Most marketers probably don’t think of themselves as spammers but their recipients may think otherwise. This is often fueled by a mismatch between a marketer’s intentions and their recipients’ perceptions.

For example, consider your own inbox for a moment. How many unwelcome emails do you receive on an average day? If you’re like many people, it’s a lot; and when you receive email you haven’t requested, you probably identify those messages as spam. On the other end of those emails may be a marketer with very good intentions. They probably emailed you because they believe you have a need that they can fill with their product or service. Yet regardless of those good intentions, you likely deleted their email or possibly reported them as spam to your Internet Service Provider (ISP). They intended to start a dialogue with you but you perceived them as a nuisance. That’s exactly the mismatch you want to avoid in your own email marketing.

Some digital marketers have forgotten what it’s like to be on the receiving end of all that email. If you want your outbound email efforts to be successful, you need to consider how you’re being perceived by your recipients. Otherwise, your email is going to land in the junk folder or will stop being delivered altogether.

First, let’s talk about the definition of spam.

ISPs block 95% of the messages sent to their systems because they’ve identified them as spam. That’s a lot of email! While each ISP has a slightly different methodology for filtering spam, the generally accepted definition of it to keep in mind is email that:

  1. Wasn’t requested by recipients
  2. Recipients don’t want to receive
  3. Recipients don’t find interesting

This definition has some important implications for marketers.

  1. Who you email matters: if you’re still purchasing lists and bulk blasting them – stop immediately! This is a very bad idea and is the quickest way to get blocked by an ISP. Read more about that here. Not only is it a clear violation of part A of the spam definition (and very possibly the other parts as well), it also means that before your recipients even consider the relevancy of your offer or content, they probably already consider you a spammer because you’ve emailed them without their consent. Instead, consider these alternative options:
    • Capture new prospects through organic means, such as trade shows or gated content on your website. These contacts will expect to hear from you which is exactly what you want.
    • Have your inside sales team call a list to qualify contacts and get permission to email them. It can be as simple as asking, “May we add you to our educational monthly newsletter?” This will keep your list clean and ensure recipients are happy to hear from you.
  2. What you send matters: ok, so you’ve collected email addresses through a legitimate means. You’re in the clear to ramp up emailing to them, right? Nope. Just because someone gave you their email address doesn’t mean they’ll want to receive your messages. You still need to take some steps to ensure you don’t end up on a spam list.
    • First, start with a welcome message. Introduce your company and what kind of email you plan to send over time. Set expectations up front.
    • Second, give them the option to opt in and out of various communications. A managed preferences strategy can help you customize recipient lists based on their interests by categorizing content you send, such as an industry newsletter, new product announcements or free educational webinars. This will help build trust with your new contacts while simultaneously protecting your sender reputation from being marked as spam.
  3. Remove inactive contacts from your list. You may go through the above steps and some of those contacts still may never open your email. They may just delete every single message that comes through. Rather than continue to email them, mark them as inactive in your database and remove them from future mailings. You can always reach back out to them in several months, but continuing to email them when they’re clearly not interested in your content will only hurt your sender reputation and lower your ability to reach interested contacts. This is because ISPs filter messages based on engagement metrics in addition to bounces and spam reports. More on that here.

At the end of the day, you want your messages to be welcomed, not marked as spam. Follow the steps listed above to help your recipients engage with your content rather than report you as spam.