Protecting your e-mail image

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Your e-mail box is constantly filling up with unsolicited junk e-mails. At the end of October, Chris Anderson, the editor in chief of Wired magazine, decided to do something about it.

He took every e-mail address from which he had received unsolicited or irrelevant e-mail in the previous month and published it on his blog, As open rates and click-through rates decline, managing e-mail has become more and more important for direct marketers. So one wonders how to avoid getting on such a list as Anderson’s?

“This is all about the perception of e-mail versus the perception of physical mail,” said Cyndi W. Greenglass, president of agency services at Diamond Marketing Solutions. Unsolicited physical mail is widely accepted, she said, while unsolicited e-mail is not as widely accepted.

“E-mail is held to an entirely different standard,” she said. “The perception is that e-mail is a medium that better be more relevant to the recipient; that there should be some pre-existing relationship between the sender and recipient.”

Greenglass suggested that e-mail senders be sure to confirm that recipients want to receive information, via opt-ins, phone calls beforehand or by faxing the addressee. “If someone recognizes your name or company name because you’ve taken the time to build a relationship even in the slightest way, that will help you get your note opened immensely,” Greenglass said.

Dave Frankland, a senior analyst at Forrester Research, who studies database marketing, agreed. “If you build that relationship, it becomes easier to call and ask them what they’re working on, that sort of thing,” he said. “You’ve got to make it relevant to them or it’s pointless.”

Frankland suggested studying a potential recipient’s Web site to try and figure out who covers what. If that fails, a direct call to ask can yield the information as well. “They may be surprised by the call,” he said, “but it will pay dividends for both parties down the road.”

If dealing with a magazine, Frankland recommended looking at the publication’s editorial calendar. “Find things that fit onto the calendar,” he said, “or at least mention in your note that you know this isn’t on the calendar but could help them in some other way. That’s the kind of thing that helps build a relationship.”

While renting an e-mail list, Greenglass said, always use a recognizable name brand and find a list where the broker and e-mail manager are known commodities. Check which firms have previously used the list. “Who else has deployed this e-mail list? If credible companies have used it, then that’s very important,” she said.

Turker Hassan, interactive department manager at Statlistics, said it is very helpful to know the projected bounce rate of a file in order to predict the actual delivery rate. “We add an additional percentage of names where possible to cover those projected bounce rates, and deliver the desired quantity for each order,” he said.

Filtering is a growing issue, he said, and many bounce-backs are due to bad coding or bad copy, such as in the subject line. Hassan said the subject line should be a direct teaser to the content to come and to the point. “Keep your e-mail copy simple,” he said. “Avoid obvious traps like the wording ‘free,’ ‘click here,’ the dollar sign or the use of all caps.”

Greenglass said a recent trend is to retrofit e-mail addresses, as in compiling lists from companies just using standard e-mail-address architecture—such as [email protected]—and just steamrolling every name possible from a company into one database. “This is not a good business practice,” she said. “It’s not well-received. It does more harm than good for your own image.”

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