There are also ICANN-era generic top-level domains. Created for a generic purpose (hence the name), generic top-level domains aren’t tied to a country or any particular geographic location. Unrestricted generic domains can be registered by anyone and for any purpose. Due to this, they have less credibility than internet top-level domains.
Building brand image covers much more than your website, ad campaigns or corporate design. It is also associated with your email domain. In fact, if you’re planning to start your marketing with cost-effective tactics, starting with your mailbox is an absolute must. Even though you don’t need many financial resources to launch an email marketing campaign, you must do a lot of work in order to make sure your campaigns are going smoothly and there is nothing in your way.
In order to make it happen, you must understand the infrastructure behind your outreach. There are many things to take into account, so let’s start with your DNS settings.
DNS stands short for Domain Name System, a place that connects domain names with their respective IP addresses. Thanks to this system, you don’t have to enter a string of numbers to the address bar every time you want to find a website. Instead, you enter domain names. Each domain name is tied to a domain server — it’s like looking for a house located on a certain street.
A domain name and the IP address assigned to it is called a domain record. This is where you can manage or check your settings.
That’s our stop.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re familiar with web hosting or not. Managing DNS goes hand in hand with a multitude of problems that you must identify and tackle as soon as possible. However, you cannot always instantly locate the faults, and solving them may take a lot of time. Therefore, it doesn’t hurt to scout around and investigate.
What kind of DNS issues are you most likely to encounter?
Let’s start with the most common errors that can affect your DNS settings. In general, you’ll have to deal with your DNS server not responding. Your team can’t access it, your users can’t access it, it all leads to chaos. This problem can be caused by the following issues:
- Expired domain registration. If you don’t renew your registration on time, it may result in your performance getting disrupted with your team running into all kinds of problems and failing to progress with their email campaigns. Therefore, keep in mind when you need to update your domain registration and pay your fees on time. It’s a very little thing, but that’s what makes it so easy to slip from one’s mind.
- Incorrect nameservers. This issue pops up whenever you change your hosting company. Sometimes, the system fails to find your nameservers, resulting in the “DNS server not responding” error as well as such problems as:
- Domain is displayed as available for registration. If you see that your domain is shown as unregistered, then there is an issue with your nameserver.
- Your domain values aren’t displayed correctly. That can happen due to you using a rare domain extension.
To make sure you won’t stumble upon this issue, you’ll have to correct your nameservers manually.
- The quickest way to check your current nameservers is to use a WHOIS lookup tool. For example, with this tool, you can paste your domain name into the search box and view your current domain details.
- Access the admin dashboard at your hosting server. In general, all dashboards are similar. In your dashboard’s menu, you’ll find the Accounts section. Click it and find a section named Details. You’ll instantly see all nameservers alongside with IP addresses.
- Once you get data from your admin dashboard and your WHOIS lookup tool, you can view and compare your nameservers. If the details are the same, then there is no issue with them. If the details don’t match, you return to your admin dashboard, copy your nameserver from your domain registrar and enter it properly.
Other DNS settings to check
- A record. A record is the most basic data that is responsible for matching your domain with your IP address. In order to check your A record, you can use MXToolbox Tool and view all your domain records or use the nslookup command.
- CNAME. CNAME is a record that connects domain names between each other. To be more precise, it maps an alias to a canonical domain name. A CNAME record always points out to a domain name, never an IP address. Therefore, if you make a domain alias, you must make sure that your CNAME record maps to your primary domain, which is, in turn, tied to your IP address.
You can imagine that many things can go wrong with a CNAME record, so you must be able to check it from time to time. You can either use a MToolbox or go through the following steps.
How to check your CNAME record?
- Go to your domain host’s website and sign it.
- Find your DNS records in your dashboard.
- Find your CNAME record and see whether it points to a hostname properly.
- To add a CNAME record, enter the target domain to the Value field and click Add Record.
MX. An MX (Mail Exchange) record is a record that handles directing emails from your domain to the host server. If this record isn’t indicated correctly, your users may have problems with responding to your emails or sending messages to your email addresses. Your MX records are available in your user profile at your domain host’s website.
How to check your MX record?
It’s worth remembering that all MX records need a Server name and an A record that includes IP addresses tied to your mail server. In order to add a new MX record, go to your domain host’s website, sign in to your profile and click Add Record. You’ll be offered to choose a type of a DNS record that you want to add. Choose MX, enter the name and the mail server.
Check your DNS infrastructure and safety settings
It was inevitable that such a simple thing as message exchange would be abused and exploited by scammers, phishers and marketers with poor work ethics. The first email users have seen it all, from stalker ads to financial data theft. This is why nowadays there are many safeguards designed to protect the privacy of our correspondence and prevent business data from being stolen. In order to come off as a credible and trustworthy sender, you must be closely familiar with these security mechanisms and have them performing properly.
