SparkPost SparkPost is the world’s #1 email delivery service. Mon, 16 Mar 2020 16:15:15 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Best Practices for Email Communication During a Crisis Mon, 16 Mar 2020 13:00:33 +0000 email communication during a crisisVP of Customer Success, Laura Rose, shares best practices companies should follow for email communication during a crisis.

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Almost every business has a moment when they need to reach their customers on a broad scale with a statement, instructions or a reassuring message during a critical time. Producing these emails are challenging because there is often not a lot of time to spend on crafting these messages and getting them out the door. We’ve seen and helped our clients deliver countless numbers of these types of messages in our years as a high volume email sender. Here are some tips we have for you to help you prepare the next time you need to send a message like this to your customers:?

Put yourself in the customer’s shoes and decide if a communication is necessary

Before sending a message, be clear on if your business is doing something critical enough to warrant a message or if the way your customers engage with your brand will be fundamentally interrupted. Twitter is active these days with complaints from consumers about a barrage of unnecessary emails due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. If a customer ordered a dog toy from you eight years ago, you probably don’t need to notify that customer of how you are responding to a global pandemic. If that customer was caught up in a data breach, though, a communication is relevant and required. If you do decide that your crisis is worthy of an email send, then you need to activate quickly to address your customers’ concerns, give them advice and guidance on how to navigate the situation and reassure them on how your company is prepared.

Nailing the content is important

If you’ve decided a message to your customers is needed, here are our tips on producing content that will be seen as valuable:?

  • Be clear on why the recipient is receiving the message, so they aren’t confused and have proper context.?
  • Use a simple and clear subject line. This is not the time to be clever, but keep it straightforward and friendly.?
  • Keep the tone calm, helpful and empathetic.?
  • If there will be a disruption to what the business typically delivers, then it’s important to notify your customers about what parts of the business are impacted. I.e. Store closings/limited hours, limited support hours, inability to deliver on typical deliveries, product shortages, etc.
  • Keep the communication brief, so your customers can absorb the content quickly.
  • Lean on text vs. images. This is not the time to show creativity, a logo and simple imagery is enough. This needs to look like a letter and non-promotional.
  • Be very specific with instructions if the customer needs to take an action.?
  • Link to any additional resources that may contain more information for the customer. You don’t have to put all the content in the email itself.?
  • Share where and how customers will be notified of future updates. I.e. “We will send an email daily notifying you of the resolution” or “More frequent updates can be found on our Twitter profile.”?
  • Even though this is a transactional message, if your customers don’t want future updates, give them an opportunity to opt down from communications on this topic.?
  • Be specific about the sender. Reference the name and role of the executive that this is from in the signature. This should read like a letter, so make it clear who is behind this message to bring it to a human level.?

Tips on reducing your impact to deliverability

Since these communications often have to go to a large audience, the impact to your deliverability can be vast if you don’t follow good practices during the chaos. Here are some tips to reduce the harmful effect of large sends:

  • If you have the ability to segment your list, then lead with more engaged subscribers before sending to less engaged subscribers to reduce spam foldering.?
  • If you are able to, send out a big send over days to avoid drastically changing volume on a given day; mailbox providers don’t like large unexpected jumps in volume. If you aren’t able to do this, then lead with the engaged senders and throttle over several hours if you can. Share a link to the web-hosted version of your email on social media so everyone has access in real-time as the sends are en route.?
  • Run your email through a spam checker tool to see if your content may cause some problems for you once you hit send.?
  • In general, if you follow good list hygiene by removing inactive and invalid email addresses, you should get good results.

After hitting send, understand impact to your recipients in real-time

If you are throttling the message, keep a close watch on how your initial waves are performing using deliverability analytics monitoring. Open a real-time dialog with your social media and support teams, so they can share if they are receiving feedback from customers. You can update the message if you see there is a problem. Look at analytics post-send and check in frequently to understand reach and efficacy (ex: open rate, click rate, responses). If your emails have a “no reply” message in place, you should consider updating this now. Allow your customers to respond from the email, so that a person can help them if they need it. In general, we think “no reply” messages are unfriendly and close off a communications medium that could be really valuable to your customers.?

While crisis communications are stressful to produce, you can make a huge difference in how your company is perceived by sending valuable and relevant information during a tough time. We hope these tips help you when the periodic and inevitable critical moment hits.

~ Laura

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Email Authentication Can Accentuate the Positives, But It Doesn’t Always Eliminate the Negatives Fri, 13 Mar 2020 13:00:12 +0000 Postmaster, Todd Herr, not only explains the value of email authentication (SPF, DKIM, and DMARC) but also its limitations.

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From time to time here at SparkPost, in conversations with both customers and other employees, I run across the same kinds of misconceptions about email authentication, specifically regarding DMARC. There is a lot that DMARC (and SPF, and DKIM) can do for you and your brand, but there are many things that it can’t do. This is not a post that’s intended to tell you how to set up any of these three protocols. We have other blogs posts that highlight how to implement SPF authentication, DKIM validation and DMARC. Instead, we want to make sure that everyone reading this understands the value authentication can bring, but also some of its limitations.

Authentication Affirms Your Identity…

When an email message passes authentication checks, the receiving domain can be reasonably sure of the identity of the domain(s) that claimed responsibility for the message through publishing an SPF and/or DMARC record, or DKIM signing the message. In this way, authentication is most like presenting a driver’s license, passport, or other picture ID to someone to affirm your personal identity.

…But It Doesn’t, By Itself, Earn You A Good Reputation

The act of passing authentication checks means that the receiving domain can reliably establish the identity of the party or parties responsible for the message. It follows then that the receiving domain can reliably treat that message in keeping with the reputation that those parties have previously established. In short, if authentication is the only good thing about your mailing practices, passing authentication will allow the receiving domain to more confidently place your mail in the spam folder (or worse) if your other practices warrant such placement. I like to stress this point in conversations by telling people that “even criminals carry driver’s licenses”.

DMARC Establishes and Affirms Trust in Email…

Similar to the concept of authentication providing a means to reliably establish the identity of the parties responsible for the message, a message that passes DMARC checks can be trusted to be from the domain that appears in the message’s “From” header, which is the domain that the recipient is most likely to see when reading the message. Trust in email is key to engagement, as messages that can be trusted to be from the claimed sender are more likely to be opened and clicked on. Moreover, with DMARC looking to be required for the developing BIMI standard, this “force multiplication” of trust will be even more important to senders going forward.

…But It Doesn’t Totally Eliminate Phishing and Fraud…

DMARC is what I like to call a “positive assertion” protocol, in that it makes a statement about a specific domain’s authentication practices, but says nothing about any other domain’s practices. A published DMARC policy for domain X means that domain X authenticates its mail and that it requests a specific kind of treatment for unauthenticated mail using domain X in the From: header, and that’s it. The policy doesn’t cover the independent use of domain X in the DKIM signature or return-path domain (which is used in SPF checking) and more importantly, it doesn’t cover domains that might look like domain X but aren’t quite the same.

Consider the following two messages, both with this subject:

Subject: Critical Account Update Information

One has this From: header:

From: “Your Bank” <>

And the other has this:

From: “Your Bank” <>

A DMARC policy for the domain ‘’ will only serve to validate the first message; it won’t do anything to influence the second. If Your Bank was forward-thinking enough to register such a “lookalike” domain, then it could certainly publish a policy that effectively says “this domain sends no mail”, but there are probably more lookalike domains than even the most diligent domain owner could register, and so DMARC alone can’t stop all of them. (BIMI might help mitigate some of the risk here, what with its display of brand logos for mail that passes DMARC checks, but we’re a long way from widespread adoption of BIMI.)

…Especially If The Receiving Domain Isn’t Checking DMARC

No matter how many DMARC policies a brand owner publishes for its domains, those policies are worthless unless the domain receiving mail claiming to be from one of those domains actually does DMARC validation. Validation is in widespread usage across the email ecosystem, but there are still many domains out there, both large and small, that aren’t doing DMARC validation, and so mailbox holders at those domains are at a higher risk of phishing and fraud than are those at domains that check and enforce DMARC policies.


Email authentication has its place as a tool to reliably establish identity and trust for email, but at the same time shown its limitations in affirming reputation and stopping phishing and fraud. SparkPost fully supports the idea of email authentication as being a best practice and being good for the overall email ecosystem, but we want to make sure our customers fully understand that it’s only one part of an overall strategy for establishing reputation and fighting phishing and fraud.

~ Todd

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What is Gmail Smart Unsubscribe? Wed, 11 Mar 2020 13:00:46 +0000 Gmail Smart UnsubscribeDirector of Deliverability Consulting, Tony Patti, explains how Gmail Smart Unsubscribe works and how it can impact your deliverability.

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Wouldn’t it be neat if an email marketer knew when the customers on her email mailing list were tired of receiving her marketing emails? ?Smart email marketers know there’s no point in keeping dead wood on their mailing list. Overall email metrics will actually improve along with better inboxing rates when non-responders are removed from active campaigns. The question that needs answering has always been what defines an inactive recipient? ?How many days of not opening and not clicking emails qualifies a recipient to receive the inactive label and be removed from active campaigns? 30 days? 60 days? 90 days? 120 days? 6 months? A year?

Gmail, the largest email provider on the planet today, provided an answer to this question in 2018 when it rolled out its new and improved features. ?The feature that gives us a clue to how Gmail’s algorithms are determining your engagement rate is called Smart Unsubscribe. Smart Unsubscribe uses artificial intelligence to analyze promotional emails that the Gmail user has not opened in the last 30 days or more. ?Gmail will then automatically ask the user if she would like to unsubscribe with a pop-up notice like these:

Gmail Smart Unsubscribe

These prompts are based on how many emails the user receives and interacts with (opens) from a specific sender. If the user selects Unsubscribe, Gmail will use your?list-unsubscribe header to automatically send a one click unsubscribe request. ?This smtp header code looks like this:

Gmail Smart Unsubscribe

The message to marketers is clear and can be applied to your overall email deliverability strategy. If you’re sending daily emails all month long, this prompt is going to appear more frequently for the users who are not engaging with your emails.

Unengaged users are not doing you any good and are in fact harmful to your inbox placement rate and the ROI of your email marketing program. ?If your recipients are not opening and engaging with your emails over the course of 30 days you should not continue to include them in your active mailings. Non-responders should be moved to a re-engagement segment as part of a regular automated reactivation campaign strategy.

Need a hand with a reactivation plan? Let us help! Drop us a line here!

~ Tony


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SparkPost Celebrates International Women’s Day 2020 Mon, 09 Mar 2020 13:00:59 +0000 International Women's Day 2020In honor of International Women's Day 2020 our Vice President of Human Resources shares how SparkPost employees are striving towards a more equal world.

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This year’s International Women’s Day 2020 theme is: #EachforEqual in celebration of building an equal world. In the spirit of the theme, we asked both men and women to answer the question: As a woman or an ally, what do you do to champion women at SparkPost? The responses we received were very thoughtful and really underpinned the core statements of International Women’s Day: celebrate the achievements of women, raise awareness against bias, and take action for equality. In response to the question our Chief Product Officer, Charlie Reverte, said

“I work wherever I can to create opportunities for women through recruiting and talent development. I think leadership development is especially important, there is a gender gap in the tech workforce and we need to be active in helping to close it. Investing toward a diverse workplace is not only the right thing to do, it’s key to having a strong business.”

As a company, we try to incorporate these core statements into our everyday actions. Small steps by all employees can lead to big changes over time.

We also asked employees to speak about their female role models. The list of female role models covered a broad spectrum from women we admire from afar such as writers, celebrities, athletes, and national and international leaders to women who we know on a personal level like grandmothers, mothers, wives, daughters, colleagues and bosses. Employee’s responses were authentic and really captured the spirit of grit, compassion and balance. April Mullen, Director of Strategic Insights, said that her role model is a former colleague. April said,

My biggest female role model is a former colleague. She pushed me really far outside of my comfort zone and taught me to own my voice. I didn’t realize just how much I reduced my own worth until she pointed it out to me. In a short period of time, I grew immensely from her mentorship, guidance and the occasional hard words that I needed to hear. As my career grows, I’ll always champion for other women the way my mentor did for me.”

It is truly inspiring to read people’s personal experiences of how women have shaped or influenced their personal growth and perspective.

This International Women’s Day we are so excited to not only celebrate the women of SparkPost but also highlight the ways in which all of our employees, regardless of gender, strive towards a more equal workplace. We collected our employees responses in the deck below. Check out what they said and have a wonderful International Women’s Day!


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Decision 2020: Email from the Presidential Contenders – March Update Thu, 05 Mar 2020 14:00:01 +0000 presidential contendersIn the aftermath of Super Tuesday, Manager of Research Analytics, John Landsman, gives an update on the presidential contenders' respective email campaigns.

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Last August, when we began talking about the email campaigns we were tracking from the Democratic Presidential hopefuls, they were a crowd of at least twenty-two.? By early January, they were down to fourteen, and as of Super Tuesday there were only four viable candidates left in the race: Biden, Sanders, Warren and Bloomberg.? And that number is now two, because Mr. Bloomberg and Ms. Warren suspended their campaigns as this piece was being written ? ?

In the table below, we analyze the email audiences and recent thirty-day activity and performance of the top polling contenders whose campaigns extended through the South Carolina Primary on February 29th. President Trump’s activity is also included as comparison, because he continues to mail actively to his base.? The active Democratic candidates are listed in order of their current polling numbers, which may have changed somewhat by the time you read this piece.

As previously reported, the largest email audiences among the Democrats are in general owned by the strongest polling candidates, who were also the strongest Super Tuesday vote getters.? Of the surviving (pre- Super Tuesday) four, Biden, Warren and Sanders show the larger audiences; Bloomberg the smallest. Trends since January are a mixed bag. Biden’s polling eroded slightly, but his email audience remained about the same, and yet he won ten of the fourteen Super Tuesday states in play.? Sanders’ audience eroded, but his polling improved by eight percentage points, and he won four of the Super Tuesday states, including California. Bloomberg dramatically grew his email audience by over one million, and Warren grew hers by 200,000, but neither has prevailed in any primary contest. Steyer also drove strong audience growth, but has exited the race after a weak showing in South Carolina.? Buttigieg and Klobuchar had weak or no audience growth, and have now also exited the race.??

