Best practices for email list management

Expert Diaries from Zoho Campaigns connects avid email marketers to the experts in their space to learn best practices and tips. Our aim is to connect email geeks and form a community that learns email marketing from one another.

 

In the 25th episode of expert diaries, we are so glad to have Brian Minick with us. Brian is the Chief Operating Officer of ZeroBounce. He has about ten years of experience in operating and system administration. He works with the support team, sales team, and also customer success team to transfer complex issues into a simplified solution. And talking about Zero Bounce, Zero Bounce is an online email validation platform and also deliverability platform where companies can verify their email list and make use of deliverability tools to optimize their campaigns. One of the most important goals of Zero Bounce is to help their clients maximize the inbox placements for their emails. In this session, Brian will be sharing tips, tricks, and best practices for list management.

 

One of the important factors that help to achieve success in email marketing is list hygiene. Can you share how important list hygiene is and the role of email validation here?

Yeah absolutely, so list hygiene and the management of your contacts in your database or your CRM system or ESP is very important. We are constantly finding that around 20 to 30 percent of business emails are churning or falling over or becoming invalid every year. The pandemic has caused an increase in the churn of emails due to job shifting, people going to new markets or changing their roles, companies shutting down, or even the other white companies popping up. This has caused a churn in the email space and so you must verify that the address that you have is still good. One of the ways to do that is through Zero Bounce where we will check and ping the mailbox to see if it exists. If it doesn’t, it should be removed from your list. Sending to email addresses that do not exist causes lots of issues with bounce backs, reputation problems, and things of that nature and it can be very difficult to get out of it so you want to make sure you start with a good clean list.

We get new leads for our business through newsletter signups, page visits, events, and webinar registrations every other day. What would be your advice to brands on utilizing these micro conversions for bigger and better results?

You should try to get as much detail as you can on that customer. For example, cart additions. You might want to see what types of products they’re adding and categorize those people. If they are into clothing you might want to categorize that. Take pieces of behavior and turn that into an actionable plan. Again, every business will be a little different but let us think about an e-commerce site, say clothing or just retail, maybe they sell shoes or hats. If at all a person ever likes is black clothing, you know that’s very popular as a certain color, you might be able to segment a campaign of just black clothing and now this person will be very engaged on the content that you would send through email. So I think taking behavior, turning that into your email campaigns, and segmenting can be very valuable for anybody that’s doing email and has a large customer base.

Can you share how a purchased email list has an impact on the brand’s credibility?

The mail filters and the spam filter see the patterns, they know the lists and they will start to put you on the blacklist and tarnish your reputation. A smaller list of opted-in organic newsletter sign-ups will always yield you better results than a purchased list.

Purchase lists have been purchased by many people and there is no guarantee of how good that list is. Unfortunately, a lot of people come to Zero Bounce to try to clean that list as well and we remove the bad inboxes from them. But that does not mean that there’s not other behavior that will impact you. So, these people are always getting spammed. They will mark you as spam, they will report you as spam and it just turns into such a problem.

So, if you have fewer contacts and you’re trying to figure out how to get more, the focus should be on how do you get them organically. You will get much better results and much more effective campaigns when these people want your content versus you forcing the content. If you are a new business or your business is not collecting email addresses, you need to be collecting them. Use a double opt-in process that really confirms that they want your content. You will see the amount of ‘Mark as spam and the complainers will reduce or probably become zero if they’re people that want your content. It’s much easier to send to people who want your content than to get out of all the problems that are caused by sending to purchased lists. Blacklisting and spam filter problems are just the starts and it’s very hard to get off once you’re on those problems.

What would be your advice on segmentation strategy and how will this help businesses in sending out personalized email campaigns?

Send targeted emails that will always be more successful than just a blank email. Some of the things that Zero Bounce can even help with is to segment by gender. For example, you want to send Men’s T-shirts to Men and Women’s T-shirts to women that are focused on them. Now, the chance of them engaging will be much higher.

Also, Zero Bounce is offering activity data to obtain information based on clickers, openers, and forwarders.  We will be able to tell you if some of your lists are very active and engaged with email. If you segment and send to that list, your click-through rates and open rates will be much higher and it will give you some positive traction on email campaigns.

Location is an important factor. If you think about people living in the extreme cold or maybe the extreme heat, sending emails of winter jackets to people like me in Florida where it is very hot, it’s not going to be as successful. Take the same list, segment it by location and change the content so that it’s more targeted for the audience and that will definitely help you improve some of the engagement and the metrics. It’s a little more work but the focus should not be on the work the focus should be on the results.

What is your view on social proof? How can social proof help in building an email list?

Social proof is crucial if we use it. For example, if we take a positive customer review that we got even in our chat system, we will take that and post it out on Facebook or LinkedIn to build credibility and to show that we are available and we have a larger reach than maybe just email. 

So, all of these things should always play together and the easy way to think about that is almost every email campaign has social media links on the bottom or the top somewhere and so you want to exchange that content back and forth.

