Episode 382: E-Mail Marketing and DMARC Changes With Simon Harper

Show Summary

Rob Cairns talks to Simon Harper about E-Mail Marketing and DMARC Changes.

Show Highlights:

1. What changes are coming to Email authentication and DMARC.

2. How to avoid your emails from going into Spam.

3. Tips to help your e-mail marketing.

Show Notes

Hey, everybody, Rob Cairns  here. And today I’m here with my good friend Simon Harper, and Simon is at MailChimp expert and partner. How are you today, Simon? 

I am good. How are you? 


Not too bad. It’s good having you back. By the way, your second appearance on the podcast. So welcome back. So before we jump in and I don’t remember if I asked you the last time, but I’m going to ask again. So if I have, I’m sorry, how did you get into e-mail and MailChimp and how did that all kind of come about? 


Oh, it’s a long time ago, 2000 and 9:00 AM. I was basically using e-mail marketing for my own web design services and learning that and then out of that came and that’s a request from clients. Do you know anything about this? Can you do anything with this? And I’m like, yeah, sure, I can. And it’s kind of grown. From there and now it’s grown massively in the last. Where are we now? We’re in 2024, so we’re in the year 6 of real big growth from e-mail marketing. That’s been quite a big focus on my business now and and mainly focus on sort of the the e-commerce side of things as well. So it’s it’s been a journey, but it’s been really good and I’m looking forward to. Answering some of your. Probably difficult. Fun, intriguing, wonderful questions. 


Ohh, you’re too kind. You’re too kind today. What I should say is if you, if you’re an agency and and this happens a lot in our space, we we tell clients they need to have an e-mail list and we’ve all heard that before. But I find a lot of agencies don’t do their own marketing really well. They should have an e-mail list too and they should nurture that list and use it. Regularly. Do you have any thoughts on that? 

Yeah, I mean, I was a glutton for punishment. I actually had three emails that went out weekly, and at one point last year and gradually scaled that back a little bit and actually spread it across different platforms. So I’m a MailChimp partner and I can’t really partner. 


But I try to be. Platform agnostic, but you know I I would specialize in a couple of specific platforms and one of the ones I started delving into a little bit and they released a ton of new features was the LinkedIn news. Letters, and they’re really good. Frequencies and I definitely think that people should look at them. But I think. It’s one of those classic things that we always get caught up with whenever we’re doing web designer client work where we’re so busy and inverted commas doing everybody else’s work that we don’t do our own. And I think that we need to start actively changing that shift and doing well. Instead of doing what I say actually do what I do. And that would be a great thing. And I think with obviously the big changes coming in marketing in general in 2024, an e-mail list is must more so than ever before. 

Yeah, I don’t. I don’t know if I’ve shared this with you. So I’ve built my list. My list is sitting around 8000 active, 10,000 total and that’s been built up over 14 years. What would you? Do if I came to you and I said I’m running a list with an open rate of 60% with those numbers, what would your reaction be? 


Well, for you personally, I’d say well done because I know the type of industry that you’re in. So it depends on the industry you’re in, the platform you’re using because they all have different benchmarks. But if you’re. Sitting in a. Regular open rate of 60% that’s those numbers. That’s pretty good, although it depends what. Your Apple MP audiences because those numbers you might be artificially inflated. Although it has been over 2 years now, so to a degree we’ve reached a level playing field of a level of normality, but those impacts from. A couple of years ago. Still matter, but I know you and your technical ability, so I would say that’s a it’s a fairly accurate as accurate as open rates. Number so get on it. 

Yeah. And I would say open rates on that part of the equation that’s taking the open rates and converting them to sales, right, like, let’s be honest about that, open rates only get you so far. I I kind of look at conversion numbers probably as much as I do at open rates. We were talking offline and I think we need to jump into this. There’s a lot going on in the e-mail space and one of the biggest problems we got going on right now and I think it makes it hard for the average person, not for the the Simons and the Robbs. Of the world. Google and Yahoo are starting to crack down. And on e-mail spam and it’s frankly, it’s wrong. Overdue. And I think the last reading, the next Phase I was reading with Google is as of February, you better have things like Demark Records in place because if you don’t, you’re. Gonna have more problem. Shouldn’t it be in place already and what’s the Demark record for the average person who doesn’t understand? 


