Wendy Schollum: War on spammers


The war on spammers has left many legitimate businesses feeling as though they are tiptoeing through an anti-spam minefield.  One wrong step and you could lose an arm or a leg in fines, or your e-mail message could end up being blown into the "junk mail" inbox of your recipients (where it is as good as dead).

Much like any war, ensuring your e-mail marketing messages survive the front line battle with anti-spam software and legislation is all about knowing your enemy and applying the right tactics.  

While the NZ Unsolicited Electronic Communications Act may seem like the "enemy" to many marketers, you have nothing to fear from the Act, provided your company's email marketing conforms to the following rules:

  1. The sender of all commercial marketing messages must be identified accurately.

  2. Recipients must get a working unsubscribe mechanism in each email.

  3. Your recipients must have opted-in to receive your commercial marketing messages - you cannot buy databases of contacts and hope they don't opt-out. 

But, simply complying with these conditions will not ensure your e-mail marketing messages reach their intended recipients.  At every turn, anti-spam software is waiting to capture your e-mail communications.  This hidden enemy generally works by using a "ranking" weapon: each new email received is ranked by a number of different criteria, and (if that email rates above a certain level, e.g.

10 spam points), then it is flagged as spam and captured.

To avoid having your legitimate messages being labeled as spam, ensure that your e-mail messages are appropriately camouflaged, and draw as little attention as possible from anti-spam software. 

Words that commonly trigger anti-spam software include: free, complimentary, $$$, save, discount, register today, click here, download, discount, win, and limited time.  Also, much like when crawling through the jungle undergrowth behind enemy lines, it pays to avoid dressing your communications in red or yellow (text), as these colors will also draw attention (and spam points) to your message. 

Once you have managed to get your e-mail communication past the anti-spam filters, you now have to get the attention of your contact.  Simply appearing at the agreed upon meeting place (their inbox) will not ensure your message is read and the important information absorbed. 

Some ways to ensure your message reaches the right people are:

  • Ensure your message has an attention grabbing subject line.  You have only half a second to catch your reader's attention with your subject line, so try specify a benefit your readers can expect by reading your e-mail.

  • Personalise your message.  If you are standing in a crowded room, would you be more likely to look up if someone shouted "Hey, you!" or "Hey, Bob!" (assuming your name is Bob)?  Research shows that starting your email with a personalised message can increase your read and click-thru rates by up to 650%!  It's worth the effort.

  • Send your messages on a Tuesday or a Wednesday between 10am-11am (morning tea time) or 2pm-3pm (afternoon tea time).  Studies show that (depending on your target market) you are 34% more likely to have your email opened, if sent at these times.

  • Keep your look consistent - dramatically changing the appearance of each of your email marketing communications will confuse users and could result in un-subscribes.

  • Always have the most interesting content at the very top of your e-mail.  Most people use email software such as Microsoft Outlook that show a preview of the email before it is opened.  To ensure the user actually opens your message you need to capture them with the content that appears in this preview panel (the very top of the message).

By applying the warfare tactics outlined above, your army of e-mail communications will have the edge they need to avoid becoming a casualty of the anti-spam revolution. 

Wendy Schollum is a web strategist and managing director of Xplore - your web agency (www.xplore.net).  For more information on email marketing best practices or the Xplore email marketing software (Xmail), follow Xplore on Twitter (www.twitter.com/xploreNET), join Xplore on Facebook (www.facebook.com/xploreNET), add Xplore to one of your Google+ circles (http://gplus.to/xploreNET) or call 0800 100 900.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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