Recent Posts

3 Tactics For Stepping Up Your Email Marketing

Written on August 16th, 2012 | Posted by in Eec, Email marketing, Email tactics

In email marketing - as with any other profession - it's easy to get in a rut. We have a system. It works pretty well. We stick with it. However, times are changing, your customers are changing, and that means that your email strategy needs to follow suit.

In this video from CRMSoftware.TV, Bryan Brown, the Director of Product Strategy at Silverpop, explains three tactics for taking an outdated email strategy and turning it into an outstanding one. Bryan's advice is not only insightful, but it's also practical, leaving you with a plan that you can begin implementing immediately.

Click here to watch the video and be sure to leave your comments below.

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What’s Hot in Email Marketing: Symbol in Subject Lines

Written on August 10th, 2012 | Posted by in Eec, Email marketing, Email trends, Email design, Subject lines

With billions of emails being sent to subscribers on a daily basis, it’s difficult for email marketers to make sure their emails stand out in the crowded inbox.  Over the years, email marketers have tried various tactics, like adding the recipient’s name to the subject line or sending fake apology emails, to make subscribers notice and open their emails.  Obviously, some of these were more effective than others (please don’t send a fake apology email, so tacky!).

So what’s the latest trend in making your emails pop?  Using symbols in subject lines!

Have you noticed any of these in your inbox yet?  Several well-known marketers like LivingSocial, Lululemon, Lowes, The Body Shop, and Shoe Dazzle, have been testing out this tactic, and it has certainly made me take notice! 

Here are some examples of marketers using Unicode symbols in their subject lines:

There are many more symbols you can use too, get a full list of Unicode symbols here.  There are smiley faces, rain clouds, shamrocks, coffee mugs, musical notes, astrological symbols … the list goes on.  Because there are so many choices, it’s important to determine which would work best for your mailings.  There are some obvious choices: hearts for Valentine’s Day, shamrocks for St. Patrick’s Day, suns for summer mailings.  But try to think outside the box too!  Add an umbrella when sending on a rainy day, a coffee (hot cocoa) mug when sending in the winter, or a telephone when your call to action is to call into your company.

While there are seemingly endless possibilities when using these symbols, it’s also important to not go overboard!  If symbols in subject lines are used too much, they will become white noise and won’t make the impact that you’re hoping for.  So use them sparingly and make sure each time you use them, it will wow your subscribers and grab their attention.

It’s also important to note that these Unicode symbols will not work in every email client.  In addition, some of the symbols won’t render well on the small screen and will end up looking smushed and unrecognizable.  Use a pre-deployment rendering tool, like Return Path’s Campaign Preview, to test your subject line and see how it will render in various different email clients, including mobile devices.

I have heard some marketers question whether adding symbols to subject lines will affect deliverability.  In the research I’ve done so far, I have not seen that to be the case, and all of the examples showcased above were delivered to the inbox versus the junk folder.  However, with that being said, I do recommend that you send your campaign into a deliverability tool, like Return Path’s Mailbox Monitor, so that you can monitor your inbox versus junk placement and determine if deliverability is impacted by these Unicode symbols.

Finally, a good rule of thumb when trying anything new is to run an A/B test first.  Start by sending to a small test segment of your list.  Fifty percent of that test segment should receive the subject line with the symbol and the other 50% should receive the same subject line without the symbol (and remember to keep all other variables – From line, creative, call-to-action, offer – the same for the most effective test).  Allow that test to run, and then compare open/read/click rates.  This will allow you to see if including a symbol in the subject line works for your company and subscribers.  The winning subject line, with or without the symbol, should then be sent to the remainder of your list.

So what are you waiting for?  Give this latest trend a try with your own mailings!  And don’t wait too long … jump on the bandwagon now when seeing a symbol is still a fun, intriguing surprise for subscribers.

Have you seen any symbols in subject lines of emails you’ve received recently?  What did you think, were they effective in gaining your attention?  As a marketer, have you sent any emails with symbols in the subject lines, and how was the email performance compared to non-symbol subject lines?  I’d love to hear your experiences, please comment below!

