If you work with email campaigns in any capacity you probably heard of all the terms listed below, but do you really understand what they mean and how they can be helpful in analyzing success of your email campaigns? We break it all down and provide you with some links for additional reading.
MBP – MailBox Provider, any company that provides end users (i.e., subscribers) with an email account. The largest MBPs in North America are Gmail, Yahoo, Microsoft, AOL, and Comcast. It’s important to not forget corporate email providers with their custom setup and unique spam filters, which can make a big difference for some industries – for example schools and universities tend to have very aggressive spam filters so fewer emails reach recipients.
Blocked – if email is blocked, the MBP filter has determined the message or sender is suspicious and has stopped the mail (and any other volume from the sender) from going through to the recipient.
Blacklist – blacklists are lists of IP addresses that have been reported and listed as “known” sources of spam. There are public and private blacklists. Public blacklists are published and made available to the public – many times as a free service, sometimes for a fee. There are hundreds of well-known public blacklists. If your email marketing platform account is on a shared IP with other customers and the IP gets on a blacklist, your emails can get blocked. This doesn’t mean you must have a dedicated IP, although it does help to avoid this particular problem, a good provider will rotate IPs and work on getting their IPs off blacklists. Large providers tend to have “cleaner” IPs because they have resources to maintain a healthy IP list. Many providers offer dedicated IPs at extra charge,
Since BigMailer uses Amazon SES, which has a very large pool of IPs (and servers), the email blocking and blacklisting is not a big issue and so deliverability tends to be higher compared to many other low-cost providers.
Bounces – a bounce means that the message cannot be accepted by the MBP (MailBox Provider) and is the email equivalent of “return to sender.” There are two types of bounces: hard and soft. Hard bounces indicate an email address is invalid or no longer exists; soft bounces indicate a temporary reason, such as a full inbox, for returning the message.
Delivery Rate – a ratio of emails that didn’t bounce and weren’t blocked by email provider (MBP)
Inbox Placement Rate – a ratio of emails that landed in the Inbox (didn’t go to Spam/Junk or Promo (Gmail) folders) to total emails sent.
Many marketers confuse “delivery rate” with “inbox placement rate” and use the two terms interchangeably, but they are quite different. Inbox placement is something marketers can optimize for using spam testing tools like GlockApps or Litmus that analyze inbox placement across many MBPs and consider things like email content, subject line, and even implementation (code).
Double opt-in – a practice to ask email subscribers to verify their subscription by clicking on a link in a verification email automatically sent out once a user subscribes. Double opt-in can significantly limit marketing opportunities for a given list while slightly improving list quality. Single opt-in is considered a superior subscription process by many marketers because it maximizes list growth and overall performance by minimizing signup barriers and opportunities for errors. Chad White from Litmus on advantages of single opt-in.
Re-permissioning – a practice to reach out to existing list subscribers to obtain a confirmation of permission to send emails. This has been discussed a lot lately due to GDPR’s requirement to have an explicit consent from subscribers. From what we had seen and heard, few companies had engaged in this practice, especially for US-based subscribers since GDPR scope is limited to customers located in EU, although it is recommended by experts at ReturnPath.
utm parameters – these are URL parameters that are used to help identify the source of traffic (e.g. social networks, email and display advertising campaigns) in Google Analytics with names that start with utm_ (e.g. utm_medium, utm_source, utm_campaign). Some email marketing software providers automatically add some utm_ parameters, like utm_medium=email and some providers allow defining additional parameters in a freeform field, either globally for an account or on a per campaign basis. Read more about email campaign tracking with Google Analytics.
relative engagement – an email subscriber engagement with the email from your sending domain relative to all other sources of email in their inbox. So a good sender reputation may not be enough to guarantee inbox placement.
Did you learn something new from reading this post? Are there any other terms you think we should add to this list? Please let us know by leaving a comment, we appreciate any feedback.
As a bootstrapping entrepreneur, you might not have the money of a venture-backed startup, but you still need to compete with them and match their pace.
It’s not uncommon for a first-time founder to build out a prototype while holding a day job and fund it with personal savings; however, just because you’re bootstrapping that doesn’t mean you need to be cheap – you just need to be smart about how you use your resources to get the most value for your dollars.
To help you get started, I’ve compiled a list of affordable tools I used when bootstrapping two of my own businesses.
