Guidelines For A New Sending Paradigm - Part 1 of 5 - Treat Email as a True Risk and Cost Center

Sustainable email sending programs in an inherently hostile environment now require great care and planning. Before considering the technical complexities and the marketing tactics, email senders must adopt a basic paradigm shift.

The five guidelines included in this series should become watchwords for ezine emailers as they incur the risk and responsibility of sending newsletters or any other repetitive type of email.

Part 1 of 5: Treat Email as a True Risk and Cost Center
Part 2 of 5: Avoid Collateral Damage
Part 3 of 5: Plan to Use Every Legitimate Tool and Tactic Available (M2M)
Part 4 of 5: Build strong relationships (H2H)
Part 5 of 5: Continuously evaluate messages, lists, and recipient populations


Part 1 of 5

Treat Email as a True Risk and Cost Center
not as just an Internet infrastructure tagalong

Because it was "free", easy, and universally accessable online, email became the breeding ground for a vast number of experiments in communication and commerce. Ezines, newsletters, CRM programs and many other online publications are the product of some of those experiments. More pathological forms of information transfer also evolved in the same space, such as Spam and viruses. Today the Internet is trying to develop an immune system to fight those pathogens. Unfortunately, non-pathogen marketers and online communicators of all types have become the victims of this primitive new immune system's stumbling efforts.

Many online publishers moved to email back when the costs were essentially limited to a computer, some bandwidth, and a lot of work. Well, email has changed since then in many ways, almost beyond recognition. As this guideline points out, the cost of email risk avoidance and email delivery assurance have now become significant, even when they are not direct out-of-pocket expenses.

Senders need to catalog and understand the risks they face, and the costs to overcome these risks, as they adapt to the new hostile email environment.

New Potential Legal Risks From Email Programs:

Despite the prevailing opinion amoung newletter and ezine publishers that the recently enacted email legislation is directed only toward "Spammers", there is good reason to take these regulations rather seriously.

Even if we assume that you only send permission-based email (that all of your recipients subscribed to your ezine), so by definition you are not a "Spammer", there are many other aspects of the email process that have now become regulated. Examples include email transmission practices, list records, operational control over complaints and unsubscribe requests, claims of false or misleading Subject Lines, and several other issues. Mistakes in these areas, even with clearly permission-based mail, can have legal implications. And in fact, precisely what constitutes "permission" is still being worked out in some cases.

Online publishers should also be concerned about the motives and circumstances of some actions under the new laws. Targets may be chosen more for their ease of accessibility than for any serious infractions. It is much easier to find and go after a target you can see (such as an stable ezine) than it is to hunt down an elusive Spammer.

Finally, there is a common assumption that the email laws of other countries are similar to those in the US, however in many important respects this is not true. The differences in these laws compels (at the least) strict controls be maintained for any lists that are not fully geographically targeted.

See the Email PhD "Compliance" section to research the email regulatory environment further.

New Service Access Risks From Email Programs:

Impact on Your Personal Communications
Some online publishers assume that higher risk email programs, such as newsletters or promotional campaigns, are somehow naturally distinct or compartmentalized away from other types of personal email channels. Unless specifically designed as such, this is usually not true. It has come as an unpleasant surprise to many that blocking caused by, for example, an email marketing campaign can also cause the blocking of your email to friends and family. Blocking caused by a simple auto-response program at a minor Web site can disrupt your ability to communicate with anyone at a particular ISP.

One basic response to this type of risk is to segment and isolate different types of sending streams so that a shut down in one area does not push your entire e-communications system offline.

Recipient ISP Disruption
It is usually easy to determine when communications are cut with a major ISP, potentially denying access to a large number of customers or subscribers. But blocking at any one of hundreds or thousands of smaller corporate and local networks can be robbing you of revenue, customer satisfaction, and name recognition without your even knowing it. Testing for these blocks can be a difficult and involved process.

Direct blocking is not the only way in which email communication is disrupted at recipient ISPs. Having messages land in the Junk-bin rather than the In-box effectively eliminates that message for many recipients who automatically delete those messages without looking at them.

Every recipient ISP has the right to interfere with communications it judges to be inappropriate for its network. Unfortunately, a small number of Spam complaints, an appearance on a Blacklist, or just the perception of that system's administrator may cause breakdowns that can be very difficult to detect and resolve.

Unless you are an email wizard yourself, one of the most effective ways to begin to track down your delivery profile is through a delivery testing company. See the Email PhD "Data and Tracking" section for more information on this type of resource. Unfortunately, this type of service also represents a new cost for online publishers.

Hosting ISP Disruption
Even more directly, publishers are sometimes surprised to find that their own ISPs or NSPs can, and will, kick them off the service based upon email sending history.

