How to Diagnose and Repair Rotten Lead Nurturing Workflows

This article is published in collaboration with HubSpot which we use for many of our clients at Indiemark.

Marketers “sent” emails in 1995. They were fresh and manually made-to-order. Today, marketers “set” emails. They’re pre-made, automated, and usually very effective. But these emails just aren’t as fresh. Sure, some pull fresh content from blogs or other regularly updated assets, but most also don’t. Instead, many marketers simply set up an email and use it for months.

This presents a hurdle for lead nurturing marketers. The challenge? Keep workflows fresh, or risk rotten results. As a result, they have to monitor and update campaigns to prevent spoilage. After all, no one will click a moldy-looking email. And whenever you need to update a lead nurturing workflow — or get better results from a few laggards — it’s best to start with the workflows that smell worst: the poor performers. Luckily, you can sniff them out with analytics. In this post, we’ll explain just exactly how you can identify and diagnose the source of those rotten lead nurturing campaigns — and how you can revive them!

Using Analytics to Identify Rotten Lead Nurturing Workflows

Identify your poor performing campaigns by checking the following four metrics using your marketing analytics tools.

  1. Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs): According to Forrester, companies that excel at lead nurturing generate 50% more sales-ready leads. If a campaign earns far fewer MQLs than your average, then it likely needs a tweak or an update.
  2. Sales Accepted Leads: Use closed-loop analytics to make sure each campaign is contributing to earned customers. One that generates a lot of reconversions but few customers requires some attention. The cause may be misalignment between your marketing and sales teams , or a faulty nurturing strategy.
  3. Cost-per-Customer: Emails, webinars, ebooks, case studies, and other promotions cost time and money. A campaign that uses more resources on average to earn a single customer can benefit from tweaks to improve efficiency, perhaps by offering better/different content or adjusting its schedule.
  4. Time to Customer Conversion: According to Marketing2Lead, prospects nurtured in automated workflows have a 23% shorter sales cycle . Therefore, another gauge of efficiency is the average time it takes to nurture prospects into customers. Campaigns that fall short or require an increasing amount of time should get some attention.

Pinpointing the Source of Each Workflow’s Decay

Once you’ve compiled a list of rotten campaigns through investigation of your analytics, your next goal should be to locate the source of decay for each of your workflows. Here are five places to check.

Source 1: Delivery Time and Format

Email is a good place to begin your search for the apple that spoiled the barrel. Start with the open rate of each email in the workflow. An email that performs below average may have problems with its subject line, address, name, or timing. If your open rate is significantly lower than average, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Are you sending the email at the right time? Delivering an email at the wrong time buries it under a horde of messages that fill the inbox before a prospect can go through them. You may need to test new days, times, or frequencies for your campaign. Research from MarketingSherpa indicates34% of B2B marketers nurture leads on a monthly basis, and 22% nurture on a weekly basis. Furthermore, about 35% to 50% of sales go to the vendor that responds first,according to research from InsideSales.com.
  2. Is it easy to recognize the sender’s name and address? People are inundated with spam. As a result, they hesitate to open email from unfamiliar senders. Make sure prospects can recognize the sender. It’s often wise to use your brand name or something else the prospect is familiar with.
  3. Does the subject line grab attention and spur interest? Even if prospects anticipate your email, you need to clearly communicate: “Hey, you’ll love this!” The subject line needs to be clear and direct and specifically convey what prospects will receive.
  4. Are your emails often marked as spam? Companies who send emails that are often marked as spam are frowned upon by the guardians of email — also known as ISPs. If those guardians think you’re a spammer, they will send your messages to the junk folder, which will bury your emails and open rates.

Source 2: Message and Call-to-Action

Even an email with strong open rates can struggle with low clickthrough rates. This can signal a problem with the message’s copy, layout, or call-to-action. Here are some questions you should ask yourself if your email has an abnormally low clickthrough rate:

  1. Is the message closely related to the subject line? Your subject line should not mention topic A if the email discusses topic Q. The email’s subject line should directly refer to what’s inside, and the email itself should fulfill that promise.
  2. Is the message short and direct? The lead should be able to see the value offered in the email within five seconds. As such, the call-to-action should be very obvious.
  3. Is the message personalized with information in your contacts database? According to the Aberdeen Group, personalized emails improve clickthrough rates by 14% and conversion rates by 10% . Use details and information in your marketing database — such as personal information or activity/behavior — that you’ve already collected about your leads to personalize your emails and give your messages more impact.
  4. Is the call-to-action obvious, direct, and compelling? Do not merely suggest the action you wish prospects to take? Be more direct, by using compelling verbs and creating a sense of urgency with such verbiage as “download now” or “sign up today.” When they open the email, the CTA button or link should scream for attention.

Source 3: Landing Page

An email with a strong clickthrough rate but poor conversion rate usually signals a rotten landing page. A landing page can go bad in many ways . Here are some common causes.

