now sending 15 billion emails

Let me begin by saying that this is the sort of blog post a CEO loves to write.

When SparkPost launched 18 months ago, we knew developers were looking for a better way to send email from their web and mobile apps. We knew enterprise senders needed more reliable delivery for email that was critical to their business. And we had a clear vision for how to meet those needs, with a next-generation cloud architecture backed by a team that understood email better than just about anyone else on the planet.

But even so, we knew that there was one thing that was going to be absolutely essential to our hoped-for success: you. We were optimistic, of course, that the market would recognize the value of what we were building. But the growth we’ve experienced in the last year and a half has exceeded our expectations.

We’re now delivering more than 15 billion messages each month, and that figure is growing by more than 1 billion per month. To put it simply, SparkPost is the fastest-growing email delivery service on the market.

That growth is because of you. We’ve just been thrilled that so many developers and enterprise customers alike understand the benefit of what SparkPost has brought to the table—and to see the sorts of innovative things our customers are doing with email today. SparkPost’s 15,000+ active customers range from small startups to fast-growing major technology companies including Pinterest, Zillow, CareerBuilder, LinkedIn, and Intercom.

Beyond the numbers, I’d like to highlight three areas that reflect SparkPost’s leadership and growth:

  • SparkPost is now the preferred choice of developers for API-driven email delivery. This was evidenced by the recent migration of many Mandrill users to SparkPost after MailChimp announced it would no longer be available as a standalone service. The resulting surge of users to SparkPost was captured in a recent Notablist report analyzing the Mandrill market disruption; this analysis found that over 21 percent selected SparkPost—5 percent ahead of the closest competitor—prompting Notablist to state that “SparkPost Won the Battle for New Users.”
  • SparkPost has earned our reputation as the most reliable and flexible email delivery service provider. Unlike other email delivery providers who continue to expend resources and focus on building and maintaining  their own data centers, SparkPost is the only full-featured cloud email delivery service built 100 percent for the modern cloud.  SparkPost’s leverage of Amazon Web Services, the industry’s preeminent Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) platform, allows customers and partners alike to experience the benefits of a secure, scalable, and elastic cloud infrastructure—like guaranteed burst rates—while allowing SparkPost to remain focused on developing and expanding its core service offerings and technical innovations.
  • SparkPost is focused on email delivery—and we love our MarTech partners. We’ve developed more than 30 strategic partnerships with innovative marketing technology (MarTech) companies. These marketing application providers give SparkPost customers the combined benefit of leading-edge MarTech functionality with the high-performing email delivery service that is SparkPost’s clear focus.

2016 has proven to be a year of remarkable growth for SparkPost. And I fully expect the next 18 months will be even better.

So, a heart-felt thank you. I can’t wait to see what we build and grow together.

—Phillip Merrick

Email Marketing Rookie Kid Missing Steering Wheel

Avoid these mistakes and being labeled an Email Marketing Rookie

Everyone loves a good list. Letterman might’ve been the greatest list maker/reader/practitioner – inspiring and empowering an entire generation of copy writers that regale us with their amazing listacles all around the web! We thought we’d throw our hat into the fray and put together a list of common mistakes, with a heavy dose of snark, on how to avoid being labeled an email marketing rookie.

