V-cast with SendGrid:The future of email marketing

Host: Richard Fallah, CEO at VBOUT.

Guest Speaker: Colin Sharpe. Solutions Consultant at Twilio SendGrid.


VBOUT meets with Colin Sharpe from SendGrid to discuss the latest updates in email marketing and what you MUST know as an email marketing expert:

1. The future of email marketing
2. Why you should NOT purchase lists and send cold emails
3. Different types of honeypot traps
4. Proper segmentation policy
5. IP reputation vs domain reputation
6. Industry average email engagement
7. IP warmup and chunk sending
8. Omni-channel marketing

What is SendGrid?

SendGrid is one of the world’s leading SMTP providers. If you want to use it to send transactional and mass marketing emails, SendGrid is the perfect partner for you. They process over 50% of the world’s emails which is essentially large amount of emails and are recently acquired by Twilio to consolidate messaging.
With SendGrid, you can send messages, SMS and target WhatsApp via some automated messaging as well, if you have a business number and so on.

Where is email marketing headed?

Filters are always getting smarter as far as the Gmails, Microsofts, Yahoos of the world. They’re always trying to pick up on what people are trying to do to game the system. They are really preventing spam from getting into the inbox; so whether it is subject lines, content or frequency you’ve set… they’re looking at all of these factors that go into the email marketing program to determine your reputation. Therefore, they don’t only look at the IP reputation that you’re sending from, but also at the domains that you’re using and the engagement you’re getting from the users. So if you are actually opening your emails or if you’re sending to people who are engaged, they’ll tend to either give you a good reputation or bad reputation based on your sending and then, let you in the inbox more or place you into the spam filter, depending on if it’s good or bad.

Does the method of buying lists work?

It’s a bad practice and it’s just going to create problems for you if you do start to send to paid contacts not only because filters are going to pick up on them but also because they can see other senders that are using the same recipients, and  they’re typically spam trap or honeypot
 laden, therefore all those addresses are going to be monitored by either Gmail, Yahoo, or third parties like eData Source and 250ok… And if you do hit those email addresses, it’s gonna ding your reputation on the IP level and the domain level. As a result, it might seem like an easy way to get recipients to send to, but filters are smart enough to pick up on addresses that have been either scraped from the web or purchased from a third party.

What happens when email lists are purchased?

ESPs have archived around 99% of all purchase email lists and have smart algorithm to those that you try to segment or target.
If you’ve already sliced up the list that you purchased, filters are gonna pick up on other senders that are using those same recipients and they’re going to tag those as essentially being bad addresses or spam traps.

What are exactly Honeypot emails?

There are actually three types of honey pots or spam traps:
The worst is pristine, which has never been owned by an actual human being. They are either created by inbox providers or third parties and
 injected into lists or put out on the web to be scraped, and if you hit that address, it’s essentially the worst spam traffic in it.
The second one is recycled trap, so for example, if you have an old Yahoo address that you haven’t used in two years, Yahoo could take that address back and essentially still accept email, but that indicates bad list hygiene, and you should be cleaning that list from your address because you haven’t opened an email for two years.
 And then the last one is just a type of trap. For example, Gmail opposed to Gmail which is just a misspelled address where that means you’re not really validating an address upon signup. So either you’re not doing a double opt-in to have you to confirm your contacts’ addresses or upon signup, you’re not requiring them to actually enter a value, so we’re going to jump into the segmentation piece of your list.

So what do you recommended when it comes to sunset policy?

So, pretty much two things; First is actually defining the criteria for a sunset policy.
Typically, we like to suggest the six-month mark where if somebody hasn’t opened your email within six months, you should remove them from your list or what a lot of customers like to do is kind of doing a re-engagement campaign, where they’ll try to send one more email to say “Hey, we haven’t heard from you in a while. If you do want to continue to receive emails from us, click this link or fill out this form and we’ll continue to send to you”. A lot of times we also like to take it one step further and suggest sending those re-engagement campaigns either from a subdomain or from a different IP address altogether that really protects your engaged users and keeps them segmented from a reputation standpoint and you’re not going to get your poor reputation of 
unengaged users lumped in with your good pristine addresses. So first, defining that criteria and then second, having a strategy to actually re-engage with those users that haven’t opened an email in a long time, and if they don’t respond, it’s best to just break up with them and remove them from your list.

