Archive for the ‘Deliverability & ISP Relations’ Category

Testing 3-2-1Okay okay, I know that the old testing call often employed on stage by some stand up comic testing their microphone is ‘Testing testing  1,2 3,’ , but let’s take it for granted that I haven’t mistakenly written a Stand Up Comic Checklist, and that actually I want to say a few words about the importance of testing in email marketing.

Ultimately, testing is a key plank of any strategy to optimise your email marketing (or indeed any form of direct marketing) so helping narrow down creative alternatives (for example) you go from three to two to one ( 3,2,1..get it?).

Why is it important to test?

The simple answer to that is it helps you discover what works. With email, by testing the subject line and/or images of your email campaign, you can easily adapt the email to the preferences of your recipients. By showing recipients what they prefer to see, you increase the click-through rate and maximise the response rate of your campaign.  Simples!

But I’ve worked with clients who , when I’ve suggested testing, have come back with the standard responses of “ we’re getting good results as it is” and “we can’t afford to test”.
So let me  try and dispel  these issues:

“We can’t afford to test”

I would suggest that as an organisation you can’t afford not to test.
A MarketingSherpa article by Anne Holland proved, through survey results, that testing increases ROI. The responses show that “in every case more than 50% of marketers improved ROI (even if only moderately) by testing.”.  So by not testing , you are not going to maximize your ROI

“We’re getting good results as it is”

This may be true at the moment, but as the world we live in changes, so does how consumers interact with the messages you send them. You can put money on the fact that your competitors will be aiming to look at what you’re doing and improve on that and get even better results. I have yet to see a  case where when you start to compare like for like campaigns, there isn’t some form of degradation of results over time if no test learn and refine strategy is employed.

Some other issues are seen in an article written by 8seconds , where they highlight a survey by eROI that shows that 37% of email marketers do not test their email campaigns.

The survey also highlights the main reasons behind this, these being:
•    I don’t know how to test (32.84%)
•    My campaign timeline is too short (27.36%)
•    Platform doesn’t have testing capabilities (13.43%)

Testing ResultsSo what should you be testing ?

First of all, let’s not go crazy and try and test everything. As I highlighted some time ago, it’s important to keep things simple and not to lose sight of the wood for the trees!

Phil Storey’s blog gives some ideas about what to test , and as an email marketing creative it gives some great pointers.

So in terms of what you should be testing in an email, here are some ideas,  in some order of increasing complexity :

•    Subject Line A/B test frequently
•    Broadcast time at least twice a year
•    Offers/Incentive at least twice a year
•    Creative test at least twice a year
•    Multivariate testing of creative elements in email templates at least twice a year

(You can find  more Best Practice here)

Multivariate Testing & Optimisation allows you to test multiple variables at once, and in realtime. Essentially this approach allows you to test multiple creative options.

We’ve come across  8Seconds Optimizer that provides  this Multivariate Testing & Optimisation

Essentially it optimises the images (calls to action, offers, promotions, header images, banners, buttons, etc.) in your email. 8Seconds shows different images to different recipients that open their email and measures statistically and in real time which image is the most successful in terms of clicks or conversion. 8Seconds Optimizer automatically shows this best image (or combination of images) to the next recipients that still have to open their email at that moment in time.
The first people that open the email will be the testers so that remaining people only see the optimised version. Very clever!

So what are the Benefits of Testing

Innovation – Testing allows you to understand what actually works and removes the mentality of “we’ve always done it this way”

Behaviour – Your email marketing will be based on solid customer behaviour as opposed to gut instinct

Speed – this can all be done real time!

ROI – it pays to test

But remember, what you optimise in June, may not be what works best 6 months later – so be prepared to go 3,2,1 all over again.

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email_1…When an email marketer drops the D-word during our meetings, I know it’s time to cancel my train home as it’s often as big a topic as ‘How are you going to increase ROI from email?’

Increasingly we find that companies do acknowledge that responsibility for email delivery sits primarily on their side, but they still tend to turn to the supposed ‘expert’ ESP sat on the other side of the table to advise and guide them. And I’m no delivery expert, but to contend with such Big Questions I keep up to date with best practice developments: there is plenty of online resource material to draw on, such as the insightful Return Path blog, The Watercooler.

There’s good news in the industry: the ISPs are gradually shifting their inbox policing methods in favour of legitimate, reputable senders.

The latest in-depth ISP report by Pivotal Veracity is particularly gratifying as it reinforces the message that we in the industry have been pedalling for a while now:

A Sender’s reputation is increasingly based on the Domain, as well as the IP address.

Which means that a ‘Good Rep’ is in a company’s control, especially if the following key influencers are addressed: the spam complaint rate, unknown user rate, spam trap rate (mailing to old/dead addresses) and bounce rate. Many tools have been developed to track these via feedback loops, so the legitimate marketer now has more control than ever before of his reputation. Furthermore, they can take this reputation with them if they move to a new ESP.

Of course, the flip side is also true: the less-than-scrupulous who would skip from one ESP to the next and ‘buy back’ a ‘Fresh Rep’ with a new IP address are being flushed out, which can only good news for the email industry as a whole.

IP-based reputation filters are still commonplace with ISPs so a whitelisted IP or IP range is still the foundation upon which to build a good reputation, but moving to a new IP which requires ‘warming up’ first will be phased out or require less data over a shorter time period  to achieve full status.

Another interesting development at the ISP’s is their factoring in of customer engagement to build a ‘Good Rep’ – again, how refreshing for us senders! AOL will use clicks, move to personal folders and a click on ‘not spam’ to prove a good rep; Yahoo will check if emails in spam folders have been clicked on as a sign that they are in fact legit. Customer engagement is fast-becoming a key metric at both the sender and ISP-receiver end.

Finally, authentication with Domain Keys or DKIM is still the best way to ensure inbox placement (with the exception of Hotmail which uses it’s own ‘Sender ID’ authentication model). This can be easily implemented by the ESP or client-side. To attain a further level of inbox placement, accreditation via the Sender Score Certification (from Return Path) programme can guarantee Hotmail delivery, with images and links switched on and no throttling limitations.

So, back to how I answer the Big Question, ‘How are you going to improve our deliverability?’ (the speeded up version):

  • A Good Rep is the basis of Good Delivery, and…
  • It’s in the Sender’s Domain
  • Complaints must be monitored, ideally via feedback loops
  • Implement DK/DKIM
  • If Hotmail addresses are a large %age of the list, consider the Return Path certification

…Plus a quick ‘crib’ of the things all good email marketers should be doing as standard:

  • Clear and transparent opt-in process – no legacy data or dodgy 3rd Party lists!
  • Sending to the list regularly
  • Being sensitive to frequency
  • Remaining relevant
  • Plenty of testing, including checking how the email will render/view
  • Having an automated welcome programme to say ‘Hello’ to new subscribers
  • Motivating recipients to move you to their ‘Safe Sender’ list
  • Implementing a watertight bounce-handling process
  • Instant removal of unsubscribes

Next time in Tales from the Coal Face, more Big Questions: ‘What to do if you swallow a penny?’

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