It is amazing to realize that despite the sales cost and effort of acquiring new customers, and the service and support cost of retaining satisfied customers, most ISPs have placed the decision as to whether you can keep your service into the hands of a small group of "abuse" administrators. By declaring a violation of the contractual Acceptable Use Policies or similar provisions, these administrators have suspended many email and Internet accounts. Sometimes this can occur without notice, and often without recourse. Even very low levels or ratios of complaints can force you to scramble for new sources of Internet service.

See the Email PhD "Sending Signature Management" section for more information on avoiding basic disruptions within your email service chain.

Customer Affinity Risks From Email Programs:

Changing Consumer Perceptions
It is not unusual for a recipient to sign up for an email list on one day, and to report that email as Spam the next. The reasons why this happens are numerous, but unless a companies' email program is well managed and controlled there is a risk that a few recipients can do a lot of harm.

"Everyone knows" that Spam is a potentially dangerous pervasive evil online, and that any email they don't immediately recognize or want to receive at that moment is Spam (as incorrect as that definition is). The news media, recipient ISPs, and companies selling anti-Spam products are also training recipients that they need to actively suspect every email they get.

Online publishers have to adapt rapidly to provide assurance and reminders to recipients that they actively requested to receive that email, and to embed relevant and high interest content in all of their sends.

Negative Brand Impacts
Beyond the risk of turning off individual recipients with ineffective email programs is the broader risk of reputation loss within the general online community. Highly compliant, carefully managed email programs are their own reward when it comes to avoiding uncomplimentary PR outbreaks or having your name posted on the anti-Spam activist boards.

See the Email PhD "Content Controls" section to further research customer perception management issues.

Increasing Costs Within the New Email Environment
By all accounts commercial email can no longer be treated as if it were free. Whether for increasing internal control time and costs, or external service costs, you need to allocate the resources necessary to operate a sustainable and effective email program.

Increasing need for technical and strategic expertise
More than ever before, email has become a domain requiring a broad mix of different types of expertise. Because this knowledge can be highly specialized, or require access to proprietary data, this expertise often needs to be acquired from outside the sending organization.

Costs of outside service providers
It is frequently the case that an external Email Service Provider can better handle certain types of email sending. And there are obvious advantages to off-loading infrastructure risks and to increasing the embedded expertise (such as in ISP relations) by using ESPs. The trouble is that they cost money. The range of pricing among ESPs is extreme, as are the levels and types of services offered. Check out potential service providers carefully, and comparison shop - it is well worth the trouble.

Additional costs for administration and controls
Compliance elements and rising recipient expectations require more time and better records, and the need to track and respond to all complaints from numerous sources has added new manpower requirements. Of course, the costs of defensive records and permission audit trails are also growing. While these costs pale beside potential costs of non-compliance or customer erosion, in many cases they represent new and unfamiliar budget items.

Costs from distributed bandwidth and sending system architecture
The need to segment and distribute outbound email streams can increase both bandwidth and technical administration costs. The need to capture and retain more extensive records, or to access sending, delivery, response, unsubscribe, and complaint information in a timely fashion may require additional investment in computing hardware. Updated sending and tracking software purchases may also be needed.

Performance Benefits That Offset Costs
Simply put, you may have to absorb many of these costs to maintain effective, deliverable, and sustainable email programs. It is very likely that without this investment the efficiency of your email program will continue to slide, at the same time that the risks of uncontrolled programs are increasing.

Conclusions:
Over all, email sending programs have moved significantly away from the simple question of what "can" be done to a much heavier emphasis on what "should" be done, based upon increasing legal and recipient perception risks. The cost of sustaining effective programs is growing. Fortunately, so is the differential advantage of maintaining a working email communications channel.


Copyright by Email Ph.D. All Rights Reserved.

Tim Starzl is the chief editor of Email Ph.D., an informational Web site dedicated to improving email delivery for all permission-based senders. With several years experience in email sending system design, high volume sending, and high precision tracking systems Mr. Starzl provides practical working advice for a difficult and rapidly changing environment.

In The News:


Tech Cocktail

Email Marketing Breakthroughs: 9 Insights to Drive Clicks
Tech Cocktail
It's quick and personal, yet still professional and timely, which makes it perfect for businesses to communicate with their target. To help you get your own 96.74% to start engaging, here are nine email marketing breakthroughs to drive clicks and get ...


Business 2 Community

How Email Marketing Automation Can Solve Your Top Sales Problems
Business 2 Community
Over half of all B2B companies cite email marketing as their most effective marketing channel for generating revenue, according to BtoB Magazine. Would you agree? If your business is failing to maximize email marketing's potential, a lack of automation ...


