Hate those blasted spam filters? It stinks when a beautiful piece of event-planning marketing gets thrown into the spam folder never to be seen again. We have some tips on how to avoid it, as well as alternative ways to reach your audience.
Today’s marketing can be incredibly frustrating. Never has it been so easy and cost-effective to reach large groups of people and yet there are still barriers to communication. From spam filters to social media algorithms, if you think you’re marketing to your event attendees you might be mistaken. Here are a few tips on navigating these annoying modern “conveniences.”
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What Are Spam Filters and Why Do They Hate You?
In case you’ve been very out of touch for the past decade, spam filters detect unsolicited and assumed unwanted email. They filter them into a folder, which most people give no additional thought to and your event marketing brilliance is lost forever.
But let’s begin at firewalls. Firewalls are like gatekeepers. They screen content long before it even gets to a spam filter but they work in tandem and they work with other firewalls. For instance, if someone designates you as spam you could be reported to SenderBase, the world’s largest email monitoring network. Not only can that count against you, but your email service provider or drip marketing software will receive a copy of the complaint. This means they could shut down your service. That’s a whole lot of trouble. Not to mention the million-dollar fines that could be levied against you should you be found to be a legitimate source of spam and not just a company behind a newsletter that the recipient forgot about signing up for.
What most people don’t know is that as much as 21% of legitimate permission-based emails also end up in the spam folder, according to information from ReturnPath. That means even if you perform your due diligence and ensure everyone who’s receiving communications from you has opted in, you’re still fighting those too smart for themselves bots.
Sitting in my spam folder right now are six emails - two of those are from Twitter and one from a local business I frequent. So half of mine are legitimate, non-spam. See the problem?
While we may sometimes feel otherwise, spam filters have nothing against you personally and there are a number of things that set them off. Anything from a missing subject line to a disliked email service can do it. Spam filters aren’t human. You can’t buddy up to them and sneak past their desk. You need to placate them into believing you’re human and not after sales. It’s easier than you think.
Tips to Avoid Spam Filters
In order to convince the robots you’re not one of their kind you should:
- Use a human subject line. You always want to give careful consideration to this anyway as it, along with the sender info, is one of the top considerations someone uses in deciding if they will open the email or send it to trash. Many marketers swear by conversational subject lines, while others choose straightforward concepts. Check out #3 for more information on things to avoid in the subject line.
- Always use a subject line. Some people get frustrated in creating one and so they give up. Others think that mystery is the best way to get someone to click. But leaving a blank subject line is just a fast train to the trash folder. Some employers, including the U.S. military, won’t even give the recipient an option to open it. A blank subject line gets filtered by the firewall before it even graces the screen.
- Avoid the “forbidden” sales speak. These trigger words set spam filters off.
- Beware of your software. Some software is notorious for having a bad spam rating based on other users. For instance, you might use technology to send batches of emails from an email design software company. Unbeknownst to you, they have a bad sending rating and have been blacklisted because of abuse and known spam. Even if the problems were with another one of their clients, if it’s coming from their server, it affects you.
- Always use a large unsubscribe button. Okay, this idea is less about passing a spam filter and more about getting marked as spam. Sometimes people don’t remember signing up for your email or newsletter. Then they receive a communication from you and it makes them angry. They immediately hit the spam button on their email provider and boom! You’re spam. That counts against you and your sender rating. Instead, make the unsubscribe button or information very prominent in any messaging you send out. Christopher S. Penn, author, speaker, and marketer, adds his unsubscribe button and a funny quip to the top of his newsletter. That makes it easy for the recipient to see and helps him avoid being tossed into the spam abyss.
- Don’t use a lot of URL links in your messaging. It’s confusing and spammy.
- Don’t go heavy on the images. One or two will do. It not only takes a while to open and load on some systems, spam filters assume an email loaded with graphics is porn.
- Consider a human reply-to address. People are more apt to open an email from someone they know or they’ve heard of not noreply@companyx. Use your name as the person to respond to. You can create filters and aliases on other inboxes if you don’t want a deluge of responses in your inbox. But a name adds a nice personal touch.
- Individual servers matter. Your email can be flagged by attendee B’s company and not attendee A’s, so never assume that while it got through in one instance that it’s getting through to your entire email list.
- Ask them to add you. If you’re in contact with the people you’re sending to then ask them to add you to their email address book. This will tell those nosey filters that you have a relationship with this person and they should leave you alone. Ask them to do it, tell them, even create a video on how they can do it, but make it a consistent message if you want to be heard.
- Use a strong design. If your email is designed out, make sure you either use a template from a reputable company, a good designer, or know not to leave sloppy code or extra tags. Doing so could alert the spam police.
