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Archive for September, 2007


Moving to double opt-in is a good idea, but you have to be careful how you implement it, otherwise you may end up inadvertently decimating your list!

Although the following instructions are specific to Constant Contact, the principle is applicable to other Email Service Providers that use a similar approach to handling single vs. double opt-in.

I recommend using what I call a “soft confirm” approach. Here’s how it works:

  1. Log in to your account.
  2. Turn on “Confirmed Opt-in” under the My Settings tab.
  3. Once this is set, start including a “Permission Reminder” at the top of your emails.

This will allow your subscribers to confirm their intention to receive your messages. The beauty of this approach is that you can still send emails to all of your subscribers, both confirmed and non-confirmed. Ideally, once your whole list is double opt-in, you will start enjoying a higher deliverability rate, because your account will be “upgraded” behind the scenes, and you emails will be delivered by top-tier servers which are ranked higher with major ISPs.

This way you will confirm your subscribers “softly”, over time, and switching to double opt-in will not cause you to lose any subscribers.

Alternatively – and I wouldn’t recommend you use this approach unless you’re 100% sure what the consequences might be – you could send your subscribers a “confirmation email”. This is a special kind of email, generated by Constant Contact. Once this email is sent you can’t send any more email to the same subscriber until s/he confirms. This can, potentially, be a very dangerous tactic. Let me explain.

Let’s say your open rate is an average 35%. This means, if your confirmation email gets opened by 35% of your subscribers, that’s the most you can expect to have confirm. In other words, if you start with a list of 1,000 subscribers, you may end up with a list thats only 1/3 the size of the original.

Most likely, some, if not most, of the other 650 subscribers would have been happy to continue to receive your emails, but they will be cut off. You wouldn’t want that to happen, now, would you?

There is one instance, however, when you’d want to send a confirmation email to a subset of your subscribers. If you’re doing your list maintenance on a regular basis, you will have a sub list of subscribers who never open your email messages. After a while – you decide if it’s going to be after 3 months of inactivity or 6 weeks or whatever – you may want to prune your list of these “dead” leads.

This is especially important with ESPs such as Constant Contact who charge you by the size of your list, or some others, such as Vertical Response, who charge you by each email sent. In any case, you may want to decide to get rid of the subscribers who are non-responsive, and one way of doing that is to create a sub-list containing those email addresses and sending them, and only them, a confirmation email.

In your confirmation email you can say something like: “You have been a subscriber to my ezine for a number of months. However, my records show that you have not opened a single message in the last 3 months. If you’re still interested in receiving then [call to action]”

Mind you, those open statistics your ESP is showing are not 100% accurate. They do not account for people who receive your emails in text format, because those cannot be tracked. Also, people who have image display turned off also won’t show up in your statistics, so bear that in mind when you go pruning!

Category : E-newsletter Publishing | Email Delivery Best Practices | Email List Management | Email Marketing | Email Service Providers | Blog

It’s bonus time!

Last couple of weeks I’ve been busy writing, recording, sound-editing, re-writing, and then re-recording my new special report: “The 4 Biggest Mistakes to Avoid in Marketing Your Small Business.” It’s now ready in audio format you can listen to on line, or download an MP3 to your PC. I personally prefer to listen to this kind of educational materials in my car.

There will be a printable PDF version as well, hopefully by the end of the week. For audio recording I used Impact Web Audio and the files are hosted by AudioAcrobat.

Category : Business Networking | E-newsletter Publishing | Email Marketing | Off Line Marketing Strategies | Small Business Marketing | Special Reports and Whitepapers | Blog

This is a very common practice, especially with those businesses that deal with clients mostly off line, such as retailers or dentists. When a new customer walks in to your shop or practice, you can ask him to sign up for your email newsletter. You then enter that information to your database, and then regularly upload the new information to your ESP account.

Uploading these new subscribers shouldn’t be a problem, however, you may run into difficulties updating email addresses of your existing clients who are already receiving your ezine. Ideally, your subscribers should update their own information on line, using your ESP’s forms and tools (that’s one of the reasons you pay that monthly fee, right?). However, sometimes, customers feel more comfortable giving you their new email address over the phone, or more likely, in person, while they are making another purchase, or visiting your place of business.

