What is a spam complaint, and what should I do about it?

Overview:

Receiving a spam complaint notification can be unsettling, but it can happen to the best marketers. This article outlines what a spam complaint is, and what you should do about it.

Scenario:

Spam complaints can arise through a variety of sources and for a variety of reasons. Even if you’ve practiced the best permission-based marketing (only sending to opted-in recipients, provided clear unsubscribe links, and delivered relevant content), a recipient or their ISP may identify your email as spam or potential spam. This can be the result of a human registering a complaint or an automated system such as a spam filtering service. Spam filtering services have their own algorithms and rules to detect and classify unsolicited email, and it is up to you, the sender, to send only solicited email that meets your recipients’ expectations. When a complaint occurs, some email systems will provide ClickDimensions with a notification of a spam complaint and ask us to respond. (Some email systems do not provide these notifications at all). All email sent through ClickDimensions must comply with CAN-SPAM regulations. We have also designed our systems to achieve great deliverability by complying with email and filtering services’ guidelines and rules.

Resolution:

  1. Respond to our inquiry. When we respond to such a notification of a complaint, we may contact you for more information. Responding quickly helps us to get the information back to the complainant quickly and avoid service disruption. Your response should include documentation that the email was not unsolicited, and that the recipient had opted in to receive messages from you.
  2. Ensure that you are practicing permission-based marketing. This is essential to avoiding or reducing spam complaints and bounces. Recipients of your emails should have opted in to receive messages from you, and should have a clear way to opt out via unsubscribing. Never use purchased lists, which are prohibited from our service. If we receive a spam complaint from a recipient’s email provider or filtering service, we may ask you to provide evidence that you are practicing permission-based marketing as described in your Master Services Agreement (View our service terms and conditions at http://www.clickdimensions.com/terms/).
  3. Let your recipients know what to expect from you. When someone opts into your list, whether through a form on your website or another means (even if it is not electronically), keep a good record and send them a welcome email, letting them know what type and frequency of messaging they can expect from you. And always provide them with an easy way to opt out. (See http://blog.clickdimensions.com/2011/07/keeping-recipients-from-unsubscribing-from-all-clickdimensions-subscription-list-feature.html.)
  4. Periodically clean your marketing list. CRM’s built-in functionality lets you evaluate your list members based on relevant criteria. It is good practice to periodically remove recipients who don’t fit your best conversion model. For example, what are your best lead sources that lead to sales? Which are your worst? How many touches and over what time interval does it take to close a sale on average, and can you remove old leads who are unlikely to convert? See this article on how to use CRM to clean up your lists: http://blog.clickdimensions.com/2012/01/maintaining-good-marketing-lists.html
  5. Segment your list: The article linked in the previous step also describes a method to segment your marketing lists. By segmenting your list, you can tailor your marketing messages to more closely fit the characteristics of each segment. Common segmentations might include: B2B vs. B2C, Product/Interest segmentation, Re-engagement of old leads, etc.
  6. Improve your messaging:If your open and click-through rates are low, these can be important indicators that you should improve your message’s relevance and content to reduce the risk of spam complaints.
      – Use a personalized “From” address such as the salesperson who owns the recipient’s contact record in CRM
      – Improve the subject line and content. A low open rate can be a sign of weak subject lines in the email, and low click-through rates may mean you need a stronger call to action that is relevant to the targeted recipient. (See http://blog.clickdimensions.com/2011/01/personalize-subject-lines-no-problem.html and http://blog.clickdimensions.com/2011/02/the-power-of-dynamic-content-in-email-marketing.html for more tips.) This can also be accomplished through trial-and-error with smaller batches of your list, refining your messaging with each batch until you feel you’ve optimized it for maximum effectiveness.

TIP: If you have a question about bounce rates or spam complaints, contact ClickDimensions support or your Marketing Success Manager. We are always glad to help improve the effectiveness of your email marketing.

Common Questions:

  • “My company’s emails comply with CAN-SPAM/CASL/other regulations. Isn’t that enough?” – There are many laws in different countries that regulate unsolicited email. These are intended to protect recipients from unsolicited email, but they are not designed to protect an email service provider from blacklists or spam filters. ClickDimensions’ terms of service go beyond many regulations and laws because they are designed to ensure that we can provide the best deliverability rates in the long-term. Your emails should comply with your local laws, but they must also comply with our terms of service. In short, this can be summarized as: You must have permission from the recipient to send him/her an email.
  • “We get lists from our trusted business partners, and the recipients have given our partner permission. So we sort of have permission, right?” If the recipient has not given your company permission directly, then you do not have permission. Think of it this way: Joe Prospect visits a website to download a whitepaper and enters his email address. He ticks the box (or more often, the box is already ticked) that says something like “By completing this form you agree to receive emails from our partner companies.” The whitepaper provider then shares Joe’s email with you. When you send Joe an email, he has no idea who your company is or why he is receiving your email, so he marks it as junk, or worse, he complains to his ISP or email provider. Next thing you know, Joe’s ISP is blocking all email from that source because the ISP’s goal is to keep Joe happy and make sure he only gets email he wants. This is bad and causes ClickDimensions to have to invest a lot of effort to work with the ISP to unblock our emails and find out which of our customers sent Joe the email. And then you get an email from us that leads you to this article. And guess what? Joe won’t ever buy your product or service and now considers your company to be a spammer.
  • “So how do we build our email lists if we can’t buy lists and we can’t get them from our ‘partners’?” Glad you asked! It’s not only important to your delivery rates to comply with our terms of service, but you will get better results from your email marketing investment if you build your lists organically – that is, give people a reason to want to get your emails. Content marketing is a great way to do this. There are also many other ways to attract subscribers and build your audience. Building your lists organically takes longer and requires more effort, but the prospects will be of much better quality and more likely to buy from you!

For further reading: