Control Your E-Mail For Better Delivery And Results

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The rumors of e-mail's demise as a profitable, secure and sustainable marketing channel have thankfully died down. To be sure, it still faces its share of major threats. Yet, over the past year, the industry and marketers alike have pulled together to combat these dangers, allowing e-mail to again flourish.

But now what? How do marketers take control and take e-mail to the next level?

The following is a list of top actions marketers can û and should û take now to improve delivery and results from their e-mail programs. Some of these are tactical items you can do today while others are larger concepts that will help you long-term.

Authenticate your e-mail. This is a no brainer (and hopefully many of you are skipping to the next point). It is relatively easy to do, is required by accreditation and reputation services, not to mention major marketing trade organizations, and is simply an e-mail best practice.

It's worthwhile to publish all available authentication protocols û for example, don't bother waiting until a full-blown standard comes along for DKIM. Authenticate now.

Understand the complete lifecycle of your e-mail. As marketers, we may be in total control of the message, the design and the audience. But what about the actual mechanics of e-mail? That well-formed e-mail creative on your hard drive doesn't send itself, you know.

Get to know (make that, really understand) how an e-mail makes it from your initial idea to your recipient's inbox. There are myriad factors that go into determining success (i.e., inbox) or failure (i.e., bulk folder), so be prepared to invest time, effort, and dollars into ensuring higher delivery rates and better returns.

Also, e-mail is wildly dynamic û unique rules for each Internet service provider, new versions of e-mail software û so be proactive and vigilant in staying ahead of the curve.

Make deliverability a primary e-mail metric. Chances are if you don't have some form of delivery monitoring after you hit the Send button, you have bad delivery. Make e-mail delivery a key metric right along with clicks and conversions.

Clean list = less problems, better results. Don't be afraid to cut dead weight. The hidden costs of maintaining an outdated, "dirty" list are real and having a huge house file does not outweigh them.

Don't be fooled by the seemingly negligible cost of sending more and more e-mail by continuing to send to invalid addresses. It will catch up to you, specifically when it comes to deliverability, as mailbox providers will penalize you for trying to send to invalid or bounced e-mail addresses.

Educate û and get buy-in from û the rest of the organization. Everyone uses e-mail, but few understand how a piece of creative makes its ways from the marketing manager's desk ultimately to the thousands or millions of recipient's inboxes.

E-mail can be a large cost center, so it pays to educate the entire company on its benefits, its complexities, and how it fits into the overall strategy. Become an e-mail evangelist at your company.

Marketers should lead or play a major role in e-mail operations and delivery. World-class copy writing, elegant design and irresistible product offers mean nothing unless your prospect receives the e-mail. Marketers should insert themselves in all facets of the e-mail delivery workflow by forming a partnership with your IT or Ops team.

At the very least, become part of the solution. Even better, invest in a leading e-mail service provider or (if you are so suited to) bring it in-house, under your control.

Be relevant and meet your customer's needs. By now, it's almost a clichΘ û be relevant û but when it comes to e-mail, most marketers have yet to even scratch the surface of personalized, targeted and relevant e-mail.

And the reality is that everything else you do is, well, irrelevant (bad pun intended) unless you deliver on your initial opt-in promise and stay relevant to the reader. This is of course true for any marketing channel, but rather acutely for e-mail.

E-mail remains the killer app. Blacklists, "This is Spam" buttons, Phishing, Oh my! It's a big bad e-mail world out there. ISPs and mailbox providers are on the defensive and there seems to be a "guilty until proven innocent" label on even the most reputable company. It can cause the best marketing team to run for cover.

The threats of spam, phishing and whatever else is on the horizon are very real. And certainly, best practices such as those outlined above are to be followed. Yet none of this means marketers should abandon e-mail as a primary marketing channel and business driver. Indeed, it should be, for many marketers, front and center. The key is in fully understanding e-mail, from the inside out.

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