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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Don't Rent an Email List ... It's a Waste of Money!

In an earlier blog, we discussed how to assemble a quality email list ... one that is more likely to lead to sales! We said that of the four methods of gathering the list (confirmed opt-in, unconfirmed opt-in, opt-out, and purchasing a list), buying it was NEVER a good idea!

Let's now discuss WHY it's never a good idea to buy an email list ...

First of all and most importantly: It doesn't work!

Where Do the Lists Come From? - List Brokers
List brokers provide lists of names, with contact info. There may also be various bits of demographic information, such as age or sex. Purchased lists are a common source of names for catalogues and many promotional offers. Often, the list broker is really just serving as a middleman, between the list owner and the potential buyer or renter.

More Isn't Necessarily Better!
Though purchasing a list is a quick way to grow the size of your mail list, it won't grow a Quality list ... which means it won't necessarily improve your sales at all! And, it could possibly hurt!

Even if there are hundreds of thousands of subscribers in your file, if most of them aren't opening, reading and clicking on your emails, what good is it?

In general, once a name ends up on a list, if that user never opts-out, the name stays on the list and messages continue to be sent to it. But, a recent action by went completely against this norm. sent out a series of emails asking subscribers to reconfirm they wanted to be on the mailing list. If a subscriber didn't respond within a certain period of time, the name was removed from the list. Although the list became considerably shorter, their response rate actually grew!

Remember that both consistently unopened/unread emails and, even more, clicks on the Spam button will hurt your sender reputation and, therefore, your ability to get email to the Inbox. The members of a purchased list are highly likely to fall almost entirely into these categories.

Ill-gotten Gains
It is never considered acceptable to send messages to email address that have been harvested on the Internet ... without permission ... or that are being guessed at, by only changing one letter at a time, in what is called a dictionary attack.

Another negative for purchased lists is that there is no way you can guarantee the list you buy will not have such names on it. Sending to such addresses will hurt your sender reputation.

Confirming Consent
It is important to have the consent of the receiver, before you send them emails. If you don't have this, your email can end up in the spam folder ... and we all know what that does to your sender reputation!

There are developing standards that explicitly define the acceptable ways to confirm consent. For example, a box is checked for one of several types of opt-ins ... or, a box isn't UNchecked for a pre-selected option in a signup form.

One thing is certain, however, and that is that the members of a purchased mail list will rarely feel they have given permission for any email they receive ... perhaps they only checked the box, because that was a requirement for entering a contest and they really liked the prize! Or, maybe they didn't notice the pre-checked box, when they were registering for something else. Whatever the reason, they aren't interested and they don't want the "information"!

These recipients are as likely to hit the spam button as anything else.

A similar situation is the assumed permission taken by a vendor, when someone places an order. The buyer is added to a mail list for promotions, though no consent was given. An incredible 31% of all vendors observed in one study by Return Path did this, with no mention of it during checkout. Another 5% mentioned the promotional emails, but gave no way to opt-out.

Purchased Lists - It Just Doesn't Work!
In November, All Web Email sent a previously tested and proven successful email offer to a rented list of 10,000 names, on three separate dates. The email also included either a 15% or a 20% discount offer.

The offer was for a high-end skin care product and the rented list contained generic "Health & Beauty" email addresses. The list came from a reputable opt-in list vendor ... one who mentioned client names like National Geographic, AT & T and Microsoft, to justify their rather pricey rental charge.

Earlier, the same email had been sent to confirmed subscribers and significant sales resulted. However, with three separate mailings to the rented list, the total sales were zero ... $00.00!

A fourth mailing had been planned, but simply wasn't worth the effort, even considering there would be no additional expense!

Remember that quality mail lists really are worth more ... the best quality lists are smaller, but they result in more sales! Although won't sell you an email list, we will help you manage and grow your lists.

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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Sender Must Render for the Spender!

Let's start by defining what is meant by "rendering" the email. Next, we'll talk about why it's important that it be properly rendered and why it frequently isn't! And, finally, we'll discuss how you can deal with the problems in rendering email.

Defining "Rendering"
Rendering is the conversion of a high-level object-based description into a graphical image, for display. Artistic rendering is the process of creating a work of art. In email marketing, it is the process of creating a work of advertising art.

Most marketing emails today are a combination of text and graphics that are displayed in an email, using HyperText Markup Language (HTML). In other words, they are web pages.

Why It Matters
A common approach for creating a marketing email is to start with a graphic (i.e., JPG, PSD or GIF file) that is a "mockup" of the actual email to be created. Then, a web designer translates the visual image to HTML. Finally, the HTML is rendered when the email is opened.

The final step, rendering, is what can turn your piece of art into a piece of trash, headed straight for the Deleted Items folder or worse: the Spam folder!

If a receiver opens an email you sent and he or she is greeted with an email "mess", the odds are high that the next key hit will be the Delete key.

Why It's Often NOT Displayed Correctly
It sounds simple enough: use a reduced/restricted set of HTML code and Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), so the page displays correctly, no matter what email client is used.

Unfortunately, it isn't at all simple. The state of HTML for email is where the web page was a few years back: At that time, every web browser displayed the page a bit differently. In some cases, functionality would be "broken" in certain web browsers.

This is the case with email clients today: Some things will just not look right, when viewed with certain email clients. But, it's even worse, because there are many more email clients than there were web browsers, so there's even more variations.

Some ISP filters strip out some HTML to avoid potentially harmful HTML, thereby possibly reducing the content to a mass of text.

CSS describes the look and formatting of a document. It separates the document content (written in HTML or a similar markup language) from the document presentation, including things like colors, fonts, and layout. This provides more flexibility and control in the specification and, therefore, more consistency in the appearance.

Calls to External CSS are not supported by all email clients. Severely limited subsets of CSS within the HTML section are supported by all email clients, as well as limited subsets of Inline CSS.

So, How Do You Deal with This Problem?
Every email you send out must first be previewed, as it will look in at least the major email clients and with images both on and off. These are the conditions under which your email will be viewed by those who are most important: your customers and their potential audience.

In addition to making sure the overall appearance of your email is acceptable, you need to correct spelling, broken links, and invalid HTML code, as these are triggers for ISP spam filters. Secondly, consideration must be given to how the email renders in a reader-sized limited view or preview pane, as most people use that glimpse to decide if they will continue reading or most importantly "Click Through" to the landing page.

Continue to view and fix, until every major email client can see an acceptable view of your email ... remember that this represents you and your company to the recipient.

All Web Email can make sure that all of your emails are properly rendered in virtually every email client ... and that your emails are error free. Please see their design services for more detail.

All Web Email validates each of your campaign emails with Return Path's Campaign Preview, which shows 41 different email client views, representing over 90% of the mailboxes out there!

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