Well, this is the thing you you kind of hit the nail on the head in a number of areas. So talking about phases, Google has been warning us about this now for quite some time. And I think the the earliest updates were coming in June or even sooner than that last year, so June 2023. And they started in November. With cutting down on. In active Gmail accounts, so they’re they’re working both sides of the equation. They’re looking at both spam potential sending counts and active accounts from there, and and then also bringing in. These these actual requirements and. The more in many ways is a standard that we should be using and and it’s best practice. So for a lot of people who are doing this, a lot of enterprise agencies, a lot of things I think will. Already have these in place but. The market. This is very Irish for anybody listing this and hasn’t figured out my accent yet. I am Northern Irish. The mark is both easy and not. Easy to set. Up as long as. You plan and you implement correctly? Umm it’s fine, but it’s not something you can just magically turn on. You do need to do a little bit of research about it and essentially as you sort of said, it’s. In its most basic level, it’s another form of desertification, so we have center policy frameworks and we have the main key authentication, which is DKM. And then we’ve got to Mark. So if you want to bimi, you can’t have bimi without the mark. So it’s another good reason to have the mark. But thankfully Google has changed some of its roles and some of Yahoo Online with that to make the the mark implementation for everybody. Much simpler right at the start. So you can implement a very simple. Basic DeMarco. Occurred that won’t affect your e-mail deliverability initially while you start to ramp up how many emails will be either rejected, quarantined and whatever way you choose to set your policy and migrate through that? Sorry for the long short answer. 


Yeah, it’s a. It’s a really good answer, actually. Thank you for that. And we talked about e-mail deliverability. So I this is a conversation I think you and I I think we’ve had and we need to go down the road. Again there are certain things that impact e-mail deliverability, subject line being. And I think there’s still some credence to images in an e-mail, whether that impacts deliverability. Thoughts you have on those two things. 

Well, I think I’ve put deliverables. Obviously it’s a massive, huge topic and they’re they’re deputy, two areas that fall in line with that. I think Google would love to know how they do it. They’re never gonna tell us, but obviously. The Google is.


Other way to use AI as part of their spam technology as well for determining subject now. That there is a. Myth towards spammy keywords in in subject lines. I’ll actually send you spam, that is, that is a myth. There’s no actual proof. Specific keywords that you would use of an automatically you know send you to spam. However, Google and other mailbox providers do definitely use AI to spot patterns and track. Oh, this could be potentially unsafe. We’ve seen that warning if you’re a Google workspace or or Gmail user performer. This looks unsafe because we have seen similar messages. That’s AI. Looking at your subject line and your content going, umm, something’s not quite. Right here and images can obviously be a big issue as well in a very simple. Way if you have. Huge images in your. In your emails, they will probably cause your e-mail to get clipped and make it very difficult to deliver. In fact, it may not even deliver at all if the mail, if the e-mail itself is too big, it might just be rejected straight away. But I think there’s other big important areas to look at, like you’re sending domain, whether you’re sending from a sub domain of your main domain, what whether you have that SPF or DKM and to mark? Enabled and, umm, more importantly, as you’ve already touched on, what type of emails you’re sending out, you know if you’re sending out spam emails, good luck getting into the inbox, but then this. Is what the. Updates in February are all about to stop these spammers from, you know, filling up our inboxes with crap. 


Yeah. And that and that’s. A very technical term crap, you know. 

Yeah, I was getting the other one. 

But but is it? 


The PG13. 

Yeah, yeah, that’s OK on this podcast thing you say whatever you want. It’s not my. Issue here. So we’re we’re good there. Yeah. So it’s true. And I I think there’s a lot of myths out there because I don’t think a lot of people really understand it. Right. And that’s where people like you come in. And that’s where people are. I come in, you know, that’s where a guy I don’t know if you know Adrian. Toby, who’s the founder of another product called Groundhog. Adrian’s an old friend. Why people like Adrian come in and you know, because they understand how this stuff works and. 

Wash your breath. 


I think the average person it’s gotten so complicated that an average business owner cannot understand how e-mail marketing works. The behind the scenes stuff anymore, yeah. 

I think that a lot of people have not focused on how to design a beautiful e-mail, but it doesn’t matter how beautiful that e-mail is if it doesn’t. Hit the inbox you’ve just wasted. 

No, no. 


  1. Agree with that one and you know I I’ve heard we’ve all heard the arguments O SMS texting is taking over. e-mail marketing is dead. Right. You’ve heard those arguments, I’m sure. And I just laugh. And I know from my perspective. I hate. SMS texting, unless it’s like a restaurant reservation and it’s a follow up to remind me quickly an hour before that I have a reservation I can deal with that or. It’s a doctor. But when you start sending me from a retail store, marketing by text messaging. My phone is kind of like sacred for me, so SMS texting bugs like you wouldn’t believe and maybe I’m old school, but I’d rather it in my inbox and you know, every time I read something that says e-mail marketing is dead and we know what’s going on in the marketing universe. We’re now stopping cookies. We’re changing how browsers work. We’re playing that whole game so it’s harder and harder to do pay per click. Ads. e-mail marketing is kind of revitalizing itself when you say. 