Sender Policy Framework - SPF
Sender Policy Framework or SPF defines what addresses are allowed to send emails from your domain, preventing scammers or phishers from registering on your domain and delivering unsolicited emails or malware. Nowadays, it’s pretty much a must for all email senders to have an SPF record. In case your SPF record is not set properly, DNS servers will block your emails from reaching your recipients. It’s like trying to enter an establishment without having an ID or papers certifying that you’re officially allowed to visit the premises.
What kind of SPF issues can you run into?
- Absence of an SPF record. It’s impossible for the recipient to verify whether the SPF record is visible or has been published. Sometimes, if there is an error in your SPF record, it’s not displayed properly and you may remain unaware of it.
- Exceeded amount of lookups. The SPF record contains too many DNS-querying mechanisms (over 10) and is unable to function properly. In order to avoid the “too many lookups” issue, we suggest using subdomains because each new subdomain allows for 10 new max lookups.
- Server IP not listed within SPF record. If the IP of your server is not mentioned in your SPF record, it won’t work for your server. It’s a minor detail, but many users can forget about it.
How to check your SPF record with Google Admin toolbox
To check your SPF record with Google Admin toolbox, go to its main page and select Check MX in the menu.
This is your go-to option for checking up on your domain records and verifying that your DNS settings haven’t been compromised.
Once on the page, enter your domain name and hit RUN CHECKS!
Upon running checks, you’ll receive a list of requirements, allowing you to see whether your domain meets them all or not.
Now, you know how to check an SPF record. But how do you make one?
How do you add an SPF record?
Before you add an SPF record, you need to know its mechanisms and understand how to actually write and read your records. So, let’s take a closer look at the SPF syntax.
When dealing with designed outbound mailers for the domain, SPF needs a way to describe them. This is where special mechanisms and qualifiers come into play. Outbound mailers can be prefixed with one of the four following qualifiers.
“+” or “Pass” is the default qualifier, while “?” or “Neutral” qualifier is used when there is no match with a certain mechanism or qualifier.
Currently, there are following mechanisms used in SPF record:
Stands short for “always” and added to the end of your SPF record. This mechanism implies all servers that weren’t separately specified in your SPF record and instructs how emails that are received from them should be processed.
v=spf1 mx ~all
The domain’s MX is allowed to send mail for the domain, while others are prohibited from doing so.
The domain doesn’t send any mail at all.
All IP addresses are allowed to send email.
Used to specify certain addresses and networks that are allowed to send mail. This mechanism allows adding addresses from an IPv4 network range. Make sure to specify a prefix length because otherwise a /32 prefix length will be used by default, impacting your receivers.
v=spf1 ip4:192.168.0.1/16 ~all
Any IP address between 192.168.0.1 and 192.168.255.255. is allowed to send mail.
Specifies addresses from an IPv6 network that are allowed to send emails. Make sure to specify a prefix length because otherwise, a /128 prefix length will be used by default, impacting your receivers.
v=spf1 ip6:1080::8:800:200C:417A/96 ~all
Any IPv6 address between 1080::8:800:0000:0000 and 1080::8:800:FFFF:FFFF is allowed to send mail.
This mechanism is used to check the sender’s IP with its corresponding A record.
v=spf1 a ~all
Accept email from the A record of the current domain.
v=spf1 a:example.com ~all
Accept email from the A record that belongs to a subdomain.
v=spf1 a:mailers.example.com ~all
Accept emails from a special A record made for outbound mailers at mailers.example.com
v=spf1 a/24 a:offsite.example.com/24 ~all
If the sender presents themselves as an example.com domain user, their email will be accepted only if the sending server is located in the same subnet with the host that has the “same as parent folder” A record in the example.com zone or in the same subnet with the host that has the “same as parent folder” A record in the offsite.example.com zone.
This mechanism checks whether the sender’s IP corresponds with the IP addresses specified in the domain’s MX records.
v=spf1 mx mx:deferrals.domain.com ~all
A domain allows the email sent from all A records for any MX records from domain.com and A records for any MX records from deferrals.domain.com
v=spf1 mx/24 mx:offsite.domain.com/24 ~all
The domain’s MX servers receive mail on one IP address but send mail on a different IP address located in the same domain zone.
