Are your drip campaigns leaky? If your e-mails get classified as spam, it could kill your lead generation campaign before it ever gets started.
That's because e-mails marked as spam usually land in your would-be buyer's spam folder or, even worse, drive recipients to file complaints. The bottom line: Spamming is illegal.
At the very least, consumers can complain to their Internet Service Provider (ISP) and blacklist your e-mail address. Web-based e-mail programs like Hotmail, Yahoo! Mail and Gmail make it particularly easy to report spam. Worse, consumers can also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission via the CAN-SPAM Act of 2004, where consequences could potentially be greater.
Follow E-Mail Best Practices
People are hypersensitive to spam because it costs them time and money. In order to avoid spam complaints – and get your e-mail message in front of homebuyers – you should educate yourself about e-mail marketing industry standards. Groups like the Email Sender and Provider Coalition and the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) offer best practices for sending e-mail. Here are some of those best practices from the DMA:
1. Get Permission: Don't send commercial e-mail to people who have not given you permission to do so. Getting permission is called affirmative consent. DMA research shows that getting permission drives higher response rates and lower complaint rates. Once someone subscribes to your list, the best practice is to send them a welcome e-mail that gives them one more opportunity to opt-out. This is called a double-opt-in.
2. Stay Relevant: If you keep your content relevant – that is, stick to the information topics recipients expected to receive when they gave you permission to send them e-mail – then you are more likely to avoid spam complaints. The DMA suggests using subject lines that describe the content of the e-mail and making sure your brand name is visible so the reader knows who the e-mail is from.
3. Follow ISP Rules: E-mail providers have rules. If you follow them, your e-mail is less likely to be marked as spam. The DMA suggests seeking the e-mail provider's "whitelist criteria" to avoid filters that block your message from getting to its willing recipient.
4. Keep a Clean List: If you want to run a successful drip campaign, you need to keep your database of e-mail addresses up to date. According to the DMA, sending e-mail to addresses that no longer exist causes problems with e-mail providers. E-mail providers expect you to remove people from your list who unsubscribe and remove outdated e-mail addresses from your list. You can identify outdated e-mail addresses because they usually bounce back.
5. Educate Your List: If you want to stay off an ISP's blacklist, the DMA suggests educating your recipients. Tell them how to add you to their approved list or whitelist so the e-mail provider doesn't block your message. The DMA says you can also encourage recipients to click the "unsubscribe" button if they no longer want to receive e-mails from you rather than reporting them as spam.
6. Respond to Complaints: If someone on your list does complain that you are sending them unsolicited e-mail, don't ignore them. The DMA recommends removing complainers from your list immediately before they take further action.
Handled correctly, e-mail marketing can be an effective – and cost effective – lead generation tool. It's simple for your clients to forward your e-mails to friends and family, creating a viral effect that extends your reach.
If you are providing valuable information and following e-mail provider rules, you can be sure your e-mails are serving as seeds that bear fruit instead of weeds that bear complaints. Educate yourself on these and other e-mail marketing best practices and get a lead harvest in 2010.