Business, Marketing, Technology

Email Blasts: Like A Machine Gun In A Post Office

Email is one of the most attractive methods of modern marketing because of its low cost and relative ease of deployment.  However, for the average professional it is one of the least understood and potentially perilous ways of connecting with your customers.

Email blasts seem too good to be true.  Many times they are.  Like walking into a post office with a machine gun, they are virtually guaranteed to get you in hot water!

Email systems do not work like they used to.  In fact, the technology behind email traffic and spam filtering becomes more sophisticated every day.  Understanding how email works in 2011 is critical to success in email marketing.

Get To Know The Rules:

Email networks are smarter than you think
Unwanted email threatened to destroy the medium in the early 2000’s.  In order to save email itself, systems were designed to stop unwanted solicitation.  The email providers who did this best, such as Yahoo, Google, Hotmail, and AOL grabbed more market share.  Google, who sprinted ahead of the pack with Gmail did so because they offered the best Spam control available.

Today, just about all email systems utilize standardized SPAM protection.  Companies with in-house systems spend thousands licensing firewall and SPAM filtering services.

Multiple Emails At Once Are Always Suspicious
Let’s not get into the technical details of how ISPs detect spam, but the bottom line is that sending a single email to someone from one system is usually considered normal.  But when an address sends out the same email or many similar emails to many addresses, that immediately triggers flags.

Strike one.

Email providers cooperate
Let’s say you send out a big promotional email to 100 people in your “database.”  Those emails are going to many different systems around the country — to different recipient “post offices.”  Let’s say that some of these recipients decide they don’t like your message and mark it as spam.  Oh well, I guess your future emails will just get diverted to that users spam box.  No big deal, right?

Wrong.  Email SPAM prevention systems cooperate within their own networks and beyond, sharing SPAM data.  When you get voted down, it counts against you and sometimes, it’s much worse.

Strike Two

One Bad Apple…
Many company mail systems run their own private “post offices.”  These post offices live on one or more addresses called IP Addresses.  If you have an unscrupulous or uninformed user on your system who decides they want to jump into email marketing with a purchased list, they could quite easily get everyone at your company blacklisted across millions of participating systems.  This happens ALL THE TIME.

Strike Three: You’re OUT!

The Ignorant Stay Blissful
If your system is blacklisted, you don’t get a notice from any central authority.  You don’t get bounce backs or undeliverable request returns.  The other systems just delete your emails and ignore them.   People can go weeks, months or even years without realizing they are blacklisted.  Only when a single user sending personal mails from the same IP system notices their personal mails aren’t getting to their client inboxes do they start to make phone calls to their system admins.

Blasting Into Thin Air: The Dedicated MailBlast Server
One of the common tactics of companies who offer mail blasting systems is to place your company blasting service on it’s own dedicated address that is unique and separate from the company personal emails.  This is the perfect combination as it allows users to compose blasts all day long without getting the company primary mail system blacklisted.

So what does this mean?
It means that your email marketing is largely a pointless exercise.  You think that the emails are going out to hundreds or thousands of people, but only a handful of recipients on cheap or unfiltered systems are getting them.  Your system will not report this otherwise.

Mail marketing services who offer dedicated company CRM mail blasting do this on purpose, and by necessity.  They know that most of your users will abuse the IP and it will get blacklisted, so they make you pay for a dedicated IP that they know will soon be banished from the real email world.  They keep that “junk IP” away from the good ones and just let the folks who are uninformed or careless play in a virtual sandbox that goes nowhere.

Keeping It Clean
Staying on the good side of the SPAM police is hard.  Not only should you comply with CAN-SPAM rules, but you need to take the extra step to ask users to please unsubscribe using a simple link instead of sending to junkmail.  Not with an obscure link at the bottom, but at the very top of your message IN BOLD.

The legitimate mail marketing companies out there like Emma, Constant Contact or ListBox watch their users like a hawk, and analyze any addresses input into their system against the same SPAM blacklists that ISPs use.  I’ve seen purchased lists get pruned down by 80% by Constant Contact! They know that in order to stay in business and be effective, they have to police their users because they know their average customer is either uniformed of the nuances or would like to game the system as much as possible to their benefit!

The bottom line is that unless your users specifically requested to join your mail list, and continually have an easy way to opt-out, you could put your entire email campaign and anyone else operating from your post office in jeopardy.