  1. Poor Continuity: Your landing page must mirror the message delivered in the email’s subject line and copy. This should be true of the copy on the page as well as its fonts, colors, and images. Your goal is to convey, “Yes, you are in the right place.”
  2. Lack of Clarity: Your landing page also has to clearly show visitors how to convert. If they clicked “download” to receive your whitepaper, then the landing page should make it very obvious that it exists for this very reason. Use images and clear instructions about how to redeem the offer the lead was promised to decrease chances of landing page abandonment.
  3. No Explanation of Value: Companies often describe what is offered without describing why the prospect should want it. Be sure to emphasize how the offer will help prospects improve something they care about, whether it be revenue, time management, health, beauty, etc.
  4. Intimidating Forms: Be careful that the form on your landing page doesn’t ask too much of your leads. Insanely long forms will push people away, particularly if they’re already leads in your database. Furthermore, the call-to-action on the form submission button should also be clear and direct, such as “Download XYZ.”

Source #4: Content Quality and Freshness

Your lead nurturing content should be high-quality, relevant, and fresh. But even the most grandiose wedding cake turns into cement when neglected. Content can go stale for many reasons, such as:

  • Advice does not account for new developments in the topic.
  • Research and data provided is old and out of date, losing credibility.
  • Companies and products referenced no longer exist.
  • Target audience is no longer interested in the topic.

I’m sure you can understand why old content would discourage prospects. They went through the trouble of converting, and now they’re stuck with stale bread. As a result, they may disengage with you in one of several ways. Any of the following behaviors can signal a content problem:

  • Spike in Opt Outs: Unsubscribe rates should be 1% or less for nurturing emails.
  • Increased Complaints: Have you noticed an increase in your emails’ spam rates?
  • Lower Open & Clickthrough Rates: Are people straight up ignoring your emails?

Put time and effort into making sure the content you’re offering is still up-to-date, relevant, and high quality. If it’s not, update it so it is, or swap in offers that are fresh.

Source 5: Audience Segment and Behavior

There are two main factors that must align in order for an email to achieve relevance and engagement: the message and the reader. This is why even the best email in the world will fail if delivered to the wrong person. A high unsubscribe rate can indicate a problem with the segment you’ve targeted. As we mentioned before, normal rates for nurturing campaigns are 1% and lower. A higher rate can indicate:

  1. Partial Relevance: This indicates that a portion of the audience might not be interested in the content of the campaign. This problem requires a review of your opt-in and segmentation strategies. You need to identify these prospects and determine how they are different, how they got onto the list, and how you can better accommodate their needs and interests.
  2. Shifts in Behavior: This shows that the audience you’re targeting is now interested in new topics, or different content types and channels.
  3. Bad Content Mapping: It’s possible you’re offering content on the right topic , but that it’s ill-suited to the prospect’s position in the sales cycle. For example, if you’re sending content about your products and services (which is better suited to prospects in the middle of the funnel) to brand new leads who are just learning about your company, then you might want to back up and test sending more top-of-the-funnel, educational content that helps solve the audience’s problems and spur initial interest in your business.

For tips about achieving better email segmentation, check out this list of 30 ways to slice and dice your email list .

Building a Better Workflow

Sometimes a campaign needs more than just the little tweaks we’ve covered in this post. Here are a few other ways to update a campaign by modifying its overall strategy:

  1. Extend Its Duration: Consider that prospects might need more time and information before engaging in a conversion with Sales. Talk to your sales team to get a sense for any trends they see in leads that derived from particular workflows. What types of content do they think would make them more sales ready? Dig into your content and tap your content creators to offer something Sales indicates would be a valuable addition for this audience. Then work the offer into the workflow to extend its duration.
  2. Expand Your Lead Nurturing Channels: Remember, email isn’t the only way to nurture your leads. Encourage leads to connect with you in social media, and then use social media lead management tools to segment and nurture social media followers. For example, you could create a workflow that caters to leads who mention your brand on Twitter, or which targets followers who have clicked on a certain number of your social media updates.
  3. Emphasize High-Performing Offer: Conduct an audit to identify your best converting marketing offers. Once you’ve identified which offers are your high-performers, you can use this intelligence to craft lead nurturing emails that place more emphasis on those influential offers.
  4. Refine Segmentation Criteria: If you only have two or three nurturing campaign for your leads, then it’s definitely time to refine your segmentation and targeting criteria. If you have a sophisticated marketing database that is integrated with your email marketing tool, then you’re collecting a lot of information about your leads. Use it! Create specific segments of your audience using the information you know about their interests, needs, and behaviors. To start, create segments based on your various buyer personas. Then craft workflows that offers content that speaks directly to these different groups’ needs and interests. Even if you already segment prospects, you may find a splinter group is developing. This may warrant a new nurturing workflow for the breakout group that targets a new profile. You can always get more granular in your targeting criteria. This will only lead to more personalize workflows … and better conversion rates!