VentureBeat

Email marketing technology is ridiculously complicated
VentureBeat
At 2,000+ software vendors (and rising fast), the marketing technology industry isn't just dynamic. It's completely out of control. Email technology is no exception: The plumbing required to make sure your customers get that coupon or white paper to ...


VentureBeat

Email marketing critical to success, but users are selling themselves short ...
VentureBeat
There are dozens of email service providers and marketing tools available to help businesses leverage the medium, with MailChimp, AWeber, Constant Contact, and Campaign Monitor among the most used. Add to that the swathe of marketing automation ...


Improve Your Email Marketing Campaigns by Avoiding B2B Data Decay ...
Business 2 Community
Email marketing campaigns are a great way to engage with your prospects and can provide a significant ROI. However, if your database is not up-to-date, you may be reaching out to email zombies – inactive contacts that no longer open your marketing ...


Diginomica

Email marketing isn't broken (yet), but Copyblogger found a better way
Diginomica
SUMMARY: Brian Clark of Copyblogger revealed some eye-opening email marketing stats in a recent training course. The stats have big implications for companies grappling with the limitations of existing channels. Here's what I learned during a recent ...


Mashable

4 reasons why email marketing is an asset for all small businesses
Mashable
One of the greatest benefits of a good email marketing program is detailed statistics about your campaign. Compared with other marketing channels — like a billboard or television commercial — email marketing metrics provide exponentially more ...

and more »

Only 20% of marketers use behavioural triggers in email marketing: report
Econsultancy (blog)
For many businesses this end goal is still a long way off, but some marketing channels are being optimised using behavioural targeting. Step forward dusty old email marketing, which remains one of the most effective channels for achieving ROI despite ...


Business 2 Community

6 Email Marketing Tips for Small Businesses
Business 2 Community
The case is a little convoluted for small businesses and budding entrepreneurs. With a powerful small set-up trying to set milestones, small businesses sometimes are not completely aware about the dos and don'ts of effective email marketing. Most small ...


Top 3 tips to make your email 'Pitch Perfect'
BizReport
'Pitch Perfect' is coming on strong at the box office, and that has us wondering: how can brands make their marketing messages as perfect as the movie's pitch? Campaigner offers their top 3 tips to perfect branded email campaigns. by Kristina Knight.

and more »
Google News

Does Punctuation Really Matter in Email?

So much depends on choosing the correct mark of punctuation... Read More

Five of the Most Powerful Elements In Opt-in Marketing

Lack of trust is the biggest problem marketers have on... Read More

How To Improve Your Open Rates And Click-Thru Rates In Your Email Campaigns

In this article I will give you several tips that... Read More

Turn Your Old Articles Into Profitable E-mail Courses

If you've written numerous articles, you can use them to... Read More

Stop Buying Email Lists

The saying "Quality, not Quantity" is applicable even to the... Read More

Guidelines For A New Sending Paradigm - Part 1 of 5 - Treat Email as a True Risk and Cost Center

Sustainable email sending programs in an inherently hostile environment now... Read More

Website Promotion Through Newsletters

Website promotion is certainly a main focus of all business... Read More

Converting More Free Downloads to Paid Customers

Do you give web site visitors the opportunity to download... Read More

Autoresponder Services that Boost Your Business

In the world of ecommerce, millions of sites are fiercely... Read More

Tips to Bounce-Proof Your Email List

Keeping your email lists fresh is critical to the success... Read More

How to Build Your List

Your list is your life. If you do not have... Read More

Introduction to Autoresponders

If you've reached the point of exhaustion trying to keep... Read More

Using Emotional Triggers in Ad Writing

Writing ads for either your own products or affiliate products... Read More

Creating Demand With Email Newsletters

You've launched your web site. You've implemented a public relations... Read More

The Power Of Email Marketing

Have You Considered The Power Of Email MarketingOld vs. NewIf... Read More

Reach Out and Slap Someone

I got my first email account way... Read More

Youve Got Mail

It seems that Google is revolutionizing the Net in more... Read More

Online Marketing Through Newsletters

So you want to start publishing an online newsletter? Why?... Read More

Spam! Whats the Real Problem

Most people now know the official definition of spam- Unsolicited... Read More

Email Marketing Essentials

Perhaps the most important component in turning visitors to your... Read More

Run Profitable Contests Using Autoresponders

Running a contest for your e-zine subscribers or web site... Read More

Sequential Autoresponders Build Customer Relatonships

A powerful reason for making the switch from using the... Read More

How To Create Gold With Email Promotions - Part 2

Don't forget people are so busy now they will only... Read More

Why Use Permission-Based Email Marketing?

The goal of all marketing is to attract interest in,... Read More

Success Guaranteed With Your Opt In List

Some time ago I was thinking about the best and... Read More