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Dec 11, 2002
How To

How to Get Hotmail Users to Whitelist Your Email: Smarter Living's Test Results

SUMMARY: Like many business-to-consumer companies, a big slice of Smarter Living's email list addresses are Hotmail and MSN accounts. Marketing Director Karen Iannone feared this meant her mailings were ending up in the bulk mail folder.
To counter this, she just sent a promo asking her Hotmail and MSN names to move Smarter Living into the "Safe List" in their inbox. You can get her results data and a sample of campaign creative.
"The biggest thing on my mind right now is spam filtering," says
Smarter Living's Marketing Director Karen Iannone firmly.

"Of course optimizing content for high click through rates is
important. But at the end of the day if the audience isn't
there, if we are filtered into bulk folders, it doesn't matter if
we have great content."

Since Smarter Living is a business-to-consumer site, a big chunk
of their house email list are Hotmail, Yahoo and AOL addresses.
In fact, more than 20% of the list is Hotmail alone.

At 11 A.M. on Nov 19th Karen sent out a special broadcast message to
Smarter Living's Hotmail and MSN email addresses in an effort to
get them to "Safe List" the site. (Link to sample below.)

The subject line was:
Important News for Hotmail and MSN Users from Smarter Living

The copy begins:

Dear Smarter Living Newsletter Subscriber:

You may be missing out on money-saving travel offers that we
send to your email account.

You are receiving this email because you are a Hotmail or MSN
user and have signed up for Smarter living Newsletters.

Our newsletters may be arriving in your "Junk Mail" folder,
without ever appearing in your inbox.

Good news! In a few quick steps, you can "Safe List" Smarter
Living Newsletters so they arrive in your inbox. Click here
to learn how.

After you "Safe List" Smarter Living, you can enter to WIN a
copy of Randy Petersen's The Official Frequent Flyer
Guidebook. Hurry - Offer expires 12/2. Learn more.

Karen says it was her CEO Dan Saul's idea to add the special
offer to the message. She definitely thinks it helped response
in this instance, but she would think twice before making an
incentive-based offer to an outside list. "You run the risk of
bringing on unqualified people who join just for the sake of the

In order to make sure the campaign actually reached people (instead of ending up in the bulk folder), Karen changed the way the email was sent. She explains:

"Our emails were appearing in Hotmail's Bulk Mail list because we are 'batch' mail senders. Meaning, we don't currently send email to ',' rather we send email to 'Smarter Living's Deal List,' of which Name is a member.

Hotmail assumes 'batch' mail is spam.

In order to ensure our one-time 'Safe List' email arrived in Hotmail's Inbox, we wrote a script whereby we sent mail 1:1 to a users' specific email address. (We don't usually mail 1:1 because of bandwidth issues, however, because the Hotmail list was a subset of our larger list, we could handle the bandwidth issue of mailing 1:1 for this particular campaign).

We ran several tests to ensure this one-time campaign would arrive in Hotmail's Inbox."

As of this morning, the Safe List campaign results were 14.6%
open rate and a 1.7% click through rate to the Safe List
Instructions page.

Karen hopes that perhaps 60% of the people who clicked though to
the instructions then actually acted on them, but notes, "this
assumption is not substantiated at all."

We were impressed, though, by the clean and clear layout of this
instructional page. (Link to sample below.) Usually instruction
or "help" pages for computer related stuff are written badly
enough to give you a headache trying to figure them out. Smarter
Living's instructions are much better than anything I have ever
seen from Hotmail or MSN!

Useful links related to this article:

Sample to Karen's creative

Smarter Living
See Also:

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