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Retailers: Get your e-mails past the judge and the jury

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By Dan Forootan, dforootan@streamsend.com

Retail marketers have long feared their e-mail messages being considered as spam. But who decides if an e-mail message is spam? The answer is much like a courtroom verdict: the Internet service providers (ISPs) play the part of the judge and individual list members make up the jury. So, before hitting the send button marketers must make sure their argument holds up in court.

Getting your message past the judge
As judge, the ISP’s are not interested in emotional arguments -- only the rules, and as long as the rules are followed there will not be any repercussions. In the court of e-mail marketing the rules are referred to as ‘Best Practices.’ Follow these and the judge will allow your case to go to the jury:

1. All list members have directly consented to receive messages from the sender
This means an active request has been made by the subscriber to specifically receive your e-mails. Consent does not include failing to uncheck a pre-checked box on a web form or entering a business relationship with an associated organization.

2. Maintain good list hygiene
Regular list hygiene includes removing hard bounces, members who unsubscribe or register a complaint. This is essential for good delivery and a positive sender reputation.

3. Use sending authentication
Authentication, such as the Sender policy Framework (SPF) helps the sender prove they are who they claim to be.

4. Send professional message content optimized for in-box delivery
The ideal is to create content that has a good balance of text, graphics, and links, while avoiding words and phrases that are typically associated with spam.

5. Monitor and resolve complaints
Since a high complaint rate is now the number one reason for poor delivery, responding to and analyzing the source of complaints is becoming increasingly important.

6. Making Your Case to the Jury
As the jury, message recipients will respond based more on emotion than fact, and since the verdict of the jury will almost always be upheld by the judge, e-mail marketers must take steps to turn an emotional argument into a case built on facts.

7. New members receive a ‘Welcome Message’ setting expectations
Sent right after someone opts-in to a mailing list, it makes a positive first impression.

8. Have a standardized ‘From Address’
This increases the recipient’s ability to recognize the message sender. Also ask recipients to add this address to their address book or contact list -- helps messages avoid the spam/bulk/junk folder.

9. Send messages with a descriptive and branded subject line
A focused subject usually increases response and reduces complaints.

10. Let the recipient know why they are receiving the message
A simple line like “You are receiving this e-mail because you have requested our monthly newsletter” will help to remind the recipient why they are receiving the sender’s message.

11. Only send content that offers true value to the message recipient
Since everyone is facing an ever expanding in-box, e-mail marketers must give their recipients a clear reason not to reject the message.

12. Send on a regular schedule
This practice will help to keep recipient from forgetting the sender.

13. Always have a visible and functional unsubscribe method
Giving message recipients a quick and easy way to remove themselves from mailing lists will greatly reduce complaints and protect the sender’s reputation. It is also the law: the unsubscribe link must be clear and accessible.

Retail marketers who effectively meet the different e-mail marketing expectations of the judge and the jury will receive a favorable verdict -- and proceed to the inbox.

Dan Forootan is the president of StreamSend E-mail Marketing, a leading provider of e-mail marketing solutions.  He can be reached at dforootan@streamsend.com.

© 2014