Biden, Sanders and Warren deployed the largest number of campaigns among the Democrats, and the largest number of emails.? Clearly weighting his investment toward TV, Bloomberg’s actual email send activity was relatively small. Among these top four, inbox rates were weak for all (68-82%).? However, Biden and Sanders drove strong read rates (22-25%), while Bloomberg’s and Warren’s were considerably lower (16% each). And that argument by The Guardian about Bernie’s emails being blocked by Gmail? We aren’t seeing it in our data.?

Among the candidates now out of contention, Buttigieg and Klobuchar showed far less mailing activity than Biden, Sanders and Warren, and even more dismal inbox performance:? both under 60%. But as we know, politicians are not bound by the strictures of CAN-SPAM regulations, and most tend to have sloppy list acquisition and send practices that almost always result in inbox challenges. ? Nevertheless, despite his weak deliverability, Buttigieg’s read rates were strong (29%), almost twice as high as Klobuchar’s (15%).

Trump continues to show a much larger email footprint than any of the Democratic candidates, while deploying a midrange number of campaigns, and the largest number of actual emails.? He’d been using the now-ended impeachment battle as the basis for intense fundraising to support his anti-impeachment messaging and reelection campaign. While his inbox performance reflects much cleaner practices than his days as a serial spammer during the 2016 campaign, his current inbox rate (85%) still leaves much room for improvement.? Trump’s read rates remain on the high end of the range shown for this period.?

These performance metrics are critically important, because all of this messaging — not just Trump’s —? is intended as a principal fundraising driver.

??(*) Source:? Real Clear Politics Survey Composite as of dates shown

The table below shows the strongest overlaps between the candidates’ email audiences, revealing the degree to which individual candidates may truly be competing in the eyes of voters who favor more than one of them.? So, for example, Sanders has strong overlaps with Biden and Warren, and somewhat less so with Klobuchar and Steyer. These relationships also provide insight as to where certain candidates’ supporters may end up when their favorite contender drops out of the race.? So, for example, Buttigieg’s and Klobuchar’s very strong overlaps with Biden and Sanders suggest that their supporters could divide about evenly between those two candidates, subject whatever influence their Biden endorsements may have.

?(*)Reads:? 21% of Sanders’ email audience is also receiving email from Biden; 23% from Warren, etc.

This story is moving quickly and far from over.? In just the next two weeks, we will have seen additional primaries in Michigan, Ohio, Florida and Illinois.? And November 3rd is still eight months away.? We’ll keep watching.

~ John

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Career Advice from the Women of SparkPost Wed, 04 Mar 2020 14:00:54 +0000 Women of SparkPostIn celebration of International Women's Day we asked the Women of SparkPost to share advice for women in technology and women in the workplace.

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In celebration of International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, the Women of SparkPost share advice for women in technology and women in the workplace.


~ Jen

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Validity Acquires 250ok, What Does This Mean for You? Mon, 02 Mar 2020 14:00:52 +0000 Validity acquires 250okValidity acquires 250ok, now what? Director of Strategic Insights, April Mullen, explains what this acquisition means for the email landscape.

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Validity announced last week it plans to acquire the email analytics company 250ok. We congratulate our friends and industry peers for this milestone. Given SparkPost’s position in the market as both an email analytics and sending platform, we are highly interested in this topic and decided to take a closer look at dissecting what this may mean for the email marketing landscape. Here is our take:

Email Analytics Are In Demand

All three of the major email analytics leaders have been acquired. Return Path and now 250ok are both under the Validity banner and SparkPost acquired eDataSource late last year. The momentum in this space is driven by mailbox providers like Gmail and Verizon creating more sophisticated deliverability filtering logic.?

These changes have moved email deliverability from a simpler brand-level filtering process to a more sophisticated one that decides what makes it to the inbox at a recipient level. As a result, we now need to look at how individual recipients engage with a brand’s email with more sophisticated capabilities like AI and machine learning and have those tools be integrated with your sending platform for insight-led email execution.?

As deliverability has moved to one-to-one, the need for deeper insights has skyrocketed. We’re excited to offer products that help marketers have the intelligence they need to be successful in the user-focused inbox by providing delivery insights that help maximize the value of email to drive the best possible ROI.?

Who Benefits from the Acquisition??

The financial stakeholders at 250ok were presumably winners in this acquisition. In addition, Validity is reducing the competitive landscape for its services, increasing its revenue and market share and bolstering its client base.?

What We’ll Be Interested to Learn in the Coming Months

We’re most curious about how these disparate products will come together.?

  • Will Return Path and 250ok converge under Validity into one analytics product??
  • How will they be integrated??
  • If kept separate, what will be the impact be to those customers who use both services for validating results??
  • How will they support their clients through services?

As of now, it doesn’t appear that the feature set will broaden all that much in the near term given that a lot of the capabilities overlap.?

Questions You Should Ask If You’re In-Market for an Analytics Partner

We recommend that anyone looking for an email analytics partner ask potential vendors the following:

  • What data sources are used to compile deliverability insights? Do you use multiple sources to get the most complete and accurate picture?? Does the data adequately reflect and monitor the ISPs in use by your audiences and the campaigns you send?
  • Can the data not only properly reflect your inbox performance, but also help diagnose and remediate deliverability challenges you may encounter?
  • Does the email analytics vendor provide the level of services you need from a deliverability analytics partner? Can they properly support problem analysis and solution, if needed?
  • What is the expertise of the team that would be working with you? Do they have deep experience in commercial email operations and deliverability management?
  • What type of ROI can you expect from having better sending and performance data, and improved inbox rates?

The market benefits from a better inbox experience for the consumer. Businesses who invest in the resources to optimize their email streams have higher rates of satisfied customers, compared to those senders who are not delivering a personalized email experience.

By identifying highly engaged recipients, businesses can better target their most valuable users and optimize their email streams for a better customer experience, maximize conversion KPIs that matter the most to their business, and improve the ROI of their email programs.

As the largest intelligent email analytics provider, we cover 90% of the world’s email analytics footprint and we are also the largest sender with nearly 40% of all commercial email going through our infrastructure.

With analytics, in particular, we have the most robust set of data sources in the market today and we uniquely integrated our analytics to help customers improve their sending to achieve great business results.

Our services are especially strong, with most of our experts having 15+ years of experience in email and deliverability administration.

Our leadership is committed to building and bringing products to market that offer deep yet easy-to-interpret insights, that are timely and actionable. SparkPost is champion of a landscape where email senders and recipients can both enjoy an optimized experience. Over 6,000? global clients, some of the most sophisticated senders in the world trust SparkPost to deliver email ROI.

~ April

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Why You Won’t See SparkPost Using Typo Traps Fri, 28 Feb 2020 14:00:44 +0000 using typo trapsSparkPost's Founder and CTO, George Schlossnagle, explains why using typo traps as an analytics source is a privacy violation.

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Two weeks back I wrote a blog post about the privacy concerns I have about typo-trap ‘sensor networks’ that are used by Validity for their email analytics platforms. The premise of that post was to state that we believe that knowingly collecting and indexing email destined for another user but whose address was simply mistyped upon entry is wrong. Responses have been mostly positive and in support of our stance, but one type of reply I’ve heard is that this is a sender issue that only affects commercial senders with poor practices. This entirely misses the point, so I’d like to explain.?

These sensor networks are entirely non-discriminatory in the mail they receive, and because commercial senders are more likely to engage in some sort of list hygiene practices, the real privacy risk this poses is to misaddressed interpersonal communication, which is ingested the same as commercial mail. To extend the postal mail metaphor from my previous blog post, no one cares too much if their neighbor peeps at their coupon flyer from a grocery store, but when they look at the personal mail intermixed with it – the note from their doctor, their lawyer, their bank, their child’s school – it becomes an obvious violation of privacy.?

This isn’t theoretical. When we first created our active sensor network (part of our eight data sources), it was constructed similarly to the other deliverability analytics providers and contained pristine, recycled and typo domains. As we began to analyze the information it was receiving, it was clearly problematic and we saw no ethical way to continue that collection. Amongst the expected commercial mail, it also contained significant amounts of deeply personal correspondence. In it, there were emails about a cancer diagnosis, death notices, children’s sports team schedules, photos shared between friends. These sensor? networks not only don’t distinguish between commercial and personal email before processing them–they can’t. By design they ingest any communication sent to them. And because they accept all that mail, the sender never knows they made a mistake, doesn’t know why the correspondence failed. Confronted with this reality we discontinued data collection and no longer accept mail destined for lookalike domains on our sensor network.?

You may say this is no different than when someone misspells the localpart on their address and it goes to the wrong recipient. But the difference is intent. That address wasn’t created solely for the purpose of collecting mail from a misaddressed recipient and it’s likely not managed by a business trying to profit from those mistakes. In the example with typo trap usage, there is a purposeful intent to collect email meant for a real human being. We will never use typo traps as an analytics source because it’s a privacy violation and that’s wrong.?


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How to Convince Your Boss to Invest in Email Using Delivery Index Wed, 26 Feb 2020 14:00:18 +0000 Discover how our free tool, Delivery Index, can help you convince your boss that email is worthy of your team's time and your company's budget.

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How do you convince your boss that a project you’d like to work on is worthy of your time and your company’s budget? Certainly everyone has their own finesse when it comes to these sorts of conversations. And, as someone who recently was able to convince their boss to let them write about The Bachelor for work…I am obviously a pro when it comes to the art of persuasion. Fortunately, when it comes to convincing your boss to invest in email we’ve created a powerful tool called Delivery Index, so you can rely on cold hard facts and data rather than relying on your near encyclopedic knowledge of reality television to get the job done. ??

Just like your Apple Watch or Fitbit tracks your athletic performance and health, Delivery Index gives you insight into the health of your email marketing program. It’s important to give your leadership greater insight into your program’s deliverability since hitting “send” doesn’t always mean your message will go to your customers’ inbox. Once you type your sending domain into the tool, Delivery Index will give you a deliverability score between 1-10. Our free tool also breaks out this score by Internet Service Provider (ISP), providing opportunity to troubleshoot and optimize even further. In the example below, you can see that while this sender has great deliverability overall, when it comes to Outlook there is definitely still room for improvement.?

For those that aren’t in the weeds of email marketing everyday, it can be easy to think that a low score at Outlook but an overall high score across all 4 major ISPs is nothing to worry about. As marketers, we know that depending on your list size, a score of “7.0” when sending to Outlook could mean hundreds of thousands of your emails are not being seen by your customers which could have a huge impact on your bottom line! That’s hundreds of thousands of potential add-on, up-sell or cross promotional emails skipping the inbox and heading straight to spam never to be seen by your customer.

It’s so easy to assume that once a message is accepted by an ISP, your customers will see that email. Delivery Index shows that this is not always the case, and that oftentimes what seems like only a little bit of room for improvement can mean major dollars for your organization. So, when you’re building your argument for why your company should invest in email, start with Delivery Index— our free tool will do the work for you!

~ Erica

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From C to E: How Etiquette Can Complement Compliance in Email Communications Mon, 24 Feb 2020 14:00:37 +0000 compliance in email communicationsHead of International, Sam Holding, breaks down five etiquette best practices that can complement compliance in email communications.

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There is no doubt that, from early on, email has been a most prominent communication stream, and a clear protagonist in business communications. Therefore it’s hardly surprising that its use is in a bind to rules: either official and strict regulations, or the good old etiquette that many organizations choose to follow.

Etiquette is important indeed. Before regulations like the GDPR became effective, etiquette had been a significant part of email communications, while a good email etiquette would reflect a company’s healthy and ethical marketing practice. Adopting a good email etiquette proactively would prove that the company has values and moral rules that govern the way they approach their current customers and prospects.?

But while regulations are in place to set the official rules of the game, good etiquette has become more relevant than ever. With markets becoming more competitive and customers being more demanding and hard to impress, businesses need to do more than just comply with the legal framework; they need to prove they still care, and share a little bit of their good culture with their recipients. So what would a good email etiquette for B2C communications consist of, and how can we improve our practice? Here’s a few steps we can take:

  • Consider cultural differences. Email is probably the best and most effective channel for targeting a diverse international audience. Still, creating content that matches the expectations of this diverse audience can be a huge challenge. From language and fonts, to colors and graphics, people around the globe have different levels of tolerance and understanding. Remain professional at all times, and avoid making your content too ‘’colorful’’.
  • Mind the tone. Email can be impersonal; what sounds like a good joke in your colleagues’ ears, might look completely different on the customer’s screen. You may want your emails to be original, fresh and funny, but there is a very fine line between being original and overdoing it. Better think twice before adding another pun to your email.
  • Proofread. Spelling errors, poor grammar, broken links, or -even worse- wrong information about products, services and prices, will only harm your company’s reputation and demotivate recipients. Check your emails carefully before sending, and ask for another pair of eyes to have a look, if necessary.
  • Make sure the subject matches the content. We all agree that a good, ‘catchy” subject line helps increase open rate. It’s important to ensure that it won’t go downhill from there, though. Promising subject lines shouldn’t lead to irrelevant, poor or disappointing content. Make sure to live up to the customer’s expectations and provide content which is relevant, and at least as interesting as the subject.
  • Make unsubscribe easy. There’s no point in keeping subscribers just for the sake of it. If people are not interested in receiving your company’s updates anymore, they should be able to unsubscribe easily, timely, and -most importantly- without having to explain why.

Since May 2018, when GDPR came into effect, every respectable business who operate within the EU have adjusted their methods to comply with the regulation, and marketers have enthusiastically embraced the new rules. Not only that, but according to a DMA 2019 survey on data privacy, almost 59% of marketers want future data laws to be stricter than the GDPR, compared to just 11% the year before.

But before these stricter laws come in place, companies will have to complement the existing regulations with good practice, or etiquette.?

~ Sam

The post From C to E: How Etiquette Can Complement Compliance in Email Communications appeared first on SparkPost.

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List Unsubscribe: Give Your Subscribers the Freedom to Leave Fri, 21 Feb 2020 14:00:03 +0000 List-UnsubscribeDirector of Deliverability Consulting, Tony Patti, explains why you should use the List-Unsubscribe header in your email program.

The post List Unsubscribe: Give Your Subscribers the Freedom to Leave appeared first on SparkPost.