Remember, segmentation and personalization make lead nurturing campaigns more effective, but they don’t mean you can adopt a “set it and forget it” strategy. Content and emails will always get stale over time, so revisit them on a regular basis to keep them fresh and ensure they continue to deliver more qualified leads and customers.

In what other ways can you improve a faulty lead nurturing workflow?

 


About the author: Pamela Vaughan

Pamela is a Principal Marketing Manager, Website CRO & Copywriting at HubSpot. She is best known for introducing the concept of historical optimization, which increased organic search traffic and leads for HubSpot’s blog by more than 200%.

Are You An Email Marketing Freelancer? Meet Us in Savannah!

eec-2019

We’re long time supporters of the Email Experience Council (EEC), and this year, we’ll be at their Email Evolution Conference in Savannah, Georgia on April 24-26.

Email Evolution is perhaps best known as the conference for #emailgeeks and for Indiemark, the world’s most trusted collaborative for email work, it’s a great opportunity to meet new people and reconnect with partners.

If you’re an independent email marketing services producer or a small agency with serious email chops, we’d love to meet with you there. Feel free to schedule a meeting here.

We hope to see you Savannah!

Spam Traps and How to Avoid Them

If you send a lot of email, odds are you’ve hit a spam trap and consequently felt the sting of being blacklisted. If not it’s where email senders quite literally falls into a trap which often brings many negative consequences to a business or at the very least to their mailing reputation.

How does a spam trap get on your list?

Some spam traps are intentionally set to catch bad actors or irresponsible senders.

They end up on a list when a marketer buys a list.

Some spam traps are old email addresses that have gone inactive, and ISPs re-activate them to catch spammers or senders who don’t practice list hygiene.

Inactive domains can also get you in trouble, if you’re continuing to send emails to a domain that’s gone dead.

Some spam traps are the result of users quickly typing email addresses so they enter the wrong email for them, but it’s an email address associated with a spam trap.

Some users will enter a bogus email address to get something they want (but not enough to hand over their real email address). That bogus email address can be a spam trap.

If you want a more comprehensive list of spam trap classifications, check out Laura Atkins’ list of types of spam traps.

What happens when an email is sent to a spam trap?

It’s not only the sender who takes a hit when an email goes to a spam trap, potentially getting blacklisted by an ISP. So does the ESP used by that sender. And that in turn can affect the deliverability of all of the other clients of that ESP.

What can you do to protect yourself from spam traps?

You can proactively take steps to decrease the chance of sending email to a spam trap:

  • Make sure you are educated on deliverability best practices.
  • Practice regular list hygiene to identify and remove spam traps on a set schedule.
  • Segment out inactives and run re-activation campaigns, deleting any emails that don’t respond to that effort after a set period of time.
  • Use double opt-in to ensure you’re getting the correct email addresses from real life people.
  • If you’re getting a lot of bogus email addresses in reaction to an offer, suggest they not gate whatever the content is and offer it without asking for an email.

Hitting a spam trap is a serious offense, even if an unintended one. So take what steps you can to prevent it from happening.

 

Analysis of Nearly 200 Email Marketing Predictions (2019 Edition)

For the fourth year we present a meta data analysis of the predictions made for the coming year by industry experts.

This year we gathered 195 predictions and categorized them as presented in the chart below. For charting purposes, we normalize volume to 100% so we can determine which are the main areas of discussion.

The main topics of discussion this year were Content, Segmentation, Emails and ESPs, and Data Analysis.

We will discuss each category in more detail below. The link below the chart provides source information for the predictions.

2019-email-predictions

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1H1ZaVd-vQWIAT23Mil55zdRUUH-Z9iepgr1eeZC8dh4/edit?usp=sharing

Emails and ESPs

For emails its predicted that the channel will see greater usage as the distrust for social media effectiveness continues to loom large over the events of the past year.  Emails will be more interactive for consumers and the main tool for ecommerce to engage customers and grow sales. If marketers stick to the privacy sensitivity highlighted by GDPR, email will continue to receive the respect it deserves.

For ESPs it is good to recognize the shifts in consumer demands and the segments that are focused on by marketers. Winners will be those that provide means for easy interactions with direct to consumer subscription models, the consumer desire for video consumption and tools for account-based marketing.  ESPs with CRM functionality for advanced segmentation, pre-built segments, and cross-channel communications are the order of the day.

Content

Content from brands is expected to be more authentic with a low-key tone to the verbiage. Storytelling and interactive content will keep your subscribers engaged for 2019. There is an expectation for quality over quantity and humanization of brands.

Although there will be a proliferation of video use and interactivity with emails, there is also an expectation that more plain text email will be used for communicating with customers.

