How to send emails and avoid the dreaded spam and junk folder

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Email is a pillar in your photography business.

Not only do you use it to communicate with clients, plan sessions, handle leads and so on, but email marketing can play an important role in your marketing strategy as a photographer, too.

However, ensuring that your emails reach your clients can stay out of the spam or junk folder is an ongoing challenge that plagues every business owner – big and small – today. Email deliverability is such a hot topic because the “rules” are created and controlled by a small group of third-party providers (Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, etc.) and are constantly changing.

Oh – and like SEO – the rules are secret. No one “really” knows.

Let’s dive into what we do know, though, and discuss some best practices for ensuring that your emails reach their intended destination – your clients’ inboxes!

How email spam and junk filters work – and how to avoid them

Email providers (Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, etc.) aren’t trying to file your emails away as spam or into the junk folder with malicious intent. They aren’t out to get you.

They have one goal. They are trying to understand one simple thing:

Will the end user (the person you’re emailing) care about this email?

Similar to how SEO surfaces information that is most helpful and useful to the person who is searching, email providers are trying to do the same thing—keep emails that are important and valuable in their inbox and keep emails that could be spammy or considered marketing or promotion out of the inbox.

It’s quite simple.

With Sprout Studio, we often see photographers send emails to thousands of past clients with blanket marketing campaigns. These emails are generic, sent to a huge group of people at once, are heavy with promotion, and contain lots of images.

Can you see why the email providers might mark them as spam?

The most important rule to not be marked as spam in your client’s inbox – don’t send spam!

Beyond the obvious, third-party spam filters are designed to protect users from unwanted and potentially harmful emails. They work by analyzing various aspects of each email to determine whether it should be delivered to the inbox or marked as spam. These filters use complex algorithms that consider factors such as the sender’s reputation, email content, and recipient engagement.

Common criteria used by email service providers include:

  • Sender reputation: Your email’s reputation is crucial. If you haven’t done email marketing often, are just getting started, or have a high spam rate already, you need time to build a reputation.
  • Email content: Spam filters examine the content of your emails for spammy words, excessive use of images, attachments, and misleading subject lines.
  • Recipient engagement: Higher engagement rates, such as opens, clicks, and replies, can positively impact your sender reputation.

Maintaining a good sender reputation is essential for improving email deliverability. Following best practices consistently can help build and sustain this reputation.

How to improve your email deliverability

Build a clean email list

A clean email list is the foundation of successful email deliverability. Ensure your email list is permission-based, meaning all recipients have explicitly opted to receive your emails. Regularly clean your list by removing inactive subscribers and invalid email addresses. Avoid purchasing email lists, as they often contain unengaged and invalid addresses, which can harm your sender reputation.

Authenticate your emails (DKIM and SPF)

Email authentication helps verify that your emails are coming from a legitimate source. Two key authentication methods are DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail) and SPF (Sender Policy Framework).

  • DKIM: Adds a digital signature to your emails, allowing recipients’ email servers to verify that the email is indeed from your domain and has not been altered.
  • SPF: Specifies which mail servers are allowed to send emails on behalf of your domain, helping prevent spoofing.

Setting up DKIM and SPF records is essential for improving email deliverability and protecting your domain from misuse.

Follow email content and subject line best practices

The content and subject line of your emails plays a significant role in whether they are marked as spam. Here are some tips for creating email content that passes spam filters:

  • Use a clear and compelling subject line. Craft subject lines that are concise, engaging, and accurately reflect the email content. Don’t sound overly promotion-y or spam-y.
  • Avoid spam trigger words. Avoid words and phrases commonly flagged by spam filters, such as “free,” “earn money,” and “urgent.”
  • Personalize your emails. Use the recipient’s name and other personal details to make the email tailored and relevant.
  • Keep the content relevant and valuable. Ensure the email content is meaningful and useful to your audience, addressing their needs and interests. For example, don’t send an email about wedding photography to your maternity clients.
  • Balance text and images. Use a mix of text and images to keep the email visually appealing without overwhelming spam filters.
  • Limit the use of attachments. Avoid attachments, which can trigger spam filters; instead, share documents or files using links. Fortunately, Sprout Studio does this automatically!
  • Avoid excessive punctuation and all caps. Refrain from using excessive punctuation marks and all caps, as they can appear spammy.
  • Provide an easy way to unsubscribe. Include a visible and easy-to-use unsubscribe link to comply with regulations and maintain trust.
  • Use a recognizable sender name. To increase open rates, use a sender name your recipients will recognize and trust.
  • Avoid heavy use of HTML. Minimize the use of complex HTML elements that can increase the likelihood of being flagged by spam filters.

How to send email marketing campaigns and newsletters as a photographer

You obviously can’t just open up Gmail on your phone and start bulk-emailing dozens or hundreds of clients. You need an email marketing platform and system.

There are many great email marketing platforms for photographers. For example:

  • Flodesk (built specifically for photographers)
  • Mailchimp
  • MailerLite
  • Brevo
  • Klaviyo

Want an even better solution for your email marketing? Sprout Studio offers email marketing, too! The best part is that it’s a part of your CRM, so not only do you not have to sign up for and pay for another software, but you can easily filter existing clients based on shoot date, status, and so much more!

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It’s not really a fair comparison (for the others) to compare us, because other CRMs are like a camera without a lens and accessory ecosystem. The camera itself may be great, but you’re forced to hunt for off-brand lenses, flashes and accessories that don’t fit and work the same as they would if they were on-brand.

The competitors do 1 thing – a CRM – for example. Or they do online galleries. Or they do email marketing. And many of them do that 1 thing really well! Sprout does those things too – a CRM, galleries and email marketing. And feature-for-feature, we’re all more-or-less comparable. The real difference is that with Sprout, you get all the tools you need in one place, so it’s better for you, your clients and your wallet! Everything works nicely together.

At Sprout Studio, you get industry-leading support from real people who show up every day to help you succeed as a photographer. They’re happy to answer your questions via email, right in your account or via phone.

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No, you don’t have to start from scratch with Sprout Studio. We provide 100s of customizable templates for emails, contracts, questionnaires, and more, which you can easily adapt to fit your brand and workflow. These templates are designed to save you time and effort, making it easier to maintain consistency and professionalism across all client interactions.

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