emailing our own customers (c.50,000 UK based) - any advice?

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We have a list of about 50,000 valid opt-in email addresses (mainly UK
We need to start outsourcing our email mail-shots to our customers.
Our agency (Email Vision) are making it all sound incredibly
But can any one give me a top 10 list of do's and don'ts when emailing
your own customers (so as not to get caught by spam filters)?

Shiperton Henethe

Re: emailing our own customers (c.50,000 UK based) - any advice?

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What's "valid opt-in" ?  50K is a _big_ list, are you really sure that
this list is what matters, "people who _want_ your emails".

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Isn't that their job to do that?  Otherwise you'd realise it's a piece
of piss.

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Send them stuff they want, when they want it. Sending them stuff that
_you_ want is awfully risky - they'll just spambucket you locally if
you overdo it.

Eat your own dogfood. Never send an email sub list out that you aren't
receiving and reading yourself.

Understand catastrophe theory.  The deeper your relationship with a
customer, the worse they'll react if you ever do piss them off. Lots
of people I've never heard of spam me and I just ignore it, but if a
shop I've been dealing with for years suddenly goes brain-dead and
spams, then I'm furious and likely to stop doing business with them

Same as any other business. Either do stuff you understand how to do,
or else have people who really understand how to do it do it for you
instead. I've never worked with Email Vision (looking at their own
home page, they've already failed my first technical filter for
partners) but most of these outfits are technically incompetent and
running entirely on glitz and large lunches. This ain't rocket

Send technically valid emails.

Ideally just send plain text, not HTML.

If you send HTML, know why you're doing it. Embedded product images is
sufficient reason, embedded company logos is dubious, forcing font
sizes onto people certainly isn't.

If you must send them HTML, do it right. Send them HTML _and_ plain
text. Make sure it's correctly encoded.

Keep the HTML simple, minimal and valid. Don't make it too big, don't
send Flash, don't use JavaScript, don't use invalid M$oft tools to
generate it. Make it accessible (read the Joe Clark book).

Don't ever send out HTML alone. Always include the plain text version.

When you include a plain text version, make sure it's useful and
readable. A brain-dead HTML -> text converter (like Outlook) that
duplicates URLs in links or one that treat the contents of a <script>
element as plain text to be included just isn't good enough.

Don't ever insult your customers. If someone bothers to respond to you
and say "I can't read this", then it's _your_ fault and problem to
fix, not theirs.

Use RSS instead or as well as email. A "marketing house" that hasn't
been offering this sort of service for some years isn't technically

Send email over the web too. Have your broadcast emails / weekly
newsletters visible on line. Link to these and link to them from your
homepage too. Many of your plaintext email readers will happily read
the web version in all its glory.

Complicated personalised and phishing-prone emails should be web
verifiable (eBay is generally a good example). Educate your users to
go to your website and look for "my messages", not just click blindly
on any phishery they're sent.

Educate your users as to what you'll _never_ send (Such as "Please
confirm your password" phishes). Don't then send them one afterwards!

Use the right addresses and domains. Make it look like it came from
you, not your mailer house. This includes the response and unsubscribe

Don't look like spam. Don't look like phishing. Don't use cutesy
tricks that the phishers are using.

Don't spam. Don't spam unwittingly. Don't let any part of your
process, sign-up, address lists or delivery mechanisms be subverted
for someone else to send spam through you.

Be already ready to deal with a joe-job run on you. Have explanations
already to hand for angry recipients. Don't ignore it, educate them
that it's a simple forgery, not from you at all. Tell them why it
isn't and how to tell, and tell them how to verify the good stuff.

Personalise the address line and subject. Don't tell me "Message from
eBay", tell me "eBay item #23 'Lead-plated Mathom'" so that I can
recognise instantly it might possibly be relevant to my last order,
not just generic spam spoofing a big name site.

Use good subject lines that make sense in long lists of similar items.
80 leading characters of stock boilerplate and an 8 character date or
item id at the very end are hard for me to navigate.

Comply with local laws on properly identifying your commercial body.
"Local" can have awkward interpretations for international emails.

Get the sending schedule right. Observe weekends and evening timing,
appropriate to your product.

Unsusbcribe should be clearly visible, it should work, it should
respond with a confirmation, and it should actually remove people from
the mailing list.

Don't send to dead, spamtrapped or obviously invalid email addresss.
Sending to is
never a good idea. It makes your business look very bad in the eyes of
_existing_ customers. Yeah, that works.

De-duplicate your email lists. Do it properly too, on mailbox, not
just a dumb text match including the user's name.

If you do something wrong, stop doing it. Fix it ASAP, but stop it
immediately. Switch your business off the moment you detect security
holes, don't wait to get taken.

Re: emailing our own customers (c.50,000 UK based) - any advice?

Doesn't sending emails in html plus immages greatly increase your
chance of being caught by a spam filter? My guess is the 1%
difference is statistically insignificant in light of this fact..

Re: emailing our own customers (c.50,000 UK based) - any advice?

On 18 May 2007 06:09:34 -0700, ship put finger to keyboard and typed:

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Some tips from personal experience....

* Offer people the choice of HTML or plain text, if at all possible.
If it isn't possible, send plain text only.

* Send HTML emails as multipart/alternative rather than just HTML.

* Use normal punctuation and spelling.

* Use CSS in HTML emails rather than deprecated markup.

* Don't write in ALL CAPITALS, even if the marketing department thinks
it makes headings look nicer in plain text emails.

* Don't use large font sizes in HTML emails. As far as possible, don't
set font sizes at all (except sparingly in headings) - just use HTML
to add colour and layout.

* Don't use phrases like "click here" on links.

* Minimise the use of exclamation marks (and *never* use double
exclamation marks!!)

* Don't put any kind of scripting or active content (Javascript,
Flash, etc) in HTML emails.

* Make the "From:" line a valid address in your own domain. (The
envelope Sender will need to be your outsource company, but to the
human eye it should appear to come from you).

* Include the recipient's name and email address in the email, so that
they know which address to unsubscribe even if it's been forwarded
before reaching them.

* Don't use words like "opt-in" and "unsubscribe" - they tend to be
used by spammers pretending to use an opt-in list. But, on the other
hand, people do sometimes forget they've signed up to a list, and you
do need to let them know how to get off it. So use neutral wording
that avoids the filter triggers. We've found that the best option is
to include a standard footer, something like this:

  This mailing is sent to [name] at [email address] by [our company].
  You are receiving this email as a member of the [whatever] mailing
  list. To change your mail options, including your choice of HTML
  or plain text format, your email address and whether or not we may
  send you further mailings, please visit our website at [url].
  Alternatively, to cancel all further mailings, simply reply to this
  email with the word "cancel" in the subject line and leaving this
  paragraph in the body of your email.

(Your outsource company will probably handle this part themselves, but
it's worth checking that they will do so).

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