It’s still good content there could be different viewers and the sharing capabilities can be much different. For email, it’s forwarding but for social media, it could be sending in a text message to a friend it could be tagging a friend or boss. You want to use social media to your advantage and tie things together so encourage your users to sign up for your newsletter, encourage them to sign up on social media as well, and to follow your pages because their interaction with the content on social can again widen the reach of your messaging and so it’s just essential.

Do you think skipping the A/B testing or split testing part would impact the results of an email campaign? If yes, could you share your insight on A/B testing for email marketing campaigns and what are the tips to keep in mind while testing campaigns?

A/B testing is significant and we do not skip it. When you do A/B testing, you’re allowing data to drive the performance versus your feelings.  Your feeling as an email marketer, when you’re writing the content and getting the graphic is much different than the viewer.

If you don’t A/B test, what you’re potentially sacrificing is larger reach and better performance. Subject lines are obviously one of them. They will help you test the open rates right but it won’t always necessarily help you test the conversion rate.  So, pay attention to it and test to make very few changes. If you make drastic changes, it’s difficult to understand what happened or why. Examples of this might be the same subject line but instead of anything in capitalization, we add an emoji at the end or remove the exclamation point or change it to a question mark.

Most of these systems are very impressive with the technology where they will actually get a limited subset of data on your A/B testing and then choose the path for you based on the results of the A/B test. So, it’s very important. It should not be skipped but you should use the performance from the last campaign to draft the new A/B test for the future ones and look at it as constant improvement and hopefully you get to a point where you don’t need it. But, I haven’t seen that yet. I hope we can get there one day but it’s always good to have the testing so that the data is driving.

So when we talk about send time, we know that the best send time you know the same time plays a key role in improving our open rates and click rates so on that note can you share how important it is to analyze and set up a send time strategy for an email marketer?

The day and time that you send email can play a massive impact on how the campaign performs. If you google when is the best time to send an email they’re all going to tell you Tuesday. At ZeroBounce, we send on Thursdays. Because we don’t want to compete on Tuesday, there is so much competition. And we don’t sell e-commerce, we sell a service. And so, for us, it’s just what we choose to do.

Now, special announcements, we send them on Tuesdays. However, if I am a business, let’s say I sell delivery coffee at your front door and I have a local list. I would send my email on Monday morning at 8AM. Because no one is having the worst day and the worst time and needs the coffee in their lap on Monday morning.

The mail servers and spam filters are finding patterns about you. And they become comfortable with you. And they are always expecting your Monday morning coffee email and you open it. And three times out of ten times you bought that, then that email is going to your Inbox. The mail servers or the spam filters are like “No, no this is good. They really need that coffee on Monday, so give them the email”.

So it’s very important to just be aware, of your business and your audience. So break down your lists, put a thought into it, be consistent and try things, A/B test and get your results, and always work towards the results.

As a beginner what would be the best send time frequency and over time how can a beginner increase their send time frequency?

Start once a week on a frequency base. Obviously, this depends upon your content. You have to have new content and value in it. But as far as deliverability is concerned, let’s say the content is good, the list is good, and now you just want to send, right? You want to be predictable when the email will land in the customer’s inbox.

A good example of this might also be if you’re expecting packages at your house, to give an analogy that’s not related to email – if I am used to the delivery driver coming to my house at 3 p.m and my door knocks at 3 p.m I know it’s the delivery driver with my amazon package. I am comfortable when he waves to me, I wave back. If that delivery driver shows up at 10 pm at night and all my lights are off, I am laying down watching TV,  knock knock! And it’s the same delivery driver, I am going to be like who is this, who’s at my door.

So you want to be consistent. Because then people start to expect it and once people expect it becomes normal behavior and we don’t even think about it, it’s thoughtless. So be consistent.

If you have good enough content where it makes sense to have a daily email you can warm up to that. Sometimes, examples of this would be daily promotions, maybe it’s a lunch special for a restaurant or maybe it’s an electronic store that sells blowout deals for one day only. You can send that very targeted email to people.

But, start slow is my recommendation, warm up do not ever go too fast, and then try to pull back. It is much harder and the results you will get, the problems that you will have from sending too much, too fast they’re very painful to get out of.

So, again on the blacklist, the spam filters don’t like you —you want to avoid that— so that’s where I would start and warm up to a point where you’re comfortable and the engagement rate of your emails is still good.

What is the best send time pattern for a re-engagement campaign?

With re-engagement campaigns, it’s very easy to forget or stop sending emails. So this is something that Zero Bounce actually helps a lot of customers with.

The first thing you want to do, if you haven’t emailed in a while is to make sure that the email addresses are still valid. You want to make sure that every email you send has an actual inbox behind it. So that’s step one, clean the list, make sure that you’re removing any invalid recipients that may have, maybe didn’t unsubscribe, or anything as you continue to nurture.

Once you do that, you want to send a piece of email out to them that says like, Hey we miss you! Something that actually has relevance to them. Right?  So, either we miss you or hey we’ve been quiet because we’ve been working on something so big. So, something that will excite the person or give them the reason to open the email, give them a reason to remember you.