We know. Breaking up is hard to do. You put a lot of effort into gaining every subscriber to your list. But when push comes to shove, your subscribers need to have the final say in whether they stay subscribed to your mailings or not. Unsubscribes do NOT negatively affect your mailing reputation but clicks on the SPAM button do. That’s what subscribers do when they can’t easily find a way to unsubscribe from your mailings.

Fortunately, the Internet Wizards figured out a way to let subscribers easily unsubscribe from any email subscription so they respond with a spam complaint which lowers your sender reputation. It’s called the List-Unsubscribe X-Header and most major ESPs give you the ability to automatically add it to all of your email campaigns.

The List-Unsubscribe X-Header was originally created by RFC 2369 [Link to:?] ?back in 1998. ??The standard allowed for a hidden email header field in the format of either a Web-URL or a Mailto: email address or both. Using both was recommended since different email clients and providers used one or the other. ?The List-Unsubscribe header would look like this in the hidden email header block:

List-Unsubscribe: <>
? ? ? ? <>

This is what your Gmail recipient sees when you have List-Unsubscribe correctly enabled:

Once the recipient clicks the ‘Unsubscribe’ link they will see this confirmation:

Recently the standard has been upgraded to resolve an issue with the unsubscribe URL link method. ?Anti-spam software frequently checks every link in an email message for malicious content. This resulted in a lot of accidental unsubscribes. ?The new standard outlined in RFC 8058 [link to?] adds another line that prevents accidental unsubscribes by anti-spam software while retaining the hands-off one click unsubscribe functionality. ?It looks like this:

List-Unsubscribe: <>?? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? <> ????????????????????????????

List-Unsubscribe-Post: List-Unsubscribe=One-Click?

Now if the link is manually followed in a browser or by anti-spam software, a landing page will be displayed that does not result in an immediate unsubscribe but would offer an unsub button instead. The email client will perform a POST request on this URI and sending the key/pair value from this header will create the unsubscribe without any user interaction.

The most popular email clients all support the Mailto Method and support for the RFC 8058 is gaining ground. Here’s a chart showing which email client supports which method.

Using List-Unsubscribe headers on all your email campaigns is the recommended best practice and contributes to improving your sender reputation and improves the user experience for your subscribers.

You can keep track of your List-Unsubscribe performance with?Inbox Tracker’s Reputation Advisor. If Reputation Advisor fails to find a List-Unsubscribe header in your emails it will display in the Policy & Practices section of the Reputation Advisor Dashboard.

So give your subscribers an easy and convenient option to unsubscribe from email they don’t want and ultimately you will improve your delivery rates by reducing complaints and keeping your subscribers happy.

~ Tony

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[Video] Personalization at Scale Wed, 19 Feb 2020 14:00:03 +0000 Discover what email experts from CareerBuilder, ActionIQ, Gamalon, and Brightwave discussed during the "Personalization at Scale" panel at OptIn'19.

The post [Video] Personalization at Scale appeared first on SparkPost.


When it comes to email, how can organizations effectively personalize at scale? Justin DeBrabant, Matthew Tharp, Mike Weaver, and Samir Shama, all set out to answer this exact question at OptIn’19, our inaugural vendor-agnostic conference at the beautiful Carmel Valley Ranch. During the panel “Personalization at Scale”, these email experts discussed the challenging if not oxymoronic nature of creating a personalized experience for hundreds of thousands of customers. Moderated by Cory Johnson, the panel covered everything from Natural Language Processing to fried chicken!

Head of Product at ActionIQ, Justin DeBrabant, began the chat by discussing how companies make decisions surrounding personalization. He posited that many marketing efforts surrounding personalization come from a marketer’s intuition about their customer, not data. Matthew Tharp Chief Product Officer at Gamalon on the other hand introduced himself by talking about why marketers should use AI and Natural Language Processing for more accurate personalization. Continuing with DeBrabant’s thoughts regarding guessing, Tharp said “If you’re guessing you’re mostly wrong.” He said that due to growing privacy limitations unless someone is part of a tech monolith like Facebook or Amazon, they have very little data that they can use to personalize emails and other marketing experiences, which is why AI is so important.

SVP, Performance and Innovation at Brightwave, Mike Weaver, interjected by saying that while people can be wary of providing companies, customers tend to want a rich and highly personalized customer experience—two trains of thought which are clearly at odds with one another. He says that customers will say “take my data” in exchange for a personalized customer experience that provides value. Weaver related this to his own work providing Chick-fil-A customers personalized email experiences with modular content. His firm is able to run hundreds of different combinations of content in a single email campaign. Aside from the fact that, “People love those chicken biscuits,” Weaver discussed how Brightwave’s personalization technology can help get a customer who typically stops in for dinner on Thursday nights to come back the next morning for breakfast.

Samir Shama, Engineering Lead at CareerBuilder,? discussed “the line of creepy” which can be avoided by understanding which data your customers have given to you versus which data you got from a third-party provider. Shama said that if Careerbuilder used third-party information to suggest jobs in metros that customers were interested in traveling to…that would be creepy. Tharp, however, brought up a point that what’s even creepier than using data to make correct suggestions to customers, is when companies get those suggestions wrong.

What’s worse guessing using no data, or using too much data to and ending up in creepy territory? Find out the answer to this and much more today in an instant replay of this conversation on personalizing the customer experience.

~ Erica

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The Ethics of Typo-Trap Networks Fri, 14 Feb 2020 14:00:51 +0000 typo-trap networksSparkPost's Founder and CTO, George Schlossnagle, explains why we don't include typo-trap networks in our list of data sources.

The post The Ethics of Typo-Trap Networks appeared first on SparkPost.


Let’s talk about privacy. SparkPost is well known for having the world’s largest email data network but what we’re most proud of is that it’s also the most ethical and has the most robust privacy stature in the industry.? And with today’s rapidly evolving privacy landscape, it’s more important than ever that you treat privacy as a key consideration when choosing your partner for email sending and analytics.

Our core mission is uniting sending and analytics to help empower senders to be more effective and frankly better. Part of being better is not only staying ahead of emerging privacy legislation around the world, but also collecting data in an ethical manner, going above and beyond what the law calls for.?

When we looked at acquiring eDataSource, one of the most exciting things about the business was the privacy and quality standards they had around their data, which we felt to be far and away the best in the industry. This is because of what they (now we) do, as well as what they don’t do.

SparkPost leverages eight different data sources between its sending and analytics products. One of those eight data sources is permissioned panel data. The panel is comprised of purely commercial mail that has been shared with explicit permission by data panelists. Panel data has long been a trusted source of effectiveness in both the online and offline worlds. The best example of this is Nielsen, which for 70 years has collected permissioned panel data to understand how people watch television, what ads and programs are popular, etc. Because of general privacy abuses by poorly permissioned apps, some service providers have moved to restrict and curtail panel usage on their platforms. We, of course, comply with the requirements of all our receiver partners. We also believe that, like in the offline world, permissioned panel data constitutes one of the strongest views of user behavior and that seeking explicit permission from persons is the only ethical way to collect their data.

What isn’t in our list of data sources is a large active typo sensor network, a type of spam trap. Typo traps also known as ‘lookalike-domains’ are domains that ‘look like’ a major service provider like ‘’ or ‘’, but differ in small ways in order to receive mail that was destined for a valid recipient but where there was a minor and purposeful typographical error. An example of this would be? or These typos are extremely common (how many times have you accidentally mistyped your own email address?), and in practice affect every sender in the world. Any place where there is data entry will have data hygiene issues as humans are fallible. Even with the strictest confirmation standards possible you will send confirmation pings to these addresses, and the reality is that even ‘really good’ senders will often send to these addresses for weeks or months until engagement based sending criteria steps in and suppresses sending from their list.

Our data suggests that just under 0.06% of commercial mail destined for any of the major providers actually goes to a typo domain. This may not seem like a lot until you consider that the percentage is applied to literally trillions of messages. Most of the delivery analytics businesses operate extremely large typo trap networks collecting over 99% of those common typos, and receive, collect and (presumably) index the emails destined for those addresses. Running huge typo trap networks as a sensor and source of email is a practice originated with Threatwave (acquired by ReturnPath – now Validity), but is also used by smaller and newer providers like 250ok.??

From an ethical standpoint, this practice is very troublesome because the collection happens without the knowledge or permission of the intended recipient, who is also not afforded any protections from this invasion of privacy under GDPR or CCPA. We believe that knowingly collecting and indexing email destined for another user but whose address was simply mistyped upon entry is wrong. To draw another offline parallel, if I knowingly took and opened a letter for my neighbor but which was delivered to my mailbox, whether it was due to sender error (reversing digits in the address for instance) or delivery error, I could be committing a federal offense. Luckily for the companies that do this in the online world, email is not regulated in the same way that postal mail is, so nobody’s going to go to jail for collecting misaddressed emails. But ‘legal’ and ‘ethical’ are often two different things, which is why you won’t see us operating this type of sensor network.


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SparkPost’s Data Sources Explained Wed, 12 Feb 2020 14:00:57 +0000 data sourcesGeorge Schlossnagle breaks down the eight data sources that make up SparkPost's data network, the largest of any delivery analytics provider.

The post SparkPost’s Data Sources Explained appeared first on SparkPost.


At SparkPost we believe that no one single source of data can provide you a comprehensive view on your email performance and that senders are best served by a holistic view supported by diverse sources. This is an approach grounded in data which provides multiple benefits:

  1. It provides multiple views to pinpoint and aid in decision-making for optimizations or to resolve deliverability issues to drive a better return on investment from your emails.?
  2. It helps eliminate outliers that you wouldn’t likely see if you only had one or two sources.?
  3. It allows for the use of sparse but highly accurate sources (like permissioned panel data) to serve as a training and calibration source for AI and ML-based techniques (like Signals Health Score and Intelliseeds) to ensure that they’re as accurate as possible.

Transparency is one of our corporate values that we live and breathe each day. As the world’s largest email sender with the largest analytics footprint (since acquiring eDataSource), we are proud to have the largest data network of any delivery analytics provider, not just in terms of overall data points, but in the depth and diversity of the sources we pull from. The SparkPost data network currently consists of eight sources:

  1. Active Sensor Network: This source is comprised of recycled and pristine domains owned and operated by SparkPost.? This data provides greatest insight around senders – on and off our platform – with very sloppy list acquisition and management practices and helps provide telemetry which we can leverage internally to help customers as well as to detect and remediate bad senders on our platform and (often) avoid them in the first place.?
  2. Passive Sensor Network: This sensor network allows us to monitor typo spam traps, recycled spam traps, and parked domains but do so using passive DNS and signature-based methods which keep user content completely private from us. Passive DNS methods are a well-established technique used for security monitoring across many different areas. This passive sensor network, which provides similar coverage to that provided by the active networks of other providers, serves as an effective way to monitor list hygiene and sending best-practices compliance.
  3. Third-party Pristine Trap and Content Scoring Data: We receive third-party data from industry leaders Abusix and Cloudmark, which provide extremely accurate information on aberrant behavior. Though the number of hits on these sources is low compared to the traditional informational trap networks that other analytics providers deliver, it’s because these are attuned to extremely serious list issues versus simply doing ineffective new user validation, typo collection or poor engagement-based suppression.??
  4. Permissioned Panel Data: Our permissioned panel data is a set of users who have explicitly opted in to sharing the commercial email in their inboxes so that we can understand behaviors around interaction and inboxing for real human users. With representation at 42 different service providers around the globe, the permissioned panel data provides insights into real human interaction with your mail. The breakout by country on our panel aligns very closely to internet penetration by country, giving a balanced view of how consumers respond to your emails globally. It also serves as a training data and calibration set for our other ML-informed functionality like Intelliseeds and our Predictive Health Score, to help those sources provide the most accurate results even for senders whose mail streams may be too small to get meaningful data directly out of the panel.
  5. Traditional Seedlists: This is a basic and table stakes-level source that shows inbox delivery. This is what other delivery analytics providers have as their primary solution. Traditional seedlists are a well-established solution, but lack accuracy as providers have moved to a more engagement-based AI-driven filtering.? As major providers have made the move to engagement-driven models for inbox/tab placement, the accuracy of methods like traditional seeds, where seeds never engage with mails (or always engage with mails) produce sub-par results.?
  6. Intelliseeds: To address the emerging accuracy issues with traditional seeds, we introduced Intelliseeds in 2019, which take traditional seeds and drive their behavior in terms of reading, skipping and deleting mails off a model trained against our permissioned panel data. By engaging with mails in a more realistic fashion, you bypass the fundamental issues with traditional seeds. You can learn more about how Intelliseeds differ from traditional seeds in a future blog post. Seeds and Intelliseeds provide accurate inbox performance signals for senders whose volumes may be too low to be well-represented in our permissioned email panel.
  7. IntelliX Virtual Persona Network: The IntelliX Virtual Persona Network allows us to automatically subscribe to marketers’ email lists and receive their campaign mailings at email accounts we fully control. What makes the Virtual Persona Network unique is that we use a distinct and unique email address for every email list. We never re-use the email addresses with the Virtual Persona Network. This allows for incredibly powerful insights, including: the world’s largest indexed repository of opt-in commercial mail, ability to analyze brand marketing shifts over time, and the ability to detect list compromises and list selling. We are able to provide the raw HTML content of the email message, full images, and because we run all of the Virtual Persona data through our own anti-abuse filters we are able to provide detailed spam scores and insights that are often not available to senders.
  8. Signals Health Score: SparkPost Signals’ Predictive Health Score helps you understand the real-time health of your campaigns through predictive email intelligence. Using a machine learning model trained on email leading indicator signals from deliverability and engagement data from your sending such as: bounces, opens, clicks and spam trap hits, and more. SparkPost makes this possible by comparing your sending signals with historical performance from thousands of other senders so you can optimize your email engagement and avoid reputation issues before they impact your business.???

We’re always looking for new ways to improve and expand the data sources that provide SparkPost’s clients an unmatched view of the email ecosystem and how to expand our massive data network as new sources become available (either home grown or through third-party sources). When a new source is added, we will certainly share it with you.?


The post SparkPost’s Data Sources Explained appeared first on SparkPost.

