There are several important considerations when looking for a reputable targeted email partner. First, determine whether they are CAN-SPAM compliant with all their products. Next, ask if the email creative can be viewed on all devices. You should then verify that your potential partner has a 24-hour turnaround time, and can provide quick, accurate reporting. Lastly, ensure they have a database large enough to reach your targets, and that they can help you maximize your marketing dollars with re-targeting and ROI. 

CAN-SPAM Compliance

The first, and most important, aspect in picking an email partner is to work with a double-opt-in, CAN-SPAM Act-compliant vendor. A double opt-in process is important in both accuracy and results. People don’t want to receive junk mail or messaging about products or services they aren’t interested in. Double-opt in ensures each individual has indicated their interest. As a result, the open rate, click through rates and sales are better. 


How Does Double Opt-in Work? And What Does “CAN-SPAM Compliant” Mean?

CAN-SPAM compliance is a two-step process.

  1. The user manually types their email address into an online (or point-of-sale) form or field, is asked to verify it, and clicks some form of a “submit” button.
  2. The same user is then explicitly required to check a box, respond to a “verification email” or otherwise actively and asynchronously indicate in a second field or form (often a pop-up or similar, or through an email) that they want this email address to receive marketing offers. 

The most common example is when a consumer provides their email address as part of a retailer’s loyalty program and consents to receive discounts or offers. The retailer then sends an email to the provided address which the consumer must click on to complete the sign-up process.

CAN-SPAM, the applicable law is the “Controlling the Assault of Non-solicited Pornography and Marketing Act of 2003”, more succinctly known as the Federal CAN-SPAM act of 2003. The two relevant sections regarding the definition of “opting in “are important because the email addresses we used should apply a strict “double opt in” methodology where consumers specifically give permission to email them. Secondarily, they must be given the option to opt out. 

These rules are important not only for the initial email send, but also for subsequent contact based on this send. You want to work with a company that provides a postal file or First name / Last name and physical address of the individual receiving the email. This postal file can be used for many purposes, like complete transparency into who and where the email recipient is, or as a simple ROI tool by providing “match-backs” to a customer who made a purchase. 

It cannot be used to send physical mail to these individuals as this breaks the opt-out regulation in the CAN-SPAM law. Simply put: if people can’t opt out, it can’t be sent. 


Your Partner Is CAN-SPAM Compliant. What’s Next?

Once you’re confident your partner is CAN-SPAM compliant and has a strong, reputable list of emails, ensure that list is robust enough to give you a strong set of targeting options. You want someone with at least 100MM double-opt-in email addresses from across all 50 states, so you can reach much of the eligible population. 

Why such a large set of addresses? Think of it like this: a smaller database is like using Bing rather than Google to search. You miss most of the audience. The other important factor is to ensure the list is scrubbed frequently to eliminate stale/old addresses, and that opt-outs are processed routinely to verify people receiving your email actually want it. 

Having a robust database, regularly scrubbed of old email addresses, gives you the flexibility to utilize effective targeting criteria. Narrowing your email send to the right individuals at the right time is the crux of successful targeted email marketing. 


How Is Data Collected and Used?

The data used for targeted email is collected many different ways, combined and applied to create a vast database of targeting options like demographic, psychographic, personal interests, job, income, home ownership, etc. For a client, it simply means you utilize all of the same standard tactics used in the online/digital advertising world to identify and target users. 

Where much of the best info comes directly from the consumers themselves (based on the surveys they fill out when they sign up), the rest is added by companies that track and report on data and behaviors (e.g. Acxiom or Experian or Equifax). But rather than trying to find their browser, people are identified by email address. Otherwise, it’s much the same process used in all forms of digital advertising, direct mail and traditional advertising.


For example: 

This data comes from data aggregators like Acxiom, Experian and ChoicePoint, as well as publicly available info from the government-like USPS info, voter files and census data, or at the source when consumers sign up to receive offers (e.g. the LegalZoom or Home Depot or Sephora examples above). When a person signs up to receive offers, they are volunteering certain information or data about the types of offers they want to receive, their interests and other foundational data points like their age or zip code. 

The double opt-in option is important here. This where a user will be sent a second email confirming “Yes, I’m willing to receive emails from this business, about this product, service or related to my interests.” 

In addition, your targeted email vendor should send [O1] HTML-based responsive emails that can be opened and read on any device and operating system. You invested time and money to create the perfect offer and to reach the right person. It’s important that those individuals not only can see your email, but that it’s easy for them to read and react to it. 

You don’t want users to receive a red X, or to have to pinch and pull inside their inbox to read your email and/or to take action. Not all targeted email vendors are created equal. There are hundreds of email clients, and your creative should be tested on the majority of them to ensure your message gets to the end user intact. 


The Importance of Turn-around Time

Lastly, your vendor should be able to send an email in less than 24 hours; ideally less than 16 hours total turn-around time. A quick-turn and last-minute opportunities are perfectly suited to email campaigns, and must be supported and provide accurate, up-to-date reporting. Just like any other form of digital advertising, you can get almost immediate feedback and response to your message. Your targeted email vendor should help you take advantage by providing easy, informative access to reporting.

Now that you have a viable and vetted vendor, you’re ready to increase your margins and to grow your digital revenue with targeted email. Tune into sO2’s next blog post: how to maximize your client’s marketing dollars by increasing frequency to a proven, highly desirable audience through retargeting.