Emails are the primary ID for humans in this digital age. On the overview reaching into someone’s inbox seems pretty easy, but the truth is absolutely poles apart. Because you can email an individual, but things get pretty perplexed when you have to email a large number of people, commonly referred to as bulk emailing. Email marketing has many stakeholders, which control the policies around bulk email marketing. We will teach you how you can market your products and services through email marketing and grow your business.
The email marketing environment has the following stakeholders.
- Bulk Email Sender
ISP – ISP stands for internet service providers, the services which provide you mailing services for example Gmail, Outlook, Hotmail, Yahoo etc
ESP – ESP stands for email service provider, the online services through which you can do bulk emailing activities, for example, MailChimp, Sendgrid, Aweber, GetResponse and many more.
Bulk Email Sender – The organisation/person who sends bulk email messages
Receiver – The person who receives the email messages.
Email Marketing Process
Bulk Email Senders use ESP services to send email messages to bulk recipients who are actively protected against spamming, phishing and fraud emailing activities by ISPs.
Step 1 – Build/Create Your List
Having an email list is the most indispensable thing for doing email marketing. Do not borrow or buy email lists from people or organisation.
Let me explain the reason with an example, let’s say you have started an e-commerce business for accessories, and your friend has been running a successful business for a travel agency for the last 5 years, he offers you to share his list of 10,000 email IDs, you should not use his list for the following reasons.
- The list has customers interested in travel packages, out of which whom are interested for accessories you do not know.
- These customers have been receiving travel related emails because they opted in to get emails from your friend’s business, if you start sending them emails related to accessories, high probability they will mark you as SPAM, as you have never interacted with them before.
- The ISP of these 10,000 customers will track you as a fresh bulk sender, and will mark your domain name and IP address used for emailing as a SPAM. Because you have not warmed up your IP address and domain, ‘What is this?’ we will teach you further in this course.
So how do you build lists? you can use the following methods
- Newsletter Sign Ups- You should capture email IDs using simple sign up forms for newsletter of your company for all the people visiting your website. People who will be interested in your products or services will sign up, as they might be interested to get regular updates about your business
- Scrape Your Inbox- You have been using email IDs from pretty long, which has a lot of email IDs, take the help of a data scraper tool like https://www.webscraper.io/ to scrape specific data of your inbox, do not miss the sent and other important folders as well. If you have employees, you should perform these activities on their email IDs too, only on their official email IDs. This activity should kickstart your list building activity.
- Free Handouts- Create free e-books and content material related to your business, and ask people to fill up a form if they want to get the free handout.
- Organise Data- If you are running a business, you will have ample excel sheets with data that is lying unorganised, check these sheets and other offline sources as well, to organise this data into a proper list.
- Get Creative- Building a list is simply getting email IDs of people interested in your industry or business. Now just imagine will you ever give your email Id to someone without any reason, you will probably not. So get creative at creating contests, handouts, materials, giveaways for people who visit any digital asset of your business, and if they are willing they will share their email ID
Building list sounds and looks tough, but once you start doing it more regularly, you will see your lists growing automatically. Also all these methods help you create a list of the most interested people for your business, to put it simply, all of them are your prospective customers.
Step 2- List Cleaning & Verification
Many people fill fake email IDs while signing up in various forms. That is why it becomes utmost important to verify and clean fake email IDs from your list before you start your email marketing campaigns.
There are a lot of tools online to verify if an email ID is active or not. One of the free tools to check email IDs one by one is https://email-checker.net/. You can put in the email ID you want to test and it will show you the result for the same.
If the email ID is active and working, you will have a result like the below image
Or you might have got a bad fake email ID in your list, and the result will be like this
But this tool will not solve your problem if you have a big list, for that you will have to use bulk email verification tools, we would suggest you to go ahead with https://www.zerobounce.net/
Step 3- Setup ESP
Choosing the right email service provider can help you run your campaigns more efficiently. Though almost all ESPs provide similar services, but a few small options and details can change the scenario drastically. All ESPs are good to start with, we will review Sendgrid as an email service provider in this course handout. There are mainly 3 things you need to evaluate before choosing an ESP
- Dedicated IP Address
- Emailing Charges
- Contact Management Charges
The pricing page of almost all ESPs will give you a fair idea of the plans and the options available. The sendgrid pricing page looks like this.
The pro plan has an extra feature of Dedicated IP address.
- Dedicated IP – Every time you email someone, their is a server doing it on behalf of you, its generally identified through the IP address of that particular server. ISPs track the activity related to each email sending IP address. That is how they are able to blacklist and mark IP addresses which are performing spamy, phishy or fraudulent email activities. Email history is like credit history, it takes time to build and if you default your email sending IP address and your domain name are blacklisted.