Data Analysis

Marketers will need to be good data managers to be successful, but thanks to AI and predictive analytics, success is easier to obtain. Predictive analytics are becoming the keystone for predictive automation and email campaigns. Chatbots are utilizing AI and machine learning to assist in answering routine questions for website visitors and decreasing the overall sales cycle and increasing customer satisfaction.

Segmentation

AI is also making it easier for hyper segmentation and the increasing use of personalized dynamic content which has created the mantra that 2019 will be the year of Customer Experience for Email Marketing. Special care in utilizing 1st party customer data will still be needed to develop trust while delivering an excellent buying experience.

Automation

Automations will become less clunky and more natural in their flow with the help of AI. Triggered automations will increase in use and become the backbone for a more personalized experience for the individual. There is a realization that the sales funnel is non-linear and unique for each visitor, so the brand story will be built in the same manner.

Ads

Curiously there was not a single prediction that focused specifically on ads.

Security

Sensitivity to data protection and individual privacy remains high. First party data acquisition takes precedent. Respect for the subscriber’s privacy rights and control of their data will be shown by an increased use of preference centers so the subscriber has complete control. Brands will make greater use of SPF, DKIM, and DMARC to create a more harmonious email ecosystem. This will also allow for the use of branded emails in Gmail.

Social

Micro influencers and local influencers are becoming more important. Brands need to bring the social back to social to build trust. Brands must also lean in to controversy and take a stand when necessary. Augmented reality video is also expected to disrupt social media video in 2019.

Mobile

There is a continuing call to optimize the mobile experience. More mobile, more mobile, more mobile please! Mobile trumps desktop use.

Web

More brands will be using website personalization. According to a recent survey, 43% of shopper prefer a tailored shopping experience. As part of this, there will also be more bespoke landing pages to satisfy potential customers.

Voice

Voice navigation and command is becoming prevalent in many applications. Email is not immune to this trend. Its expected that voice will enter the email platform in some manner in 2019.

Conclusion

2019 appears to be the year of the individual, where if their cards are played right and they allow for the use of their personal data, they will get the shopping experience of their lifetime.

Welcome Emails Work

Tons of brands send welcome emails, and while some are better than others, this is smart email marketing. Here’s why.

Well-done welcome emails get the relationship off to a good start by reminding subscribers why they signed up to begin with, reiterating the promises made during signup, and getting subscribers into the habit of seeing emails from you in their inbox.

Here are three ways to work your welcome emails: 

  1. Improve your deliverability: Your first welcome email is a great time to ask to be added to their address books to ensure your emails make it into their inboxes. All you need to do is include a little text to that effect, reminding them they won’t get your great content if they don’t see your emails.
  2. Ask for (or glean) more info: At signup is not the time to ask for more than the basics of name and email address, right? Studies show that the more information you ask for at signup, the fewer signups you’ll get. So use your welcome email to ask for more information via a very brief survey or build up customer profiles by tracking email and on-site behaviors.
  3. Get them familiar with your brand: Rather than treat your welcome email like a one-time, there-I’ve-sent-it-and-now-I’m-done kind of email, make it the start of a series. Now, wait. I don’t mean the start of your email marketing messages. I mean the start of a getting-to-know you series. Your welcome email could be the first in a series of emails that educates the subscriber about your business or brand a little at a time. It could be a series of useful tips. It could be a series explaining how your gizmos work or how to shop for a CRM system. The possibilities are practically endless, but the point is not to use your welcome email as the jumping off point for all of the “buy now” emails you want to send, but rather the start of a warm-up period.

And when you’re workin’ your welcomes, also remember to apply some commonsense best practices, both in the beginning and as you put these welcomes into practice:

  • To start, invest some serious time and effort into the creation of your welcome emails. Test your subject lines, offers and timing, and refine all of the above in pursuit of the most effective welcome email you can manage. This is a really important part of your email marketing program, not something you simply check off your list as “done.”
  • As you go along, keep an eye on the analytics: How well does your welcome email (or series) perform? Are there variations? Perhaps welcome emails sent on Sundays don’t do as well as those sent on Saturdays. Adjust your program accordingly. Pay attention to seasonal fluctuations too. If you’re seeing a trend upward or downward, then maybe it’s time to…
  • Regularly review your content: Although set-it-and-forget-it emails save time and effort in the long run, they need to be reviewed on a regular basis to make sure they’re still on brand and current.

If you’re sending out welcome emails to new subscribers, you’re off to a good start. Now let’s take those early emails to the next level and really work those welcomes to get even more results from them!

A Curated Look at 100+ Email Predictions

This is the third year we have collected and curated email marketing predictions. It looks as if it’s the year of the platform, the emails sent, and the details/design of their content.

The top 4 categories for 2018 are emails and ESPs, content, data analysis, and segmentation/personalization. This is the same top 4 categories as 2017, but in a different order. Data analysis slips from 1st to 3rd place and is surpassed by emails and ESPs for the number one slot.  