Yeah. I mean, we’ve heard that classic e-mail is dead for what, 2020 years and then obviously? 

Yeah, thank you. At least at least. 

Yeah. And then we had obviously the initial tagline or branding of Slack, you know, was to, you know, basically kill off e-mail which never did and it became more knowing than e-mail, sorry, slack. But we did the, I think culturally, I think SMS is an interesting one because. Again, like e-mail marketing, it’s an own platform. It’s a known channel and and as long as you’ve acquired those numbers. Correctly, you know it can be quite powerful, but I think we’re quite behind in the UK in terms of how SMS marketing is actually used. And I know a lot of the big platforms, ESP’s obviously like some MailChimp, clavio and and many others have their own SMS platforms now as part of their life cycle marketing and integrating them together. But it’s not massively used over here, and as you say, what it is used for. Is normally spam. UM. Or in our case? Well, mostly sorry. I was going to say it’s for delivery updates from couriers, but one of our most spam channels is the Royal Mail, which is the equivalent to, you know, UM, the federal Postal Service. 

Canada Post in Canada or USPS and US? Yep, Yep. 


Yeah. So it’s an interesting one, but I mean and it’s it’s a nice one to be part of because traditionally within these markets you have and I’m not sure why. I’m sure there is a reason to you have the US, Canada, the UK and New Zealand as test markets for these areas and they’re only the ones that are sort of after the US. The rest kind of normally come in. There quite quickly. But SMS I can definitely see your frustrations with it because I have similar frustrations, but I have seen quite a lot of people with success, but it is and like SMS messaging to be honest with you to communicate with people has. Been around. Commercially, since I can remember. So I was even for business. To an extent using web-based stuff, I think it was what age am I now? Gosh. I’m nearly 40. So it was 1415 years ago that I first incurred. So SMS isn’t it’s it’s like you said emails there’s like ohh SMS is new. It’s like, no, it’s not new. It’s just back again, but it’s definitely not potential. 

Yeah, it’s funny. You say you’re 40. So you’re dating yourself? I can date myself even. Worse, so we won’t go there. 

Better than me? 


Yeah, yeah. But but it’s true. I I mean I. I just find. Part of the problem with these platforms, whether it’s e-mail or SMS or whatever ever you want, choose the platform’s not usually the problem, it’s the people using it and how they use it. So so one of the things that drives me nuts in e-mail marketing is you getting from a big retailer. And what do they put in it? Do not reply at oldnavy.com, that’s. Nice. And what that screams of is the retailer doesn’t care what you wanna think and they don’t care how you think. And they don’t care what you have to say because they’re saying we don’t want to engage with you. And to me, that defeats the purpose of e-mail marketer. 

Yeah. And I think hope well, I think and I hope it’s a, it’s a mixture of both that there. Is some signs. Out there that we are starting to move away from that now and try to have more of a relationship, a conversation, a genuine conversation based. With our customers. The difficulty with that is, is that. You know that’s easier for large. Enterprises, larger organisations that have the capacity to deal with that. So there is a pressure on smaller agency, smaller business owners. Or you’re like, OK, how do? I have these. Conversations with people. So we’re seeing the rise of these AI chat bots and that are being trained for the the specific brand or small agency and things like that. Yeah, but I don’t know whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing. It’s definitely better than having a no reply e-mail address. They’re very frustrating, as you’ve highlighted for a number of reasons. There’s a lot of e-mail addresses out there which people will set, for example as a no reply, but it’s technically actually not a no reply e-mail address because there you can create no reply inbox, which is just another nightmare issue that you don’t really want to have because there’s technical things to it. But if you’re going to send out an e-mail in my professional and personal opinion. That inbox should be monitored and if it isn’t monitored, there should be some way for you doing, cause the technology is there and. It’s great using. E-mail routing to send it to somebody or a team that can look after it and can actually care. 


Yeah, yeah, I I agree with you. You mentioned AI. Controversy, not controversy. But you know we can’t have a marketing discussion without you mentioning those two letters A and I these days, I I hate to say it. It’s everywhere. I think it’s a tool. I think it’s a great tool. I think I’ve shared on this podcast one of the first things I did was I built an e-mail sequence. For a client and 80% of the work was done by AI I’ll, I’ll tell you that now you still have to do. 

