e-Direct Marketing - getting emails read
For many organisations today direct mail (DM) has been replaced with e-direct mail (eDM). And the major driver for this change? Cost. It’s far cheaper to write something on screen and whizz it out to thousands of recipients at the touch of a button than to print letters and brochures, buy and stuff envelopes and pay for postage. However, does this mean that everyone should ditch the traditional approach and go for online communications? Well, it is certainly more cost effective, but there are other questions to consider and the main one is – ‘will my mail get through?’
Why doesn’t mail get through?
So much email we send seems to disappear into the ether. It’s a good job email isn’t a tangible item – we’d have drowned in all the lost data if it was! But why doesn’t it always get to the intended recipient when you know you sent it? There are a multitude of reasons why emails don’t get through – or, more interestingly, why people claim they haven’t received them. You can, and should, do something about some of the ‘not received’ problems, but there are others you can do little about apart from be aware of the issue. Here are some of the reasons why emails seem to disappear and pointers on how to combat them.
Viruses, Trojan horses, worms and other hijacking tools are often transmitted via emails. All savvy organisations will be scanning incoming mail and anything that looks as though it may contain some form of virus or malware will be blocked before it gets anywhere near a user’s mailbox. Make sure you have a comprehensive and up-to-date virus tool installed and your messages don’t go out containing any unwanted hitch hikers. If they do, it will destroy your company’s credibility with other individuals or organisations and could lead to your email domain name being placed onto a blacklist.
Embedded items or document attachments
As well as scanning for nasties in emails, many corporate mail systems check for attachments and embedded items such as pictures or programs. Whilst you know the document you’ve included in your mail is totally harmless, the company you are sending it to doesn’t. Some email systems automatically quarantine mails containing embedded files until they’ve been investigated – which probably means deletion. And don’t send spreadsheets in mails, many corporate email policies decree that all mails containing spreadsheets are automatically blocked as these often contain sensitive or financial data. Keep all your information within the message text and supply links to web pages rather than attaching or embedding files.
No-one likes receiving spam (unsolicited mail). It clogs up inboxes and takes up valuable space that costs corporations money or can completely immobilise an individual’s mailbox. To try to combat this problem, many companies impose size limits on employee’s mailboxes to make sure they’re not chewing up IT resources and slowing down vital corporate applications. They may also impose a maximum message size and only deliver large mails out of office hours. And for consumers who are using dial up facilities or organisations in parts of the world with poor communications it can be a nightmare. It can take literally hours to download large mails – not the best way to endear yourself to a potential customer! The more fonts, diagrams and other graphically enhancing objects you place in your mail – the larger it’s going to be. Check your mail is a reasonable size before sending it out.
HTML or plain text?
Whilst HTML looks sexy and may be visually appealing to you, it might not be quite as appealing to a system administrator or ISP provider. Checks in mail systems can look for certain strings of HTML code and automatically reject mails that contain them. HTML emails are also larger than plain text mails so be aware of the issues related to this area. And there’s always the possibility of system compatibility issues and the recipient sees strings of code rather than graphical headers and text. Test your mail by sending it to several mail systems and check that it displays correctly before doing your live e-blast and always include a plain text option.
Don’t get classified as spam
Spam is categorised as unsolicited email, ie. sending email to someone who hasn’t consented to receive mail from your organisation. These days the amount of rules that can be invoked by mail servers to try to stop spam getting through are huge. Not surprising when spam is estimated to be between anything between 60-90% of all mail sent! To stop your mail being automatically directed to the junk folder, it’s essential you keep your messaging relevant and tailored to the recipient. The more pertinent it is to an individual, the better chance it has of reaching them. Some of the ways emails are classified by mail servers include:
Phrasal filters – mail filters will look for, ‘learn’ new and action key phrases in headers or text. For example most corporations will have automatic removal for any mail containing racist, sexual or swear words. Not that you’d be likely to be writing a mail using this type of stuff! But if you were contacting healthcare people about a new pharmaceutical product for a particular condition, you could use words that would usually be blocked by a mail filter.
Blacklists and whitelists – network administrators and users alike can set up lists of email addresses they do (whitelists) and do not want (blacklists) to receive mail from. Ask your contacts to add your email address to their whitelist to make sure it gets through. Some organisations will also block mail coming from hotmail or other personal mail accounts. Make sure your mail goes from a reputable email address.
Analysis – email systems can perform statistical analysis on mails to see if they contain a certain number of phrases or words. Be careful not to litter your message with the same phrase several times or TO SHOUT A LOT – this is a tactic often used in spam. In addition, systems will also look for well-known spamming techniques that try to get round these filters such as mis-spelling words – how many times have you received spam with words spelt slightly inaccurately? Make sure you always run your mail through the spell-checker.
Connections – you can’t do much about this one, but it’s useful to know. Some mail filters can be choosy about what mail they will let through depending on where it came from, eg. domain name or protocol. Standard checks are carried out to determine, as far as possible, that the message is coming from a legitimate source
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