together, put the email addresses in an Excel file and send them to your list provider for a refund. Or if you are using an in-house list, get on the phone to the company and find out the correct spelling or name of the replacement person. Your email has not been forwarded to nor seen by anyone at that company.
SMTP error code 5.1.3 Bad syntax in email address meaning that you may have the right address but with a dash in the wrong place or two dots eg jane..firstname.lastname@example.org
SMTP error code 5.4.1 Another hard bounce as the domain name (the company name that comes after the @) is incorrect. Usually happens when a company has recently changed its name.
SMTP error code 5.2.3 The message is too large. Some servers will limit the amount of data on one email, so if say, you have attached a brochure to your e-shot, try changing your message and sending it without a large attachment. You can put in a line saying 'reply to this email to request a brochure' and post it.
SMTP error code 5.2.2 Inbox is full. This usually indicates that the person is still working for the company but is on an extended break, maybe a year's sabbatical or sick leave.
SMTP error code 5.1.5 Too many recipients on the sent message. You have sent the email to too many people at the same company and some servers are set up to reject this. Try sending the emails again to a few people at a time. This is a soft bounce.
SMTP error code 5.7.1 Email access denied. This is a tough one as it means that your email or your email server has been blocked either by the company's server or by the person you are emailing. If you persist in emailing them over and over, your IP address may be added to a blacklist. Unfortunately the channel of email marketing is closed to you for this person, so send them a letter or get on the phone and try to talk them round.
Scrutinizing SMTP codes will never be the most exciting job on your to-do list, but you can improve your response rates by looking at why your emails bounced back. Change your email heading, alter your copy, use a different image, switch from plain text to HTML, make the email longer or shorter - all these aspects affect whether your email is picked up by a filter or not. Remember that filters are set to different levels from strict to liberal, depending on your target's personal preference or (more likely) the preference of their company IT manager.
Remember to keep a record of your email campaign results. How many orders did the email generate, how many appointments, enquiries, phone calls. Listen to your prospects when you speak to them. Did they understand the email and did they know how to respond? Were they the right people to contact or did they forward your email up the corporate ladder, sideways to another department or down to a subordinate. Make note of all comments and incorporate them into your next emailing campaign.
One of the best things about email marketing is that different creative approaches can be tested. So if you have two ideas for a headline, try one out on a small proportion of the list and if response is poor, try the other idea on a second batch.
Remember that re-mailing the same list often works well, as long as you are careful to remove the hard-bounces and the people who have already responded. Electric Marketing does not charge you for re-mailing a list.
If you get a great response and you are really pleased with your list, please drop us a line so that we can use your comments on our website.