We have summarized the predictions by category and charted all 3 years on the first tab of this spreadsheet, the second tab provides the prediction details, the prognosticators and links to the references.

Emails and ESPs

It’s the end of ESPs as we knew them. No longer do ESPs just talk about sending newsletters. Over the past year we have seen a multitude of deep data integrations with ecomm store data, Facebook and Google ad serving, the inclusion of web based behavioral triggers, landing pages and native CRMs taking the place of simple email lists.

ESPs are becoming command centers for digital outreach on all levels. We will see omnichannel commerce become unified commerce. And with the barrage of emails and other digital communication at an ecomm cadence, the concern becomes the passive opt-out.

To keep consumers engaged, email content will become shorter, more relevant, and easier to act upon.

Content

Content will be the answer to engaging the consumer in 2018. Every trick in the book will be used to get emails open, including typography, interactive features, video, text only emails, and yes, emojis! 🙂 

In the end, what will really succeed, is speaking (writing) in a natural voice, being sincere and consistent with your message, and sending shorter, one goal communications.

Data Analysis

So why has data analysis slipped to third? We think its because the conversation is switching from analyzing data, to the real world application of making platforms more inclusive, content more relevant and moving us forward toward 1 to 1 communications.

Data analysis will continue to improve how we relate to our customers and predictive analytics will lead customers down paths that are yet to be discovered by them. Machine learning and AI are already beginning to handle more of the complex interaction we are taking for granted.

Chatbots will continue to supplement customer service and support. This year they will begin to evolve beyond the hype of machine learning and actually become useful in helping grow sales.

Segmentation

With all the deep data integrations and use of machine learning, hyper-segmentation is possible on a grand scale. Tying this all together will create better personalization and a deeper understanding of customer evolution. A better understanding of our customer’s behavior will create a longer lifetime value.

Automation

Marketing automation evolves beyond just a welcome series or a bunch of emails just to keep the sales funnel full. Automation will be used to keep customers once you get them.

Automation using AI technologies will make emails more human. It will also make automations easier to use for small businesses.  

Ads

Brands will continue to use Facebook for advertising, but will need to fine tune their messages for higher quality as Facebook puts priority back on the individual and away from brands. Influencer marketing will gain greater attention within the FB walled garden as an influencer’s profile is closer the a friend’s and may be more prominent in a user’s news feed.

Messenger ad testing will become more prevalent and retargeting spends will be optimized.

Security

Security issues for email lists have been somewhat quelled by instituting SSL certificates on web pages and Captchas on signup forms. The conversation is shifting more towards privacy and personal data protection as the implementation of GDPR nears.

Social

Social influencers will continue to play a significant role in marketing, but we will also see a shift toward a more constrained and thoughtful use of these influencers as the political and behavioral missteps of the past bring light to ramifications of poor choices.   

Mobile

Mobile purchasing will reach a tipping point. While mobile shopping has already reached a tipping point, in the coming year we will see mobile shopping sales come closer to that of desktop.  

Web

Sales will finally realize the importance of a homepage.

List Growth

List growth didn’t even make the cut this year. It seems the conversation this year will revolve more around how to keep your list fresh and engaged, rather than just the size of your list.

Summary

We look forward to seeing how these predictions unfold through the year.  Although blockchain technology and email tokens didn’t enter the picture in this year’s predictions, you can bet your last bitcoin this year will see some innovative attempts of trying to use the technology in email marketing.

 

Email Marketing and Silo Thinking

Even though we’re an email agency, I cannot think of email marketing as its own entity–but rather as part of the entire customer experience.

Email can’t be put in a vacuum.

The idea of the vacuum, or silo thinking, with any marketing medium is very dangerous. And of course, naturally, it’s easy to separate each medium into silos:

  • On TV and radio, I’ll deliver this message. This will handled by my ad agency.
  • In direct mail, I’ll deliver that message. This will also be handled by my ad agency.
  • In email, I’ll deliver this other message. This will be handled by me and my ESP.
  • For search, we’ll go this route. This will be handled by our SEO team.
  • On the phone, we’ll give our customers yet another message. This will be handled by sales.

The danger lies in thinking each medium is separate–that the right hand doesn’t have to know what the left hand is doing. And that’s all wrong.

To the customer, it’s all part of the experience.

Imagine yourself as the customer. How do you expect your experience to go? How would you feel if each method of contact with you was different from the next? So much so that it created confusion, a cognitive dissonance, enough of a disconnect that you’re left scratching your hand, wondering why you’re getting an email from your sales rep a day after speaking with them on the phone about the same topic?

It’s not so good, is it?

Questions to ask if yo’re a marketer:

If you can, and time allows, construct a diagram of how each medium hits your prospective customers. Map it by days or even hours if you can. Then throw it out and start asking questions.