So should you choose a plan with a dedicated IP address or a basic plan?
That depends on your vision about your email marketing campaigns for your organisation. If you will be emailing people regularly with various campaign promotions and you are hopeful that your list will build continuously over the next few months/years, you should go for a dedicated IP address plan, as it will help the ISPs to identify that you are a bulk emailing sender and they will not mark and send your emails in the SPAM folder. If you will only wish or email a handful of your customers that too irregularly over a period of time, you should opt for a basic plan that uses the common/shared IP address of the ESP.
You can use the table below to identify which ESP plan to take
|Dedicated IP Plan||Basic Plan|
|Regular Emailing (Once a week)||Irregular Emailing (On important days only)|
|Actively perform list building activities||Do not build your lists actively|
|Big List (More than 10K contacts)||Small List (less than 10K contacts)|
|Qualify as a Bulk Email Sender||Do not wish to qualify as a Bulk Email Sender|
|Want Your Own Dedicated IP||Happy using shared IP of ESP|
2. Emailing Charges
These charges are for all emails you send using the ESP platform. Counted as the total number of emails sent to all email IDs over a specific period of time. Before you look at different plans you need to forecast how many emails will you be sending to your email contacts.
For example, if you have 10,000 contacts and you email them once a month, you need a 10,000 email sending monthly plan, but if you email your contacts every week, then you will have to opt for a plan which lets you send more than 40,000 emails per month
Sendgrid has an easy price dragger which updates the pricing as you increase your monthly spending limit.
So forecast before you choose a plan and you can always upgrade and downgrade as well.
3. Contact Management Charges
You will surely miss these additional charges if you don’t look closely. These charges are generally fixed for a certain number of contacts.
For example, Sendgrid charges $10 per month for managing every 10,000 contacts. So if you have a contact list of 33,000 contacts, you will have to pay an additional $40 per month over and above your emailing charges.
Sendgrid also let’s you calculate contact management charges with an easy price dragger, as shown below
Step 4 – IP & Domain Warm Up (Only for organisations opting for dedicated IP plans)
Imagine you have 10,000 valid customers to whom you have never emailed. You decide that you will start an email marketing campaign to drive more sales. So you sign up for an ESP account, you design an emailer and send that email to all your 10,000 contacts.
Result- All your emails go to the SPAM folder of your recipients or they get blocked.
Reason- ISPs see that your IP is absolutely brand new and fresh. You have never used your domain name to email such a large database of people together. As a precautionary measure they detect this could be a spammy or phishy activity and they send your messages to the SPAM folder, Gmail might even block your messages from even being delivered to the SPAM folder.
So, it becomes utmost necessary to warm up the IP address and your domain before you start your bulk emailing campaigns.
Thanks to Sendgrid they have a complete documentation on how to warm up your IP address. IP warmup is a simple process of gradually increasing your emails over a period of time, to build credibility as a safe sender with ISPs.
You can directly read more about IP warm up on this link: https://sendgrid.com/docs/ui/sending-email/warming-up-an-ip-address/
Follow these steps to successfully warm up your IP and domain
- Follow the hourly sending limit table
- Updating and cleaning lists
- Hourly Sending Limit
Follow the above mentioned hourly sending limit after you set up your ESP account. If you have a contact list of 10000 contacts, you will have to follow the warm up schedule till you reach day 19, similarly you can look at the table above and calculate the number of days you will have to you warm up your IP address before you can start emailing all your contacts in a single go.
19 warm up days means 19 email sending days. If you email your contacts once a week and you have 10000 contacts, it will take you 19 weeks to warm up your IP address for sending 10000 emails in a single go. Also this schedule follows an hourly limit, if you have reached Day 15 that means you can send more than 3000 emails every hour so if you want to contact your 10000+ customers you can Email them in batches of 3000 each.
2. Updating and cleaning lists
Every time you perform an email activity there will be various reasons that your emails will not be delivered to the inbox of your customers. Non delivery of emails is generally categorised under the following heads:
- Blocks- Emails IDs that block your emails
- Unsubscribers- Contacts that unsubscribed from your emails
- Bounced- Contacts without a mailbox
- Invalid- Wrong email IDs
- Spam Reports- Contacts that mark your emails as spam.
In Sendgrid you can easily find these categories in the menu on the left side as shown in the picture on the left side.
You should on a regular basis check the email ids that are listed under these categories and remove them from your list. These categories are clear indicators that emails sent to these particular mailboxes have a negligible engagement rate. So if you continue to send emails to the contacts in these categories, ISPs may reduce your domain and IP reputation, eventually leading to your emails ending in the SPAM folder of your recipients.