There you go. Nice. 


Some work are you using? AI in your business and for what? 

I am. I use it for various things when it comes to my WordPress and woo commerce work and I would use a lot of it there. I’m actually doing a webinar in that very soon. It will probably happen by the time this one goes out and I do use it in e-mail to an extent but. I won’t name the. Platforms, because I said earlier on and platform agnostic and I do use a variety. Of platforms but. AI and e-mail is very interesting because. Some of it’s. Terrible and not fully developed out at all, and some of it’s quite good genuinely, I think. A lot of the issue in our industry at the minute is that it’s shiny object syndrome and there’s very few tools out there. That are actually useful. But the ones. That I have found that I’ve used. Are brilliant. I mean for example. I I would use. Code WPWP, Turbo chat, CBT. Microsoft copyright Microsoft. Developer and a lot of. The stuff is to even camp AI is to not some of my tasks have been replaced. I’m not gonna lie about that, but most of. Them have changed to be more efficient. So I would say. Look a I can do this part of my process much quicker. Off you go. Do it then it will check it, change it and and even still sometimes it’s not perfect. It’s not right because I think the the biggest thing at the moment now and forgetting that all the the terms out there prompt masters prompt gurus all that crap. Prompts are very important, so whenever you’re using AI, you do need to have a level of understanding about what you’re talking about, what you want to achieve, and a background to it. Otherwise, you could be sitting, entering completely useless prompts and not really get. Much out of it, whereas if you know you talking about you have an understanding and a framework, then those problems can be so much more powerful than your results so much better. 

Yeah, it it’s true. And I and I, I hate to say it AI’s like any other tool, right? It’s how you use the tool. Not that AI is the problem. I think the biggest problem is the people that use the tool and they don’t use it in the right way. I mean, it’s the same as, you know, people hate AI say, but I use a page builder in WordPress and I’m like OK and OHH but my page builder hasn’t taken away jobs, but AI well and I’m like really, you know, like it’s that whole argument again, right. It’s how you use the tools to make your work more. 


Efficient. I think that’s the important thing. 

100% I mean I don’t I do know that we, I mean, I did a talk at 11 on this. I think it was back in September with Crocker Block and a number of amazing work. In fact, I got imposter syndrome being part of the the WordPress lineup that was there that day. But I think AI has been around for so long. Decades, but it’s, you know, it was only Chachi, PT coming out last November that everybody was kind of like. Ohh, this is commercially sort of usable, but people still didn’t realize we’d actually been using AI behind the scenes, even successfully and quietly. For years so. Now it’s kind of like we’ve bought the power to the masses, so to speak, but even then there’s been issues. Obviously we had chat, CBT, 3.5 being investigated. Internally with the team because it had dumbed itself down which it had and the rule changes. And that’s the thing as legislation comes in as gatekeeping comes in, as privacy rules and you know a. We’ve got to be very careful in this very early new phase of AI. How we use it and. How reliant we are on it because of how it’s going to change in the. Next three to five years. But I do think it’s fine. 


Yeah, I would agree. I would agree, yeah. I I wholeheartedly agree with that and I think the biggest issue with AI right now is copyright. You know, in the, you know, in the US they have already ruled that any image generated by AI cannot be copyrighted. And now and now there’s issues with Amazon and Createspace with books. And how do we. Operate those books if part of a I did part of the work and we all know Getty Images the biggest copyright image troll on the face of the Earth is running around trying to put their stamp on it to protect their products. So yeah, it’s just an interesting mess to say the least, right? 

It is and I think. It’s not a level playing field because you or I don’t have the power to protect any, you know, intellectual property that we have, but the likes of, for example, there was just before Christmas like a a girl, couple of kids. This is how I knew this. There was a trend going around using to create family posters. It was. It was around Halloween. Time of Disney Pixar style. I never great. I never really. But then Disney called all this so I can hold on two seconds and then immediately we’re straight on to Delhi mid journey and specifically in this case it was Microsoft designer and said you can’t even allow the words Disney to be used in props and. You’re like, OK, so. And obviously with the recent lapsing in copyright of Steamboat Willie and Winnie the Pooh last year, and it’s kind of it’s. Gonna become a. Game, as you said, whack a mole of what words can we use? What can’t we use? When IP and being impacted or minefield, yeah, less minefield. 