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The Most Dramatic Blog Post Ever: Valentine’s Day 2020 Mon, 10 Feb 2020 14:00:57 +0000 Valentine's Day 2020In honor of The Bachelor and Valentine’s Day 2020, we're handing roses to some of our favorite email influencers out there!

The post The Most Dramatic Blog Post Ever: Valentine’s Day 2020 appeared first on SparkPost.


Nothing says *love* quite like a highly produced network reality series where 25+ women duke it out for the chance to maybe get married to one lucky dude, or in the case of this season of The Bachelor, one lucky pilot. Perhaps the only love greater than that between Pilot Pete and whoever the heck he decides to pick at the end of this season, is my love of intellectualizing and overstating the cultural importance of The Bachelor (something I’ve been known to do in SparkPost’s internal #bachelor-nation slack channel), but enough about me!?

Over the franchise’s collective 44 seasons (including spin-offs), Bachelor Nation has seen an overwhelming increase in the amount of contestants that go on to become some of the most prolific social media influencers in the world!? In honor of the most romantic show of our time and of course Valentine’s Day, we wanted to hand out a few roses to some of our favorite email influencers out there! While they may not have as many followers as Ashley I or Hannah B, these certified #emailgeeks have won our hearts with their amazing social media accounts!

Check out which Email Influencers we’re giving our roses to this Valentine’s Day:

Anne Tomlin

Responsive Email Developer and Founder of Emails Y’all, Anne Tomlin, kills us every time with her pop-culturally relevant knee slappers.


John Thies

CEO and Co-founder of Email on Acid, John Thies,? shares his email expertise by participating in his company’s twitter chats.


Jen Capstraw?

Director of Strategic Insights and Evangelism at Iterable and Co-founder of Women of Email, Jen Capstraw cracks us up with her mind-blowings gifs.


Matt Helbig

Co-founder of Really Good Emails (a 2018 Sparky Award Winner!), Matt Helbig, keeps us up-to-date with upcoming #emailgeek events.


Val Geisler

Founder of Fix My Churn and self-proclaimed “queen of onboarding tear downs”, Val Geisler, sparks conversation and engagement with her open-ended tweets.


Simms Jenkins

CEO of Brightwave, Simms Jenkins, keeps us in the loop about what’s going on at his company…btw they’re hiring!


Alyssa Nahatis

Director of Deliverability Americas & Global Services at Adobe, Alyssa Nahatis, keeps us on our toes with the latest marketing news.


Matthew Smith?

CEO and Founder of Really Good Emails, Matthew Smith, engages his followers by crowdsourcing design solutions.


Mike Nelson

Partner at ?Really Good Emails, Mike Nelson, totally got us with this April fools! ??


Ashleigh Rankin

Our own Email Marketing Manager, Ashleigh Rankin, influences us everyday with her email marketing knowledge and her graphic design abilities…

Happy Valentine’s Day!?

~ Erica

P.S. If you made this list, watch out for a very special gift coming to you later this week!

The post The Most Dramatic Blog Post Ever: Valentine’s Day 2020 appeared first on SparkPost.

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How to Check an SMTP Connection with a Manual Telnet Session Fri, 07 Feb 2020 23:25:24 +0000 manual telnet sessionInterested in learning how to check an SMTP connection with a manual telnet session? Find out what you need to know in this article.

The post How to Check an SMTP Connection with a Manual Telnet Session appeared first on SparkPost.


In the world of email, there are many facets to testing, but one of the most basic tests you can do is to simply telnet into a given SMTP server.? This test is useful in determining if the most basic of problems do or do not exist.

  • Is the server up?
  • Is there a firewall blocking communication?
  • Does the mail server allow for relaying of a particular domain/email address?
  • What SMTP commands does the mail server support?
  • Does the server respond with the correct hostname?
  • Does the connection work outside any third party software or APIs?

All these questions and more can be answered with a simple telnet test.

As a note, the commands used in the following examples (as well as additional commands) are covered in section 4.1 of RFC 2821.

Most computers come pre-installed with a telnet client.? For those Windows versions that do not, one can be installed by opening the “Programs and Features” section of the control panel and selecting “Turn Windows features on or off”.? With this window open, select “telnet client” and then click OK.

Once a telnet client has been verified to be installed on the server we first need to find a mail server to log into.? For this, we will need the DNS MX record for a given domain. This can be found with the following command (for these examples will be used, but any domain can be substituted):


nslookup -type=mx

Non-authoritative answer: MX preference = 100, mail exchanger =


nslookup -type=mx

Non-authoritative answer: mail exchanger = 100

Next we need the DNS PTR for the IP we are going to use.? First we need to know what IP address the internet sees us as having.? To find that we can use a website like:

With the IP address run the following command, where A.B.C.D is the IP address.


nslookup -type=ptr A.B.C.D

Non-authoritative answer:? name =


nslookup -type=ptr A.B.C.D

Non-authoritative answer:? name = is just an example, and your results will be different.

So now that we have the MX record for and the PTR for the IP we are going to use, it is time to login to the SMTP server.? To do so, use the following command:

telnet 25

Something similar to the following should now be displayed:


Connected to (

Escape character is '^]'.

220 (PowerMTA(TM) v4.0) ESMTP service ready

The first command we need to issue to the mail server is the

? or
.? This is a basic greeting that starts the communication between the telnet client and the SMTP server.? Also passed is the DNS PTR for the IP address from which we are connecting as determined previously.


Something similar to the following should be returned: says hello








250-SIZE 54525952


250 DSN

This shows the SMTP commands that the SMTP server accepts.? Not all SMTP servers support the same sets of commands. For example, yahoo only shows the following:


250-SIZE 41943040


And aol shows only one with:

250 DSN

The next command we need to issue is the

command.? This determines the address to which bounces are sent. This is not the same as the from header, which is the email address shown in an email client.


250 2.1.0 MAIL ok

Now that the

? command has been sent we can send the
? command.? This command tells the SMTP mail server to who the message should be sent. This can be the same or different than the to header, which is the email address shown in the email client.


250 2.1.5 <> ok

The last command to run before starting the body of the message is the

? command.? This command lets the SMTP mail server know that everything else about to be sent is the body of the message (which also contains the headers).


354 send message

It is important to note that if a mail server supports PIPELINING, as does, the SMTP mail server may wait until the

command is issued before responding to any other commands after the
.? In this case, enter the
, and
? commands before waiting for a response.

Now that the

?command has been sent we can start sending the message contents.? This starts with the various headers. At minimum a message should contain a to, from, subject, and date header. The headers entered here will be shown to the user in their email client.

From: "John Smith" <>

To: "Jane Doe" <>

Subject: test message sent from manual telnet session

Date: Wed, 11 May 2011 16:19:57 -0400

With the headers set, we now add one blank line with a carriage return/line feed (just press enter twice) and then we start the actual body of the message.

Hello World,

This is a test message sent from a manual telnet session.


Yours truly,

SMTP administrator

With the message complete, we need to tell the SMTP server that we are done with the message and want the SMTP mail server to accept it.? This is done with a period on a line by itself. If during the writing of a message a period on a line by itself is needed, you must put 2 periods, the first escaping the second.



250 2.6.0 message received

Lastly the

? command is sent to close the connection:


221 2.0.0 says goodbye

With that the mail server has now accepted the message for delivery, and it should be sitting in the inbox of the RCPT TO address!!!

Here are all the commands without interruption:

telnet 25


Connected to (

Escape character is '^]'.

220 (PowerMTA(TM) v4.0) ESMTP service ready

EHLO says hello








250-SIZE 54525952


250 DSN


250 2.1.0 MAIL ok


250 2.1.5 <> ok


354 send message

From: "John Smith" <>

To: "Jane Doe" <>

Subject: test message sent from manual telnet session

Date: Wed, 11 May 2011 16:19:57 -0400

Hello World,

This is a test message sent from a manual telnet session.

Yours truly,

SMTP administrator




250 2.6.0 message received


221 2.0.0 says goodbye

~ Scott

The post How to Check an SMTP Connection with a Manual Telnet Session appeared first on SparkPost.

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Deploying Signals for On-Premises: PowerMTA with Engagement Tracking – Part 4 Wed, 05 Feb 2020 14:00:55 +0000 Engagement TrackingIn part 4 of his series on deploying Signals for On-Premises Senior Messaging Engineer, Steve Tuck, focuses on PowerMTA with Engagement Tracking.

The post Deploying Signals for On-Premises: PowerMTA with Engagement Tracking – Part 4 appeared first on SparkPost.



Part 1 of this series introduced SparkPost Signals for on-premises deployments. Part 2 walked through setting up PowerMTA step-by-step, and Part 3 covered Momentum setup.

Remember in Part 2 where we said that Health Score and Engagement Recency didn’t do much on PowerMTA alone, because it doesn’t have open/click tracking built-in? We address that in this part.

This project comes with full source code and step-by-step installation instructions in the Github README. Want to skip the extras and just get started? Click?here.

What’s the starting point?

If you’re an established PowerMTA sender, you may already have a setup similar to this:

Typical home-grown analytics solution

If you’re a new PowerMTA customer and are contemplating building this, then read this first. Let’s explore challenges and tradeoffs you already have (or will face) with a homegrown solution, and show which parts you can simplify with Signals.

Some challenges if you build your own analytics stack

Your email message generation will wrap links and add open-tracking pixels, prior to injecting the message into PowerMTA for delivery. Not too difficult, but you need to consider performance – the whole email body (or at least the html part) passes through that code, and each recipient needs to have uniquely identifiable links.

Next, when a recipient engages with a message, an HTTP(S) request goes from the client to your open/click tracking service. This is essentially a special-purpose web-server:

  • It registers an open by returning a transparent 1×1 pixel that’s essentially invisible in the rendered mail
  • It handles a “click” by redirecting the client device to their final destination using an HTTP “302 redirect”

So far, so good – every ESP (Email Service Provider) does this. There are some established technology choices in this space such as NGINX, Apache, node.js and so on.

You need to consider peak time demand and engineer the web service accordingly. You also need to consider security, resilience, and availability. You should think about what happens if a bad actor tries to hit your endpoint with a flood of traffic, or if your links could easily be “spoofed” by someone wanting to mess with your statistics or just probe weaknesses in your infrastructure.

Assuming you contain those issues, the fun really starts. You have to aggregate all those deliveries, bounces, opens and clicks from log files (which can get large) into databases (which can get HUGE). You have to decide for how long you’re going to keep this information. You have to host the database somewhere. You may use the word “Petabyte” more frequently in conversations at the water cooler!

To provide reasonable response times for your users, you’ll invest time tuning that database, choosing which fields to index for best space/time tradeoff, experimenting with ways to speed up common queries, toying with various exotic technologies, and likely switching underlying database platform a few times. The old adage “fast, cheap, good .. pick two” applies.

You need to back it up and provide geo-redundancy in case of node or site failures, as well as plan how you will maintain your stack as technologies evolve in future.

Next, you need to build a User Interface to allow marketing people to easily view their campaign data. Again, not simple .. front-end UI design is a fast-changing field, easy to get it “almost OK” but still being annoying to use. There’s a reason why users hate in-house-developed applications – there’s never enough “customer” pressure to make it really good, while also keeping it simple.

Your developers also hate it, as they have an ever-lengthening queue of tickets waiting to be worked on (to “just add another minor feature”) – while having to put out fires elsewhere. You could buy an existing analytics suite such as Loggly, Splunk, Tableau, Elk and so on. These are powerful, general-purpose tools, designed for a wide range of IT operations, but are not specifically oriented towards the email/deliverability world. Once you have them running, you build your own custom reports to see anything useful. Also, these tools ain’t cheap, particularly for large data volumes.

You also have to worry about keeping recipient details in that database. You need to care about privacy – not just GDPR, but an alphabet soup of new regulation coming along such as CCPA. How long do you keep recipient details? Do you anonymize after a time? Are your processes secure? Will you pass an on-site audit? How do you respect a recipient’s right to be forgotten from your systems?

Finally, your database only has your campaign delivery stats in it, so it has limited value as a benchmark. You can tell how well you’re doing compared to last week, last month and so on, but you don’t have a wide range of data to compare trends against. In contrast, SparkPost Signals analytics is based on the world’s largest email data footprint; your Health Score dashboard uses machine learning that’s trained on a huge data-set across thousands of senders, with a wide range of real-world deliverability scenarios.

Right, that’s probably enough to show we’re solving a hard problem. Let’s explore what we can do to find a simpler solution.

A simple engagement tracking / SparkPost Signals integration

Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

We’ve seen in Part 1 and Part 2 how SparkPost Signals integrates easily with PowerMTA to provide email analytics, based on delivery, bounce, spam complaint and out-of-band bounce events. Unlike Momentum – covered in Part 3 of this series – PowerMTA does not have its own engagement tracking built in. The Signals Health Score requires at least open events to be meaningful.

PowerMTA users have their own message generation already and might have open/click tracking services. If you don’t, then read on – we have free open-source code for you!

Here’s the high-level architecture of what we are going to build:

Simplified architecture of add-on PowerMTA tracking
Simplified architecture of add-on PowerMTA tracking

Let’s set out some project goals:

  • A “batteries included” implementation that covers everything needed for Engagement Tracking with PowerMTA and SparkPost Signals.
  • You can pick the parts you need (i.e. highly modular). Maybe you just want the “Signals ingest” part, for example.
  • Platform-independent (Linux, Windows, etc).
  • Use high-performance, reliable, scalable technology, so that it could be used for millions of emails per hour, which suggests:
    • Choose a strongly typed, compiled language, with good multi-threading support.
    • Pick a database technology that’s lean and fast (while enabling other choices).
  • Store a minimum of customer-specific data, and easily permit that data to expire and be deleted after a known time.
  • Use PowerMTA and SparkPost signals features to reduce the new code burden.


Here’s the next level of detail, expanding that blue box into separate processes.

Architecture of add-on PowerMTA tracking
Architecture of add-on PowerMTA tracking

Woah, I thought this would be simple, I hear you say. Well, each active part has just one job, and it’s really not that complex.

Message generation (colored green) is the same as before; it can be thought of as outside this project. We’re just using it to show where the messages are coming from. In fact, let’s assume we have really basic message generation that is not even capable of wrapping your html links or inserting open pixels. The new “wrapper” process will do that for you.