  1. Everyone wants to hear from us. No really, everyone! No, no, everyone doesn’t want to hear from you. Some only wanted to hear from you once to buy a specific item and then unsubscribed or marked your email as spam. Assuming everyone wants to hear from you is tantamount to ignoring your customers.
  2. Cadence, shmadence, I wanna be in their inbox every single day! How often you send email is important, the time that you send it can be directly tied to your business, e.g. you run a restaurant that wants to advertise lunch specials, sending it at 1145 might’ve missed the mark.
  3. Responsive design? What’s that? It’s what makes emails look good on mobile phones. Responsive email templates are not only the rage, but in our hyper mobilized world they’re an absolute necessity.
  4. Bounces? We didn’t bounce, we just didn’t make it all the way in so we’re gonna keep trying that email until it delivers! That’s spot on–NOT! So if you do that, you may look like a spammer to an ISP. Spammers don’t respect hard bounces, they send lots of emails that will hard bounce, and generally don’t do anything about soft bounces. Bounce policy is what sets you apart from the bad guys and helps you build a positive sending reputation.
  5. A friend told me that he knows a guy that knows a guy that has a really big opt-in database for sale! We could triple or quadruple our open rates! Don’t ever do this. Just don’t. It won’t end well. I assure you; and so will a lot of other experts in the field. This is not the marketing strategy you’re looking for.
  6. Use as many IPs as possible. If one gets blocked, just route the mail on another one! Again, this is a tactic commonly used by spammers. If you do this you will only decrease the likelihood your email will arrive to the inbox. Setup an IP for commercial email, and one for transactional and build positive sending reputations on both. That’s the only route to success.
  7. Unsubscribes are for losers. I can’t. No Seriously. Where do I begin? Unsubscribes are not only a good practice to avoid making your customers angry, but it’s required by the CAN-SPAM act of 2003. You must have a working electronic unsubscribe. That’s all there is to it.
  8. We’re going to make email great again by sending as much of it as possible! Then you might as well shutter your business now and save us all a lot of grief and clicks of the spam button. The right amount of email will change from business to business, but what’s universal is that everyone has a threshold where enough is enough. Experiment with different amounts of email for different users. This means having data to gauge how and when they consume your email.
  9. Targeting? We don’t target, we canvas! Ever heard the phrase the right email for the right person, at the right time and optimized for the right platform? Well now you have. Targeting an offer to a person most likely to be receptive to it requires past purchase history, preference centers, opens, clicks, unsubscribe data, all of the things that help you be smart about your digital communications.
  10. Segmentation? We use a segment of one: everyone gets every email. No no no no. This isn’t how it works. A segment of one means you know so much about your customer that everyone is unique and you personalize the heck out of every communication making it a unique experience. Yeah, it’s not easy, you need real time data, flexible templates with personalization capabilities in your platform and an appreciation for how different segments should be marketed to in different manners and with uniquely different content at times.
  11. Blacklist? Wasn’t that something that happened in Hollywood in the 50s during McCarthyism? Yes there were blacklists in Hollywood, and it’s also a show starring James Spader. However, blacklists are very real and very damaging should your IP or sending domain land on one. Having integrated tools like 250OK in your email platform reduces the likelihood of being on a blacklist and not knowing, and expedites remediation (along with a crack deliverability team) should you land on one.
  12. SPF, DKIM, DMARC, ARC… stop my head’s hurting from all these acronyms. Acronyms got you down? I know you how you feel. However this is important so listen up. SPF, DKIM, DMARC, ARC these are all part of a category of technologies called email authentication and they are really important because they help you protect your brand, and your customers, from phishing and spammers. You don’t want some criminal halfway across the world spoofing your domain and pummeling inboxes with email designed to defraud people do you? You know what happens then? You get laid off, your business fails and the dark side wins. Talk to your tech team, or our tech team and we’ll help you navigate the authentication waters.
  13. We should try and win back every customer that unsubscribes, you never know, they may change their mind! Whooooa, hold your horses there! I agree, you should try to win them back, but re-subscribing unsubscribers is a major no-no, you can land in hot water with numerous folks. However, getting inactive subscribers to become active is an absolute strategy and you should do it like so: slowly and with extreme caution. I’ve heard from ISP postmasters that re-engagement campaigns generate high complaints and that’s bad news for a sending IP or brand. Send these emails slowly in very small batches around the clock. Make it an ongoing best effort basis vs. a giant airdrop all at once.
  14. Subject lines need to be big bold and say anything to get them to click. No, no they don’t. No really, if you don’t believe me read the FTC’s guidelines. Truth in advertising. Be edgy, be bold, be creative, be all that, just be honest. If not, refer to rule #12.
  15. Put as many offers as you can into the receipt or shipping confirmation. It’s a guaranteed chance to get in front of them for more sales! I’m gonna say fuhgeddaboudit! Transactional email closes the loop on a transaction, generally initiated by a customer. There is an unwritten rule that says 80% of the content in a transactional email should be just that, transactional, 20% marketing. If you pack in too much marketing you change the fundamental content and nature of the communication. Transactional email should be sent on its own IP to create a ‘separation between church and state’ from commercial email for just this reason.
  16. Hey why don’t we make the font for our unsubscribe link white, like the background?! Once again I get to say don’t you dare! And why do I say this? I refer you back to the FTC’s guidelines. Let this be your guiding principle: clean and conspicuous. And if you need another reason chew on this: if someone unsubs they can always re-sub at some later point. If they mark your message as spam because they can’t find the unsub link, or you didn’t include it, then your entire reputation suffers, its harder to deliver email, your revenues decline, you get fired and the dark side wins. Which do you prefer?
  17. Someone said millennials like snark, can we just make our postal address 1600 Pennsylvania ave? Or maybe 666 Elm St.? Who reads that stuff anyway?! And you wouldn’t believe what will happen if you do this. Yeah, once more, FTC, CAN-SPAM, valid, physical mailing address is required. And if you need another reason: you’re not a spammer, so don’t act like one!

