Sam Bocetta explains how to ensure your emails get across the firing line (without breaking any laws)
Email campaigns are still an effective approach to connecting with consumers and generating sales. Even so, it takes more than a great sales letter pasted into an email to do the job. You have to ensure that the email reaches the intended recipient and doesn’t end up in a spam folder.
This is more complicated than it used to be. Even as technology has advanced, more security threats than ever are associated with email. From hacking to passing on infected files, there are compelling reasons for system administrators to tighten security and prevent junk from getting to inboxes.
Where does this leave you? It’s imperative that you understand how spam filters and firewalls work, the role of artificial intelligence in screening emails, and even laws designed to reduce spam. Learning about each of these will go a long way in helping you to create a B2B email campaign that actually works.
Since the dawn of the new century, laws that provide a legal definition of spam have become more common. The
CAN-SPAM Act of 2003
is a good place to begin your education. This Act went into effect in the United States on 1 January, 2004. Some of the key provisions include:
- Subject lines must be directly relevant to the content of the email.
- Reply-to addresses, names, and headers within the email body must also be straightforward and not make unsubstantiated claims or promises.
- The email body must contain a link that allows the recipient to unsubscribe from future mailings and that link must be active for a minimum of 30 days.
- The email must include your company’s physical address.
Failure to comply with any of the above could lead to hefty fines. Repeated offenses could lead to more severe consequences. Keep in mind that the provisions of this law apply to businesses of all types and sizes. That includes agents who sell goods or services on behalf of a larger company.
2014 Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation
(CASL) carries the same type of provisions. One key difference is that this law covers all forms of electronic communication, not just email. If you use texting campaigns along with emails, keep that in mind.
The wonderful world of filters
What’s the first consequence of not complying with these and similar laws enacted in different nations?
Your email gets caught by a spam filter and is routed directly to a junk file. The result is that the email is never seen, never read, and you’ve lost a sale. With spam filters that function on a corporate-wide basis, violating these provisions typically means all emails sent to employees end up in junk folders or they are bounced back to you.
In other words, the email address you used to send out the transmissions gets blocked and nothing will ever get through again.
While the set-up of filters varies a little, most function by calculating what’s known as a spam score. Basically, if you violate several of the provisions found in current laws, your email is rated with a higher score. The higher the score, the better chance that it’s considered spam and heads into the junk folder.
Will you be reported to the authorities for spamming? It depends. Some companies analyze spam emails and if the situation happens consistently due to violations, there’s a good chance that you will be reported. That’s where the fines or more severe legal action may take place.
Staying in the good graces of the spam filters
So you prefer not to be labeled a spammer? Good plan. Compliance with current laws is essential. You also want to avoid certain strategies that tend to signal to spam folders that an inbound email could be junk.
Forget what people have told you about using all capital letters to grab attention. It’s a turn-off for anyone who happens to see the email. It’s also one way to get quick attention from a spam filter. The same goes for adding irrelevant characters along with words in the subject line
Keep your fonts simple. Forget about using tons of color. The content should stand on its own merit. Only use exclamation points if they make sense; gratuitous use might be enough on its own to ensure the email never reaches the recipient.
Quality content is king
importance of quality content
cannot be overstated. Spelling, punctuation, and basic grammar are all essential components. You also want to keep focused on what you are trying to sell or communicate. Content that drifts or offers little in the way of factual information will not get you past the filters.
One final issue to avoid is using unqualified or outdated mailing lists. Your emails should only go to consumers who have expressed some interest in what you’re selling. Update the lists carefully and weed out inactive email addresses. Doing so improves the odds of making connections and generating sales. If you use an email marketing service like Constant Contact or Mailchimp, take advantage of the double opt-in feature. It requires a modicum more effort on a recipient’s part but you’ll end up with a higher quality list.
Firewalls and reputation scores: how they affect your future
Spam filters are not all you have to consider. Firewalls work along with the filters to minimize potential threats to the network. That includes perceived threats posed by unsolicited emails.
Making the occasional mistake with an email is one thing. Consistent issues with emails coming from a specific company or email address is something else. If the filter blocks enough of the emails, the firewall will begin to reject any mails from your address.
The reputation score is becoming a major factor in deciding which companies are worthy of receiving business from customers. Along with your credit rating, the reputation score indicates how honest, trustworthy, and reliable your company happens to be.
If most of your emails end up in spam or junk folders, expect your reputation to suffer. Your score gets lower and fewer people listen to anything you have to say.
The bottom line
It’s simple. If you want to mount an effective B2B email campaign, know how to craft one that’s fully compliant with current laws. Avoid practices that weaken the email and increase the odds of the message being identified as spam.
Always use content that’s informational, relevant, and offers something of value. When you do the things that ensure your campaign is aimed at qualified recipients, your reputation is not likely to suffer, you will reach more people, and the odds of making a sale or communicating the intended message are much higher.