If you wish, your generator can add identifying headers to your messages, to leverage “reporting facets” in Signals:

  • x-job (aka “campaign ID”) and
  • x-sp-subaccount-id

As we saw in Part 2, you can use these to provide more granular reporting of your message streams.


The “wrapper” is a simple “SMTP in, SMTP out” process that wraps your html links, adds tracking pixels to text/html MIME parts present, and adds a unique

??header that will later tie the opens and clicks back to the specific email.

This acts as an SMTP reverse proxy?that sits in the message flow (with TLS support both upstream and downstream), so it can be completely independent of your message generator. Alternatively you could call the wrapper code from your generator if you prefer.

Tracking AMP HTML MIME parts is a possible future extension to this project.


The acct_etl (extract, transform, load) process takes message delivery records from PowerMTA and stores them as a key-value pair in a database, for fast lookup by the feeder process. It uses the accounting pipe?feature of PowerMTA. Each time a message is delivered, PowerMTA sends a text record to our program containing fields we specify in PowerMTA config. In our case, we want the message_id, recipient, and (if present) the SparkPost subaccount ID.

Each record will be quite small – around 100 bytes – and will be given a “time to live” before automatic deletion, to safeguard PII (Personally Identifiable Information) and minimize storage space. These records enrich the engagement-tracking, but are not essential.


This is a web service that decodes and acts upon client email opens and clicks:

  • Open pixel requests are served a transparent tracking pixel.
  • Clicked link requests are served a 302 redirect, causing the user’s email client or web browser to go to the desired landing-page destination.

The server responds quickly because minimal processing is done before giving the HTTP response. The opens and clicks are pushed into a Redis queue to the feeder task. Which brings us to…


This process takes the opens and clicks from the Redis queue and feeds them to the SparkPost Ingest API.

If you are keeping your existing open/click tracking but wish to upload events to SparkPost signals, this may be the only piece of code you need (with some code adaptation to suit your own data sources). At least this can give you an example of how to format the ingest stream.

All these modules are in this Github project, with installation and configuration instructions.

Let’s start with an in-depth look at the feeder process. We’ll cover the other processes in forthcoming blog articles.

More on the feeder process

The command-line for feeder is very simple – just give it an optional log filename to write to.?

$ ./feeder -h
Takes the opens and clicks from the Redis queue and feeds them to the SparkPost Ingest API
Requires environment variable SPARKPOST_API_KEY_INGEST and optionally SPARKPOST_HOST_INGEST
Usage of ./feeder:
  -logfile string
        File written with message logs

If you omit

, output will go to the console (stdout).

The SparkPost ingest API key (and optionally, the host base URL) is passed in environment variables:

export SPARKPOST_API_KEY_INGEST=###your API key here##

You’ll typically want to run this as a background process on startup – see the project README, cronfile and for examples of how to do that.

Here’s a typical log content as it runs:

2019/12/13 16:00:39 Uploaded 625498 bytes raw, 32628 bytes gzipped. SparkPost Ingest response: 200 OK,
2019/12/13 16:10:40 Uploaded 445221 bytes raw, 23477 bytes gzipped. SparkPost Ingest response: 200 OK,
2019/12/13 16:20:40 Uploaded 579650 bytes raw, 29571 bytes gzipped. SparkPost Ingest response: 200 OK,

feeder – code internals

The main package is in

, and makes use of functions in the
package, including
and others.

The function

gathers the logfile, SparkPost API, and Redis resources needed; then calls
which waits for events to arrive in the Redis queue.

Open, initial open, and click events are formatted by

, which unmarshals the event from the internal compact format (
class), augments it with message-ID keyed delivery info from Redis, and returns a
struct (see file

SparkPost events require some attributes to be present in a specific format:

  • delv_method
    is set to the constant string
  • event_id
    ? is set to a string, carrying a unique decimal value in the range 0 .. (2^63-1)

The message_id attribute is a string, unique per message, of length 20 characters in a specific hex format (which is added by the wrapper process). More on that later.

The timestamp attribute is in Unix epoch format.

Here’s an example event:

  "msys": {
    "track_event": {
      "type": "click",
      "delv_method": "esmtp",
      "event_id": "3189164043070052773",
      "ip_address": "",
      "geo_ip": {
        "Country": "",
        "Region": "",
        "City": "",
        "Latitude": 0,
        "Longitude": 0,
        "Zip": 0,
        "PostalCode": ""
      "message_id": "00008a67385e4e6d9e27",
      "rcpt_to": "",
      "timestamp": "1580753393",
      "target_link_url": "",
      "user_agent": "Mozilla/5.0 (Macintosh; Intel Mac OS X 10_15_3) AppleWebKit/537.36 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/79.0.3945.130 Safari/537.36",
      "subaccount_id": 0

Batches of events are collected by

in a byte buffer, until either the max batch size (currently 5MB) is reached, or the buffer content has matured for a set time (currently 30 seconds). Then
?uploads that batch, using the Gzip encoding required by the
?API endpoint.

An idea for future work: the code could be extended to populate

??information (with a service such as MaxMind), similar to what SparkPost cloud delivery service does.

Hints and tips on tooling

If you’re working with Go, I highly recommend the free VS Code editor, with the Go

debugger plugin.


In this article, we’ve looked at:

  • What you might already have, as a PowerMTA user, and why running this is harder than it looks
  • A simple engagement tracking / SparkPost Signals integration
  • .. and we’ve looked in detail at the “feeder” process for uploading opens and clicks, including an example JSON format event.

In the next article, we’ll continue a walk-through of the other parts, including tracker, acct_etl and wrapper.

~ Steve

The post Deploying Signals for On-Premises: PowerMTA with Engagement Tracking – Part 4 appeared first on SparkPost.

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Why I’m a Messaging Engineer Mon, 03 Feb 2020 14:00:04 +0000 Messaging EngineerSenior Messaging Engineer, Jeff Goldstein, explains what he does in his role day-to-day and why he loves working with SparkPost's customers.

The post Why I’m a Messaging Engineer appeared first on SparkPost.


Sales Engineer, Solutions Engineer, Sales Consultant, Solutions Consultant, Field Engineer, Pre-Sales Engineer……on and on the carousel goes. But you know what, I don’t care what you call me.? I’ve been doing this job for over 25 years now; starting back in 1994. The great thing about this job is that there is NO job description other than; ‘do what it takes’. For those of you in sales, especially the technical side of the sales team; you know what I mean. On any given day you can be doing almost anything; including writing self-promoting blogs.

That means that you need to be able to communicate with anyone at any time over any channel: email, PowerPoint, in-person presentations, Twitter, Slack, and yes, maybe even on the phone. Each day is always a hodge-podge of different activities to support our prospects, our sales teams and the rest of the company involved in sales. I guess that is everyone in the company. In my opinion, it’s a great job for the entrepreneurial type, but not such a great job for the heads-down engineering type.?

Anyway, let’s get to what I like the most about this job; I get to be a free consultant. Trust me, I care about the company that I work for, but when I’m in front of the customer I get to solely focus on them, on their needs and the solutions they’re seeking.?

As a consultant, I need to call it as I see it. That includes telling the prospect that I think they may be approaching a problem incorrectly. I usually do that in a subtle way, but not always. Recently I was asked how I’m different at work than I am at home.? My answer was, “at work, I filter 98% of what I’m thinking; at home, I filter 95% of what I’m thinking; but in both cases, nobody thinks I have a filter.”

If the customer is going down the wrong path, the consultant in me needs to guide them away from the dangerous approach they are/were taking, and since I’m taking that approach, I need to be open to why they are doing what they are doing and accept that it might be better than my approach. Opening that communication channel is the type of discussion I live for; taking a problem and helping customers come up with a solution. On very rare occasions, I have sent customers off to a competitive solution when I felt it was better for them. Luckily that is really rare; but then again, no product is perfect for everyone.

So somehow I have written a full page for a blog only to tell you why I love working as a Pre-Post-Sales-Field-Messaging-Consultant-Engineer; ‘I live to work solving problems with others’.

Happy Sending,


The post Why I’m a Messaging Engineer appeared first on SparkPost.

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Announcing the SparkPost 2020 Transactional Email Benchmark Report Wed, 29 Jan 2020 14:00:07 +0000 2020 Transactional Email Benchmark ReportLearn about some of the amazing insights captured in our brand new 2020 Transactional Email Benchmark Report and download the guide today!

The post Announcing the SparkPost 2020 Transactional Email Benchmark Report appeared first on SparkPost.


SparkPost started its transactional email report in 2018 and we’re excited to announce that the 2020 report is now available (want to see the inaugural report? click here). We surveyed more than 300 senior professionals tasked with managing transactional emails for their companies? (both large and small) and across a variety of verticals.

Here are the top findings from the 2020 report:?

Email Volume Rises, As Does its Importance

While many senders have historically been low volume senders of transactional email, we’re seeing a growth trend emerge. More than half of senders (58.1 percent) mail 50,000 or less transactional messages a month, a marked decrease from 2018 (70.8 percent). There was however significant growth in the mid-volume and high-volume categories. More than a quarter of respondents (28.6 percent) reported sending 50,000 to one million messages per month versus 13.4 percent in 2018 and 13.3 percent said they send one million or more, versus to 4.7 percent in 2018.?

We also found that companies cited with an overwhelming majority that it’s critical to convert, engage and retain customers using transactional emails. This shows how important email is to core business objectives.?

Lastly, many of the message types related to helpfulness through education such as new user welcome, application notifications, user onboarding/feature familiarization and ongoing user education/nurture. Email is the right vehicle for these messages, especially complex ones requiring imagery and detailed content.?

SMS, push and other one-to-one channels cannot accommodate, which is one of the drivers behind the continued growing demand for email to deliver these messages. No other communication medium has come along to replace what email can offer and we don’t think that will change any time soon.?

Fragmented Responsibility Harms Visibility and Performance

Tech Fragmentation Cause Reporting and Testing Blind Spots

IT and engineering roles were cited at nearly 50 percent as being responsible for the sending of transactional messages. When marketers manage email, they typically send it from an ESP/hosted solution. Only 29.2 percent of respondents stated they send their transactional emails from an ESP. The majority in our study send via API, in house email servers or don’t know. The non-ESP options are typically owned and only accessible by IT/Engineering teams, so this may explain why marketers/product owners are less involved on the sending side.?

Reporting Blind Spots Lead to Customer Experience Issues

Our study also revealed that only approximately one-third of senders (36 percent) conduct A/B testing and the higher percentage than expected responses of “I don’t know” when it came to authentication, deliverability and engagement metrics, especially mobile engagement.?

Only 52 percent reported some form of authentication, and a whopping 21 percent don’t even know if they authenticate emails. Of those that do authenticate, less than 22 percent use DMARC.? On the mobile side, more than a third (37 percent) of senders are unsure what percentage of mobile engagement is actually happening, citing a major potential experience issue.?

This could explain the deliverability issues leading to the high number of customer complaints.?

Nearly half of senders (49 percent) said they receive complaints from customers about undelivered transactional emails.?

Ownership has Shifted but IT and Engineering are Still Tasked with Writing Emails

When we look at content, over 64 percent of transactional email content producers are roles in marketing or product owners. This is a slight shift from 2018 where we saw that number at 58 percent. More than a third of the writers are in technical roles. Given that writers with experience producing content that resonates with customers typically sit in marketing, it’s a huge opportunity to move even more of the content development for transactional emails to these resources.?

The lack of visibility in reporting, minimal testing and content production are huge opportunities for understanding and improving the performance of transactional emails. Making strides in these areas alone will generate an increase in engagement and improvements in customer experience. This is important in the age of tightening privacy regulations globally, as transactional emails may be the only communication type that brands have with consumers that have opted out of promotional communications.?

You can access the full report here, we’d love to hear what you’re experiencing with your own transactional emails and how we can help with better insights into your own engagement and sending analytics.

~ April

The post Announcing the SparkPost 2020 Transactional Email Benchmark Report appeared first on SparkPost.

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Building an Integration Between SparkPost and Segment Mon, 27 Jan 2020 14:00:11 +0000 integration between SparkPost and SegmentSenior messaging Engineer, Jeff Goldstein, explains how he built an integration between SparkPost and Segment in story form.

The post Building an Integration Between SparkPost and Segment appeared first on SparkPost.


In October of 2019, I embarked on a project to create sample code for an integration between SparkPost and Segment. The impetus for this project was that a large sender wanted to take SparkPost log information which we call “events” and get them into their Amplitude account in order to manage communication interactions with their customers. I have to admit that I had no prior experience with Segment nor Amplitude, so I didn’t know how this was going to go, but I was excited to take this new project on and see where it went.?

I’m happy to say that the code is done and handed off to the customer for their use. The code itself is extremely short yet flexible enough to limit long term maintenance costs. Read on to hear some of the challenges I faced while building this integration in story-form.

The biggest challenge was figuring out the approach that I needed to take. Since SparkPost supports sharing event data via both REST API and webhooks, I knew that I needed to find a way to either push JSON into Segment via webhooks or to pull it from SparkPost into Segment using SparkPost APIs. My preference is always webhooks, so I started looking for ways that Segment can simply consume webhooks from SparkPost. With so many products like Loggly or LogDNA that simply consume webhooks, I figured that Segment would have a generic webhook reader like the others. So I created a free account and started to play around. I ended up looking at all the connections Segment had, both as Source and Destinations. But, I did not find a generic Source that consumed webhook data so I went to the documentation and searched for the term “Sources”. That took me to the Overview section which I thought would be a good chance to start to learn about Segment, its terminology, and its components. After a short read in the Overview section, I noticed a Navigation menu near the top of the page that had a link to Sources, and like an easily distracted squirrel, I had to click on that link.

That link ended up being the golden ticket! On the left-hand side of the page were all types of Sources, including the one that I wanted, “Custom”. They also had links to several of my competitors so I had to look at those. They all seemed to fall into a similar pattern of sending webhook data from the email platform to Segment for ingestion. Cool, that’s in line with what I was thinking.

So I backtracked to the “Custom” link that had a very nice step-by-step layout on how to build a custom function to consume webhook data. But first, I would have to request the rights from Segment to do this. Luckily someone from SparkPost had a connection with Segment and I was able to get the ability to use this “custom function” module. After creating a project, the Segment module displayed the location that I needed to send SparkPost webhook data to. Next, I was presented with a code text editor page where I could build my function to consume and process the SparkPost webhooks. This is actually the one part that caused me to pause.