Ideally, you’ll be able to test and validate your ideas before forming a company, but if your project takes off quickly, you’ll have to tackle the legal side of it sooner than later. If you have multiple co-founders, and if building your minimum viable product (MVP) demands significant resources, it might make sense to address your basic legal needs early on.
1. LegalZoom to Form Your Company
Law firms are expensive – LegalZoom isn’t. You might first need to consult a lawyer (or the internet) to educate yourself, but once you know what you need, you can file forms at LegalZoom for a fraction of the cost of hiring a law firm.
LegalZoom offers quick, top-quality legal services and documents at budget prices. From incorporating your business to filing trademarks and other legal forms, they’re a useful resource for every bootstrapping entrepreneur.
Make sure that when you incorporate your startup, you pay close attention to what decisions are permanent (like the location of your company), and what can be changed later (like the name of your company). A bad decision here can come back to haunt you down the line. For example, if you plan to raise funds in the future, you might be better off incorporating in Delaware, a place many venture capitalists will find appealing, and not in New York or California.
2. UpCounsel to Structure Your Legal Agreements
Another tool you might want to check out in this stage is UpCounsel – think of it like Elance but for legal projects. It has a great library of free agreement templates and legal documents that you can download and customize to fit your business needs.
Get a $100 credit toward any project on UpCounsel with this affiliate link (disclaimer: I get a $100 credit for projects completed using this link as well).
Once your business is formed and you get down to work, these two tools will make your daily activities a lot easier.
3. Teamwork and Git for Collaboration and Task Management
There are many applications out there to help you manage tasks and collaborate with your team, but I’m a fan of Teamwork. This beautiful, easy-to-use suite of tools helps you keep all of your team’s tasks in one place as well as collaborate in real time.
They have a rock-solid free plan, but you can also apply to get the pro version for free for one year, which includes powerful Google Docs/Sheets integrations and more. This will give you plenty of time to launch your MVP or get some traction for your product.
If you are building a technology product and your team is small, say just you and a developer, consider indulging your developer should they request to track work in Git. It’s simple to do and it works; plus, it will make your developer happy.
4. GoDaddy Bookkeeping to Organize Your Books
GoDaddy Bookkeeping (formerly known as Outright) makes bookkeeping simple. It organizes all of your finances in one place without requiring hours of data entry or tracking down receipts.
Accounting is important, but it can be a hassle. You don’t want to waste your valuable runway time worrying about getting the books sorted out. The trick is to do it right from the start by creating a business checking account and obtaining a business credit card for ALL of your business expenses, and then letting the software do the rest.
Simply tag and categorize your expenses throughout the year, and when tax season comes around, all you’ll need to do is take the profit and loss statements to your accountant to file the taxes. Bookkeeping doesn’t have to be hard.
Building Your MVP
The real work starts when you build your MVP. The following are essential for validating your idea or even launching your product.
5. WordPress for Website Hosting
When you’re building your MVP, you need to act fast. Many startups forget this when it comes to their website, and they instead overbuild, scale prematurely and waste too much time perfecting it for an idea that hasn’t yet been validated.
Don’t make this mistake. Use the tool that gets the job done with minimal effort: WordPress. With it, you can easily create your coming soon page and your first content pages. It isn’t just for blogs – you can configure it to power all of your content or marketing pages in addition to a blog, which is exactly what we’ve done at BigMailer.io using the premium Divi theme from Elegant Themes. There’s a good reason WordPress powers more than 25% of the websites on the internet – it’s inexpensive, easy-to-use and just works.
6. 99Designs for Basic Designs
Designing your logos and other visuals doesn’t need to be expensive. 99Designs offers fantastic full-range design services at affordable prices. From free logo templates to $99 logos to complete website designs for under $1000, it’s got all of your basic design needs covered.
So long as you have a solid idea about what you’re looking for and are able to provide clear instructions for it, you’ll be pleased with the outcome.
7. Stripe or PayPal to Collect Payments
Once Stripe has been set up, you can use financial analytics tools to pull and present data from it in a way that’s easy to analyze and track.
I highly recommend ProfitWell. With its free price tag for unlimited users, it’s much more startup friendly than tools like Baremetrics and FirstOfficer.io.