What another way that we’ve seen people do it is to send a breakup letter. And if it’s been a year or two years and this person is on your list is not opening emails, they’re not clicking, ask yourself the question, what are they doing or who are they? And you might want to take those, send them into a separate campaign and just say things like “Hey we don’t want to bother you/We don’t want to flood your inbox/We hope we’re adding value to you/We hope we help you in some sort of way/Can you click here to make sure you still want to receive our emails” That will tell you if people are just reading to consume or not reading at all.

It shouldn’t be about quantity it should be about quality.  So, what you want is an engaging list and not someone who’s not opening or clicking is not engaging.

What are the factors that are to be taken into account, while calculating the sender score and how can an email marketer maintain a good sender score?  

Some of the major contributors to influencing sender score whether up or down is going to be your bounce rate and your complainer rate.

Obviously, there will be content and image to content ratio, they are little pieces there. But ultimately, if everyone on your email list is hitting report spam, it’s very bad and detrimental. So one of the things that Zero Bounce helps with is, as we do know a lot of known complainers and so we can help you identify who that might be and help them get off your list.

I would not recommend emailing people that are known complainers and you know you’re we’re actually doing you a favor, by not letting you send to that person and at the same time, they don’t want your email. If they didn’t double opt-in to your email list and you’re emailing them over and over and over you’re asking for some issues.

So when you think about your sender’s score you want to be very conscious of the quality and the engagement. So, as you continue to send emails, it’s just very important that you do that. Once you’re on if you have a negative impact of all this. The issues that you’re dealing with, once you’re on a blacklist as an example or if spam house decides to put you on their blacklist or their no-no list — is what I like to call it— these are times where you then have to do so much work.

It’s affected so many other recipients on your list and it’s really going to cause you a lot of issues. So the biggest thing is again, high-quality list, high-quality content, targeted content, and sending up frequencies that your customers are waiting for and expecting.

Do not try just to flood content to people. You’re going to again get hit with the blacklist and we have lots of customers even on the Zoho side that come to us and say “Oh my gosh ! We sent too many emails, too fast what do we do”.  So, you have to start reversing everything you’re doing or sometimes even start from scratch and if you’ve ever had to deal with that in email marketing you know how painful that is. So, you want to stay away from those things and just follow best practices.

I would like to have some insights from you, about the concept of blacklisting and how can email marketers prevent their emails from getting blacklisted.

So, the biggest problem with this is actually that usually, the email marketer does not even know they’re on a block list. So most people have no clue, they’re just used to a one percent open ratio and they think that’s normal or I got to A/B test more. No! What’s happening is, you’re being blocked and so Zero Bounce offers a few tools that I think will be very helpful to anybody, that is either concerned or if you’re not concerned you should be monitoring.

We offer blacklist monitoring that can be done on your domain or your IP address if you have your own mail server or dedicated mail server. You want to make sure that your domain is not on a blacklist or the no-no list. But, once you are, make sure that you take action on that very quickly.

So, an example is you could get thrown onto a blacklist for spam house and if you know this may be hoping you’re signed up with Zero Bounce you would know that, hey spam house put me on the blacklist. We will notify you via email until you’ve been blacklisted. At that point, you can attempt to pull yourself off the blacklist, request a d-listing. It’s a kind of terminology and so many of the spam providers provide that option. 

You want to make sure that you are monitoring to see if you are on a blacklist that’s step one. If you are, then you want to get off.

You want to use good tools when you’re collecting the email, so also make sure you’re getting high-quality email in the first place. Examples of this would be, spam traps. So, we have seen spam traps for those who maybe don’t know, our email boxes that are created specifically to put senders on the blacklist or put spam filters to block the email from that sender. They can be detrimental to your campaigns and I have seen competitive companies submitting spam traps into the newsletters.

So, how do you avoid that? Well, you should have the double opt-in process because they should confirm that email, they can’t confirm a spam trap, it’s not possible. And, also you have all these bot emails and all these kinds of garbage emails that are being flooded into these forms, you want to make sure you get those out of your list and make sure that you’re not sending them. 

So, those are just a couple of pieces that would be very helpful, to make sure that you don’t get on any blacklists. And, also with the bounce rates you want to make sure you’re under 2%, it’s very important. If you have been over 2%, I have had lots of customers say “Hey we have a 30% bounce rate, 40% percent bounce rate” And, then the next time it’s 2% or 1%, the damage is already done you can’t forget that. The 40% you sent the first time, has caused effects to happen. And, if you think that it’s not happening to you, I would really encourage you to reconsider and check.

We also do an Inbox placement test, that’s something that Zero Bounce offers. So we have a bunch of seed accounts on different major providers and we will tell you if that email that you sent inboxed or went to the spam folder or it wasn’t delivered at all.

So, another good thing is its kind of testing and monitoring to see the position and the placement that you have, knowing that, can really help. So, if I was about to send my campaign of the year, my black Friday or my Christmas special whatever it might be, but half of my emails are going to the spam folder and Zero Bounce has told you that, you need to wait and fix that problem first and then once it’s into the inbox then send your massive campaign. It can really be a huge difference in the results.

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