SPAM versus Solicited Opt-In Email
It’s very fascinating how Europe and the USA have dealt with the SPAM email issue. It reveals the difference in our socio-economic and political systems as well as cultures. However, one thing that is the same is that email is considered either SPAM or solicited opt-in. There is very little room for anything else.
In this article, we’ll explore who is responsible for and penalized for SPAM email, as well as how to ensure you can communicate with your target audiences. Being able to utilize email for marketing is crucial to businesses. However, if not done strategically your chances of getting into their inbox are next to zero.
Control…SPAM versus Solicited Opt-in Email
Email marketing has changed drastically in recent years. What few people understand is that the email delivery infrastructure in the USA is a self-regulated. Europe, on the other hand, is a rules-based system with governmental oversight and penalties. It’s fascinating the two methods and how they work.
Under the US system, email delivery is the responsibility of the sender Internet Service Provider (ISP). The ISP’s reputation is at stake when they send any SPAM email. The term reputation is not to be taken lightly. If a recipient ISPs considers another ISP as a SPAMer they will start to block that rouge email server. What’s worse is that an ISP can inform others about untrustworthy colleagues.
Why would do they do that? Why is it in the interests of an ISP to block a SPAMing ISP’s sending email server?
SPAM versus Solicited Opt-In Email – No One Wants To Receive SPAM
If you are an ISP there are various things that are important to you. One of them is your server processing time. If your servers are processing tons of junk email that means they cannot be servicing your existing valid customers’ requirements. If servers are bogged down with bogus email then not it can impact their overall bandwidth, which includes presenting hosted websites quickly.
From an ISP’s perspective, they provide email as a throw-in. In fact, most website hosting plans include email delivery and storage. They don’t make any kind of money from providing and delivering your email.
Like all businesses, ISP’s focus on maximizing services at the lowest cost to themselves. That means having an email server provides services to many clients. If one of their clients is a SPAMer it will impact many others. If that server’s emails cannot be delivered it naturally impacts all others using that email service for sending. That is not a good thing for an ISP. When customers want to send a legitimate email they want it to make its way to the destination inbox and not get blocked. When that happens it is very bad for business since web services are typically bundled (website hosting and email).
People receiving email do not want ANY SPAM. However, senders frequently believe that their emails are not SPAM.
For a while, I worked for a company that made monitoring devices that were used by power utilities. They had a list of people that were precisely their target audience, who used this type of equipment. My employer, the owner of the company, insisted that sending emails to these people is not SPAM. In short, he thinks he knows what people should get in their inboxes. He claimed they wanted the content we were sending and the products we were selling. However, delusion does not constitute facts. Thank goodness.
Just because someone does not believe they are sending SPAM or junk email does not make it fact.
Junk v Spam
Most consider the difference between SPAM and junk email is that SPAM is thought of as bulk email while junk is often considered undesirable email. Just the same, when a salesperson sends me a promotional email on their sale and I have never heard of the company or person that doesn’t mean it is not considered SPAM.
So what is SPAM?
In short, it’s really anything that the recipient considers as SPAM. For example, even though someone opt-ed in to receive some email it does not automatically mean they remember and accept the message. They have the liberty to mark it as junk/SPAM. They can mark your email SPAM or junk mail anytime they wish. This is a harsh reality of the current system.
There’s also a subset of “SPAM” that is nefarious. Those emails can contain code that virus infection, record keystrokes, or worse. There is also a range of techniques utilized by hackers called phishing (linked story illustrates how easy this is) that has been effective at stealing passwords and personal information from unsuspecting email users. This is yet another reason why opt-in email is so critical these days.
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Legitimate Email Blocked
As noted above, even an email that is totally legitimate can be marked as SPAM. There is a range of reasons for an email to be considered SPAM. Most of the ways this labeling occurs are technical/rules-based systems analysis of emails. For example, if you are using corporate email there are usually multiple filters.
Starting at the recipient’s email application there can be SPAM blocking. Then there may be enterprise filtering, and prior to that, your ISP may be doing filtering as well. In other cases, it may merely be the sender and your Google mail account that scans and filters. If you use Google’s mail you have likely noticed how even “seemingly” valid email can have a hard time getting to the inbox.
It’s good to know that corporate filters (also used by ISPs) can do a range of checking on email. One type that is widely used is content examination. The use of certain keywords can be seen as signaling SPAM. For example, “get free”, “buy now”, etc. This combined with other signals can lead to email being labeled as SPAM and blocked.
The result of these methods to keep illegitimate email out also can prevent legitimate email from getting into the inbox. The question then becomes – why?
Intensive SPAMers over the years developed an array of methods to bypass filters. In the current cat and mouse game of stopping SPAM, we find a whole range of attributes being examined in concert. For example, it is possible to match source creation and email routing. Also, an unusual burst of emails sent from a single source, source IP address rotations for the same exact content, and many other complex heuristics are examined. So, any number of combined oddities can flag SPAM filters.
How To Ensure Deliverability of Your Email
It seems tough to get an email to someone, doesn’t it? Well, one-off, low volume email, is not a huge challenge. It’s really volume emails that get examined closely. Yes, SPAMers try to play with that as well. But, assuming you want to legitimately email you have to take a very strategic approach. This means no shortcuts and being patient. Few have this patience.
A Problem or Opportunity?
If you wish to bulk email you must build an opt-in list. There is absolutely no way around this. The only question is how to do it. Our approach to achieving this is to utilize a content marketing strategy. The reason we do not just do one thing to address the challenge is that you may achieve the goal but you lose a lot of other benefits. The main benefit is thinking in terms of value delivery.
There’s an opportunity in this problem of email delivery. The opportunity is to change your marketing approach and really align it much better. Instead of seeing this as a block you see it as changing your approach to deliver real value to prospects. It is the equivalent of switching from a features based viewpoint to a benefit based one. It is a movement from selling to matching. It is a switch from self-focus to prospect focused.
We model this around the Buyer’s Journey and then construct valuable content that delivers value. The goal is to provide valued content that a visitor wants. The content can be anything of value (video, webinar, infographic, report, etc.). The idea is to help them in their process. By doing so, we obtain a side benefit of relationship building and converting the perception of our organization from sales to a partner.
This may seem like a long way to go to get an email into an inbox? Not really.
Most companies take a very short view of their business. Yet, marketing is not the same as other parts of your organization. Many aspects of marketing are a macro long term game. They require a strategic big picture approach. It requires patience. There are micro and quicker efforts marketing can take to grow your business (such as advertising), but developing a reliable communication and content marketing strategy is not one of them.
From SPAM to Valued Content
The short version? If you want to get to the inbox, build valued content that people want to get.
Here are a few more of the methodologies that we utilize as part of a communication and marketing structure:
- Content that motivates prospects to submit their personal information
- Valued content targeted at buyers in different stages of their buying experience (evaluation and engagement process)
- Manageable and segregated email lists for targeted and ongoing messaging
- Valuable email nurture content designed to move prospects through a buyer’s journey
- High-valued blog content, as the backbone for newsletter and social content
- Measurable key performance indicators (KPIs) to monitor the success of email marketing efforts
Need Help Getting into Your Prospects Inbox?
We utilize opt-in content to build a strong connection to your prospects. By combining content with the buyer’s journey and ongoing communication, you’ll have a completely automated and powerful system. Easily assist prospects in moving from an unknown website visitors to customers (and ultimate advocates).
Want more information?
Contact us at [email protected] or call 800-709-3240 and we can help you navigate modern email marketing.