Joanna Roberts

Account Manager

Return Path

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Content Marketing’s Role in Email Marketing

Written on August 2nd, 2012 | Posted by Marco Marini in Eec, Email, Email marketing, Content marketing, Multi-purpose marketing

While we were updating our ESP selection guide last year, “integration” was the recurring theme. Email is no longer a standalone marketing channel. Integrating email with social media marketing, web analytics and more has become a necessary capability for many email marketers.

And integrating email with content marketing is part of that holistic approach.

Content and email are ideally suited for a symbiotic marketing relationship. Content marketing can both inform and draw from email marketing.

Create Once, Use Repeatedly

As you’re planning your content pieces, whether that content consists of words, video, photos, podcasts, webinars, infographics, or a slideshow, consider also how you can promote that content to your in-house email list. Maybe it’s a B2B webinar, a tradeshow video or a cookbook offer. Whatever the content and your method of lead generation, consider making that same content available to appropriate people on your email list too.

As long as your content marketing program is healthy and strong, you’ll always have relevant reasons to email your audience or at least some segment thereof.

We call that creating once, using repeatedly. And that’s how your content marketing can give your email marketing a boost.

You can also use your email marketing to improve your content offerings by testing to see which type of content gets the best response rate. Maybe you thought your audience would prefer video but email marketing A/B testing shows a preference for whitepapers. Or perhaps your case study offer falls flat but your archived webinar does wonders when they go head to head while testing your offer. No matter the winner, you can use that information to refine your content marketing program, offering more of the types of content your audience seems to want. 

Use Email, Get Content

Content marketing can inform your email marketing program…and it can draw from it too, when you use your email platform for generating more content.

Your email newsletter should be considered part of your content marketing strategy and probably already is. Less obvious, however, is the messaging created specifically for your email marketing campaigns, and even the one-off emails sent by your sales or service teams. Review the messages created as part of your email marketing program to find nuggets or even gems you can repurpose elsewhere as part of your content marketing strategy. Also keep tabs on the information your employees send out in response to email inquiries. These can be very targeted and readable pieces of content you can repurpose in your blog, newsletter, case studies or elsewhere.

Also consider using email to conduct surveys and solicit customer feedback. These can be sought after via email and the content provided by your customers can then be repurposed and used in online marketing, your blog or in your social media. Ask subscribers to submit photos, videos or even drawings, and you’ll open up a whole new avenue for content generation that can’t help but be relevant, since it’s your customers who created it.

Email is the multi-purpose marketing channel that can be integrated with pretty much every other marketing channel, whether that’s a technical integration or a tactical one. Make sure your content and email marketing strategies are working together to maximize your results from both.

Marco Marini, CEO

ClickMail Marketing

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What’s Hot in Email Marketing: Responsive Email Design

Written on July 11th, 2012 | Posted by in Eec, Email marketing, Responsive email design, Email trends

As an account manager at Return Path, I get to talk to clients about what’s hot in the email world.  I have lots of conversations with clients about the newest trends, and what’s not so popular anymore.  So what’s the next new thing in email marketing?  Responsive email design! 

Have you ever noticed that your carefully crafted email doesn’t always look great on the small screens used for tablets and mobile devices?  Historically, email marketers have designed for the typical 1024 x 768 screen and, because of the typical email preview pane size, have been advised to keep email width around 650 pixels.  However, with the growth of smart phones and tablets, this one-size-fits-all approach isn’t necessarily best practice anymore. 

Here’s where responsive email design comes in.  Using CSS3 coding technique called “media queries,” you can design your email to automatically re-format and re-size itself to optimize for whatever screen size your recipient is using to read your email.  It can also be used to hide non-essential elements of the email from the mobile reader, thus making sure the main call-to-action of the email is easily found, and can change various other elements of the email, including text size and color, background images and background color. 

So how can you think about this in terms of your own emails?  The most basic use of responsive email design is your email layout.  Let’s say your typical email format is a 3-column layout.  Using responsive email design, you can now design two other versions: a two-column layout for tablets and a one-column layout for mobile devices.  This will ensure that your reader is always seeing the most important parts of your email, no matter what size screen they are using. 