What language was I supposed to write the code in? I had no idea! Segment does have a set of Templates of sample code but which template was I use? Since I didn’t know which template code was the closest to what I needed I simply used the “Default” template. As embarrassed as I was, I couldn’t figure out which language the template was written in. I graduated with a computer science degree a long time ago (when the major languages were Fortran, assembly, LISP and Pascal) and have learned over a dozen languages throughout the years. So many of the languages look the same that I didn’t know which one Segment was using. Luckily, I decided that it looked close enough to Javascript and decided to use that. It’s a good thing since that was, in fact, the language.?

Now that I had a language I had to figure out how to process each webhook event that would be sent from SparkPost in JSON batches of anywhere from 1 to 1,000 events at a time. I didn’t know if Segment’s Javascript engine supported all Javascript capabilities but I decided to give the forEach method a try on the incoming package and it worked. The next step was to figure out how to store each variable needed in order to set up the Segment Collections that I wanted to build. That meant that I had to figure out how to get data into Segment for testing. Segment has a “Capture New Event” button just above the template/test data pane. That button cleared out the pane below and displayed a message that it was now waiting for data. I then went to Postman where I could send a few emails that in turn would create SparkPost data events that were already configured to send data to Segment (using the endpoint location Segment already gave me when I created the project). Lo and behold, “event” data was sent from SparkPost to Segment and captured in the development environment. The JSON data was displayed for me so I could see the JSON block and field names that I needed to store. It took a little playing around but soon enough I was able to store the necessary data to build each collection I wanted to store within Segment. SparkPost has over 20 different events, so I did what I could to create a generic reader that would process any “event” type.

For the most part, I stored:

  • The email address
  • The 30+- different data sets sent in the webhook body and placed that into a field
  • The event type to use for the Collection?

Once I had the data, it was easy to use the Segment.collection module to store the data.

All-in-all, I was very happy with the code and ready to show it off. Since both Segment and SparkPost shared this customer I was doing the sample work for, I needed to run the code by our contacts at Segment.?

Upon doing so, I realized I had missed a couple of fundamental pieces due to my lack of Segment knowledge.

The first issue is that I was using something called “collections”. I mean that sounded right. I’m collecting specific types of events, deliveries, bounces, delays, opens, clicks, etc. Ok, that was wrong. What I didn’t know was that the Segment world revolves around a specific user or more specifically “userID”. That allows Segment to build a persona for each user; in this case, it would be information about all the emails sent to that person along with how they interacted with those emails. That took me to the second issue– I needed to get SparkPost to send me the Segment “userID” with each email so it could be used to build the user profile. Luckily SparkPost employs the concept of metadata where any key/value pair can be added to an email; then that metadata is added to every event tracked by SparkPost. Once added, all I had to do is pull that field from the JSON block so it could set the Segment “userID” field.

That brings me back to the first issue. Now that I have the person’s “userID”, each SparkPost event becomes a “userID tracking event”– not a collection of data like I thought. So I rewrote the code to leverage the Segment method called track.?

Those two changes were all it took to have Segment consume the SparkPost data. Segment already had a connection to Amplitude so all I had to do is connect Amplitude as a destination and the data started to flow when I turned everything on! It was a Friday evening and I was done. Scotch time for Jeff.

Too bad that I forgot that I left the data flow on from SparkPost over the weekend. I came back to two test systems that turned off my account due to overuse, and I have to admit, I went WAY over my limits….sorry Segment and Amplitude!

Now it was time to show the customer. There was one unknown that might take me back to the coding board. Segment already has several email platform connections. They all follow a similar approach where they take the JSON data apart and reformat it to a specific standard that Segment has instituted. I didn’t do that. Instead, I just took all of our fields and sent them as is. Also, SparkPost has 2-3x more data in our JSON blocks than our competitors and I didn’t want to lose any data. If the customer wanted me to repackage the data, I would do it, but I really didn’t feel that would be in the best interest of the customer or SparkPost. If the data was, in fact, going to be used to build the persona inside Segment the data transformation would be more important; but since the real task was to get the data to Amplitude, I wasn’t sure it was worth going through the transformation step.

Luckily, the customer agreed. They figured they could simply aggregate all the data within Amplitude and use what they wanted without losing any of the rich information SparkPost provided.

Now that the customer had okayed my sample code, it still was not time to celebrate with some Scotch. Yes, there is a theme to my celebrations.

So that concluded this project. In retrospect, I think it was fairly easy. The code itself was only 45 or so lines of code and flexible enough to consume any new “events” created by SparkPost. If I had to transform the data for Segment, the code would be a tad longer but still fairly short and easy to maintain. This speaks well of what Segment has created and how simple the process of bringing a new source to the platform can be.

Now that this blog is done, you know what time it is…..Scotch time.

Happy sending,


If you want to see the code, please reach out to me directly; and I’ll be happy to share it with you.

The post Building an Integration Between SparkPost and Segment appeared first on SparkPost.

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A New Year! A New Recipient Validation! Fri, 24 Jan 2020 14:00:45 +0000 Recipient ValidationRead up on significant changes and enhancements for SparkPost’s Recipient Validation - an easy way to verify if email addresses are valid before you send.

The post A New Year! A New Recipient Validation! appeared first on SparkPost.


In December 2018, SparkPost launched its first version of Recipient Validation. By August 2019, we made improvements with a stronger algorithm to identify undeliverable and risky email addresses based upon hard bounces in our email data footprint. Now to ring in the new decade, we are introducing some significant improvements to bring you the most powerful and truly data-driven Recipient Validation tool on the market!

?SparkPost’s Data Footprint Works Harder with Delivery and Engagement Events

SparkPost now leverages delivery and engagement (clicks and open) events, in addition to hard bounce events to train our validation algorithm, bringing you one of the most powerful data-driven email validation tools on the market. The inclusion of these additional hundreds of millions of events gives you confidence in email addresses that we categorize as valid – our data indicates we have seen deliveries and/or active engagement associated with the email address and do not have data suggesting that it is an invalid email address for any reason.

New Typo Result Category: Make it Easy and Simple to Identify Potentially Misspelled Domains

Working with customer feedback, we improved how we present? misspelled domains as an additional attribute for valid, risky, and undeliverable email addresses to make it easier to filter out and quickly take action.? To make it even easier, we pulled out the “did_you_mean” typo domain attribute and made it a top-level category result, giving you a clearer and cleaner split of your email list to identify potentially misspelled email addresses. No more drilling down to figure out which email addresses were typed incorrectly!

New Neutral Result Category: Straightforward and Honest Email Validation based on Data

Before we were able to leverage delivery and engagement events, our category result valid was comprised of email addresses we had either (1) never seen a hard bounce for, (2) an email that may have hard bounced in the past but had not had any subsequent hard bounces for a significant amount of time, or (3) a default status for email addresses we had no hard bounce data for. We’ve quickly moved away from this model to give you clearer and upfront validations without any ambiguity. Email addresses that we categorize as neutral mean that they:

  • Have been checked for proper syntax, proper domain, existing MX record
  • Still provide a check against role-based domains, free domains, and disposable domains?
  • Have not had a hard bounce in our data footprint, but also have not had any delivery and/or engagement events in our data footprint?

We cannot confidently tell you that email addresses categorized as neutral? are completely valid, as we have not seen a delivery and/or engagement event. The neutral result helps you make better informed data-driven decisions when dealing with recipient email addresses. Our best recommendation for neutral email addresses: If you are risk-tolerant and can afford to send to some potentially undeliverable email addresses, try sending to neutral as there is a potential low risk. If you are completely risk-averse and must only send to completely valid email addresses, avoid sending to neutral for the time being.?

How to Get Started with Recipient Validation

As more of our beloved customers test and integrate Recipient Validation into their email sending, our team is committed to continuing our research and development to improve our ability to identify email addresses accurately so you can be confident in your sending, instead of relying on outdated and inaccurate checks. We always welcome and super appreciate feedback as it helps to shape and inform our roadmap decisions!

Jump into the SparkPost app (EU) to validate your email address lists now! Dig into the documentation and start validating email addresses in real-time with our real-time API!

Happy New Year!

— Isaac Kim, Group Product Manager


? Special thanks to Sailakshmi Pisupati, Scott McCammon, Nupur Kulkarni, Doug Remsberg, Matt Gray, Ian Scherer, Nathan Durant, Chris Iwaskiw, George? Schlossnagle, Nick Lemmon, Lynn Murphy, Aubrey Altmann, Paul Koprowski, Aaron Sunhao Shen, Jason Soni, Angelica Garcia and to everyone at SparkPost involved in making this next iteration of Recipient Validation so awesome!

The post A New Year! A New Recipient Validation! appeared first on SparkPost.

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3 Reasons Why Deliverability Monitoring Matters Wed, 22 Jan 2020 14:00:39 +0000 deliverability monitoringCustomer Success Manager, Sarah Parrino, explains 3 major reasons deliverability monitoring should matter to you and your company.

The post 3 Reasons Why Deliverability Monitoring Matters appeared first on SparkPost.


Deliverability. It’s the seven-syllable word that can either excite or intimidate you.

Even with the rise of social media, email continues to be the most ubiquitous medium for marketers today. And what’s not to love about it? Email is easy to set up, used globally, and it has a great return on investment (if done right).

Although email’s importance seems everlasting, its ability to reach a customer’s inbox isn’t guaranteed. ?On average, a staggering 20% of all permission-based emails never make it to the inbox. Instead, these messages land in the spam folder, which hurts both your reputation and the revenue you could be generating via email.

Are your campaigns part of that statistic?

If you don’t know the answer, then you may be someone that finds deliverability intimidating. And that’s okay. Perhaps you’re a marketer, or an IT professional, or an expert basket weaver, and deliverability monitoring may not part of your everyday life. However, if you (or your company) sends email, deliverability should matter to you. Here’s why:

?1. You can see how strong your customer connections are.?Deliverability monitoring goes beyond reporting on the inbox and spam folder. Depending on the provider’s platform, you can also monitor engagement rates (whether someone is reading or deleting) and inactive rates (if a previously-engaged subscriber is no longer opening your messages).

Since deliverability is strongly based on subscriber engagement, these metrics are essential for higher inbox placement.

A low average read rate paired with a high inactive rate puts your email messaging at high risk for the spam folder. If there was a Goldilocks inactive rate, it would hover around 40%. Do you know your inactive rate and how it’s changed over time?

Screenshot from our Inbox Tracker platform. This dashboard uses a monthly aggregate to show you how your inactive rate is trending.

An independent view of these engagement rates allows you to take action to address any problem areas that could be hurting your overall deliverability. If lower engagement rates are a problem for you, look into solutions such as list pruning, segmentation and personalization within your campaigns. For more, check out my last blog post on how to boost your engagement rates?here.

2. It tells you what is or isn’t working.?Let’s say your marketing team spent hours developing a new campaign: The subject line is enticing, the graphics are eye-catching, and the deals are unbeatable. And yet, when you finally press “Send”, the campaign’s inboxing looks something like this:

Less than half of your audience saw this email in their inbox. Although this (luckily) is a hypothetical scenario, these situations happen?all the time?in the email world. As unfortunate as this scenario may be, the good news is that proactive deliverability monitoring can help prevent these problems from reoccurring.

As stated earlier, deliverability monitoring goes beyond inbox placement. On the surface, the email itself may look fine, but spam placement may be indicative of a deeper issue. For example, did you know some ISPs will examine certain words in your subject line to determine whether it’s spammy or not? Other template issues include not having a working unsubscribe link, the HTML email size exceeding 102 KB, or using a higher ratio of images to text.

Luckily, this is where pre-deployment software comes into play. Our Design Tracker platform, powered by Litmus, lets you preview your template before sending:

Preview your campaign through all the different email clients to make sure it’s completely optimized.

You can use the Spam Score tab to see specific campaign components of your message that could hurt your chances of landing in the inbox.

3. You may discover issues beyond your immediate control.?Continuing with the above scenario, perhaps you’ve tackled all your campaign’s content issues. You fixed the broken links, removed the word “free” from the subject line and cleaned up your list. Now all your spam problems will go away, right?

Unfortunately, some cases aren’t that easy.

Depending on your configuration, there may be underlying set-up related issues that are unfavorable from an ISP’s point-of-view. And this information is not easily accessible on your own. So you can either ignore the problem(s), hire a deliverability expert (they are expensive and hard to find), or you can invest in deliverability monitoring software that will alert you on these hidden problems.

For example, built into Inbox Tracker is an on-demand deliverability audit called Reputation Advisor. Each time you load the page, it performs over 100 checks on your configuration, IP reputation, and authentication, and addresses any set-up-related items that may be hurting your deliverability.

Say you are regularly being spoofed (a sender is using your domain pretending to be you). You can see these instances from our Inbox Tracker Dashboard:

Spoofing is usually a sign that you are missing a crucial DNS authentication record that legitimizes your domain to the ISP, such as a DMARC record:

From there, you can use our in-house DMARC Policy Manager to create the record. Using the provided record will also grant you access to our DMARC Dashboard, which allows you to monitor potential threats to prevent further spoofing incidents.

Use the DMARC Policy manager to easily set up your DMARC record.

Once your record is?published, easily?monitor threats to ensure no unauthorized users are attempting to send mail from your domain.

Publishing this record is one small step you can take to ensure your messages land in the inbox. Without a deliverability monitoring platform, you may never know about outsider attacks or lack of authentication within your email infrastructure.

To conclude, deliverability monitoring is multi-faceted and will benefit anyone who sends email. Knowing engagement rates, what is or isn’t working, and discovering underlying set-up-related issues will ensure the effectiveness of your email marketing efforts. If you would like additional information on the products mentioned in this article, contact us!


The post 3 Reasons Why Deliverability Monitoring Matters appeared first on SparkPost.

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[Webinar] Decoding Emerging Elements for Email Marketers in 2020 Fri, 17 Jan 2020 14:00:31 +0000 emerging elementsJoin Jennifer Cannon, Senior Editor at MarTech Today, and April Mullen, Director of Strategic Insights for a chat on emerging elements for email marketers.

