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Affiliate Grand Slam by SiGMA

Hans Jul, Founder of mySMTP, joins the latest series of affiliate interviews on Affiliate Grand Slam

Hans Jul at mySMTP explains why and how email marketing is stronger than ever, how the GDPR regulations have affected this market, what converts best, their onboarding new customers' checklist, and about their dedicated SMTP servers sending with own IPs - follow his story below.

When and why did you start considering email marketing business as a career? How much were you willing to commit to it? And, is iGaming your only vertical?

I started mySMTP in 2007, based on the need to be able to send out emails from a reliable SMTP server whenever I changed office work space and travelled around the world. We all know the hassle of being able to use the hotels' or airports' SMTP if you want send out using your own sending domain. Not so much in 2020, but in that time it was a big issue. So we offered the SMTP service as a start to individuals and small businesses.

How did you scale up your email marketing business?

Our Danish service, SMTP.dk, quickly evolved to the international mySMTP.com – and now we made a set up offering dedicated SMTP servers sending with own IPs, a product that was popular from day one. As an independent email service provider, we could be very flexible onboarding customers having problems at Amazon SES, Sendgrid, and likes.

Email marketing was strong some ten years ago; however, affiliates seem to have sold databases to each other multiple times. This coupled with the fact that with today’s spam traps and Google’s increased spam detection mechanisms, conversions with email marketing plummeted. Why do you still bother with email marketing?

Email is the king of ROI, 38:1 for those sending with live double opt in data and engaging targeted content. SOME is not even close to that.

So email marketing is stronger than ever, but only on the premise that data is of the best quality and you actually make some engagement in the Gmail inbox. Because those guys see it live when a mail is dragged from the junk folder to the inbox, and you score points for that. The Realtime Blacklist system is an unregulated wild west – some want money from you to delist, most do it for free as long you mitigate the reputation problems.

It’s amazing to see how much development is put into the email marketing systems. Of course AI is the big unknown buzzword, but we see more and more very advanced systems surfacing helping the email marketeers to hit the target group precisely, timely, and meaningfully. It's kind of the same evolution that we see on social media – they know what we want before we know it ourselves.

GDPR was recently introduced. How has this affected email marketing across Europe?

In a good way I think. The market has matured and a consolidation of big ones buying small and medium sized ESPs has happened. Due to the GDPR regulations, data has better quality because of it’s law. We like that.

Is email marketing still strong in areas where GDPR laws are not as rigorous? Which locations would you rate most favorable for conversions in casino traffic?

All GEO locations in the western world are suitable for casino and gambling in general. It’s no difference from seeing a huge sport event on your local cable provider. Loads of gambling and betting commercials bomb your screen at any chance during the game.

Plain text email or a mix of nicely designed images? What converts best? Do you even bother with COLOUR SS, design of action buttons?

Best advice is to make your emails look professional and with a graphical touch which can carry the message without drowning out the click to action. Services like Fiverr can help doing this for a very low price – and it pays off to show your best “face” to reach the inbox.

Fresh leads vs legacy data. What’s the difference? Should one bother acquiring double opt in, permission legacy data? Tell us a bit what’s the difference in conversion?

If you mail 5 times the same person in a week, probably mails 4 and 5 will not get much attention. So beware of the attention fatigue of your messages and products. Fresh live data that has just been picked from a website form is the best data because someone is already waiting for your first messages. Double opt in is nice and it’s a guarantee that the subscriber will not complain – you only have a problem if the email does not meet the expectations. Conversion rates based on these basic engagement factors can be high – much higher than from third party data with, in the best case, a single opt in. We are talking 25 to 50% better as per my experience.

What measures do you take to prevent emails going to spam? What makes your ESP unique?

Onboarding a new customer is like starting up the airplane before take off. A checklist must be walked through. On this checklist we take care of the DNS TXT is correct: SPF, DKIM, and DMARC. We do some check on the data and content, using online free tools. We set up a ramp up scheme for 10-20 days warm-up of IPs and domains. Some testing and questions on the fly will happen. So if we follow the industry's best practices, emails should not be spam filtered. It’s in the ideal world, but some challenges will always occur. Also, we have a service named RepHero. Here we monitor all sending IPs and domains, and we report both of them by live feeds to any channel of choice if there are problems. And for private blacklists we have real humans to mitigate any problems and delist if some gets trapped in a serious blacklist.

How important is it to have a clean server? Would you encourage affiliates to keep their ESP away from the hosting of the site itself?

Knowing how much work and knowledge it takes to run an ESP business, my best advice is to outsource the email sending. Its a very specialised field and it takes huge resources to run it profitably. You need high cap. Servers in a cloud infrastructure, your own IPs, tech. people, sales people, and a lot more.

Do you provide cleaning of databases in order for email marketing affiliates to avoid spam traps?

We have some good partners doing this very important work. Data with spam traps is very bad data, and you probably paid for something recycled.

How does technology play a part in your day-to-day?

We are surrounded by tech and gadgets – and I’m definitely a sucker for all the amazing tech stuff we get. Just seeing a software upgrade in the car makes me happy – things get improved from the cloud and are more safe.

Which emerging technologies like AI and big data will impact the affiliate industry in 2020 and beyond?

Learning from the social media conglomerates, we see the same kind of evolution towards emails. In the perfect world you will get the email exactly at the moment you need it and with the perfect content. So the same way that you are presented with ads on Instagram based on your interest and on your clicks whilst searching for that new designer item for your home, why should emails not have access to this kind of data and send you targeted and very relevant messages? Still, luckily, Facebook , Microsoft, and Google do not own all our inboxes (yet) – as long we have our own domain and own IMAP email provider we are kind of master in our own house. In the affiliate industry I think that we will also see consolidation based on result and quality driven issues.

Have you ever been to SiGMA? SiGMA Europe, Africa, Asia, or Americas - which of these four expo shows would you likely book on your diary for 2021, COVID-19 permitting?

No, not yet. Looking forward to going there as soon the C19 situation is better.

Tell us a bit about yourself - after all, business is done with people, not just companies!

I’m living with my wife in Copenhagen, in a part close to the nature and still very close to the city center.

What's your favourite hobby?

My work is one of my biggest hobbies, and in these days with isolation, it’s good to have a hobby that you can live from. Nature and hiking around is another big hobby. Whenever I see the option, I pack the Fjällræven rucksack and get out there into the wild.

Are you into iGaming yourself?

iGaming, not so much. Sometimes I put on the VR gear on Playstation, that's plenty for me.

And finally, what's your favourite quote?

A favourite quote must be: "Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail" – Ralph Waldo Emerson.

We like that, that's a great quote!

Yes, I think so too.

Thanks very much Hans, we appreciate you taking the time to speak with us.

Thank you too SiGMA, it's been my pleasure.

Good luck for the future, keep up the great work.

Back at you SiGMA! :)

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