Checks the PTR record of the sender’s IP address for its compatibility with the specified domain. This mechanism makes a lot of DNS lookups during the checkup, so we suggest adding it only in case it’s really necessary.
v=spf1 ptr ~all
Allows the domain in direct control of all automated processes to send mail.
v=spf1 ptr:otherdomain.com ~all
Accept email from any server that has a PTR record tied to otherdomain.com
This mechanism determines whether an A record for the provided domain exists. If the record is found, the result is considered a match.
v=spf1 exists:example.com ~all
Accept email is the A record is found
This mechanism includes other domain’s SPF settings to your SPF record. It allows you to cross your administrative boundaries, so use it with great caution.
v=spf1 include:example.com ~all
If the SPF record for example.com is not found, the result is PermError
In addition to mechanisms, you have modifiers — the value/name pairs that provide extra information. Only one modifier can appear once per record.
This mechanism redirects the receiving server to the SPF settings of another domain. Whenever the ‘redirect’ modifier is used, the ‘all’ mechanism is not included in the record. Using the ‘all’ mechanism together with the ‘redirect’ modifier results in the latter being ignored.
The mail must be accepted or rejected in accordance with the SPF settings of the example.com domain
This modifier is used for sending an error notification to the sender. Allows creating a subdomain with the notification text specified in the TXT record. The ‘exp’ modifier is added after the ‘all’ mechanism.
v=spf1 mx -all exp=error-spf.mydomain.com
The TXT record for error-spf.mydomain.com contains the text for error notification that will be shown to the sender
Creating an SPF record
- Create a new TXT document for your new record and add all your listed domains in a way that would be understood by your DNS. Make sure that your SPF record doesn’t go beyond 255 character length. Otherwise, receiving servers won’t be able to read it and, therefore, certify you as an approved sender.
- Save your TXT file and work together with your server administrator to publish your SPF record. In most cases, contacting your IT department allows you to update your DNS settings without much fuss.
- Check your new SPF record with Google Admin Toolbox or other checking tools. Done!
Outline IP addresses that you will be sending from. If you’re running a business, you probably send emails from numerous places, so it makes no sense to greenlight just one address while ignoring the rest. In general, there are three types of IPs you’ll be using.
The IP tied to the PC you’re using for work and outreach
The IP shared by you and multiple other companies that use your mail service of choice
The IP that you don’t share with any other users
What addresses should you add to your SPF record?
In general, you should add all domains and subdomains that you use. It doesn’t matter whether you use them for sending emails or not — any non-sending domains not covered by Sender Policy Framework become vulnerable to spoofing and can be exploited. So why take the risk?
DomainKeys Identified Mail
Also known as DKIM, this safety measure prevents scammers and phishers from using your good name in order to spread their malicious content. It does so by adding a special encrypted signature that is visible to receiving servers. Think of a digital seal protecting the contents of a digital envelope.
Such comparisons make it all sound very simple, but let’s go into more detail. For example, how does DKIM work? What do you need to make one?
In general, there are two keys that make DKIM work. The first one is the private key: it’s exclusive to you and your domain. Also, this key is responsible for encrypting your signature in the header.
The second key is also called the public key — you can add it to your DNS records, so all receiving servers can decrypt the signature in the header.
With those keys, you can rest assured that all your messages are authenticated and moved to your recipients’ inboxes.
How do you add a DKIM record?
The processes behind setting up a DKIM record differ from platform to platform. If you’re a Gmail user, you already have a default domain key. It’s pretty secure, but if you want to be extra safe, you can generate a public key.
Go to your Google Admin console and sign in with an account that has superior administrator access. Next, go to Apps, select Google Workspace and then Gmail. After this, click Authenticate email. Choose a primary domain and another domain that would be used for sending emails.
Click Generate new record and select the length of your DKIM key. There are 1024-bit keys and 2048-bit keys. Base your choice on what your domain host supports. Generally, 2048-bit keys are a better option because they offer more security.
Once you choose the length, modify the Prefix selector. It’s a string of text that contains the name of the authorized domain.
Mind that you can’t use one domain name for two prefixes. For example, if you have a DKIM key with a Gmail prefix selector (Google), you can’t make another Google prefix selector.
Done? It’s time to hit Generate. After the process is complete, you receive a TXT record value that you can upload to your DNS records. From now on, this public key will be retrieved by other mail services to identify your messages.
With Microsoft, your public and private keys are automatically generated for your custom domain. But if you still feel a need to configure your DKIM key in Office 365, here is how you can do it:
1. Sign in with your admin account and go to the Admin Center.
2. Expand the Admin menu and go to the Exchange tab.
3. Find the Protection section.
- Choose the DKIM tab.
4. Pick a domain that you want to enable DKIM for.
5. Click Enable.
Now, the most painful part is that Microsoft has applied some changes to this procedure. For example, if you want to enable DKIM, you have to use PowerShell that is compatible only with a Windows PC. Mac users have to contact Office 365 in order to proceed.