PayPal is a widely recognized and trusted payment option used by some well-established brands (like AppSumo) and can help you increase conversion rates for some audiences. When you’re still testing your MVP – especially if your product is business-to-consumer (B2C) or targets international customers – consider adding a “Checkout with PayPal” button to your test pricing page. On my last B2C business, we AB tested checkout pages with and without PayPal as a payment option, and the version with PayPal produced 10% more in sales.
Once you’ve got that MVP up and running, it’s time to get some customers.
8. Google Analytics to Track and Learn
Building a startup is all about fast learning, and Google Analytics is the perfect tool to help you do it. You NEED to track how well you’re doing, and this tool lets you do it for free. Just drop a small piece of code onto your site, and you’ll get powerful tracking, data, analysis and enterprise quality reporting.
Make sure you define the conversion goals (sign-ups, registrations, payment page views) that will help you see how well your MVP is performing. Start collecting this data early on so you can accurately track whether each change you make brings you closer to success. Check out this guide for a closer look at conversion tracking.
In the early stages, you might not have enough traffic yet to be statistically significant. If this is the case, look for qualitative data (e.g., customer feedback), not quantitative data, to drive decisions until your data set grows big enough to be useful.
9. Google AdWords to Drive Traffic
Now, it’s time to get prospects to visit your site. If they don’t come on their own, you can use Google AdWords to drive traffic to your MVP.
For as little as $10 dollars a day, you could drive enough traffic to your website to help you quickly validate your idea. Better still, Google AdWords usually offers a free $100-150 ad spend bonus for new accounts – just sign up and wait for a promotional email.
Driving traffic with Google AdWords is one of the easiest ways to get your MVP in front of your target audience, so don’t overlook it.
10. Email Collection and Email Marketing
Once you have your website up, make sure to begin collecting email addresses immediately, even if all you have is a landing page and no product.
As you begin to receive emails from early adopters and beta testers, be sure you keep in touch with them by providing updates and usage tips. Talking with prospective customers is one of the most powerful ways to get the crucial feedback you need to improve your product. Every email you send is a chance to ask about features, functionality and what your audience really cares about.
If you plan to spend a long time building out your MVP in private beta, consider an email marketing platform with a good free tier so you don’t pay just for storing your contacts or sending minimal emails with no positive return on investment.
Most email providers offer free tiers, but they’re usually capped at 2,000 contacts. BigMailer.io offers a generous free tier – up to 5,000 contacts free, and only $1 for every additional 1,000 contacts above that. Keep an eye on your growth rate and future cost, and consider taking advantage of product pricing that scales well.
Try Them Out
So there you have it. These are the tools that brought me success when bootstrapping two of my own businesses, and I hope they help improve the chances of success for your startup as well. They’re effective and affordable, which is great for any bootstrapping entrepreneur.
Good luck and happy bootstrapping!
If you’re a startup founder, a growth marketer in an early stage startup, a developer working on side projects, an aspiring professional blogger or simply someone who wants to be a data-driven decision maker, this post is for you.
When product your is past its minimum viable product (MVP) phase and in a growth phase, you can afford premium analytics tools. In the early stages, however, you probably don’t have a lot of data, so using one of the many available free tools to help you collect conversion and engagement metrics can be a smart choice. The data you’re able to collect and analyze in the early stages of product development is not only important in illustrating what channels and tactics work best, but it can also be crucial to your startup’s success or failure.
While there are many analytics tools available, none can claim the large-scale adoption and proven value of Google Analytics (GA). For purposes of this post, I’m going to assume you already have Google Analytics tracking set up on your website and dive straight into some conversion tracking instances that don’t require additional steps from a site owner or developer.
Conversion Tracking Using Google Analytics Goals
Effort: Minimal – you define your goals in the Google Analytics UI with no code updates required.
You can set up goals for your main non-sale conversions like email sign-up, free account/trial sign-up and product activation. These can help you understand your conversions from site visitor to member, trial member or email subscriber. For many products, you can also add goals as steps that indicate product usage, allowing for certain functionality that enables users to evaluate your product and its value.
To get started, go to the Admin tab on the bottom left (look for gear icon), find “Goals” link under Views.