What about the reputation of the inbox itself?

In addition to IP reputation, which is then huge the last ten years within email, we’re actually starting to look at domain reputation just because they’re so many IPs out there; for example, IPV6 is coming. They actually start to look at domain reputation in addition, so introducing a subdomain to tell the filters that you’re either sending a marketing stream versus a transactional stream or say a more highly engaged marketing stream versus a low engaged marketing stream; it’s very good to split out that on a domain level in addition to the IP level.

What is the average open rate per industry for decently successful campaigns overall?

For a marketing mix typically, we see 15 to 20 percent open rates comes down to the industry in most cases, but
 across-the-board, 15 to 20 is what we typically shoot for our marketing messages. 
So a lot of times again, it depends on the stream.

Is there a benchmark for measuring click through rate?

Click-throughs are a little bit lower. We shoot for like five to seven percent click-through rate.

Are click through rates of the opens or of the total data set?

Of the opens. And it depends on the industry. If it’s more ecommerce focus, we typically see more click-through rates
that actually lead to conversions.

What’s the benchmark for cold emails to small lists?

It really depends on the industry open rates which are going to be much lower with cold emails, especially if your audience is not expecting that email or haven’t necessarily opted in to be able to receive marketing emails,
 which can also lead to a higher spam complaints.

Is it a good technique to segment thousands of emails and send them for ten hours
or send them all in one shot?

Obviously if it’s a time-sensitive message, we might want to send those all out at once, but it also allows us to be proactive… say we send the first chunk out. Everything goes great. We send the second chunk out and we tend to see maybe a lot of bounced addresses.
You see some deferrals from maybe Yahoo or Gmail saying that we’re sending too much, too fast.
That allows us to adapt to our sending as opposed to if we sent a million messages out all at once. We’re kind of at the mercy of the inbox providers to get those messages, so it could take up to seven hours to get them all delivered as opposed to breaking it out, adapting to the list that we’re sending to and making changes for each one of those chunks.

What’s the volume to recommend people to acquire an IP to send versus just using a shared IP?

Typically, we’ll see reputation established at about fifty thousand emails a month.
Anything less than that, typically we recommend being on a shared IP just because filters aren’t going to fingerprint an established reputation at that volume.
 So for fifty thousand a month or higher, we recommend a dedicated IP or at least being able to control your own reputation.
But that again comes with warming up properly, making sure you’re sending to engaged users from the start so that you do establish a good reputation.
Obviously, you don’t want to just take your whole list on a new brand’s fresh IP and blast it out to everybody.

Everybody in the marketing wore the signal that email is one channel. Should we be thinking of WhatsApp and voice?

I think the acquisition is geared towards the omni-channel marketing presence… so, being able to
 find the right message at the right time over the right channel to send to a customer based on his preferences. 
Email is one way… it’s a low cost option to communicate with your customers, but what’s really coming into the mix are SMS, Voice, Web Chat and Whatsapp which are huge internationally… being able to have all those channels at your disposal to communicate with customers is a huge opportunity. I think there’s a big opportunity in the industry to be able to figure out the best way to communicate with customers and to give developers and marketers, the easiest way possible to do that.

Any final advice for those who are doing email marketing?

First, as we talked about, don’t purchase lists.
Second, if you have a new stream that you’re going to send or a big increase in volume, make sure that you consciously think about the warmup process, so starting very small, say 50 messages on day one and then slowly, gradually increasing over time. However, you should look at what you’re getting back from the providers such as bounces or deferral messages for delaying any of your message getting to the inbox and then adapt to that.
 If you get really good open rates, that allows you to maybe send more the next day. 
But keep in mind the type of message that you’re sending and if it’s a super cold message that’s very salesy. Also trying to reach out to get a new business is much more volatile and risky. It should be something that a customer is more interactive about. You have a lot of opportunity to engage with that customer and send more emails. And then being conscious of what the filters are telling you when you’re actually sending those messages. 
It’s going to be much easier to establish that reputation up front as opposed to trying to fix problems from sending too much and too fast 
or ending up blacklisted right off the bat.

Thank you Colin and Sendgrid for the great interview.