To enable your DKIM with PowerShell:
1. Launch “Windows PowerShell ISE”
2. Enter the following script, replacing <domain> and DomainName with your chosen domain:
3. Hit Run Script. After this, PowerShell will generate two new CNAME records.
4. Log in to your DNS provider and add two CNAME records to your records.
5. Go to your Office 365 Admin panel and proceed with enabling your DKIM record.
Mind that PowerShell is a very peculiar and complicated program that many users (us included) simply HATE to work with. Therefore, don’t hesitate to contact a support team whenever you have any questions. Sometimes, it may take a while for you to get a response, but better safe than sorry.
Domain-Based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance (DMARC)
We talked about SPF and DKIM. But here is the protocol that covers them both and demonstrates them to Internet Service Providers to confirm that your domain is not used for spoofing and phishing. Basically, DMARC is a set of records. Each record has a specific role in protecting your domain and your recipients’ mailboxes.
So, with DMARC, not only you prove that you are a legitimate sender that isn’t involved in scamming or spamming affairs, you go as far as to suggest a course of action for dealing with emails that were allegedly sent from your domain but failed both SPF and DKIM checks. Basically, you leave the Internet Service Provider a notification saying, “If this note lacks my signature and seal, feel free to dispose of it by deleting it or blocking the sender.”
This way, DMARC helps an entire community to find and identify malicious senders before they do any harm. So if you want to play your role in making email marketing a safer and more transparent practice, let’s see how you implement DMARC.
1. Identify a domain for your business emails. In our case, our domain would be folderly.co. After this, make a DMARC record. You can use tools like DMARC generator to make a record or write it all by yourself. It’s not that complicated once you learn the ropes. Let’s take a look at this DMARC record example.
Necessary for a DMARC check by the receiving server.
Instructs the receiving server on what should be done to emails that came from your domain but failed a DMARC check.
Informs the receiving server to monitor and report unqualified mail without taking any action.
Receiving servers are instructed to deny access to all emails that failed a DMARC check. Only verified messages are allowed to proceed. This is the policy we suggest applying to make your outreach safer for your recipients.
Receivers are told to redirect unverified messages to quarantine. In this case, messages that didn’t pass a DMARC check go to the Spam folder.
Aggregate report directory
Shows receiving servers where they should send aggregate reports. A domain administrator a.k.a DMARC record owner receives such reports daily. They usually describe DMARC failures but don’t give much detail about how they occured.
Forensic report directory
Lets receivers know where to send forensic reports. Such reports document each DMARC failure and explain how, when and why it occurred.
Defines the type of reporting expected by the policyholder.
Shows that the policyholder prefers aggregated reports.
Percentage of emails that should be covered by DMARC policy
Informs the receiving server about the percentage of unverified emails that are subject to the DMARC policy. For example, 100 means that 100% of unverified mail should be rejected (in case of “p=reject”)
It’s also possible to customize your DMARC record with the following tags:
Instructs receivers whether DMARC policy should cover subdomains.
v=DMARC1; p=reject; sp=none; rua=mailto:email@example.com
This record doesn’t Send to: firstname.lastname@example.org any policy for subdomains
Establishes how often aggregate reports should be sent to a domain admin. The default standard is 86400 i.e once per day.
v=DMARC1; p=reject; sp=none; rf=arf, pct=100, ri=86400
Send aggregate reports to a domain admin every 24 hours
Instructs the recipient to check and authenticate the sender’s DKIM record.
v=DMARC1; p=reject; sp=none; adkim=r
Allows relaxed alignment and partial matches
v=DMARC1; p=reject; sp=none; adkim=s
The domain name of the sender must be a 100% match of the d=domain name in the DKIM mail headers
Instructs receiving servers to check and authenticate the sender’s SPF record.
v=DMARC1; p=reject; sp=none; aspf=r
Allows accepting relaxed alignment and partial matches (subdomains etc)
v=DMARC1; p=reject; sp=none; aspf=s
Accept only if the From header matches the domain name in the SMTP MAIL FROM command
In general, keep your first DMARC record as simple as possible. Getting carried away with it will make your work harder. You just need a DMARC record that is functional and easy to understand. After you’re done creating it, save it in a TXT file.
2. Time to upload your record! Go to your domain host and access your DNS management console. Your DMARC record should be published on the domain you made it for.
Perfect! Also, congratulations: you’ve just gone through all essential DNS settings and domain records, so you’re one step closer to making your mailbox a better platform for outbound marketing campaigns.
But what’s next?
You showed ISPs and ESPs that your domain is a real deal. Now it's your turn to establish your sender persona — and by sender persona we mean the real you, a business owner, a professional who can share insights and provide hapless users with valuable assistance.
Your identity matters. The Internet grants anonymity, which is both good and bad for users. When it comes to making deals, providing financial data or sharing personal information, your potential buyers want to be fully confident about their choice of vendor.