Click “Goals” and then “+ NEW GOAL.” From here, there are two simple ways you can define goals:
1 Use a unique URL path of the page that indicates a task completion such as /email-signup or /regi/welcome.
2 Use a unique name=value string that your site might already be using to indicate some other completed action. For example, you might be redirecting a user to the page they were on prior to creating an account and appending ?regi=true or ?email-signup=yes or a similar parameter to indicate to your application that the user just joined the site or mailing list. This can be used to display a custom welcome message or launch a tutorial-style widget to tell the user more about your site or product.
NOTE: Google Analytics allows you to assign a monetary value to a goal, but unless you’re actually using Goals to track sales or other actions you monetize (like automatically opting in your members to partner email lists or products during the registration process), you shouldn’t assign it. An exception would be if you only sell one product at one price point, like an ebook. You can actually use Goals to track your sales in this case, so you don’t need to read the rest of this post if your setup is that simple.
Email to Web Engagement Tracking Using Goals
Effort: Medium – depends on how and where you currently manage your emails.
If you send emails of any kind to your customers, make sure to tag all of them, marketing and transactional, with utm_ parameters.
If you’re new to utm_ parameter tracking, check out this guide. At a bare minimum, always pass utm_medium=email on all links in your emails to attribute your traffic, engagement and sales to the Google Analytics “Email” channel. Many email providers have click tracking disabled by default (SendGrid, MailGun), so make sure to enable it first and define values, preferably at campaign level.
If your email links don’t pass utm_medium=email, your stats will be attributed to catch-all “Direct,” “Referral” or “Other” channels depending on the email provider you use and the email clients your subscribers use. Once you add utm_medium=email, your stats will shift from one or more of the other predefined channels in the Email channel.
Utm_medium should always be set to “email” for your email links. If you set utm_medium to something you came up with yourself and it isn’t a convention, like email-[provider], then all your data will be attributed to the Other channel.
Conversion Tracking for Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Campaigns
Effort: Medium – requires your developer to drop the code in the right place but without customizing it.
If you run any PPC campaigns, simply drop the conversion tracking code (aka “pixel”) from your network to your subscription confirmation page. PPC platforms such as Google AdWords, Facebook, Pinterest, and many others all offer the option of adding a tracking code to your site. This allows you to track the return on investment (ROI) for your campaigns and ads inside those platforms.
E-commerce Conversion Tracking
Effort: Medium to Large – requires a developer be familiar with the checkout setup to drop the code and add values from the application into the code.
The best thing you can do for your conversion-to-paid tracking is to add e-commerce tracking from Google Analytics and pass the value of the sale or initial (first month/year) subscription from the sale/subscription confirmation page to Google Analytics. This will assign sales/revenue to the appropriate channel automatically, and you’ll even know what landing page the user originated from (i.e., an individual blog post) if you drill down to report by landing page (“Behavior” tab on the left > “Site Content” > Landing Pages).
Google Analytics Report Example: E-commerce Data by Acquisition Channel
IMPORTANT: If you sell in more than one country and display prices in multiple currencies on checkout or receipt/confirmation pages, make sure to convert the value to your desired currency before adding the information to the e-commerce tracking code. Your e-commerce data in Google Analytics will otherwise be an irrecoverable mess until you fix it.
Special Case – You Offer a Free Trial
Effort: Large – requires development work, including database work.
Typically, when someone signs up for a free trial that requires a credit card, they’re moved to a paid plan after the trial period ends. If your product supports this model, then the goal and e-commerce tracking described above will only track your free trials and not the actual revenue you collect unless you’ve included a custom step in which a user manually upgrades and chooses a plan or adds a payment method.
One way to track your sources of revenue beyond a free trial is to record referral data (http_referer and utm_ parameter values) to your database during the conversion to trial step. This will provide a referral source for each trial record. To implement this process, record a referral source (check HTTP referer and/or utm_ parameters on query string) into a cookie, and then record the source from the cookie into your database with the account record during the trial sign-up step. You can later cross-reference that record with subsequent renewals and determine your churn, life time value (LTV) ratio and ROI for the individual acquisition channels or specific PPC campaigns (if you use unique utm_campaign parameter for each PPC campaign).
For more info on implementing custom conversion tracking, check out Building Your Own User Analytics System in SQL from Periscope, which was written for developers and outlines an implementation in great detail (data tables, columns, etc.).
Did you find this article helpful? Was there anything you wish we covered in more detail or provided examples for? Please share your feedback in the comments.
Happy conversion tracking and growth hacking!