It’s so true. As we move into 2024, if somebody’s managing an e-mail list, what is? Three or four. Quick things you would say to them do these now. 

Well, seeing as we’ve got the 7th of February coming up very quickly with Google and Yahoo makes you the marketplace that is going to be a big one. And as I say, the next phase, I think they they pushed. It to. Maybe June again, where you need to really start making your to Mark policy work all the way through to reject. And 100% project we can’t go into that now because it would take quite a while and be quite difficult to explain working through the process and it would depend on the size of list, what you have, how you gradually increase your demark policy. And but the mark is certainly a big one. I would also say that you need to plan ahead to invest that time. To have those conversations because. I sent out a couple of weekly emails, but most of the time the conversations happen, you know, as replies to those emails. I’m really open, I said to people like. Have a chat. Me and it’s great because what comes out of that is twofold. It’s beneficial. For your readers, because ohh. Hold on, we’ve got an author, a creator. That cares once I have a conversation. With us, but also. 

It’s it’s. 


Brilliant for self improvement and topics for you to talk about at a future time. So you you can leverage your audience to help educate them, but also for them to educate you it like it’s it’s beautiful. So that would be definitely a second one I think. I would say to a lot of people you need to look at planning as well to not just have a free let newsletter to have a paid version of your newsletter so you. Need to choose your ESP. Your e-mail service and provider very carefully on what platform you’re. On a. Use or potentially switch to because migration isn’t necessarily the easiest thing, because I think having a paid newsletter is a great way to not only bring in an additional revenue stream, but it’s a great way to offer an extra bit of value to your your clients and your readers or your community without your tribe. Whatever you want to call it. And then I think the fourth thing and the most important thing. Would be to actually do look at what ESB? ‘S are offering in terms of AI. Because AI is really going to speed. Certain things up and what I’m talking about here is not necessarily in terms of your e-mail creation or your subject lines or your preview text, but your data analytics. So getting the AI to look at all the data that you have in your e-mail service providers platform and help you identify trends. Or auto segment your audience based on certain criteria. That’s when I’m like I. Would love to have there may or may not be an ESP that has this ready. 


Or it may be. 


Coming, but have a conversational. AI that helps you analyse the data and segment and create what you need it to in the back end. So then you can mark. It correctly to those people. 

Yeah, those are really great tips. And then the the other thing I would say, Dad to dad is make sure you clean up your list on a regular basis going. 

  1. And that has to be done, at least at least every six months. Every three months. You need to be really having a close look at your your e-mail list. 

You know, I I actually do my monthly, if you can believe it. I yeah. 

Wow, there you go. 


I I just. Make it and and and then put some stuff on your calendar to do this kind of stuff, cause every business owner says hey, I don’t have time to. Do this well. If that’s the time, it’s an investment in your business, right? So put the time on it to create your newsletter. Put your time on it to market it. Put the time on it to do that and just book yourself an appointment like you would book a client. 

Yeah. I mean, they spend a full business day a week creating my two or three newsletters. Whenever I was doing them at their their peak, it would be. A full day. And I’ve cut that down a little bit through. Some efficiencies, but. Still doing it a good News Letter depending on what you write, you know if it’s not a listicle and it’s you actually providing some genuine content and. And education, we can take it a little while, but start small. Don’t put pressure on yourself, but be consistent. Be present if you’re gonna e-mail once a week, e-mail once a week, but start small and build up. You don’t have to be sending out 2000 words every e-mail. 


No, I I would agree. 


With you and consistency is more important than the size of it. We all know that and and work at that Simon. Amazing tips today. Appreciate conversation. As always, if somebody wants to talk about male champs setting up newsletter, how’s the best? Way to get a hold of. 

Oh, shall we say Twitter Lily twittery twittery. I can’t even speak now become Twitter, although I’m not sure how much longer I’ll be around on Twitter. I mean, after I know we don’t try to make not make things political. 

**, formerly known as. 

Like I draw a line at certain things and letting certain people back on, I’m like OK there, but at the minute there’s there’s Twitter at St. design, LinkedIn is at St. Design as well. And then my falling off my website is scratch. Design.co.uk. You can find me there. 

And and get on Simon’s e-mail list cause I’ll. I’ll tell you now. That is one of the e-mail lists that I read on a regular basis. And Simon always packs it with amazing tips and and and they’re they’re just great. So if you haven’t subscribed subscribe like sooner than later, in my opinion. Thanks, Simon. Have an amazing day. 

You too. Thank you so. Much, yeah. 

You’re welcome. Ohh. Always a pleasure. Bye bye


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