Email marketing can either be a blessing or a curse depending on how you approach it. Gone are the days of buying a list and setting up a server with software. Email marketers are now focusing on targeted lists that are optin, and to improve their ROI, they inform the list of who they are and how they got their email.

If you are going to get into this game, there are some pitfalls you may want to avoid:

  • Buying a list
  • Buying email software
  • Buying email servers
  • Adding IP’s

Buying a list of emails, regardless if it has optin information or not, is too risky. The real question should be, “Why is the list owner selling?” If the list is responsive, it’s worth its weight not to be sold. Most lists for sale have already been traded and/or sold at least 20 times before it gets into your hot little hands and prior to them selling it, many have seeded it just to watch how many hands it arrives in. All lists are seeded with traps or list owner emails, so buying a list is just too risky.

If you do not have a list and you decided to do gorilla marketing (which 90% of startups do), then you would be better off riding the coat tails of a similar company (someone in the industry but not direct competition). Pay them to send your ad to their own list. Better yet, ask if they would lease their list to you. This way, their logo can be on your ad and their lists will know where the ad is coming from. There are many other ideas and options you can choose from. The best advice would be to get as far away from unfamiliar lists as you possibly can.

So, let’s say you have a list that is fully optin all from your own marketing website(s), thus you decide to save money by buying email software. Any easy search in Google will find you in the web of $250 email marketing programs with promises of major rewards. “This will cut my costs of marketing by 90%!” you say to yourself, but the software you are buying (unbeknownst to you) is honestly old and outdated. Most were programmed by a few intelligent Ukrainians about 10 years ago and ISPs recognize their signature within the first 10 emails being sent. Email software and add-ins (plugins to email clients) do not get you into the inbox anymore unless you know how to take it apart and fix their flaws. You’re better off paying companies like MailChimp or Aweber because they are completely whitelisted and ISPs give them VIP treatment (more on that later).

Ok, so after serious consideration of the above and your budget being tight, you stick with your $250 email software and decide that buying email servers is the next logical step because hey, you won’t know until you try it right? Email servers or virtual desktops come with IP’s that have already been listed and delisted at least a dozen times or more and a lot of blacklists keep those IP’s on warning. The minute your server IP approaches a threshold within a large free email service provider like Hotmail, the quicker it is to be blocked. Server admins monitor their traffic and have excellent systems that alert them of possible spam. You are likely to get blocked within 3,000 emails from one IP at any given 24 hour period of time.

Let’s say you figure that out real quick when your open and click rates drops by half, so you decide that adding more IP’s will fix the problem. This shotgun approach would have worked well 10 years ago, but ISP’s recognize this snowshoe spam and can block an entire range just as fast as they can one IP. Unless you purchase hundreds or thousands of IPs that are unrelated to each other along with the same number of domains (scatter/tunnel affect) you will be stuck with the same problem as before. Even if you find a provider who can sell IP’s in such fashion, your machine can still be blocked (more on that later, too).

Finally, you get smart and decide to go the honest approach. Wise choice. I have found that if you contact large email service providers and be completely honest with them about your list, where you got it and what you plan on doing with it, they usually will work with you to clean it up, somewhat. You shouldn’t just upload a list and expect them to accept it without any communication between the two of you. Some programs allow you to send to the entire list the first time, which is risky on their end, but you will soon find out that you are banned from using them if you hit a trap or exceed a high threshold of bounces.

Honesty will go a long way and large email service providers truly want your repeated business so contacting them via the phone (yes, by using your mouth) and building a relationship will pay off big in the end because their IP’s are solid and get into the inbox. I have heard of many instances where emailers will setup multiple small accounts into several large email service providers and keep it small in order to send big, but this approach is tedious, malicious and can bite you in the ass if you’re not careful. It’s not worth it.

There are over 30,000 Internet Service Providers worldwide and all of them share a common problem between them, which is spam. Every year, a new idea is shared among them all on how to avoid spam spilling into their networks and they are constantly spending millions to make sure their users receive a minimal amount of spam in their inboxes. They frown upon spam, yet some profit on it and that is why there is both white hat and black hat spam out there today. Sure, you can save money by tricking them. But in the long run, you can smear your company’s good name and that, my friends, is just not worth it.

James Carner
CEO / Founder