This is why we have the CAN-SPAM Act or Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act. Signed in January 2004, this law had a purpose — to protect users from unsolicited messages and marketers who don’t respect the privacy and wishes of their target audience. The CAN-SPAM Act penalizes companies and businesses that use black-hat practices or manipulative messages to make users interact with their emails, resulting in them paying up to $40,000 fine.
Enough said, the first rule of the CAN-SPAM Act is: Don’t violate the CAN-SPAM Act.
Avoid misleading information
Before you start writing emails, you should update your profile. Your newly-created mailbox has fields that you should fill with relevant information only. That includes:
- Name. Always use your real name and your last name. If you take care of your online presence (a profile on LinkedIn or Facebook), participate in events and webinars or write informative articles since you probably want your prospects to google you and discover that you’re qualified to address their pain points and assist them with their needs. Using nicknames and hiding your personal information won’t spark their curiosity. Instead, it will compel them to flag your messages as spam — just to be safe.
- Signature. If you use Gmail, you have a great opportunity to inject as much business data in it as possible.
Your recipients can see what you do in your company and what field your specialize in
Any proof that you put effort into building your brand image helps you build up trust with both your target audience and ESPs
Link to company website
The users can instantly check out your website, interact with it and explore informative materials
A return business address for letting your prospects reach you as required by the CAN-SPAM act
Your business address (physical HQ), including all affiliates that you have. Your prospects feel at ease knowing that they can find you on the map
If you have achievements, don’t be shy. Display your prominent partners and awards to show that you don’t exist in a vacuum
A good way to protect yourself from the wrath of the CAN-SPAM act. This disclaimer shows that you send with a certain purpose, to certain recipients
- Photo. This element is crucial to proving that you’re not a spammer. Spammers and phishers aren’t usually bothered with photo IDs. They can’t show their faces, and there is no point in tricking modern spam filters with stock images. So, if you add your photo to your sender profile, you put your recipients at ease and comply with the CAN-SPAM Act.
Install email tracking
Mind that this step is purely optional. While this technology is harmless, it can lower your deliverability, so use it depending on your goals and needs.
There are many widgets and Chrome extensions that help you peek behind the curtain and see what’s going on with your emails. Some of them (HubSpot Sales or Gmail ReadReceipt) let you see email opens by embedding a tiny, pixel-sized invisible image to your messages. If your recipient opens your email, the image loads, triggering a notification that your email has been opened.
Other software (Streak), among other features, also includes email tracking, letting you see email opens directly in your inbox.
While those email tracks can’t provide you with proper open rate monitoring, they give you an idea about your prospects’ activity and show you how many messages find their designated inboxes. Don’t be in a hurry to install more elaborate tools and widgets. Once you get a hang of managing your inbox and emails, you’ll know what you need to enhance your outreach.
Brushing up your DNS settings is only half the battle. Since you’re starting with a new domain and new mailbox, you can’t just dive into your outreach.
Imagine attending an event, making your way to the stage, grabbing the mic and starting to talk about your company and product… while not being officially invited or registered as a guest speaker.
Also, it will end with you escorted out by security and banned from attending any other events.
Now, imagine attending events together with some familiar faces from your industry or any industry you sell to. You mingle with the crowd, you make small talk, you exchange business cards and show interest in the subjects brought up by the speakers. Ultimately, you end up as a guest speaker and people want to hear what you have to say.
Same thing with email outreach. Your domain and IP address are new to mail service providers. Being too active and reaching out to a large number of cold prospects would be met with suspicion. So, before you start launching your campaigns, you must convince the systems that you’re a friendly messenger and your messages are worth greenlighting.
How do you warm up your domain?
The process of domain warmup is much easier than fine-tuning your DNS settings. You need a bunch of “warm” recipients, a bunch of templates and around 2 or 3 weeks.
1. Build a list of warm prospects
Some beginner senders get confused by the “warm recipients” requirement. The most common questions are “Where do I find so many prospects? How should I convince these people to read my emails? Do I have to sell to them? Will they have to write replies to emails? Why would they be bothered with it?”
The truth is: No, you don’t have to convince your recipients or sell your services. They only need to open your emails, mark them with a star (for Gmail), remove them from the Spam folder and flag them as “not spam” (in case your emails land there), and reply to you with a couple of phrases. The entire routine takes less than 3 minutes, but to you, every positive interaction is priceless.
As for building a warm prospect list, it shouldn’t be a problem for you if you have done your share of networking.
Reach out to friendly faces and ask them whether they would mind interacting with a couple of emails from you for some period. Usually, you’ll get a positive response. Make sure there are both Gmail, Yahoo and Outlook users among your recipients. After this, you can start sending emails.
