You have a brand new product. It’s something that will change the way people do business, and in your heart, you know everyone is going to want it.
So you open up Outlook and send out an email blast to the hundreds of contacts you have made over the years of doing business.
You wait… and wait… and after a while, you get the sneaking suspicion something has gone wrong. Terribly wrong. Nobody has called. Nobody has replied. Nobody knows your product exists. It is as if all those emails went spiraling into a black hole, never to return. This is actually not too far from the truth.
Spam: More Than Just a Time Waster
When email emerged to become a dominant communicative tool, it opened up opportunities for marketers to sell their goods to huge audiences with a few keystrokes. Alongside the legitimate marketers, however, there came a nefarious element. In 2011, the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) reported that cyber criminals earned almost $500 million using spam.
This is not the only staggering number. In 2012, an average of 419 billion emails are sent every day, and this will rise to more than 500 billion by 2013. Of these emails, leading internet security firm Symantec reports that spam accounted for 66.8% of all email sent.
The Rabbit Hole Goes Deeper…
Businesses and consumers trying to tackle these issues are finding the practice of protecting their servers from the onslaught of spam is doing considerable harm to their finances. In a white paper by Yahoo released on March 17th 2012 the researchers estimate that “…firms and consumers experience costs on the order of $20 billion annually due to spam. Our figure is more conservative than the $50 billion figure most cited by other authors.”
One of the most startling conclusions the researchers came to is that spam is proportionally three times more damaging, in terms of external costs, than pollution emitted from driving a car: “Spam … represents a multi-billion-dollar destruction of social surplus.” Similarly, the magazine WebpageFX equated the environmental impact of just one spam email is equivalent to driving a car three feet.
So, you may be asking, “What does this have to do with me not being able to email my customers?” The short answer: Everything.
The Long Answer
Historically, anti-spam measures were the responsibility of the receiver (including the email recipient, the recipient’s internet provider, and the internet provider’s network). Sending spam was largely ignored because once spam was sent out, it was by definition, somebody else’s problem. This view has shifted considerably since then.
Over time, networks identified as the source of spam became blacklisted, and any communications from them were rejected. Of course, this opened an entirely new can of worms: most networks were also being used legitimately. Spam prevention techniques grew more complex, and developed into a multi-billion dollar industry. As with all security apparatus, however, the techniques used suffered from diminishing returns as rules, blacklists, policies, algorithms, firewalls and gateways were circumvented, requiring new techniques to replace old ones.
Killed by the Cure?
Today, there is no standardised way of dealing with spam, as hundreds of organizations offer solutions in their own unique way. A major downside to this filtering, rejecting, and blacklisting is that a perfectly legitimate email to clients can land you in a “blackhole“. There is almost an unlimited number of variables to account for including:
- how many emails you send,
- how many addresses you have added,
- the words used in the subject line in the message,
- the address it was sent from,
- the bounce backs,
- the rate the emails are sent,
- clients marking it as junk,
- if you use opt-out, opt-in, or double opt-in for your mailing lists.
Like all black holes, it can be a Herculean task to get out once you have fallen in.
For any business, being unable to communicate quickly and effectively hurts growth and the bottom-line. Email is still a cost-effective and vital tool to disseminate information quickly, but it should never be taken for granted. So what do you do?
What You Can Do?
Luckily, some really smart people have figured out a way to navigate the complex world of email security and spam filtering. Just as we suggest not to hire just a “web developer” to build your website, so too your marketing campaign should not be left to chance. Sure, the tools might be readily available, with many of them being free, but a marketing campaign is part of your branding, and you should always protect your brand. That means enlisting the help of people who know what they are doing.
Over the years, EnvisionUP has worked with some very good email newsletter distribution companies and we have learned a lot to help both us and our clients. A good email marketing campaign will not only allow you to send information, but should allow you to receive valuable information in return: how many read it, who read it, and when they read it. Such information is crucial to let you know if people are interested in what you are offering, and to help guide you in the future to craft more effective campaigns.
At Envision, we use primarily MailChimp to conduct our email campaigns. MailChimp is one of the most powerful, flexible, and customisable platforms for email marketing, and if you are looking for help getting your own campaign started, do not hesitate to contact us!
If you are interested in trying to do it out yourself, here are some useful resources to help you along the way:
- MailChimp’s Email Marking Field Guide
- SpamHaus’s Marketing FAQ
- iContact’s Best Practices for Email Marketing
Wishing you happy – and effective – campaigning!
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