Email Marketing Course (Day #4): Sending your Emails

Toady’s email arrived in your inbox at an optimal time. No, not optimal for everyone who registered, but optimal for most of the people who registered.

It wasn’t sent at 8 a.m. Eastern because Influencer #9 said that’s the best time.

The Best Days and Times to Send Emails

The inconvenient truth is that there is no universally optimal time to send an email. Or publish a blog post. Or tweet. Or post to Facebook.

But through trial and error, you’ll find a time that’s optimal for your specific audience. So, again, I’m recommending that you drop assumptions and experiment.

When it comes to frequency, though, Tarzan Kay, email copywriting expert, thinks you need to send more email:

“Solopreneurs, especially women, get all shy about sending sales emails. They sneak in the offer at the very end, send only one or two sales emails, and feel all bad about it. Phooey! Do you think James Altucher gives a damn whether or not you think he sends ‘too many emails’? No way. That’s why he’s a gazillionaire.”

I know, I know… another thing you’ll need to experiment with and test. But getting frequency right is a huge deal. No one wants to be the guy who “doesn’t want to bother you”, but sends four follow ups about his free demo offer or link request.

Here’s the difference between you and that guy: you’re putting in the work. You’re someone who’s taking the time to get email marketing right. The result? You’re going to send emails that are genuinely valuable, that people really want to read.

So, you can’t be afraid of a little volume. Send, send, send. Chances are, you’re sending fewer emails than you should be, scared you’ll send up sad and alone in a spam folder like Free Demo Guy. But you’re not Free Demo Guy, so get out there and start experimenting.

With all of those extra emails going out, you might be worried about deliverability.

Rightfully so.

The 4 Factors of Deliverability

Deliverability is everything. Hey, if your emails aren’t landing in inboxes, there’s no email course in the world that can help you convert via email.

“If your emails aren’t landing in inboxes, there’s no email course in the world that can help you convert via email.”

The good news is that you’re thinking about deliverability before disaster has struck. Usually, people don’t think about deliverability until the problem is already looming over them.

Shanelle Mullin of Shopify shared her deliverability checklist with me:

“When I think about deliverability, I think about four core factors:

  • Content: Is the email relevant and anticipated? Does it follow CAN-SPAM guidelines? Is it easy to read? Is it accessible, regardless of email client and device?
  • Reputation: As a sender, you have a reputation that comes into play here. Is the unsubscribe option hidden away or difficult to actually execute? Is the domain’s complaint rate low? Was this list built honestly and organically (vs. purchased or found)?
  • Infrastructure: Is this a dedicated IP? Is there an ISP feedback loop? Are the mail servers secure? Is the sending address able to receive email?”

How Spam Filters Work (Both Bot and Human)

Spam filters play a role in this process, too. Honestly, half the battle is understanding how they actually work:

  1. Every email you send is given a score. If the score is too high, it’s marked as spam.
  2. Every server is different, though. So, a passing score on one server might be a failing score on another.
  3. The score you’re given is based on a list of criteria, which is always changing, but never publicly shared.

Fun, right? Spam filters are complex because they’re always changing and improving, but we can’t know precisely how. It’s a lot like search and social algorithms in that way, actually.

But, of course, there are some things we know we shouldn’t do if we want to get by the spam filters:

  • Don’t copy and paste blindly. Formatting translates very poorly from one tool to another. If you’re copying something from an outside source (e.g. WordPress, Word, a website), run it through an HTML cleaner first. Bad formatting and unclean HTML will send a red flag to spam filters.
  • Don’t use spam-y words and phrases. “SUNDAY, SUNDAY, SUNDAY!” Face it, there are just some words, phrases and grammar points that give off a spam-y vibe. Don’t use them. Control your exclamation point obsession, don’t remind readers it’s free seventeen times, etc.
  • Don’t email inactive lists. People leave jobs, they change their email address, they lose interest, they forget. The older your list is, the more likely it is that sending an email will result in complaints, spam claims, etc. That’s why you shouldn’t buy a list and why you should do regular list maintenance to clear out inactive subscribers.

When you think about spam filters, you usually think about bots and algorithms, right? But what about the human element? You know, the living, breathing people reporting your emails as spam? How do you get by those spam filters?

Linda Grant of Vero has some advice:

“Understanding sender reputation, authentication and legislation is imperative for successful email deliverability, but an area that is still often overlooked is engagement-based filtering. Deleting emails without opening or simply not reading emails can be indicators that your emails are unwanted, and you may find email clients booting your next email straight to spam!

To help get your emails delivered and continue to be delivered to the inbox:

  • Review your opt-in process to make sure your new contacts are expecting to receive your emails, and the type of content you’re sending (GDPR will soon make this a necessity).
  • Use your data to create relevant, valuable and engaging communications that consistently delight your customers so that they open your email this time and the next time.”

Note that most of the time, these human spam decisions are made without even opening your email. That’s why your preview pane is so important. It’s not only there to convince people to open and read, it’s there to convince people it’s not spam.

That’s why your preview pane is so important. It’s not only there to convince people to open and read, it’s there to convince people it’s not spam.

If you follow Linda’s advice, and remember to set expectations early in terms of content and frequency, you should have no problem sliding by the most complicated spam filter of all: the human brain.

Well, looks like that email is just about ready to send out, huh?

How to Conduct Quality Assurance Before Hitting Send

There’s only one question remaining: does the email look just as ready in every browser, in every email client and on every device?

Conducting proper quality assurance is the only way to answer that deceptively complex question.

You see, for every browser, there are dozens of versions. The same is true for every email client and every device. Quality assurance means checking to see if your email will display properly on all of those versions. That’s a huge, but important task.

If things don’t display properly, conversion rate suffers. Duh, right? If it doesn’t work properly, it won’t convert properly.
It can come down to something as simple as making sure everything is clickable, as Andy Crestodina of Orbit Media explains:

“Make the image clickable, the headline clickable and, of course, the call to action clickable. And when I say click, I mean tap. That fingertip has plenty of places to land. 

mobile emails

Especially the image because it’s big. Links are often tiny little tap targets. Not great for fat fingers.”

Or it can come down to something much larger, like distorted images on mobile.

To help prioritize your quality assurance efforts, you can dive into your analytics. What percent of readers are on mobile? Which devices and browsers are they using? Which email clients?

Google Analytics can also help you answer these types of technology questions, if you’re using proper tracking.

The goal is to identify a list of browsers, email clients and devices that your audience uses most often. You can start your quality assurance mission there.

Just be sure to continue quality assurance beyond your priority list because you just know there’s someone somewhere using a version of SquirrelMail from 1999.

<– Yesterday’s lesson on designing high-converting emails

Next up: Testing and measuring your emails –>