The problem here lies in the fact that most ESPs track your subscribers by their email address, not their name, or some other identifier. Because of this, updating an email address of an existing subscriber may be tricky.

If you’re using 1ShoppingCart, Aweber or GetResponse, uploading a list containing new email addresses will trigger a “confirmation email” to be sent to those new subscribers.
Since you’re only updating existing subscribers’ data, you will have to do it by hand, one by one by manually searching for the subscribers whose address needs updating and then entering the new address directly.

However, if you’re using Constant Contact, and you have double opt-in turned off, you can upload your “new” and existing subscribers. If you accidentally upload some of the old subscribers who have opted out on line, that’s not going to be a problem since Constant Contact maintains a Do Not Mail list, and those addresses will not be added to your list.

Category : E-newsletter Publishing | Email List Management | Email Marketing | Email Service Providers | Off Line Marketing Strategies | Blog

Luka getting ready for schoolIn most countries, September is the time kids return or start school. Last week I took my son Luka to his first half-hour visit with his old kindergarten teacher. Yesterday he went to school for an hour, and on Wednesday, he’s in for half-day. Only on Friday does he go for his first full day of kindergarten.

He’s very proud of being a ‘Senior’ this year, and he’s thrilled that most of his old friends from JK are going to be in his class this year, too.

This “go slow” (re)entry to the school system seems like a good idea you could apply to your business, too. Let’s say you meet someone at a networking event, or even at a social function. I wouldn’t recommend that you go into “full frontal assault” and try to convert this prospect to a client on the spot.

Instead, offer to sign him up to your ezine, or some sort of resource that will allow your prospect to get to know you first. If you do it gradually, and create arelationship first, when the time comes to convert your prospect to a client, your chances of success will be much higher.

Category : Personal | Blog

This is a complex question, and must be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. Here are some general tips on importing your list:

  • Depending on where you live and where your ESP is based, different rules and laws will apply. For example, regardless of where you live, if your ESP is US-based, then the CAN-SPAM act would apply. Your local laws may be even more restrictive, so consider that before choosing an ESP.
  • Some ESPs, such as Constant Contact, will let you import any type of list as long as you give them your word that the list is kosher, and, unless you have confirmation option turned “on”, you’ll be able to email this list without restrictions. This works beautifully for people who may be transferring an existing list from a different ESP, or are simply planning to start using email to reach their existing clients on a regular basis. With Constant Contact, you can confirm those emails over time, using a so-called “permission reminder.”
  • However, don’t be tempted to upload one of those “million leads” CDs, because you’ll be labelled as a spammer quicker than you can say, “double opt in!”
  • If you’re planning to purchase leads from list brokers, most ESPs won’t allow you to import such lists. Notable exception is 1ShoppingCart; they still allow purchased leads from services such as ListBuilder. All imports still need to be confirmed though, unless you hire somebody to manually enter them as “old clients,” one by one, but be very careful with this strategy, if you enter too many “old clients” your account could get suspended, or at least your ability to add “old clients”.
  • You may be tempted to try to do the list management on your own, by setting up a mail server, and running an Email List software, such as AutoResponse Plus, on your own. This is so complex that I won’t even go there, but suffice is to say that you will have a hard time finding a reputable web hosting company who will allow you to upload purchased lists. Better stick to using an ESP, unless you’re a web-programming guru, and are ready to fight your own battle white-listing your domain with the likes of Yahoo, MSN and AOL – good luck with that!
  • Once you have imported your list, you will have different results in terms of responsiveness of your list, depending on how “fresh” the list is, among other factors. If you’ve been in business for years and have never contacted your list of clients by email, it is very likely at least some of your email would be labelled as spann, even if you were trying to import a “clean, honest” list of your own clients.
  • When importing a list expect to loose subscribers, anywhere from 10%, to as much as 90% of subscribers. Don’t despair, though, those who do not confirm their intention to receive email from you are, most likely, not your best prospects anyway, so don’t shed any tears over this.
Category : E-newsletter Publishing | Email Delivery Best Practices | Email List Building | Email List Management | Email Marketing | Email Service Providers | Blog