The benefits of warming up your email campaign
As anti-spam technology advances, so does the effectiveness of assessing whether a message is spam. Taking a few important steps prior to the live launch can boost the success of your email campaigns.
Having surveyed many major email senders over the years, I’ve found that less than 3 percent “warm up” their campaigns prior to the live launch. Many marketers want mailings out the door in seconds and have little concern for what I call the “preflight checklist.” There are dozens of moving parts to any email campaign, and you don’t want to overlook the one part that is critical to launching a good campaign. That step is the campaign warm-up phase — a must-do for every mailer.
To understand why a warm-up is essential, it helps to understand how anti-spam filters work. When your email messages arrive at any major mail gateway, they pass into an anti-spam system, and your message is scrutinized — more than once. The first step is to check your reputation, which is based on past mailings and what other anti-spam appliances have detected. If the network you are mailing from has been associated with high complaint numbers in the past, then your message will probably be rejected, routed to the spam folder or worse — simply deleted.
After your message passes the initial reputation check, it will be subject to an in-depth review. And here is where the warm-up phase can really boost your inbox delivery rates, because one part of that critical review is “Has this message been seen before?”
Even if your test mailing makes it to the inbox, it does not mean your live mailing will arrive there too. In fact, many anti-spam systems will let several messages pass basic filtering while the message content is being analyzed. After the anti-spam system gathers all the facts it needs, it then renders its verdict on your campaign — and that’s when the junk-to-inbox arrival ratio can get ugly.
To minimize the possibility of your mailer being labeled as spam, we’ve found that a warm-up process executed over several hours can mean up to an 8 percent improvement in inbox arrivals, which, of course, translates into a better chance of increased response rates. The three-step warm-up process consists of sending your message to dozens of special email addresses (called “seeds”) used to monitor deliveries. The process is repeated at least three times over a six-hour period prior to your live launch.
The mail servers send your message to random parts of the seed list so there is no set pattern to the mailing. This gives the anti-spam systems time to gather the facts about your mailing and then determine how that message should be treated. If the anti-spam system determines your message should be treated harshly, you can modify the message or contact the anti-spam appliance maker to clear up the problems. This process happens every day with major mailers. They know they have to maintain a good reputation with their Internet service providers to keep their clients’ mail flowing smoothly.
There are dozens of things going on behind the scenes when you launch a mailing, including careful analysis of bounces to pick up signs of a block, blacklist or rejected message. Warming up your campaigns will help to minimize these problems. Low complaint rates with an active recipient base (recipients who do something with your message other than delete it) will help keep your head above water when it comes to anti-spam filters. These new anti-spam systems will actually learn and remember your mailing habits, so keeping clean will help keep your messages from always landing in the spam or junk folder.
The days of “just mail it” are long gone. Even though launching your email campaigns now requires more diligence than ever, the benefits of warming up your message can be measured in sales instead of by how many messages are caught up or deleted by a spam filter.