Email Marketing – Getting Your Message To The Inbox

by · November 16, 2011

As a home builder, you likely already know there are several important areas that require your attention in order to be successful in email marketing.  You need to manage your lists, create compelling content, and you need to make sure the messages are received by those for whom they are intended. It can be frustrating to send mass emails out that ultimately land in junk folders, or are blocked by the servers.

Email deliverability is the ability of an email to reach the intended recipient’s inbox.   When you send a mass email, a variety of factors can deter your email from getting to your recipients’ inboxes.  Senders’ reputations are key criteria, as emails can be blocked at the server level. An internet service provider (ISP) will mark something as junk – or block it altogether – based on a sender’s reputation.  While there is no way to guarantee email delivery, there are ways to increase your odds and see improved deliverability.

Think of ISPs as body guards keeping watch over your recipients’ inboxes. They will do one of three things:

  1. Throw you aside. They may delete the email preventing delivery to the email address.
  2. Pat you down first, flag you as a troublemaker, but ultimately let you through. After their search, they’ll mark you as spam and send it straight to the junk folder.
  3. Welcome you in. They deliver the email straight to the inbox.

Give me option #3! In reality it can be pretty difficult to get through that 300 pound guard at the door.  Some of the major ISPs flag 95% of the email sent as junk, but with so much spam today, they have every right to be cautious. For better deliverability, you must play by the ISPs’ rules.

The following are key actions that can be taken to improve your relationship with the ISPs and increase odds on deliverability:

  1. Ensure your sending domain is authenticated.  Set yourself up for success. Most email providers will ensure that your domain is authenticated prior to sending email on your behalf.  Authentication legitimizes email senders. It is the effort to equip messages of the email transport system with enough verifiable information so that recipients can recognize the nature of each incoming message automatically. This is the means for ISPs to establish the true identity of an email sender.
  2. Keep your lists clean. What does this mean? Cull your list from time to time to ensure that you’re not sending to someone who never opens your email. The ISP could close the door to all of your emails, even to those that want to receive it.  If you keep sending to an email address that is non-active, the ISP is going to assume you are junk and block all your email. This may seem drastic, but considering the millions and millions of spam emails blocked each day by ISPs, it’s only natural that they consider you guilty until proven innocent.
  3. HTML Coding. Use clean code, ensure that your tags are properly closed, and avoid cascading style sheets (CSS).  Some ISPs will strip this out and the email won’t render properly.  The golden rule is keep it simple – avoid the use of Flash, and don’t embed all your text and imagery into a single image.
  4. Watch for spam-type words. Choosing your words carefully is important both in consumer emails and when you’re sending to corporate email accounts like real estate sales people and brokers. Make sure that you have titles on images, avoid the use of different fonts, sizes, and colors, as this can be marked as spam. DO NOT WRITE YOUR SUBJECT LINE ALL IN UPPER CASE LETTERS. You won’t be more recognizable, and if the ISP doesn’t send it to the junk folder often times the recipient will. Test your email by sending it to yourself at multiple email accounts on different ISPs.
  5. Email Frequency. Most of the time, sending an email on a daily basis is not recommended, and in some cases a weekly email is too frequent.  Be straightforward about how often you will be sending out email information when someone opts in to your email marketing. If you’re sending too frequently, they will either opt-out of email or worse, they will mark the email as spam and the ISPs may not allow you back in. On the flip side, don’t go too long without sending an email, or your registrants could forget who you are and why they are receiving your emails.  Always be consistent with the “from” address – let the recipients become familiar with the sender and be able to identify your email easily.

Email marketing is effective, but it does require a strategy for success.  The return on investment is extraordinary. It’s important to work with and understand the ISPs, since they are the ones who will determine which mail gets delivered.

 

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