Alternatively, you can use Folderly that already includes domain, IP and mailbox warm-up. In this case, your domain, IP address and mailbox will be interacting with Folderly’s servers, building a positive dynamic and letting you develop a healthy reputation.
2. Write and send emails manually
We can’t stress it enough: DON’T use automation at this stage. Your message exchange must be as natural as possible, both in frequency and volume. You need to show spam filters and email service providers that there is a real human being behind the domain and address. So be natural.
Same goes for your content. Even though it’s just a warmup, modern algorithms are smart and they can tell a copypasted template from a hand-crafted email. So, your body text and subject line should make sense. After all, it’s your friends you’re sending to. Build a conversation!
As for sending frequency, you should start with sending between 1 to 2 emails per day. Check your spam score and, if it remains unchanged, start building up the volume of messages. By the end of Week 2, you should be able to send up to 40 emails per day. After last week, this number should increase up to 100 daily emails.
Do I really need to do this for up to 3 weeks?
You don’t get in ESPs’ good graces in a day. Any kind of trust takes a while to build, but it’s always worth the effort. Spammers and phishers are impatient and shifty: They won’t invest time in pretending to be good senders. If one trick doesn’t work out, they instantly switch to another. If you show how dedicated you are to taking part in business correspondence and communicating with users, you’re guaranteed to experience less issues with deliverability.
Add your tools to your DNS settings
Before you get started with outbound, make sure that all your tools are recognized by your DNS settings and no issue will emerge as you roll out your outbound marketing campaigns. For example, if you’re using a service like Zoho, you must verify your MX records.
- Log in to your domain registrar’s website.
- Go to your DNS control panel.
- Find your MX records.
- Remove your current entries if there are any.
- Click Add record.
- Enter the @ value in the Host field.
- Add mx.zoho.eu as the first record’s value.
- Set the priority to 10.
Write templates for outbound
Even if you manage to build up a 100-emails-per-day pace with your warm contacts, your relationship with cold prospects is a whole different story. First of all, they don’t have your email in their contacts. Also, there is no history between you: They don’t know whether you’re a certified expert or a new-age salesperson. It’s up to you to debunk their concerns and exceed their expectations.
Now, many beginner senders make the mistake of assuming that the goal of outbound emails is to close a deal. Due to this, they write emails like there is no tomorrow. They are persistent, their messages are loaded with content, links and attachments, they are inconsistent with their voice and tone… All of that can be avoided once you learn a simple truth: Outbound emails don’t close sales.
Yes, that’s right.
B2B deals and relationships are based on conversations. Such conversations include emails and appointments. During one of these appointments, a prospect finally makes a buying decision and becomes a customer. It’s a long-term process that starts with a single message, i.e., an outbound sales email.
So, your outbound emails shouldn’t close deals. They motivate your prospects to speak up, discuss their industry and business with you. If they find you a good listener and like your style, they’ll be willing to book an appointment with you and talk shop.
This is what your sales template should be all about. Don’t talk about prices and price packages, don’t try to lure your prospects in with an offer and refrain from using salesy words like “sale,” “free,” “profit.” Even B2C emails can’t get away with that anymore.
Your B2B templates should be personalized and contain several hooks that your recipients won’t be able to ignore.
You indicate your awareness of your prospect’s current activity and achievements
Dropping big names. You have clients that made a name for themselves in the market
Numbers and facts. This hook grounds your offer in reality and makes it it more attractive
A subtle invitation. You’re not pushing a deal, you want to talk and hear your prospect out
Another step to securing the high open rates of your outbound marketing emails is avoiding spam trigger words.
What are spam trigger words?
Everything has a pattern. Spammers aren’t an exception to that rule. They often become the usual suspects to modern spam filters. Salesy words like “discount,” “pricing,” “shop,” and “buy” become instant red flags, prompting spam filters to mark such emails as harmful content. Currently, there are many lists that contain the latest spam trigger words. Those lists are constantly updated, so don’t forget to refer to them whenever you start your campaign.
It takes a while before you get the hang of crafting templates. You’ll often have to rewrite your body text and come up with new templates for new industries, but as long as you remain respectful, you’re good.
Provide an opt-out option
How do you make receiving cold emails a pleasant experience for your prospects? By making them as convenient and friction-free.
When your recipients get a solicited email, they are anxious about being forcefully pulled into a conversation without a way out. You must relieve that concern by showing that you don’t mean to disturb your prospects or pressure them into a conversation. This doesn’t require much work on your part — you only have to:
- Provide a return address that your recipients can use to reach you and say, “Hey, I don’t want to get any more emails from you/I’m not interested, please remove me from your sending list.”
