How would you feel if someone told you that a fifth of the marketing emails you send won’t even land in your recipients’ inboxes?
That’s the findings of research from ReturnPath, an email marketing consultancy, who report that around 21% of legitimate marketing emails are filtered out as spam.
Email marketing is a key weapon in the events marketing arsenal, and so ensuring that your intended recipients receive your message is imperative – you don’t want to make simple errors that hamstring event success at the first impression.
Let’s explore what exactly spam is, and then explore strategies you can put in place to boost your chances of landing straight in your guests’ inboxes.
What is spam?
Spam is any kind of email that a spam filter judges to be irrelevant or unsolicited. Spam is normally sent to large numbers of email addresses and can include perfectly innocent marketing content as well as malicious scams, unwanted messages and links or attachments containing viruses.
And it’s a big problem. Just under 50% of all emails sent today is flagged as spam.
To counteract spam, most email services are protected by spam filters that aim to separate most of it out automatically. The filters do this in a number of ways:
- Scanning the email’s transmission details for suspicious origins or code
- Checking the sender against known lists of ‘likely’ spammers
- Scanning the body of the email for suspicious content
If you are sending legitimate marketing emails, you are most likely to be caught out by that last point.
Many of today’s more sophisticated spam filters use natural language processing to decide if an email is spam, as well as checking for things like suspicious links or the use of too much imagery. They add up a score of the ‘spamminess’ of your email against various criteria and after a certain limit will mark the email as junk.
These may all sound like things that are outside of your control when marketing your event, but that’s actually not the case.
There is a range of tactics you can employ to help spam filters understand your emails are legitimate. These aren’t shady tricks either – think of it as the difference between barging through the door of someone’s home, and politely knocking and introducing yourself.
Let’s take it step by step, from basic setup to post-send out. By applying the following process to your entire email marketing strategy, you make it much more likely that your emails end up in your target audience’s inboxes:
Before you even begin planning your next campaign, start with getting a few email marketing basics sorted out.
Collect email consent accurately: whenever you collect an email address – be it through an online form, at an event or at your webstore’s checkout, try to use ‘double opt-in’. When someone signs up to your marketing newsletter, for instance, double opt-in means sending them a sign-up email to confirm that they do indeed wish to receive your emails, so that they have clearly opted-in twice, which removes almost any possibility of someone accidentally ending up on your list.
Keep your lists clean: It’s also important to clean your list of people who bounce or mark you as spam – there’s no value in messaging them anyway and the more emails you send of this sort, the more likely you are to get blacklisted. And don’t forget to check for typos, old email addresses, and inaccuracies in contact information that prevent your emails from even getting to the right recipient.
Pick a trusted email marketing platform: You should also choose a strong email marketing platform that will make it much more likely your email passes through the spam filters. Well-known and trusted platforms effectively enforce compliance with relevant email marketing legislation and include automatic ‘unsubscribe’ buttons. They also use servers which spam filters know and trust when sending out mass emails.
There are more general one-size-fits-all solutions, like MailChimp, or more specialized ones like zkipster’s online invitations platform specifically designed for professional events.
Verify your email domain: This is a big one. Research from zkipster found that verifying your email domain reliably increases the deliverability of your emails. In short: this is a reliable way to make spam filters trust you more. Here’s a quick guide on how to do it using zkipster, and there are similar processes for other professional email tools.
Planning your email campaign involves more than just sending out blasts to your entire subscriber lists. Instead, you should:
Segment your lists into target audiences: Avoid sending emails to people who will not be interested in a specific event – this will only irritate them and mean they mark you as spam. Whether they are segmented by location, job title, or internal criteria (read about some of the methods Christie’s uses for better segmentation) make sure you only send out your emails to a tailored and targeted list.
Schedule a timetable: Sending too many emails will get on people’s nerves and, rather than just unsubscribing, they may mark you as spam. Work out a reasonable schedule for the campaign which builds up and gets people excited and intrigued, without flooding their inboxes.
There are quite a few best practices during the email design process you can employ that help bypass spam folders as well.
Avoid certain ‘red flag’ keywords: open your own spam folder and you will see many email subject lines containing tell-tale spam keywords. Spam filters see certain keywords as suspicious, so you should know that when picking language. Check out this list of 455 spam keywords to avoid.
Go light on images and links: As with certain keywords, heavy usage of imagery and links can count against you when it comes to spam filters. It’s fine to include a couple images representing your event so long as they are optimized for the web – and you will of course want to include links to your RSVP page. But heavy use of images and hyperlinks is a classic trait of spam emails that can make filters highly suspicious of your content.
Personalize emails where you can: assuming you have collated a segmented email list, you should be able to use personalized email tags so the recipient’s system sees that it knows their real name, and you can even include their name in the email body itself – this tells spam filters that you’re not just guessing who you are sending to.
Use recognizable sender information: send your messages from a personable email address – avoid something like firstname.lastname@example.org that looks generic or automated, and try to have it come from a real person and name, or at least something related like email@example.com.
Last but not least, you should also be tracking your campaign for signs that emails are being perceived as spam.
Monitor open rates: Keep an eye on open and click rates; if there’s a trend that people are increasingly ignoring your emails it suggests that they may be getting fatigued, and many successive unopened emails will make a spam filter decide your emails are likely lower quality.
This may not be an issue directly with the person you’re emailing (after all, they’re not opening your emails anyway), but it can be a big problem if it’s a company network that decides your emails are spam, and then other people at that company start seeing your emails marked as spam too!
Many professional email tools also include some kind of spam and bounce tracking, which can help you spot issues before they become serious trends, and pinpoint if certain bounces are happening as a result of spam filters, or because of inaccuracies in contact info.
Don’t let your event marketing emails fall at the first hurdle
It’s a big enough task getting people to open your emails, and even harder to get them to act on your messages and RSVP to your event. Give yourself the best odds possible by making sure as many of your emails as possible actually arrive in people’s inboxes – and not their spam folder.
By taking a little time to ensure that your emails appear legitimate, you make it much more likely that they will end up in your recipients’ inboxes, giving you the best chance that they’ll get opened and acted on.
For more information on the art and science of email RSVPs, read our FREE, in-depth, 60-page guide today.