Email Prospecting the Right Way: 3 Key Questions Answered

Debra Ellis, founder, Wilson & Ellis Consulting

How can marketers use email to prospect for new customers without running afoul of the spam cops, getting blacklisted or worse? The April 17 webinar, “Email Prospecting the Right Way: How to use email for customer acquisition without risking your reputation,” answered many of those questions. However, attendees still had questions beyond what we were able to cover during the hour of presentations and live Q&A. Debra Ellis, founder of Wilson & Ellis Consulting and one of the presenters on that webinar, answers three of the attendees’ most common questions:

What specifically causes emails to be flagged as spam?
Ellis: Email deliverability is a key factor for a successful prospecting campaign. There are many style and content items that contribute to the spam scoring that ultimately blocks an email from the recipient. Spam filters look at the total score to determine if an email should be flagged as spam. In most cases, individual items will not trigger a spam flag if they are used sparingly. The best way to measure your email deliverability is to use a spam filter check prior to sending it. Most email service providers offer a spam check tool for their customers.

How many emails should be included when testing?
Ellis: A reliable test has to have a minimum of 5,000 emails. If your email list is too small to use that number, test 10 percent to 15 percent of your addresses. While it won’t be statistically sound, the results and feedback may provide actionable information.

The purpose of testing is to find the message and timing that delivers the best results. Sometimes emailing everyone on the list is a test. This is especially true for companies that are building their prospecting house file and have limited depth.

How often should a company send prospecting emails?
Ellis: There isn’t a magic number that is right for every business. It varies by company and prospect source. Most people err by sending too few emails. To find out the right number for your company, segment your prospect file and test different send frequencies to see which one delivers the most conversions. Watch your opt out and spam report rates carefully. If they start rising dramatically as your frequency increases, then you’ve reached the saturation level. There is a caveat to this: If you haven’t consistently emailed that list, people may flag you as spam or opt-out because they don’t recognize you. Include information detailing why they are receiving the emails to help solve this problem.

Thorin McGee is editor-in-chief and content director of Target Marketing and oversees editorial direction and product development for the magazine, website and other channels.
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