- Ask your prospects directly whether they want to continue receiving your emails or not. Usually, you can do it in your 4th email. Just end it with, “I’d like to know whether you’re interested in discussing the offer. Please send me a short reply saying “Yes” or “No.” Any insight from you would be much appreciated.” This shows that you actually care about your prospects’ time and feelings.
- Instantly clean your sending lists. Once your prospects opt out, you are required by the CAN-SPAM Act not to use their email address in any campaigns. So forgetting to refresh your lead database and using contact data of unwilling recipients may end with harsh penalties.
- Establish a strict policy among your sales teams and everybody who sends emails on your behalf. Let them know that there is zero tolerance regarding pushy, salesy emails and forcing prospects to take part in correspondence. Remember: You’re the one who is legally responsible for any mistakes your sales teams make.
Please keep in mind that your prospects would want to opt out. That’s a natural part of every outbound marketing campaign. Parting on good terms is a lot better than being persistent and invoking the wrath of users and spam filters.
Is there a way to prevent opt-outs? Not really. If your prospects want to leave, don’t stop them. However, sometimes your prospects may start having sales objections because it’s not the right time and they’re unsure about making any buying decisions. In that case, you can work your way around their concerns and retain them. A single phrase, such as, “Please, let me know if it’s not the right moment to talk and whether you’d like me to reach out to you later” can do wonders. Once your prospects realize that there is no rush and they don’t have to deal with you right here, right now, they are more at ease. If they agree with you following up a bit later, discuss a time slot, book it in your calendar and remove their address from an active sending list to the “Follow-up later” list.
The “slow and steady” approach wins the race — this statement is particularly true for outbound marketing. Introduce your freshly made mailbox to the world of B2B correspondence carefully and pick up the speed.
Once you’re done with your warm-up period, increasing the volume of emails is no longer a problem. You can now use automation tools and send up to 400 emails every day, as long as you check your performance statistics and make sure that your outreach looks like this:
NOTE: You have to repeat this process with every new domain and mailbox you register. Even if you make a new email account on an established domain, you still shouldn’t go beyond your initial sending limit and send emails gradually. Your sending reputation is highly dependent on your activity, so keep your profile squeaky clean.
Once your outreach campaigns are on the roll, you must stay in control of your performance by keeping an eye on the numbers. The main problem is that different campaigns pursue different goals and, therefore, different metrics are prioritized. However, let’s take a look at the basic ones.
When it comes to tracking your outbound marketing campaigns, an average open rate is their lifeblood. It shows how many emails are opened by your recipients, letting you know whether you’re doing fine or not. It’s a great comparative metric for analysing your campaigns from the last week and from the current week, exposing areas for improvement or even emerging issues.
For example, an optimal open rate should be above 35%. So if you see your opens dropping below that percentage, you have a problem.
While open rate is a very valuable metric, it can be quite misleading. For example, if you use images in your emails, your messages can be considered opened only if those images are loaded properly. However, since many spam filters have a feature that blocks images, you won’t get accurate data on your opens. The solution to this would be using your images wisely.
Explore the number of replies you receive from your prospects. Of course, not all campaigns make responses to their goals. For inbound campaigns, conversion rate, CTR and domain open rate are a lot more important. However, if you work in B2B outreach, you want responses. And you want to know how well you’re doing.
In general, a 10% reply rate is considered a good result. However, there are factors that affect it — and you can affect those factors.
The quality of your reply rate is directly related to the quality of your list. For example, at the end of your campaign focused on 1000 prospects, you receive emails from 20 prospects. It means that your reply rate is 2%. Another campaign sent to around 100 prospects results in 40 prospects responding to your emails. That gives you a 40% reply rate.
Therefore, the more segmented your email campaigns are, the more precisely you break your recipients down into groups, the easier it will be for you to increase your reply rate and rest assured that you’re dealing with high-value responses.
In general, bounces occur from time to time. Only when your bounce rate goes above 2%, you have a reason for concern. In general, you will be dealing with soft bounces and hard bounces.
Soft bounces imply that the delivery issue is temporary. It can occur due to following reasons:
- The recipient's mailbox is full and can’t accept any more messages at the moment.
- The recipient’s email account has been temporarily suspended.
- Your email is oversized and can’t pass through.
- The recipient’s email server is going through temporary technical problems and won’t accept any mail right now.
- Unspecified delivery issues usually marked as “Connection timed out” (also known as general bounces).
- Delayed delivery because the recipient’s server needs more time to figure out the incoming message and greenlight it.
In case of soft bounces, your email marketing service will try to send your message again and if it’s unsuccessful after several attempts, it will remove the unresponsive email address from the sending list.
Hard bounces mean that there is a permanent issue preventing your emails from being delivered. With hard bounces, email marketing services delete bounced email addresses from your list immediately because there is no way to resend a bounced message.
Emails get hard-bounced when:
- The recipient’s email address has been removed and is no longer available.