There you have it! A comprehensive list of email marketing rookie mistakes, and how to avoid them. Anything we missed or overlooked? Leave us a comment!

Zillions Guide Blog Footer

Developer Week Recap

best use of api sparky award

Last week was a whirlwind of shaking hands, making connections, and building awesome things! From early Saturday morning until late Wednesday night, we talked to Developer Week attendees. The focus? What makes SparkPost different, how to use our awesome API, and why we’re the top choice for an email delivery platform. Here are a few of the highlights:

The Hackathon

hackathon developer week

The energy at the Galvanize co-working space was electric. With so many teams working on such amazing apps, we felt privileged that so many chose to work with us! We had teams building everything. From an app to manage food truck orders (for both vendors and customers), to a service that uses IBM’s Watson to analyze the tone of your emails before you hit send. Everyone could use a feature like that some days, am I right? Another team used our data and analytics UI to store webhooks and campaign data in order to easily re-send an email. The most innovative use of SparkPost however, was DwellWell.

DwellWell

Anyone who has spent a fair amount of time in San Francisco (or anyone who pays attention to the housing market), knows that one of the biggest problems here is a lack of affordable housing. There are several hoops to jump through to gain access to affordable housing, one of them being a mountain of paperwork. The DwellWell team, led by Marlon Frausto, built an app that enables applicants to complete their paperwork online, rather than making a trek downtown to deal with lines in person. The team did their research ahead of time, to gather all requirements for the affordable housing application process. Using SparkPost’s API, they built out a double-blind email system that allows people to inquire about a specific housing options. In addition to solving other problems, this gives applicants the anonymity they’re often wanting, but unable to have throughout the older process.

As they continue to build out the application and work with the city housing authority, we’ll be following their story and supporting their use of SparkPost.

dwell well hackathon

Dev Week Expo

Tuesday and Wednesday were the Developer Week Conference & Expo, inside the beautiful Pier 27 Cruise Ship Terminal. While we didn’t spend any time on a cruise ship, we did get to interact with several hundred attendees from all over the globe. We got great feedback on our API and had more interesting conversations about the various ways SparkPost can be used. Best of all, we got to see people get excited about building something awesome!

Build something awesome

If we didn’t get a chance to chat at Developer Week, say hi on Twitter! Tell us what you’re working on! You’ll also find us at BrickHack and FluentConf next month. Be sure to stop by and say hi!

EmailAgeAPIsSMTP, the standard that defines email, is 30+ years old. Since the first email was sent the technologies used to implement, personalize, optimize, test, target, segment and deliver highly relevant messages from companies to consumers have dramatically evolved in terms of sophistication and potency.

What may have started as a single isolated email platform within a company’s technology stack has had to keep pace with the market’s evolution and the increased importance placed the digital marketer’s ability to drive revenue. As such, email systems and infrastructure have had to evolve to be leaner, more flexible and infinitely scalable, and to handle traffic from multiple stakeholders within an organization. In order to minimize the overhead of complex systems, multiple ESPs and external agencies, programmatic sending, targeting, template generation and deployment have become critical to ensuring that email deployment systems are as internally relevant as the content they’re sending.

The emphasis, naturally, is on cloud-based technologies—the migration of infrastructure, platforms and software to the cloud have been made possible through the standardization of APIs to link disparate systems. More importantly, business processes are being modeled through flexible REST frameworks that allow the customization of cloud-born technologies and infrastructures to meet a company’s unique and proprietary needs.