The post [Webinar] Decoding Emerging Elements for Email Marketers in 2020 appeared first on SparkPost.


It takes a great deal of optimization and deliverability smarts to reach subscribers in the inbox, yet, so many senders are still in the dark on what to do. It’s not a surprise given that inbox provider algorithms are getting more complex, data regulations are increasing and subscribers are more distracted than ever, even if your emails make it to the inbox.?

What’s an email marketer to do to navigate this challenging climate? Our friends at MarTech Today created a useful resource called the Periodic Table of Email Optimization and Deliverability. It’s a comprehensive email resource to guide you on how to reach your subscribers in meaningful ways through implementing better deliverability and optimization techniques.?

Want to see this exciting resource in more detail and learn about how you can up your email game in 2020 when it comes to optimization and putting emerging trends to work?? Explore the email periodic chart and its “elements” with its architect, Jennifer Cannon, Senior Editor at MarTech Today, and me, April Mullen, Director of Strategic Insights at SparkPost and co-founder of Women of Email during this exciting webinar happening on January 23, 2020 at 1:00 pm EST.

April and Jennifer will be taking a look at some of the emerging elements and trends that brands and email marketers need to embrace in 2020, including:

  • What you need to know about BIMI (Brand Indicators for Messaging Identification)
  • Artificial Intelligence vs Machine Learning for email marketers
  • How Voice Assistants will play into how email marketers develop emails this year
  • Compliance — what you need to know about GDPR, CCPA and maintaining a compliant data set
  • The impact of AMP for Email on brands’ email marketing efforts

Want to attend this webinar where April and Jen will be droppin’ some serious email knowledge? You can register here.

~ April

The post [Webinar] Decoding Emerging Elements for Email Marketers in 2020 appeared first on SparkPost.

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[Webinar] Email Resolutions for 2020 and the Year Ahead Wed, 15 Jan 2020 14:00:14 +0000 email resolutionsJoin SparkPost's April Mullen and Iterable's Jen Capstraw for a webinar on email resolutions to keep and marketing trends to ditch in 2020.

The post [Webinar] Email Resolutions for 2020 and the Year Ahead appeared first on SparkPost.


It’s that time of year again, Marketers! The extreme planning and resolution setting for 2020 is in full swing. While it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of a new year with big goals and lots of plans, it’s also easy to suddenly feel overwhelmed and afraid that you won’t be able to accomplish everything that you set out to do. Additionally, depending on your team’s resources, it may not even be possible to implement every idea on your list without sprouting a whole crop of gray hairs! So, what’s an overly ambitious marketer to do? How do you prioritize all of the cool trends in email that need to get implemented yesterday?? I’m glad you asked!

On January 22nd, two of our favorite email experts (and Women of Email Co-Founders!) will be coming to you live to discuss email and marketing trends to try (and trends to ditch) in 2020. April Mullen, Director of Strategic Insights at SparkPost, alongside Jen Capstraw, Director of Strategic Insights and Evangelism at Iterable, will be hosting a fun and interactive session on all things email.

They’ll cover:

  • The trends of the last decade that are driving email marketing forward
  • An easy-to-follow calendar with monthly milestones to keep your resolution efforts on track
  • The email innovations that will really drive results and the ones you should leave behind

They’ll also answer your questions in real-time, so bring some tough ones! If you’re excited for the new marketing challenges 2020 will bring, and are looking for additional motivation, inspiration and a few recommendations to completely crush it this year, don’t miss this talk.

You can watch the replay of the webinar here.


~ Jen

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New On-Premises Releases: Beginning the Decade on a High Note Mon, 13 Jan 2020 14:00:42 +0000 Technical Product Manager, Harold Vass, dives into the details of our newest on-premises releases for both PowerMTA and Momentum.

The post New On-Premises Releases: Beginning the Decade on a High Note appeared first on SparkPost.


The new year is here!??


PowerMTA launched two new versions in Q4 2019. A version for our newest product release 5.0 as well as our legacy product 4.5. We had a fantastic time meeting with our customers at the PowerMTA Summit in Amsterdam back in September and were even able to include a few feature requests we received into these releases. A special shout out to Tamara Bond at DotDigital for the top feature request in the 5.0r2 release! We appreciate your support and feedback to help make the product something you love to use.?

Here are a few of the 5.0r2 features we released at the end of the year, for a full changelog visit the PowerMTA download site or get in touch with us!?

  • Added a per-queue “retry-after-dns-error” directive that can be used to specify a different and shorter retry time for a queue when DNS resolution fails since it likely does not need to wait long to try again;
  • Improved our opportunistic DANE feature that launched with PMTA 5.0;
  • Added the ability to configure send and receive timeouts for connections in.NET submissions API; and
  • Upgraded to OpenSSL 1.1.1, adding support for TLSv1.3.

One more thing for PowerMTA’s newest major version. I partnered up with Scott Habicht – Senior Director of Support and expert all things PowerMTA to create a new type of resource for PowerMTA. This knowledge base article is a great place to start learning about how the features in 5.0 can help you get the most out of your sending program whether you’re a seasoned sending vet or a PowerMTA newbie. Did I mention it has gifs? Because it has gifs. They’re educational and informative as opposed to the ones in this blog; which are purely for your enjoyment.

We also just released PowerMTA 4.5r20! Although the upgrade from 4.5 to 5.0 is ridiculously easy (you should do it and if you’re current on your Support it’s included!) we totally understand that you’re busy and a major version upgrade might need to hold off a bit longer.? Because of that, we still want to deliver some features we think you’ll find incredibly valuable as well as some bug fixes we’ll leave for the changelog.?

For 4.5r20 we have two heavy hitters and a handful of improvements and fixes we’ll leave to the changelog. The big ones include:

  • Adding support for HAProxy protocol version 1 for outbound traffic from PowerMTA to make setting up a more resilient network easier when you have multiple PowerMTA instances; and
  • Adding the ability to specify custom message IDs for Signals events using an X-header; this feature can be used to support reporting of engagement tracking events in Sparkpost Signals.

You may be asking yourself, what is SparkPost Signals. Oh, just the world’s most awesome and powerful email analytics and optimization suite powered by a company that sends over 37% of the world’s B2C email – NBD. One of the really awesome things about this product is that it can work with your on-premises instances of PowerMTA. Steve Tuck, SparkPost Senior Solutions Engineer did an awesome write up about using Signals with PowerMTA here late last year.?


We also just launched a new version of Momentum – version 4.3.1. This is Momentum’s first release since March of 2019 and contains a bundle of features and fixes. Since our Momentum community is so widely varied in their use and application of the product, I’ll briefly touch on a couple items that (I believe) are universally applicable and would refer you to the release notes for everything else.?

  • Updated the libssh2, HTTP/2, Cyren, and CSAPI to resolve vulnerabilities and improve performance. ??; and
  • Added the TLS status of messages and AMP labels to the Events field to help you analyze your streams.

Keep an eye out early this year as we overhaul the entirety of the Momentum support documentation into an easier, more searchable, and more teachable(!) format right here on the SparkPost website.

Signals for On-Prem Bonus! Steve Tuck, in his infinite awesomeness also did an entire article on Momentum Signals for On-Prem. The article does a great job walking you through the (simple) process of getting your on-prem instance of Momentum ready to play nice with our cloud analytics platform – Signals!


A huge, massive, colossal thank you to everyone that has made SparkPost On-Prem land a delight to be a part of including Tom Mairs, Joal Barbehenn, Gene Marshburn, Bridey Medeiros, Scott Habicht, Steve Tuck, Avinash Kulkarni, and the PMTA team, Julie and the SMTP Delivery team, and so many more here at SparkPost plus all of our users and friends that have provided powerful insight and recommendations that we use every day to make these products better. We’re looking forward to another year of learning and growing with you. Happy Sending…?

~ Harold


The post New On-Premises Releases: Beginning the Decade on a High Note appeared first on SparkPost.

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Decision 2020: Email from the Presidential Contenders – January Update Thu, 09 Jan 2020 14:00:40 +0000 presidential contendersManager of Research Analytics, John Landsman, analyzes the email activity and performance of the top eight polling 2020 presidential contenders.

The post Decision 2020: Email from the Presidential Contenders – January Update appeared first on SparkPost.


Four months ago, when we last talked about the email campaigns we were tracking from the Democratic Presidential hopefuls, they were a crowd of at least twenty-two.? The winnowing that’s taken place since then —ten official dropouts — leaves us with fourteen, including the more recently launched campaigns of Mike Bloomberg and Deval Patrick. Among the more prominent dropouts from that earlier crowd were Kamala Harris and Beto O’Rourke.????

In the table below, we analyze the email audiences and recent thirty-day activity and performance of the eight top polling contenders whose campaigns survive.? Q4 fund raising is also included for each. President Trump’s activity is also included as comparison, because he continues to mail actively to his base. The Democratic candidates are listed in order of their current polling numbers, which may have changed somewhat by the time you read this piece.

As we’ve reported previously, the largest email audiences among the Democrats are in general owned by the strongest polling candidates.? Biden and Sanders show the largest audiences; Bloomberg the smallest. Trends over the past four months are a mixed bag. Biden’s polling eroded somewhat, as did his audience.? Sanders’ audience also eroded, but his polling increased by three points. Warren’s audience grew, but her polling eroded. Buttigieg grew both is polling and his audience. Bloomberg wasn’t in the race four months ago, and his $30 million self-funded advertising campaign seems to have quickly bought him a 6% polling position.? Yet, he has barely any email audience or activity. Yang is also new to this “top eight” group from last August, but does have an active email program, though it’s not one of this group’s top performers. He was also a respectable Q4 fund raiser.??

Sanders and Warren deployed the largest number of campaigns among the Democrats, and the largest number of emails.? Klobuchar and Booker are on the low end for both deployed campaigns and emails sent. Inbox performance is spotty for all of these Democratic candidates.? We consider at least 90% the minimum standard for acceptable inbox performance; yet none of these Democratic campaigns exceeds 80%, with most considerably weaker than that.? Klobuchar’s are only 58%, and Buttigieg has the worst inbox performance of them all: only 49% of his emails are reaching his supporters’ inboxes, which means that he has a 51% spam rate.? Part of Buttigieg’s inbox problem is that he is over-mailing. His email audience may— each — be receiving up to four messages per day.? That’s overkill, and it’s clearly creating spam issues.

But as we know, politicians are not bound by the strictures of CAN-SPAM regulations, and most tend to have sloppy list acquisition and send practices that result in inbox challenges.?

Buttigieg’s inbox issues are especially ironic since he owns one of the higher read rates in this group, and the second highest Q4 fund raising total, behind Sanders.? It’s interesting to think of how much better Buttigieg might be doing with less of his email going to spam.??

Biden and Warren were the other top Q4 fund raisers in this group

Trump continues to show a much larger email footprint than any of the Democratic candidates, while deploying a midrange number of campaigns, and the second largest (behind Warren) number of actual emails.? He’s been using the impeachment battle as the basis for intense fund raising to support his anti-impeachment messaging and reelection campaign. While his inbox performance reflects cleaner practices than his days as a serial spammer during the 2016 campaign, his current inbox rate leaves much room for improvement.? Trump’s read rates are on the high end of the range shown for this period. And he outraised his nearest Democratic opponent by more than 30% in Q4.??

???(*) Source:? Real Clear Politics Survey Composite as of dates shown

??(#) Source: CBS News

The table below shows the strongest overlaps between the candidates’ email audiences, revealing the degree to which individual candidates may truly be competing in the eyes of voters who favor them.? So, for example, Biden has two strong overlaps: 12% of his audience is also receiving email from Warren, and 12% are receiving Buttigieg’s email. Buttigieg’s audience has significant overlaps with five other candidates, most strongly with Biden, Sanders and Warren.? Bloomberg’s email program is as yet too new and too small to have any overlaps. Overlap relationships also provide insight into where certain candidates’ supporters may end up if/when their favorite contender drops out of the race.?

?(*) Reads:? 12% of Biden’s email audience is also receiving email from Warren; 12% from Buttigieg..25% of Sanders’ email audience is also receiving email from Biden; 22% from Warren, etc.

Related subject lines tend to reflect how we’re already likely to perceive the candidates themselves.? Here are some of the high performers from the top four candidates.

  • Biden:
    • “Donald Trump is a coward.”? (35% read rate)
    • “Ted Cruz is lying about Joe Biden.” (33%)
  • Sanders (note the unusual length of his subject lines):
    • Can you take our short survey and tell Bernie what your top priorities are for his administration when he’s inaugurated and we are in the White House?” (47%)
    • Can you chip in $2.70? There’s a debate in two days. Our final quarterly FEC deadline before Iowa is in two weeks. If we want to win, we need to step up again?”? (41%)
  • Warren:??
    • Will you join our Persistence Training in [location]? (33%)
    • “I’m tired of freeloading billionaires.” (33%)
  • Buttigieg:
    • “[REDACTED] here are your talking points on climate change” (47%)
    • “The attacks on Pete last night” (35%)

Subject lines can have many areas of focus (e.g., policy issues, volunteer recruitment, local visit announcements, survey requests).? Some may even say, “Not asking for money,” but in truth the call to action in virtually all of these messages is about money.? Thus is it ever.

And so the beat goes on. ? For better or worse, we’ve got eleven more months of this drama.? The Iowa Caucuses are on February 3rd; the New Hampshire Primary on February 11th.? Let’s see where we are after that.

~ John

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3 Ways to Make Your Email Program More Gender-Inclusive Tue, 07 Jan 2020 14:00:47 +0000 Email Program More Gender-InclusiveSocial Media Manager, Erica Weiss, goes over best practices you can implement to make your email program more gender-inclusive.

The post 3 Ways to Make Your Email Program More Gender-Inclusive appeared first on SparkPost.


Over the past few years, we’ve been fortunate enough to witness and be part of a shift in the hegemonic understanding of gender. For fear of over-simplifying, I won’t even try to list the socio-political pressures that have lead us to this important cultural moment. Rather, I’ll focus on the actionable steps we can take to address gender inclusivity through our email programs.?

While we certainly can’t ignore that diversity and inclusion are good for business, my aim in this blog post is to stray away from your company’s bottom line and instead focus on you. How can you make meaningful changes to your email program that reflect the importance of gender inclusivity and connect with all of your customers? How can you use your powerful platform as a marketer to represent more types of people in your email marketing programs?