- Test. Spam filters are like the machines in the Terminator movies. They are constantly evolving. Keep an eye on your clicks and open rates and test different approaches to see if something seems to be affecting delivery.
- Consistent branding. Help people recognize you by being consistent in your branding. If something like a name change occurs let everyone know so they don’t mistakenly mark you as spam.
- Don’t buy or rent email lists. These days are over. You’re risking your send reputation on this. Is it really worth it? While you’re at it, don’t give an intern a list of companies to hunt down emails so you can send them something. Permission-based email marketing is your safest and only bet these days.
- Add a preferred communications question to the sign-up process. Don’t assume an attendee wants to hear from you. Some people are more protective of their email than they are their money. Always ask if you can contact them via email and the easiest way to do that is to add it to registration. For your own protection, don’t make it a pre-selected default. Allow them to actively opt-in.
- Remove bounced emails from your list. They’re not coming back. Get rid of them.
- Keep your list fresh. If you only use your email list a week before the event, chances are it could be stale. This could affect your send rate. Stay in contact between meetings. Not only will it keep your list fresh but it will keep your audience engaged.
- Ask for referrals but always ask for permission. It’s perfectly fine to ask your attendees for referrals but you don’t want to email these referrals cold. Ask your attendee to make the introduction or have their friend send your event info with your contact numbers.
Email Is Not Your Only Hope
Email is an effective way to reach your attendees, assuming you can get by their spam filters, but it’s not your only option. Here are a few other things you should be trying to ensure you reach your ideal attendees.
Types of Messages
First, communication preferences are important. Not everyone loves emails, at least not “written” emails. Some people prefer podcast-style messaging, while others would love a short video message. Take the time to understand your audience. Verbal recordings appeal to those on the go because they can listen to them while they’re driving, unlike reading an email. Other people prefer the ability to visually scan the contents, which can’t be done in video or audio. You can cover your bases by providing all three kinds and seeing which messaging gets the most interaction.
Targeted Social Media Ads
We all hate to admit it but social media platforms want to make money too. This means the days of everyone seeing our content are gone. If you want to ensure eyes are on your event messaging, you need to pay for them.
The one benefit to doing so is that most platforms offer an incredibly targeted approach these days. You can dig deep into just the type of people you want to get in front of. For instance, if you were hosting a local event you could limit the geographic area that sees your post. If your event fits a wide variety of attendees such as a festival, you could stipulate that you want to show it to friends of friends who have liked your page.
Taking the time to make decisions about your reach will ensure that you’ll be seen by more of the types of people who are your ideal attendee, which will give you a greater return on your investment. After all, you don’t want to pay for people looking at your ad who aren’t going to come to your event.
Another fantastic way to stay in front of your ideal audience is to use Facebook’s pixel technology. When someone visits your Facebook page and your event site you can have them “pixeled” so that your content will be personalized to their needs. You can personalize what it is that they see when they visit. That way you’re not talking to them as if they are a first-time visitor. You’re welcoming them back.
Sometimes adding a little experiential marketing is all it takes to give your event a spark. When Double M Haunted Hayrides in Saratoga Springs, New York wanted more publicity for its kick-off event, they worked with a marketing firm to have a horde of zombies invade downtown. It was certainly not something you could ignore. Many of the zombies were wearing or carrying their hashtag #zombietoga.
The local press picked it up, as well as TV, radio, and online news. Bystanders loved it too and pictures were all over social media. Needless to say, it’s difficult to ignore an approaching zombie horde. If your event appeals to a wide demographic, this type of guerilla marketing can be very successful at establishing a name for your event and reaching a large audience.
Use Fun Hashtags
Sure, it’s easy to call your event by its name as a hashtag like #2017Conference, but creating a fun, memorable one will get more use and reach more people. When Evian was at the South Beach Food & Wine Festival in Miami, they used their own hashtag #EvianEats. In order to ensure people used it, they had it on a backdrop in front of the photo op. Catchy and a great way to get noticed.
Your event marketing genius won’t sell any tickets if the recipients aren’t getting your messaging. In order to ensure they do, brush up on these ideas on how to bypass spam filters. Remember, email marketing is not the only way to reach your ideal attendee. You can use all forms of digital marketing to maximize your event message reach. A strong marketing plan combines the many forms of digital marketing.
Additional Resources on Event and Email Marketing
Event Email Templates and Designs that Convert into Attendees
20 Tips to Get Attendees to Open Your Emails
8 Email Marketing Tips for the Events Industry
15 Productivity Boosting Email Hacks
67 Marketing Tricks for Event Professionals