Staying Visible with Email: Ways to Avoid Spam Folders and Unsubscribes

Staying Visible with Email: Ways to Avoid Spam Folders and Unsubscribes

Okay, so you have an email message you want to send out or contacts in a CRM (customer relationship management) ready to be approached with your services.

That’s great! 

But did you know there are certain practices to follow to keep your emails from getting marked as “spam”?

Taking advantage of access to someone’s email inbox can only work if you actually make it to their inbox

And showing up in the inbox is just the first step. You also want to make the best use of your time and money by keeping unsubscribes on your emails low. 

Emails marked as spam or with high unsubscribe rates hurt your sender reputation — meaning your future marketing emails may be filtered or even blacklisted. 

So how do you avoid ending up in the spam folder AND keep people from unsubscribing?

Here are a few tips from our team (and the government).

Avoid Getting Marked as ‘Spam’

You’ve definitely seen an odd email or two end up in your own spam folder, but how do they get there? 

Email service providers (ESPs) like Gmail, Apple Mail, Yahoo and Outlook employ what are called spam filters to ensure their users’ inboxes aren’t filled with junk mail. 

A few things can trigger the spam filter, such as:

  • Domain authority
  • Sender information 
  • Quality of your contact list itself
  • “Click-bait” subject lines (keep reading to see what to avoid)
  • Reputation of your mail server*

This last point is talking about your customer relationship management (CRM) system. It might be easy to think “I’ll just send emails directly from my CRM,” but that may not be the best decision in the long run.

Because CRMs don’t have individual mail servers for each of their clients, all their clients have to share. That means another business using the same CRM could ruin the sender reputation for everyone. 

Many CRMs also don’t meet the standards required to run a good email campaign, such as lead tracking to segment your lists and an email builder that can turn out high-conversion-rate emails. 

Instead of sending emails from your CRM, you may want to invest in a third-party email marketing platform with a quality sender reputation. Here’s a list of email marketing software we like, starting with the best (and most expensive) picks:

This isn’t to say you can’t use your CRM to send emails. It just depends on your business and marketing needs, as well as your budget. Our team has sent emails from the CRMs of two of our clients — one using Reynolds & Reynolds and the other using VinSolutions — and have seen great results!

Whether you’re an in-house marketing team or working with a marketing agency, be sure you trust them with your email sender reputation

6 Questions To Ask Before Sending Your Next Email 

Here are six questions to ask yourself or your marketing team before sending your next email. 

  1. Do you have permission to email?
  2. Are you sending to the right contacts?
  3. Is it clear who the email is from?
  4. Are you using best subject line practices?
  5. Are you using best email design practices?
  6. When was the last email sent?

1.   Do you have permission to email?

The first thing you have to ask before sending an email to a list of contacts: do these contacts want to be emailed? 

As a marketing agency, we can’t stress this enough: you must obtain contacts’ permission before sending them marketing emails. That includes explicit permission from both your own contacts and others you may want to contact.

Some businesses will tell you it’s okay to purchase lists and send unsolicited emails to those third-party lists in the name of “conquesting” potential leads or sales.

Don’t listen to them.

This tactic is doomed to fail, not only from a user experience standpoint — how often have you purchased from a company that contacted you without permission? — but also from technical, legal and ethical standpoints: 

  • Technical: Lists may contain spam traps (a.k.a. email addresses created for the sole purpose of identifying spammers), and those could get you blacklisted by ESPs (preventing your emails from being delivered).
    • That’s if you’re not first flagged by your email marketing software for trying to harm its domain reputation, causing you to face deliverability setbacks for months to come.
  • Legal: Under the CAN-SPAM Act in America, CASL in Canada, GDPR in Europe, and a myriad of other data privacy laws, you are not allowed to send marketing emails that are false or misleading.
    • Sending to people who haven’t opted in to your email communication increases your likelihood of landing in legal hot water.
  • Ethical: Think about it. Does sending emails to people who have never heard of you sound like a good way to earn their trust or business?

Purchasing lists just doesn’t work. In fact, email lists that are built organically have open rates five times higher and spam complaints four times fewer than purchased or scraped lists.  

2. Are you sending to the best contacts?

If permission is the first step to successful email deliverability, relevance is the first step to actually getting your email read.