ISPs also track the engagement of the emails that are successfully delivered to your recipients. If your recipients have low engagement with your sent emails (i.e., they are not opening, replying and clicking the links in your email) ISPs will reduce your domain & IP reputation. This may also eventually lead to your delivered emails landing in the SPAM folder of your recipients, or your delivery percentage falling.
Look at these images.
You will see that the delivery percentage reduced from 100% to 58%. The reason was simple, ISPs identified that we were emailing contacts that were not engaging with our emails. So even if you warm up your IP address and send non engaging emailers, high probability you might land up in the SPAM folder or get your email delivery hampered.
The following images is a graphical representation of the above shown image.
In the above image, you can clearly see that we had requested the ESP to send 11,689 emails and it delivered 11,228 emails almost 99% delivery rate. Now look at the next image.
In the above image it clearly shows that we had 8,500 email requests, but only 4,935 were delivered. Gmail (ISP) had blocked more than 3,500+ delivery requests. Eventually our IP and domain reputation also fell. So it becomes really important to just not warm up your IP and domain but to also engage your email recipients.
How to track your own IP and Domain reputation?
All ISPs generally have a track record of your domain and IP. Every ISP will have a different IP and Domain reputation for your emailing activities. Since majority of recipients now use Gmail as an emailing service, it becomes very necessary to track your reputation as a sender by Gmail. Gmail has built a service called postmaster which can be used by organisations to track their IP and domain reputation.
Setting up postmaster account for Gmail.
- Log on to www.postmaster.google.com
- Register and verify your domain ownership
- View reports
Look at the following images to understand how IP and domain reputation are tracked for Gmail.
As you can see in the above image, the domain reputation increased from Low to High over a period of 2 months, and then started falling again when we kept on sending emails to recipients who were not engaging with our emails.
In the above image, the sending IP 22.214.171.124 is clearly marked as 100% bad starting March 2019. Generally Gmail only creates a record when IP reputation falls to low or bad. So if you see the graph empty as it is from January to March, that means your IP reputation is intact.
Step 5- Building Good & Beautiful Emailers
Secret to higher engagement is building emailers that are impressive and relevant. This is the most important step to keep your IP and Domain reputation intact and more importantly to extract the highest ROI from your email marketing campaigns.
- Choose ESP with Design Editor
ESPs like MailChimp and SendGrid have pre designed email templates that you can edit and design without any tech support. They have in-built design editors that are super easy to use for editing emailers. Below is how the design editor of Sendgrid looks like.
All options to design and edit the emailers are present on the left side. Drag and drop the module you want to insert in your emailer and edit it on the same screen.
Also good ESPs have many pre-built email templates that you can use to kick-start your email marketing campaigns. MailChimp has the most number of pre built email templates.
- Write attractive Subject Lines
First impression is the last impression absolutely stands true for email marketing. As recipients generally get many emails on a daily basis, they are more willing to open emailers that grab their attention through interesting subject lines.
Don’t use misleading words like ‘Free’, ‘100% discount’ as ISPs generally mark emails with such subject lines as SPAM and you might never land in the inbox of your recipient.
- Personalise and Segment
Personalise as much as possible, it’s simple psychology that people identify their own names and their personal information very quickly. So if your email content and subject lines are personalised with the recipients names or their other personal information, engagement on your emailers will be much higher.
Segmentation helps when you have many products or services for different set of customers. For example, if you are selling different kinds of insurance online, segmenting car owners for car renewal emails will get you higher engagement. This is generally possible when you have a good database with a lot of information about your recipients.
- Layout Guidelines
Good emails are rich in content and have a single image covering less than 30% email space. Also sending emails with many different links and CTAs makes the emailer noisy. People like clean, neat and simple emails with maximum 1 or 2 images. Also emails that are targeted for a single product or service tend to get better engagement than emailers that have multiple offerings. So write good content, have a single image occupying minimal space and have single CTAs.
- Test Email Score
Once you have built your email, you can use tools like Mail Tester https://www.mail-tester.com/ to score your emails on a scale of 10. If you get a score above 8, you should definitely go ahead. If you get a low score, pretty sure you are not following one of the above guidelines.
Step 6- Email Automation
Email marketing is the most powerful method to regulate your lead pipelines and customer retention campaigns. Some companies have managed to completely automate their notifications and messaging to customers using email automations tools like email drips and triggers. Email drips have been found to be very successful in lead-to-conversion cycle and also product updates and learning cycles.
Not all ESPs have the option to create email drips. SendX (https://www.sendx.io/) has the best drip management features and tools. You can also use Mailchimp for the basic email drips.
Understanding Email Automation
- Email Drip – A series of emails, generally scheduled one after the other on the basis of a single or multiple triggers
- Triggers- Conditions and reasons on which emails are triggered one after the other.