Zak Barron knows EVERYTHING about email marketing. Alright I could be exaggerating a tiny bit but he is the local email marketing expert for Constant Contact in the New England area and he definitely knows his stuff. He runs frequent seminars on email marketing, interactive training workshops, and industry specific programs. I have had the pleasure of doing a few combined seminars with Zak talking about combining online video and email marketing. I asked Zak if he would be interested in taking the hot seat for one of my 5 Question Interviews and without further ado, here are his answers:
Eric Guerin: I’ve heard Constant Contact’s deliverability to ISP’s (Internet Service Providers – i.e. Comcast, AOL, Yahoo, Gmail, etc.) is one of the highest among ESP’s (Email Service Providers like Constant Contact)…how are you able to maintain such a high level of deliverability?
Zak Barron: Good question Eric. Constant Contact currently has a deliverability rate above 97%. This is a key metric for ESP’s that anyone looking for an email marketing service should look at when making their decision. It’s very easy for a company to say, “We have 97% deliverability” so make sure you ask if that is the ESP’s number or a 3rd party number. Constant Contact uses an outside unbiased 3rd party called Return Path to evaluate our delivery rate. The reason that we are able to maintain this high deliverability rate is because we require all of our customers to use permission based email lists. We have built personal relationships with postmasters at many ISP’s, and they know that we share the same contempt for SPAM email, this also greatly impacts how the ISP’s view Constant Contact as a large sender of email messages.
EG: You mentioned permission based email lists, can you briefly explain what the importance of an “opt-in email list” is and why you would NEVER want to buy an email address list from another company?
ZB: It is critical to a business that it only use email to communicate with those whom have given their permission to receive emails from that business. Given that statement there are 2 levels of permission; implicit, and explicit. Implicit covers anyone that you have a prior business relationship with, but you might not have told them that you are going to begin sending them email campaigns. Explicit permission means that you are actually setting the expectation when you collect the contact information of a customer, or prospect, that they will be getting email campaigns. The main reason that a business needs to build it’s list in this manner is the issue of SPAM. Over the years consumers have become very weary of who they provide their contact information to, and how they react to messages that they have not asked for in their inboxes. With many email clients allowing their users to report unwanted email as SPAM, the ISP’s are able to track the reputation of senders and penalize them if they get to many SPAM reports/complaints by not allowing them access to their(ISP’s) customers inbox. The point is that a purchased or rented list will get tons of SPAM complaints, certainly enough to be noticed by the ISP’s. A business that insists on this practice will find themselves on industry wide “blocklists, or blacklists” which will directly affect the businesses ability to get email marketing campaigns out the door.
EG: That relationship with your contacts is really the key to a successful email marketing plan. Speaking of relationships, how does Constant Contact engage online and build community for their users?
ZB: At Constant Contact we are all about community, and to that end there are 2 ways that we do that, one is with the Constant Contact Connect Up! user community, and the 2nd is the Constant Contact Cares4Kids program.
Constant Contact’s ConnectUp! user community was designed as a forum to share the entrepreneurial energy and passion that drives small businesses and organizations. The community provides a host of tools and technologies that enable you to connect with your peers, exchange ideas and find answers to your questions about email marketing, online surveys and small business issues in general.
As a paying Constant Contact customer, you can bring email marketing and online survey tools to your favorite eligible community organization-at no cost to you! Through Cares4Kids you can help an organization reach new donors, publicize their good works, plan events-and use their precious funding to carry out their mission. It all starts with one quick application.. More than 900 worthy organizations have received free accounts on behalf of Constant Contact’s Cares4Kids program.
EG: Where does Constant Contact see the future of email marketing headed particularly with more and more people using mobile devices to open and access their email?
ZB: If you would have asked me this a year ago, I would have told you that it was going to affect open rates in a major way. The tracking mechanism that CTCT uses is a small image in the body of the HTML email. So this means that all text based email clients are tough to track. With the release of the iPhone, and many other mobile devices that can read HTML, I see open rates actually improving and becoming more accurate, as most smart phones will be switching to the HTML platform.
EG: What is the one hint or tip you could share that most people doing email marketing fail to realize or include in their email marketing campaign?
ZB: I think one of the biggest mistakes that a lot of email marketers make is that they fail to set the proper expectations at the outset of their email relationship with their customers and prospects. Being clear as to the content and frequency of the messages you will be sending is vital. Instead of saying “sign up for me email newsletter” say “sign up for my monthly newsletter.” Half of the battle in email marketing is validating your place in your recipient’s inbox, and setting/managing expectations is key to that validation.
EG: Thanks Zak!