Good targeting comes from good data organization. Keeping your contacts and their information up to date in your CRM will make many things easier — especially email list segmentation and targeting. 

This will keep someone who leased a new vehicle last week from getting an email promoting the purchase of a used vehicle, or keep a service reminder/coupon email from going to someone who is not due for a service appointment yet. 

Sending the right email to the right contacts will keep clicks away from the unsubscribe/spam buttons, too!

Here are three tips to email targeting  we recommend:

  1. Make sure your CRM is managed responsibly by your sales team. It may seem like more work, but keeping organized, up-to-date information on leads and past purchasers will actually help save time later — especially when it comes to deciding who should receive an email.
  2. Remove email addresses that bounced or unsubscribed regularly. Routinely cleansing your data will help you maintain a good sender reputation. You can also sanitize your list using a vendor like NeverBounce. This tool scans your email list and removes any known fake or blacklisted email addresses.
  3. Target your emails precisely. Email blasts to your entire CRM just don’t work. If your email data is clean and organized, you have no reason not to send relevant messages to leads that want those messages (and will actually read them). 

3. Is it clear who the email is from?

Under the CAN-SPAM Act:

Your “From,” “To,” “Reply-To,” and routing information — including the originating domain name and email address — must be accurate and identify the person or business who initiated the message.

– Federal Trade Commission

Users expect to recognize the name and address of the person emailing them. Seven out of ten Americans decide whether to open an email based on the “From” line alone

A huge factor in email deliverability is open rate, so optimizing your sender name is key. And using a real name helps your customers feel more comfortable hitting reply and sending you their questions — which is an advantage, since ESPs also use customer response rates to prove your sender reputation.

We’ve done some internal A/B testing on the email sender name. The data confirms that using a real name makes a difference when it comes to open and click rates. 

4. Are you using best subject line practices?

What is the first thing a customer sees when they get an email besides the From name? It’s another important piece for open rates: the email’s subject line.

Here’s another stat for you: 69% of email recipients mark an email as spam based solely on the subject line.

If you want to avoid spam filters, optimize your subject line. Here are a few tips:

  • Don’t use ALL CAPS.
  • Don’t use multiple exclamation marks!!
  • Don’t make false promises or try tricky tactics.
  • Avoid excessive use of spam trigger words or symbols, such as:
    • $$$
    • Click
    • Discount
    • Giveaway
    • Open
    • Now
    • Win

Don’t forget the preview text, either (a.k.a. the line that comes after the subject line).

5. Are you using best email design practices?

Quality emails are harder to create than they may seem. Even if you think what you’re doing now is fine, spam filters might not agree. 

To keep the body of your email looking good and reading well, be sure to employ these email marketing best practices: 

  • Balance images and text in your email. Don’t just use a designed image and not have any text! 
  • Proofread. Spelling and grammar mistakes are a big spam trigger.
  • Never include attachments
  • Make it easy to opt out of emails. 
  • Always include your physical address in the footer of your email.

6. When was the last email sent? 

The consumers have been clear: 50% say the most annoying action taken by marketers is emailing them too often

There is a fine line we marketers have to walk between getting our message out, and coming off too strong in the inbox. Over-emailing can lead to annoyance or poor brand associations, as well as more unsubscribers. 

But what is coming off as “too strong?” What’s considered “normal” for sends and what should the metrics look like? 

Our Performance Benchmarks Report shows you the industry standard for unsubscribe rate and other email metrics.

Our email specialists recommend keeping email sends to just one per week, with different email campaigns focusing on different segments of contacts.

However, if you keep an eye on metrics, you’ll be able to figure out how many emails works best for your business. 

There is also a way to directly ask your customers how often they want emails from you when they initially sign up for your emails. Consider sending a welcome email to new subscribers, establishing clear expectations for you and your customer. 

“This Sounds Like A Lot.”

Yes, it can be.

As long as you have an email marketing platform and digital marketing partner you trust — and you’re managing your own data responsibly — it can be easy (and cost effective) to send emails people will want to read and get them in the inbox.

If you ever need help navigating the world of email marketing, data privacy and email deliverability, we can help. We’re here to help support your marketing team, dealership or small business with email marketing and other digital marketing services.

Win the Inbox With Email Marketing »