However golden the future may appear, there exists a reality that has to be understood: not all APIs are built alike. Not only do APIs differ, but platforms and infrastructure have vast differences in how they can be modeled, adapted and used to service the numerous outbound email needs of any company. Our new white paper, Email in the Age of APIs, was written to help technology buyers, and marketers, understand the nuances of API-driven email, how the technology can be transformative to an organization, the benefits and the pitfalls associated with the build-out of monolithic stacks. To learn more download Email in the Age of APIs.

Shared vs Dedicated Email Environments: A Practical Guide

 

 

maximum_overdrivePhilosophically speaking, and here I’m not sure which ‘geek’ bucket this fits in, but I’m really excited about SMTPUTF8. Before you click back to Facebook or Buzzfeed, allow me a chance to explain: we’re all cruising along this digital super highway we call the Internet. (more…)

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Over the past few weeks we’ve seen a number of articles all of which show that the tech industry is having a resurgence of interest in email — which many folks had written off with the advent of social media.

Here are links to a few of them:

These articles point out in many ways how all that is old is new again.  Mobile and social networks have actually increased email readership and volumes, and email is a critical part of engagement for both mobile and social.

Since I started at Message Systems I’ve had friends and neighbors ask me about what we do here.  When I say we move 20% of the world’s email, many are impressed, but some have looked at me quizzically and said something like: “But I thought email was going away”. I then ask them what the first thing they do is when they wake up in the morning. Most answer: “Pick up my smartphone”. And then I ask, “And what do you check first?”. 98% of the time the answer is: “My email”. Right. In fact email is still the top application used on mobile phones, according to surveys I have seen, including one conducted by Facebook and IDC last year that showed that email is used by 78% of all smartphone users.

Despite famous predictions about email being doomed in past years, it is indisputable that email is still the Internet’s number one communications channel.  Message Systems is already the dominant provider of email for high volume senders like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Groupon. Through superior innovation, Message Systems intends to make email an even stronger channel for connecting companies with their customers or member community.

This is a tremendously exciting time for email and Message Systems, and I can’t wait to see how the next few years play out.

Viva email!

 

Learn more about the future of email marketing. CEO of the Relevancy Group, David Daniels, provides exclusive insight into the current State of Email Marketing in this webinar.

StateofEmailMarketing_081214

This past weekend marked the unofficial end of summer here in the US. Yesterday was labor day, and for most people that meant it was a three-day weekend. That typically translates to outdoor activities like grilling hotdogs and burgers, fishing, and spending good times with friends and family. This also means you can no longer wear white in some circles, and the dreaded back-to-school feeling for the lucky ones who start their school year later than others.

For us here in the San Francisco bay area, the big “event” was the 5-day closure of the San Francisco-Oakland bay bridge. This long overdue 10-year, 6.4 billion dollar project was to replace the old bay bridge that was damaged in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. The replacement span is designed to withstand the strongest earthquake estimated by seismologists to occur at the site over a 1,500-year period.

The old bridge was closed over the long weekend to allow crews to finish connecting the new bridge and getting it online. Scheduled to open at 5 am Tuesday morning, pictures of the first people crossing the new span already started showing up on social media around 10 pm Monday night. And it’s a pretty good-looking bridge.

bridge1

 

bridge2

Speaking of bridges, Message Systems today also released a fun new video showing how we can help you bridge the gap between you and your customers more easily, across multiple channels, more effectively. (See what I did there?)

You can check it out below. Enjoy!

Weekly Email Marketing News Digest

It seems almost cliche to be discussing the value of email versus search, as it seems long established that email and social media both occupy a unique position in the marketing ecosystem. Each individual channel has its role to play in customer engagement. I’ve definitely been driven to buy more from emails than social media, but that doesn’t mean businesses should scrap social completely when it comes to a cross-channel strategy. When social media and email marketing are integrated into a seamless campaign, they drive results, engagement and ROI that far outweighs the benefits of using each channel in silos.

It Should Never Have Been Social Vs. Email

Chad White makes a valid point that the intention of customers when they follow businesses on social channels is different from when they subscribe to email lists. Social media is a mid-funnel channel and works best for awareness-building and customer interactions. On the other hand, email is a low funnel channel. Customers who subscribe have buying intent and the overwhelming reason for signing up is receiving discounts and promotions. Basically? Social media and email are sequential elements of the sales funnel, that do not compete, but instead complement.

How To Integrate Email And Social Media To Increase Engagement

I confess that I’m not immune to an email with the subject line “50% off – 48 hour sale” as it not only offers an incentive, but creates a sense of urgency. Here are other ways to drive engagement through social media integration, aside from the subject line.