  • If I were the customer, how would I want to be communicated with?
  • What do I want to use email for? For transactions only? For nurturing a relationship? For contests and fun asides?
  • What do I want to use TV/radio and direct mail for?
  • What kind of presence do I want to have using social media? Do I want to be reactive or out there in the populace becoming (as Chris Brogan says) “One of Us”?

Questions to ask your client if you’re an ESP or agency:

Speaking from a client perspective, I know it’s easy for you to do your one thing well, whether it be email marketing or TV advertising or what have you. And honestly, you’re likely to get many clients who will only bring precisely what they need from you in terms of your offerings.

Don’t fall into that trap. Ask the right questions.

  • What is your typical customer lifecycle?
  • Would you like to improve it?
  • How would you like to improve it?
  • How do you communicate with your customers now?
  • How do you anticipate email (or your respective medium) falling into your communication with our help?
  • What other mediums are you using?
  • How do you anticipate the work we do together affecting those media and your ultimate communication plan?

The bottom line is you need to make sure you’re not perpetuating with your clients the silo way of thinking. Trust me, your clients will appreciate that you care about their bottom line, not just your product. Remember that scene in “Miracle on 34th Street” where Santa sends the worried parents over to another store where it was cheaper? And how it ultimately boosted the bottom line of the Macys?

Don’t be afraid to take those steps. Don’t be afraid to fire a client if you think–nay you KNOW they’re going in the wrong direction.

 

What’s stopping you? 12 Reasons Your Emails Aren’t Making It to the Inbox

Let’s say you have 100,000 names on your subscriber list and an email deliverability rate of 50%. What’s the value of all those many names on your list? Exactly. Half what is could be.

You’ll probably never achieve a 100% inbox penetration, but given the low cost an upside potential of emails, you should get your deliverability rate as high as can be and keep it that way.

1) You bought an email list.

Seriously? It’s 2017 and that’s not cool and thanks to services like BlackBox, your ESP will find out.

2) You didn’t ramp up your IP address slowly and carefully.

Or maybe you didn’t ramp up your new IP address at all? If you’ve switched ESPs or for some other reason you migrated to a new IP address, you should have taken steps to slowly, carefully and methodically start emailing your list, building a reputation as you go. If you didn’t, that’s going to work against your email deliverability for a long while.

3) You’re sending to people who didn’t opt in.

I mean, these people or your customers but they didn’t ask to receive your promotional email. This has always been a sticky subject. Now it’s a big deal because of the Canadian anti-spam law (CASL), which is much more strict in defining opt in compared to the CAN Spam law passed by the U.S. Read the rules. Follow them. And only send to people who really want to hear from you.

4) You’re acting like a spammer.

Sure, you might not think you’re acting like a spammer but someone somewhere does. There are all kinds of ways to act like a spammer. If you’re using all capital letters, dirty HTML, or words and phrases that trigger spam filters, you’re acting like a spammer. And spammers get blocked.

5) Your sender reputation sucks.

As with real life, your reputation precedes you. And the ISPs will use your reputation to keep your email out of their customers’ inboxes if they believe you to be a spammer or unwanted sender. You can find out your sender reputation here and then take steps to fix it.

6) You have a dusty email list.

As tedious as it might sound, list hygiene is an important part of your email deliverability so scrub your undeliverable emails. There are lots of companies that offer list verification, some good, some not so good. That’s why we created this simple email verification recommendation service to help you find the best companies with the best rates.

7) You’re in a shared IP pool with some bad company.

This is one of those email deliverability issues you can’t tackle alone. If you’re in a shared IP pool with email marketers who don’t follow best practices, their reputation mars yours. Talk to your ESP about this.

8) You’re boring.

Ho hum yaaaaawwwn…. Oh, sorry! Did you say something? If your email messages fail to excite, compel or engage, your subscribers are probably not bothering to open your emails—and that tells the ISPs that you’re spam, since you’re being ignored. Be so good they can’t ignore you. Services like Phrasee can help ensure your emails get opened.

9) You send too many emails too often.

Spam is in the eyes of the beholder, and you don’t get to say whether you’re spam or not. They do. Who’s they? The people on your email list. Most spam reports aren’t due to emails promoting land in Costa Rica or Nigerian princes in need. No, most spam reports are generated by people who just don’t want your email any longer. Period. When you send too many emails too often, you’re annoying, and people will report those emails as spam in order to stop getting them. Send better email or slow your roll.

10) You’re not listening to the ISPs.

Do you have an abuse@yourdomain.com email address? If not, set one up, so ISPs can easily contact you about issues. If you’re messing up, they’re not going to mess around trying to contact you. Make it easy for them to be proactive on your behalf.

11) You’re not authentic.

What kinds of authentication are you using to prove to the world that you are who you say you are? Commonly used types of authentication are SPF, DKIM and DMARC. If you’re not using any of these, it’s time to start. Authentication protects your sender reputation, publishes the mail servers that can send on your behalf, and offers a way to identify your email as really being from you.