- The email address on your list has been added with a typo and your mail is unable to find the recipient.
- The recipient’s inbox has been abandoned and cannot receive any more emails.
- The recipient’s service has classified the incoming email as spam.
- The incoming mail failed to pass security checks.
- The recipient’s domain doesn't exist anymore.
If you manage your mailing lists on your own and receive a hard bounce notification, remove the bounced email address as soon as possible. You can’t fix anything here, so keep your sender reputation safe and avoid bounces.
Other issues that lead to bounces
These specific issues don’t occur very often, but you must pay attention to them in order to prevent them from evolving into more serious problems.
- DNS Error. This issue happens when you change email providers or migrate domains. If you’re working with a large number of users, the delivery to a domain can be affected and slowed down. In case it occurs, you must provide your users with navigation and make sure their attempts to “fix” the issue won’t lead to any more errors.
- DMARC Reject. Since almost all recipients and senders accept the DMARC policy, many users set their DMARC policy to reject all senders that don’t have a DMARC record. In that case, you must implement a DMARC policy and make sure it works properly.
- Challenge Verification. It’s an additional inquiry generated by a challenge verification tool used by your recipients as an extra safety measure. Whenever a recipient uses a challenge verification tool, you’re asked to perform a certain action in order to prove that you’re a credible sender. You must respond to that challenge in order to persuade recipients to whitelist your address.
Traditional email bounce codes
A procedure used for sending email messages between mail servers is called Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP). Whenever there is an error during the transmission, a bounce message is sent back to the sending server and assigned a corresponding SMTP error code.
A syntax error was encountered in command arguments.
This command is not implemented.
The server has encountered a bad sequence of commands.
A command parameter is not implemented.
The server could not recognize the command due to a syntax error.
User’s mailbox was unavailable (such as not found)
The recipient is not local to the server.
The action was aborted due to exceeded storage allocation.
The transaction failed for some unstated reason.
<domain> Service not available, closing transmission channel
Requested mail action not taken: mailbox unavailable (e.g., mailbox busy)
Requested action aborted: error in processing
Requested action not taken: Insufficient system storage
The command was aborted because the mailbox name is invalid.
Enhanced Bounce Codes
Other or undefined mailbox status
Mailbox disabled, not accepting messages
Mail system full
Too many recipients
Other address status
Bad destination mailbox address
Bad destination system address
Bad destination mailbox address syntax
Destination mailbox address ambiguous
Destination mailbox address valid
Mailbox has moved
Bad sender’s mailbox address syntax
Bad sender’s system address
Message length exceeds administrative limit
Mailing list expansion problem
Other or undefined mail system status
System not accepting network messages
System not capable of selected features
Message too big for the system
Other or undefined network or routing status
No answer from host
Routing server failure
Unable to route
Routing loop detected
Delivery time expired
Other or undefined protocol status
Invalid command arguments
Wrong protocol version
Other or undefined media error
Media not supported
Conversion required and prohibited
Conversion required but not supported
Conversion with loss performed
Other or undefined security status
Delivery not authorized, message refused
Mailing list expansion prohibited
Security conversion required but not possible
Security features not supported
Cryptographic algorithm not supported
Message integrity failure
In some cases, however, mail server administrators and mailbox providers customize the bounced message, so no particular code is assigned to it.
We hope this guide gave you answers to your long-time outbound marketing questions. Getting ready for your first outbound campaign isn’t easy — there are many things to keep in mind and even more upcoming issues to deal with, from sales objections to cleaning your templates from potential spam trigger words. However, there are several principles that will help you stay focused:
- Always create a new domain for your outbound campaign, don’t use your primary domain for trying out new campaigns and sales channels.
- Take care of your domain health: Ensure that you have a DMARC policy that receiving servers can stick to, provide them with an SPF record and a DKIM signature.
- Work together with your IT teams to edit and add new DNS records without going through too much trouble.
- Prior to launching a campaign, warm up your domain to build a friendly relationship with spam filters. Send friendly, personalized messages to your warm contacts and be ready that it takes up to 3 weeks to complete your warm-up.
- Respect your email sending quota. Going above your sending limit won’t put you in the good graces of spam filters.
- Start your outbound campaign slowly and build up your pace gradually. Once you reach the desired sending quota, make sure that you have a steady sending schedule.
Our final advice would be: When in doubt, ask for help. Whether it’s a tool or a consultation, we’ll be able to help you out!
Folderly offers a set of tools for managing the flow of your campaigns. Make sure that every email finds its recipient and keep your sender reputation spotless! Don’t know how to get started? We got you covered. Our team is available 24/7 for a detailed consultation that will let you make the most out of Folderly. Add more visibility to your email marketing and spread your message!