  1. Generate interaction with emails – ask questions and solicit feedback.
  2. Use email to inspire social interaction through like and share buttons.
  3. Use social media to boost email subscriptions such as a link to subscribe to an email list.

Gain Subscriptions Through Facebook

Brand Advocates Choose Email Over Social For Referrals

A SocialTwist study shows that 55.4% of brand advocates chose email as their sharing channel, 41.8% chose Facebook and 2.6% chose Twitter. Social followers who referred brands used email as their primary sharing channel. 85% of brand advocates’ reach came from Facebook, versus 12% from email. New customers were primarily through obtained through email. Here’s a breakdown of  new customers by referring channels:

  • Email – 50.8%
  • Twitter – 26.8%
  • Facebook – 22%
  • Pinterest and LinkedIn – 0.4%

Distribution of Email vs Social Influence

Perhaps the key takeaway from the researchers?

“Marketers should avoid falling into perception traps – like email marketing is somehow vastly different from social marketing. Anything that connects consumers is social.”

Email and Search Deliver More Customers Than Social Media

A report by Custora states that 15.8% of online e-commerce customers is acquired through organic search, followed by 9.8% for cost per click. Since 2009, customer acquisition through email has quadrupled to 6.8%. Facebook accounted for 0.17% and Twitter less than 0.01%.

Customer Acquisition Through Email

Email Isn’t Dead

The Value of Email

Want to learn how to extend your reach through email? Download our free Email Best Practices 101 eBook to increase the chances of getting into your customer’s inbox!

Email Best Practices eBook

Weekly Email Marketing News Digest

Mobile has been in the news a lot recently, and no wonder. Studies are repeatedly serving up evidence that mobile is changing the way we consume information – right from the moment we wake up. That impact has changed the way email marketers go about doing their jobs as well and will continue to inform further efforts at customer engagement and retention.

Google.com was the top visited mobile site last week

Experian Marketing Services launched a new mobile product last week to provide marketers with more data and insights to behavior on the mobile. For the week ending Feb 23, Google was the top visited mobile site with 17.27% of the market share in terms of mobile visits. Second in place was YouTube with 4.55% market share, followed by Facebook with 2.65%.

Hitwise Mobile: Website rankings among all sites

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Source: Experian Marketing Services

Are We ‘Pushing’ The Messaging Threshold?

Over the next three years, email accounts are predicted to grow to 4.2 billion from 3.1 billion. 75% of these accounts will belong to consumers, and although spam remains in the media spotlight, 75% of the emails received will still be legitimate. It is also predicted that email will continue to be the top activity on a mobile device. Given the surge in email accounts, usage and behavior, geo-targeting and push messaging present great opportunities for brands to engage with consumers, if used responsibly.

41% of email is now opened on mobile devices

The proportion of email that is opened on mobile is set to exceed emails opened on the desktop by the end of the year. In the second half of 2012, 41% of email was opened on mobile devices. Smartphones account for 29% of the figure and tablets, 12%. Among smartphones, iOS triumph over Android in terms of platform on which emails are opened – iPhones account for 22% compared to 6% on Android. iPads took up 11.4% of the 12.1% of emails opened on tablets.

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Tips for Real-World Marketing from SearchLove and LinkLove

The SEO experts at SEOmoz have compiled a list of tips from conferences they have attended and surprise surprise, there’s a section for the email marketing community! Here’s what the experts recommend:

Encourage people to reply to email marketing – Patrick McKenzie
Facebook retargeting to build advertising lists – Will Critchlow
Start your subject lines with “RE:” – Paul Madden
Send competitor’s email marketing to Evernote – Stephen Pavlovich

Do check out the full post for the entire list of actionable tips. They are a marketer’s dream covering a huge range of topics and touching on different specialties!

Email Mostly Mobile

Our partner ReturnPath’s latest mobile study shows that email open rates on mobile have gone up by 300% from October 2010 to 2012. If you haven’t optimized your email for mobile yet, the results suggest it’s time you do.

return-path-email-mostly-mobile

What tips for mobile and email marketing would you provide if you had your say? Tell us in the comments section! And if you need more insights into leveraging on mobile behavior, download our white paper on The New Communications Standard!

The New Communications Standard