E-marketing part I: The basics

It has been almost two years since we have started to develop our communication centre service (http://invio.innove.it) to let clients to design, schedule and deliver their e-mail marketing campaigns.
Many things has changed since then, we deeply studied the e-marketing subject, we everyday use our service as clients do and we are constantly improving it with new functionalities and better usability.

This excerpt wants to highlight some of the key concepts we have been through about e-marketing.

Why e-mail marketing?

  • Because we all need to keep constantly posted our address book, clients, prospects, partners and suppliers with all kind of relevant information.
  • Because we all want to spread the word and have more customers.
  • Because the “Marketing 2.0 trend” is based on strategies for closer customer relationships.
  • How to do this?

  • Get an e-mail marketing service or product to send your campaign
  • Use your e-mail signature to reach a goal. Say something beneath the signature, promote your new product or just call on subscription to the newsletter. Do not use unclear or massive awkward message whatsoever. Do make it readable even in text format.
  • The email subject:

  • 4 words are enough
  • Do not use accents but use apostrophes instead
  • Do not use special characters
  • You can use a number to catch the attention
  • The email message:

  • CSS must be inline
  • Email weight should be less than 100kb
  • Width less than 680px
  • Put relevant information on first 3/6 rows cause some devices initially download only the very first part.
  • Use relative values for fonts size
  • Use hexadecimal codes for setting colors
  • Put the title attribute on every image and link tag as well as the attribute alt for every image
  • Use BR instead of P
  • Keep the code clean (http://infohound.net/tidy/)
  • Some tags should be removed. BODY, META, HEAD, TITLE, SCRIPT, …
  • Use PSPad instead of Word
  • Contents should be within a fixed width table with fixed width TD
  • Do not use DIV with absolute position
  • Check every link before send
  • How to write an email for Outlook 2007.

    It is still popular among many businesses (http://litmus.com/resources/email-client-stats) but it is a really messy client.
    Here it is some guidelines to write a compatible Outlook 2007 email.

  • DIVs and inner table don’t preserve background color specification
  • External or embedded CSS are ignored. You can only use inline CSS. More here: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/aa338201(v=office.12).aspx
  • Microsoft has released a validation tool for this: http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/en/details.aspx?familyid=0b764c08-0f86-431e-8bd5-ef0e9ce26a3a&displaylang=en
  • How to write an email for mobile phones.

    It is almost impossible to create a template that renders perfectly on all devices. There are so screen sizes, operating systems, fonts, …
    By the way Nokia, iPhone and Blackberry are the most widespread.
    Standard Nokia has 25 characters for the sender name and email address, 32 characters for the subject and it is not available the message preview. In this case it is important to add a plain text link to the alternative web page to see the message properly.
    The latter has 15 characters for the subject and often shows the first three content rows.
    Other as iPhone, latest BB or Windows Mobile based devices directly render the HTML.
    A useful mobile validator is: http://validator.w3.org/mobile/ .

    How to improve deliverability?

    Simply preventing to write email that can potentially be considered as spam.
    Bayesian spam filtering is a statistical technique of e-mail filtering that makes use of a naive Bayes classifier to identify spam e-mail.
    Bayesian classifiers work by correlating the use of tokens, with spam and non spam e-mails and then using Bayesian statistics to calculate a probability that an email is or is not spam (Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bayesian_spam_filtering).
    Basically when the probability exceeds 5.0, the email is classified as spam. Someone uses a lower threshold to be more strict against spammers but exposing themselves into some false positive.

    Some tips for legitimate senders to avoid false positives: http://wiki.apache.org/spamassassin/AvoidingFpsForSenders

    A practical example.

    Something to avoid writing the subject:

  • Do not use all uppercase characters (~0.5 points)
  • Avoid exclamation points (~0.4 points)
  • Do not write FREE all uppercase (~0.4 points)
  • Do not use as first word €10.000(~1 point), “Free” or “Hello” (~1.6 points)
  • Do not start with the username (~3 points)
  • Do not use empty spaces (~2.6 points)
  • Something to avoid writing the body:

  • Gappy text (e.g. I m p r e s s i v e)
  • Numeric url as link
  • Incorrect links
  • Malformed tags
  • Something better to do:

    1. Email subject should be exhaustive and not tricky
    2. Supply your server with the following authentication technologies:
    DomainKeys Identified Mail – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DomainKeys_Identified_Mail
    Sender Policy Framework – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sender_Policy_Framework
    Sender ID – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sender_ID
    3. Subscribe to IAB and RIPE
    4. Use a static IP address to send
    5. Create an abuse@senderdomain.com email address where gather complaints.

    Some other notes:

  • If you send to the USA make sure recipients can unsubscribe just replying to the email sender. For more info go to Definitions and Implementation Under the CAN-SPAM Act
  • Do not buy distribution list. Most of the time they are fake and have spamtraps that are usually e-mail addresses that are created not for communication, but rather to lure spam. In Italy only B2B lists are allowed.
  • You need to ensure you have consent to send commercial email and fax. By the way the responsible is the company that send and not the company that manages the infrastructure to deliver them.
  • Make sure your solution keeps track of the IP address of a new subscriber as well as the date and time. This can be useful in case of a contentious or if an unfair competitor record your email address in a spam trap.
  • Find partners that let clients to subscribe to your newsletter simply selecting a flag in the subscription form.
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