12) You ignore your email reporting.

If you don’t know something’s broke, how are you supposed to fix it? Keep a constant eye on your email reporting, and you’ll spot the downward trend that tells you a problem is brewing. Or maybe there’s no trend, only trouble, and you suddenly can’t email anyone with a certain address because you’re now blocked by an ISP. Wouldn’t you rather know in real time when there’s a problem you need to fix? Then pay attention to your email reporting—on a regular basis.

OK, be honest now: Out of these 12 things, which ones are you guilty of? And when are you going to stop doing them? Because the sooner you stop, the sooner your emails will get into more inboxes. And that, my friend, gives every one of those names a lot more value…and potential for ROI.

The difference between B2B and B2C email marketing

As B2B marketers we tend to look at others for inspiration. To innovate we often take what other marketing organizations have done and built on those ideas to improve and make them more interesting. When it comes to using email marketing to develop leads, though, there is one tricky part of the equation. There are B2B emails and there are B2C emails and they are not identical twins.

In this post, we’ll look at the differences between B2B email marketing and B2C email marketing. You’ll want to pay attention because while some of the methodologies are the same the differences are important because the outreach strategy for one might not work for the other.

B2B Email Marketing

B2B opportunities tend to be large. There are exceptions on both sides of the fence. There are small purchases in B2B and large purchases in B2C, but in general, the large purchases lean toward the business-to-business world.

Because the purchases are larger there should be more marketing in B2B email marketing than sales. There are many different reasons why people subscribe, not all tied directly to sales but rest assured people don’t sign up just because they are in the mood to be sold to.

What does this mean?

By now, all B2B companies know that from the time a new prospect is initially reached, the emails should work to guide, educate and qualify the prospect – like a salesperson might do. Nobody ever bought a house based on one email. In B2B email marketing, you have to respect the buying stage that the prospect is in and that it will take many more contact moments before a sale is made.

The first email might include a high-level overview of the features and, client-focused, benefits, but it can largely be a follow up of your content incentives used for lead generation. Subsequent emails will often provide additional insight into the industry, and eventually, additional products and services offered by the company.

The entire process,  one that works in concert with your CRM system, web analytics, and sales team, is about presenting the problems that exist and taking the prospective client down the path of solving that issue. Remember, that being persistent is often what will drive success.

B2C Email Marketing

A common scenario is to see an email that puts the pressure on your to purchase. Email marketing and urgency go hand in hand in B2C email marketing. You’ll see a sale that is ending soon and you have to act now otherwise you’ll miss the promotion. Urgency is actually one of the areas where B2C and B2B are similar. B2Bs do try to get urgency attached to their offer too but at the risk of it being less believable than it is in the B2C arena.

Of course, that is a grand generalization, but B2C companies tend to be more aggressive in tone. B2C email marketing is the fact that many acquisition-focused campaigns are directly sales-focused. This means that the email is about getting to a sale, quickly. Purchase price tends to be on the small side for B2C products so the sales process is more impulsive and quick. Just have a look at the call-to-actions like “Buy now”, “Pre-order”, “Shop”, etc.

You might see an email that introduces a new product. The expectation is that you immediately become interested in the item and make the purchase. Email is an ideal medium for impulse buys. Sometimes even without showing you the actual product yet. It might work, but if you think of it is pretty bizarre.  Here is an example of that in an email from Neiman Marcus.

Nieman-Marcus Email
(Image courtesy of Notablist.com)

Although there are still there are some differences here in adoption rate for the B2C and B2B audiences, you can expect all of your emails nowadays to be read on mobile. Do we need to go mobile first? At least make sure your email all incorporate best practices for responsive email design.

Finally, B2C emails tend to not follow along welcome series, once the prospect becomes a customer or opts-in. It is usually not longer than one or two emails until the program flips back to “standard newsletter”- mode. This is in contrast to some advanced B2B email marketing campaigns who well know client cultivation.

Final Thoughts B2B vs. B2C Email Marketing

These differences in B2B and B2C email marketing are important to note. If you understand the differences you can really focus in on what will work best for your company.

On some occasions, you can use inspiration from one for the other. It might be a way to get a little edge on the competition.

A Curated Look at 134 Email Marketing Predictions

Email Predictions for 2017

For the second year, we have collected and curated email marketing predictions. So what’s changed in 2017? Data analysis tops the chart and knocks automation out of the top 4.

The top 4 categories for 2017 are data analysis, emails and ESPs, content and segmentation. This year data analysis includes artificial intelligence and bots with nearly half (15 of 33) of the category predictions dominated by AI and bots.  The other big winners this year are email design and improved ESP platforms followed by video in content and AI-assisted segmentation/personalization.