Of course, as with any new email trend, it’s important to understand the impact and test the effectiveness of responsive email design.  First, use a tool like Return Path’s Campaign Insight to ensure you have a large enough mobile audience to justify the additional design work.  If you do decide to move forward with responsive email design, use a rendering tool like our Campaign Preview to ensure your responsive email formats correctly in desktop, webmail and mobile views.  One thing to note is that responsive email design works only in the native mail apps in the iPhone and Android.  Recipients reading emails on their mobile devices using either the mobile browser or proprietary email apps (for example, the Gmail app) will see the desktop version of the email.  And finally, don’t forget to track open and click-through rates so you can quantify the impact this new technique has on your email metrics. 

Have you already tried responsive email design?  We’d love to hear more about it!  Please leave a comment below with your feedback, learnings and successes. 

This post originally appeared on Return Path’s In the Know Blog.

By Joanna Roberts

Account Manager

Return Path

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More Proof You Need to Focus On Your Sending Reputation

Written on June 25th, 2012 | Posted by in Eec, Sending reputation, Email marketing, Email, Deliverability


Don’t blame the ISPs for your mail landing in the spam folder.  Blame the spammers.  Over 85% of email received into our network of ISPs around the world is considered spam.  This creates a herculean task for ISPs to ensure that the email ecosphere is safe and trusted, and that good messages get delivered to the inbox and bad ones are blocked or sent to the spam folder.

The spam folder can make or break a business and even careers.  Using content filters, one of the oldest methods to stop spam, requires a lot of user training, is slow, and isn’t scalable.  More importantly, content filters are easily duped by sophisticated spammers and are prone to high false positives.  For most businesses, false positives mean lost revenue and the inability to communicate with customers.  But for aMichigan candidate running for a public post, a false positive meant nearly not making it on the ballot, and a false positive for the Maine GOP caucus nearly caused disenfranchisement.  ISPs know that false positives can have negative consequences, so they really do want to get the right email delivered to the right folder.

The key to stopping spam is in predicting it.  By looking at IP addresses and common sending behaviors, ISPs can stop most spam very quickly.  A quick look in your Gmail inbox with the absence of any spam is a testament to how well reputation filters work. 

Looking at data from Sender Score, similar to a credit score for an IP address (having a range from 0 – 100, with 100 the best) you can see how reputation really does determine what’s delivered to the inbox, the spam folder, or blocked.

1.   Gmail and Hotmail – Having a score above 90 means that about 80% or more of your mail is delivered to the inbox.  A score between 80 and 90 on average has only 62% of email delivered.  A score below 80 has less than 39% inbox placement rates.

2.  Yahoo – A score above 90 has 90% inbox placement rate, a score between 80 and 90 has an 80% rate, and anything below that has a mere 56% chance of reaching the inbox.

A quick look in your spam folder, on the other hand, shows that some emails are still mistakenly being flagged as spam. The key is knowing what data to look at, and then making sure you don’t look like a spammer.

1.   Subscriber complaints – the number of subscribers marking an email as spam is the most common reputation measurement tool.  Most marketing emails struggle with this, as more and more people use the spam button to delete and unsubscribe from mail they signed up for.  Based on the data we see for mailers with the highest deliverability rates, complaint rates should be less than .1%.

2.  Spam traps – The second most accurate predictor of whether or not an email is spam.  Some marketers acquire these through a third party, but most though lax mailing practices where once-real email addresses are converted into spam traps.  Senders with a Sender Score above 90 typically never hit any spam traps. Yes, you read that right: never.

3.  Unknown Users are also a good predictor if an IP address is sending spam or not.  Most marketers typically don’t need to worry about this unless their bounce handling system is broken, they start to mail to addresses they haven’t mailed to in a while, or if they acquire email lists.  The best senders have unknown user rates less than .2%, and major deliverability problems start to occur if you go over 5%.

4.  Sending history – Ever since spammers started hijacking PCs to send spam, ISPs rarely trust a new IP address.  As anyone who has moved to a new ESP or switched to a new IP knows, building up a reputation from scratch can take a long time.  Our data shows that it can take, on average, 30 days to establish a good sending reputation.

So anyone whose business relies on email should do two things:  stop devoting so much effort to bypassing content filters, and focus more on improving one’s sending reputation.   Having a good reputation has the benefit of being able to bypass content filters.  Just ask Pfizer.

The good news is everyone can achieve a great email sending reputation.  Monitor your reputation, look at the right data, and the inbox is yours.

This post originally appeared on MediaPost.


By Tom Sather

Director, Professional Services

Return Path



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