The chart seems to indicate a significant drop in segmentation, automation and social, but the reality is that AI and bots are predicted to redistribute the workload in 2017.

We have summarized the predictions by category here.

email-predictions2

Data Analysis

Oh data, data, data, there’s so much gold in all this information that’s been piling up and waiting to be used by marketers. Beyond the astute data scientist, much of this data has remained “piled up”. Fear not, for now technology will be doing most of the heavy lift of analyzing data and putting it to work for marketers.

AI will do the analyzing for us and quickly ferret out new marketing opportunities. The agency and brand will have more time to dedicate to the creative process to address these opportunities rather than digging into the numbers.

Predictive analytics performed by AI, our new friend or enemy (depending on who you talk to) will satiate the consumer and reduce churn. Today’s overly complex automation flows could be laid out by AI without the agency or brand having to consider possible overlap. It can all be handled in the background without the need for marketer intervention. We will see many more email & marketing automation companies adding AI to their platforms in 2017.

Bots will be the future of email marketing. Chatbots will bring customer service into the realm of AI and reduce friction in the in-app experience.

Emails and ESPs

Beyond AI, the the single biggest expectation for 2017 lies around improvement in email design. The email production process will be fixed with new email creation tools that lower email development costs. Email service providers (ESPs) will vastly improve their capabilities.

Email will be full of interactivity and design will be modular. They will also be full of images, videos, quizzes, surveys and created by drag and drop. The final product will be delivered personalized and uniquely configured for each recipient. All hail Email!

Ecomm and direct buying from the email will be the focus for 2017.

Content

Video will continue to dominate as the preferred method of content consumed. Video creation is easier than ever to create and provide in a more personalized form across all the social platforms.

Messaging will be much more contextual in nature and allow for hyper-personalization. Predictive analytics will keep content relevant and help large organizations do a much better job of delivering content that converts the best at the same time as satisfying the correct information need of each consumer. No more landing pages where one size fits all.

The seamless of content across channels will continue to be the aspirational goal of marketers.

For written content the struggle will be to be believed. Fact vs fake has taken center stage and will create issues for many marketers. Brands will need to take an active stance in monitoring the media where their ads are placed as fake news continues to pose a threat to brand credibility.

Segmentation

Hyper-personalization is the goal for 2017. One to one marketing will become the new norm. No longer will just an email address be enough for marketing. Algorithms applied to behavior of subscribers will predict what they will do next.

Mobile

Truly considering mobile, will drive real-time data and location utilization. GPS based SEO will overtake keywords as mobile dominates search. Desktop will continue to fade in favor of mobile ads and web sites will transform from a novelty in B2C to a main staple for all digital advertising.

Mobile payments will come to inboxes. First-Person marketers will focus on wearable devices and marketers will catch up to mobile-first consumers.

Automation

There will be a revolution in marketing automation. Intelligent automation will begin to rise over simple personalization and drive a clearer, more personal message with full lifecycle marketing consideration with less crossover of automation streams.

SMS takes a bigger share of the marketing arsenal, but be careful and use sparingly. Yes, text have a very high engagement rate, but if consumers get overwhelmed by brands in this channel, it will become another channel of noise to be ignored.

Ads

Independent publisher will have a tough time in the era of walled garden marketing. Social will work to refine ads to the point that it will be difficult to tell ads from viral posts. And in this environment, media agencies will be held accountable for ROI like never before.

The Rise of Madtech (confluence of Marketing, Advertising and Technology) – Expect to see the continued integration of ad tech within the email and marketing automation platforms this year. AI could take the convergence deeper by making programmatic ad buying a breeze.

With the metric issues recently divulged for Facebook ads and the revelation of the Methbot ad fraud network, brands will be extra cautious in how they spend their ad dollars in 2017.

Web

Website branding will pose a major design challenge to industry in the fight between user experience and being mobile and desktop friendly.  The Cloud will be used more extensively to support large bursts of email traffic

Social

Customers will shape the conversation. Email + Socials = A match made in heaven. Social alone may not get the job done, but if you’re doing it right and capturing sign ups to your email list through Social. Social provides the research and peer approval while email will nurture your customers and ultimately convert for the win.

Security

As global cyber security attacks continue to rise, digital marketers will struggle with keeping consumer data safe and private as e-commerce and marketing automation opens new doors for crafty cyber thugs. Global privacy comes to the forefront as the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation comes nearer to its full effect date of May 2018.

List growth

Curiously, there was only one prediction about list growth and it speaks to the return to the double opt-in and the idea of quality over quantity. I’m all for quality and considering the rise in list bombing this year, I would take it one step further and include Captcha.

Summary

All predictions should be taken with a grain of salt as there is always a certain amount of self-interest and company focus involved and of course they are just that, predictions! Nonetheless, 2017 looks to be an exciting year for email and marketing automation.

About the Author:Gerald Marshall is Head of Operation at Email Industries.