Here are some easy ways to get started:

Use gender-neutral pronouns

Language is obviously an incredibly powerful tool that we as marketers (and human beings) have at our disposal. However, as we all know, language is incredibly fickle– words and phrases that may have been widely accepted even 5 years ago may no longer work in today’s world. And, even trickier, words can take on new meanings altogether. They is a perfect example of this and is in large part why Merriam-Webster named it their 2019 Word of The Year. According to the dictionary publisher, lookups for they increase by 313% over the previous year.?

Accordingly, one of the most simple ways to make your emails more gender inclusive? Ditch gendered pronouns like he and she and use the gender-neutral they instead. Using they instead of he and she allows you to be more inclusive of those whose gender identity is non-binary. This easy change will allow you to include a group of people who up until recently were not represented in English pronouns.

Segment based on behavior rather than gendered assumptions

In their study, the American Psychological Association found that a person’s gender has little to no bearing on their personality. More than that, a study found that 81% of Generation Z believes that gender doesn’t define people as much as it used to. With such staggering findings surrounding gender, it’s time that marketers stop making assumptions about their customers purely based on gender.?

When segmenting audiences, avoid grouping customers based solely on gender. As evidenced by the aforementioned research, many people have interests that don’t conform to “traditional” gender roles. Rather than using gender as a criteria for segmentation, focus more on customers’ behavior like their tendency to open your emails. This sort of analysis will allow you to target more nuanced personas rather than just those of the staunchly blue or pink variety.

Add more gender options to your email sign-up process

Sign-up is a great time to collect important personalization data about your customers. Beyond asking users what their email is and what types of messages they’d like to receive ask for their gender pronouns. This will allow you to not only learn more about who is engaging with your email programs but will allow you to personalize when necessary. For instance, if a customer writes in with a question, it’s important to have this information so your support team can address the customer in the most respectful way possible. In order to be sensitive to and understanding of your customers’ needs, sometimes all you need to do is just ask!

I encourage you to employ these 3 tips when structuring your email marketing program. Small adjustments like these can mean a lot to an individual customer. And, while at the end of the day our goal as marketers is ultimately to sell, I believe we can do so responsibly by understanding, representing, and even empowering customers through the language and marketing strategies we choose.

~ Erica

P.S. Do you have more strategies for creating gender-inclusive emails? I’d love to hear them! Drop me a line on LinkedIn.

The post 3 Ways to Make Your Email Program More Gender-Inclusive appeared first on SparkPost.

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[Video] Experiments in Email Fri, 03 Jan 2020 14:00:45 +0000 Experiments in EmailInterested in hearing all of the amazing insights our OptIn'19 panelists had to offer? Watch the instant replay of the Experiments in Email panel today!

The post [Video] Experiments in Email appeared first on SparkPost.


Email marketing experiments can deliver big results. Dynamic content, layout, design, timing, and frequency tests can all help invigorate your email marketing efforts. But, do you know what you should be testing? Are you testing correctly? And, even if you do get accurate results are they significant enough to justify making major changes to your email strategy? At OptIn’19 we gathered experts from Holistic Email, EveryAction, and eDataSource to answer these very questions. Here are a few of the insights they touched on:

CEO & Founder of Holistic Email, Kath Pay, spoke largely about the lack of training surrounding email testing. She said that because very few email marketers have been formally taught how to test, most don’t do as great of a job as they could be. Many email marketers are fixated on testing subject lines and CTAs rather than looking at the bigger picture:? what motivates the customer? If the variables you’re testing don’t align with your customers’ goals, the results of your test won’t be very significant.

President at ActionKit, Patrick Kane, talked about his experience using email testing to increase contributions to his clients’ political campaigns. Kane mentioned that ActionKit had a client who had tested placing a CTA in the upper right hand corner about 10 years ago and had seen great results. Accordingly, many other similar organizations adopted this same convention without testing it themselves. ActionKit re-ran the experiment more recently and found that this design choice actually caused negative conversions on mobile devices, thus proving the importance of understanding testing as an iterative process requiring marketers to retest over-and-over again.

Similarly to Pay, CEO of eDataSource, G.B. Heidarsson, focused on how many email marketers don’t actually know what they’re testing for. For instance, he’s seen that many marketers test creative based on subject lines, which begs the question: if a customer has to open an email to see the creative, how can the design of the email affect open rates? Moreover, he talked about how open rates are not necessarily an indicator of success. If customers are opening your emails but not converting this could lead to major problems down the road.

Interested in hearing all of the amazing insights on experiments in email our panelists had to offer? Watch the instant replay of this panel today!

~ Erica

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Cloud and On-Premises: Building a Hybrid Email Solution Mon, 30 Dec 2019 14:00:43 +0000 email solutionDirector of Customer Success, Tom Mairs, explains why you should consider leveraging a hybrid SaaS Cloud and On-Premises email solution.

The post Cloud and On-Premises: Building a Hybrid Email Solution appeared first on SparkPost.



Momentum and PowerMTA have been the two fastest, most effective on-premises MTA solutions in the industry for the past two decades. In 2014, we introduced the SparkPost Cloud delivery engine to that suite and made the power of those high volume on-premises MTAs available to the SaaS Cloud market. Empowering our customers to build on a cloud solution backed by the world’s fastest on-premises solutions was a revolution in the industry, but it also introduced a rarely discussed side benefit which is the ability to leverage our platforms as a hybrid.

When we talk to our customers about hybrid solutions, that really can take three different forms and we will discuss those in detail below. In general, what we mean is that you can deploy one of our on-premises solutions (Momentum or PowerMTA) to your own data centers and also use the SparkPost Cloud SaaS solution together in some fashion.

Diversifying Mail Streams

The SparkPost cloud can operate as an extension to your existing on-premises deployment.? In many cases, you can take advantage of the fact that we have a highly scalable infrastructure or specialty services that are not available in your own data center. For instance, we have a proven ability to deliver effectively into China, one of the most difficult delivery regions in the world. Routing your China-bound traffic through SparkPost could be the solution you are looking for while keeping your domestic traffic in your local data center. Another use case is to separate your time-sensitive notification messages off to SparkPost for delivery while your less time-sensitive messaging is still delivered from your data center.

To make this work, your on-premises configuration should use SparkPost as a “smart host” for specific mail streams. In Momentum you can use a gateway configuration in a binding stanza. In PowerMTA you can use a queue-to directive in a domain stanza.

In either case, only select message streams are relayed to SparkPost for onward delivery.

Maximizing Deliverability

Another use case is to use Momentum or PowerMTA to do all the pre-conditioning, and customization of the message in your data center, then forward ALL the mail to SparkPost for onward delivery.? This can help you reduce your data center footprint and Enterprise customers can take advantage of Technical Account Managers, Deliverability Professionals, and our highly scalable infrastructure to ensure onward delivery of the message.

The easiest way to do this is to add a global configuration that forwards all mail to SparkPost for delivery.? You can do that in Momentum with a Gateway command and adding the required API Key and TLS security as shown below.? Making the change in PowerMTA is similarly simple.

Disaster Recovery

SparkPost’s distributed architecture can be accessed via API or SMTP. In the event of a disaster, it can serve as a hot-standby or failover to ensure business continuity.? In order to make this work effectively, you will want to split your traffic so that a reasonable amount of volume is shared across both platforms. Ideally, this is configured as a hot-hot solution so there is no concern about IP warmup.

If you follow the instructions below to configure the systems, You can select specific mail streams, or portions of them to route through one or the other platform.? You can then trigger the failover in a number of different ways depending on your injection processes. For instance, active load balancing with an external device can route messages only to the systems that are responding. If the hardware data center fails, all traffic natively routes to SparkPost and vice versa.??

You may also want to control that programmatically for times when you want to perform data center maintenance and route all messages through SparkPost during that downtime.

The Nitty Gritty Details

Momentum Configuration

SparkPost requires SMTP injection using TLS and SMTP_Auth.? Momentum has the ability to do both with configuration. You can route all traffic with a static GATEWAY directive or you can route programmatically with Lua.

Configure a binding stanza with a GATEWAY pointing to SparkPost.? Aside from making SparkPost a smarthost, you can also set the TLS configuration here.

Binding PushToSparkPost {
??Gateway = ""
????TLS = "required"
????TLS_Certificate = "/etc/pki/tls/certs/"
????TLS_Key = "/etc/pki/tls/certs/"
????TLS_Ciphers = "DEFAULT"

Configure a domain stanza with the target port (587 or 2525) and the required SMTP_Auth information.? You can copy and paste all of this and just replace the SMTP_AUTH_pass value with the API key from your own SparkPost account.

?Domain "" {
??Remote_SMTP_Port = "587"
??Outbound_SMTP_AUTH_Type = "LOGIN"
??Outbound_SMTP_AUTH_user = "SMTP_Injection"
??Outbound_SMTP_AUTH_pass = "13d5a82redacted6f16redacted4ca"

In Lua, you can use an X-Header to route to the binding above and the rest is automatic.

local bindingname = msg:header("X-Binding")
local err = msg:binding(bindingname[1]);

Now when you inject a message to Momentum with X-Binding: PushToSparkPost, the message will automatically be routed to SparkPost for onward delivery to the recipient.

That is all that’s needed to make a static route.

?You can optionally let Lua selectively route based on the sending domain or target domain or other factors.? In the sample below, I assign different bindings based on the recipient domain. If the recipient is at a Yahoo address, it will deliver with SparkPost, otherwise, it will deliver with Momentum.

-[[ Sample to selectively route to SparkPost Cloud ]]--

local mod = {};
--[[ Modify these as necessary ]]--
local sproutedomains = { "", "" }
--[[ Set Binding function ]]--
function mod:validate_set_binding(msg)
  local domain_str = msys.core.string_new();
  local localpart_str = msys.core.string_new();
  msg:get_evelope2(msys.core.EC_MSG_ENV_TO, localpart_str, domain_str);
  local mydomain = tostring(domain_str);
  local mylocalpart = tostring(localpart_str);
  local validdomain = "false"
  local bindingname = msg:header("X-Binding")
-- Test to see if the TO domain is in the routing list
  for i,v in ipairs(sproutedomains) do
    if v == mydomain then
    --  print ("Routing to a valid domain: " .. mydomain);
      validdomain = "true"
 This conditional assumes you have bindings configured so that 
 a binding named something_sp will route messages to SparkPost for delivery and a binding named something will route messages via Momentum for delivery
  if (( bindingname[1] ~= "" ) and (bindingname[1] ~= nil ))  then
    if validdomain == "true" then
     -- Append "_sp" to the name
      local err  msg:binding(bindingname[1] .. "_sp");     else
      local err = msg:binding(bindingname[1]);
    local err = msg:binding("catch-all");
  return msys.core.VALIDATE_CONT;

msys.registerModule("policy", mod);

PowerMTA Configuration

If you are using the PowerMTA platform, you can configure it in a similar way.? Though TLS is not absolutely required, SparkPost does recommend using TLS with SMTP_Auth, so you should make those configuration changes as described in the PMTA User Guide in section 10.4.3 Implementation for Outbound Connections. There is also a more comprehensive description in this knowledgebase article:

First, you need to configure a domain directive to specifically use SMTP_Auth with TLS.? As with the Momentum configuration above, the password is the API key from your SparkPost account.

<domain sparkpost.rollup>
 use-unencrypted-plain-auth yes
 auth-username SMTP_Injection
 auth-password xxxYourSparkPostAPIKeyGoesHerexxx
 use-starttls yes
 require-starttls yes
 max-smtp-out 10

Now you can route ALL mail to SparkPost with a wildcard domain directive

<virtual-mta SparkPostRelay>
  <domain *>
    queue-to sparkpost.rollup

Or you can selectively route mail streams using a pattern-list directive

<pattern-list domainsRelayedToSparkPost>
    mail-from / virtual-mta=SparkPostRelay

Bringing it all together

Being able to leverage both SaaS Cloud and On-Premises software in a coordinated Hybrid approach gives you the most flexibility and highest resiliency.? If you want to know more about enabling a hybrid in your environment, let us know.

~ Tom

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5 Steps for Communicating Bad News to Customers Fri, 27 Dec 2019 14:00:20 +0000 communicating bad news to customersRead up on 5 steps you should follow when communicating bad news to customers, along with some real-world examples of effective apology emails.

The post 5 Steps for Communicating Bad News to Customers appeared first on SparkPost.


Everyone makes mistakes. Your customers know that.

How you handle those mistakes, though, determines whether your customers click that unsubscribe link. Don’t ignore the error – 51% of people won’t do business with a company again after a single bad experience. But don’t labor over it either – one study found that extended apologies actually tend to backfire.

Here are 5 steps you should follow in such a situation, along with some real-world examples of effective apology emails.

1. Determine the severity of the problem

Did you misuse a possessive or misplace a comma? Don’t sweat it, and don’t worry about sending an apology either.

On the other hand: Did you accidentally send an email template? An offer that’s already expired?

Did you send an email to the wrong customer segment? Did a popular item go out of stock? ??Did you suffer a data breach?

Your problem likely lies somewhere along that spectrum, from “mistake that probably irritated some people” to “this is a major issue and we need to go into crisis mode now.” Figure that out and then decide what course of action you should take.

2. See if there’s anything you can do without sending another email

You may be able to correct the error and mitigate most of the damage by updating image files, fixing redirect links, or simply changing landing page copy. If that’s the case, then you probably don’t need to send a follow-up email. Most people aren’t excited to receive yet another email, so skip the apology if you can.

3. If you need to send a follow-up, figure out what tone you should take

In the case of an errant email template, or an expired offer, you could simply resend the message with a revised subject line and a brief note at the top of the body. Don’t get into an extended explanation of what went wrong – just offer a sentence or two. In the case of something like an expired offer, extend the deadline or give them a new deal to make up for the mistake.

If the faux pas was more serious than that, though, you’ll want to send a follow-up email. You may also want to alert your customer service folks, social media team, PR department, and anyone else who could have to deal with the fallout from the problem.

Here are 3 companies that appropriately handled this kind of email:

Framebridge: “We think you’re pretty awesome”

Someone at Framebridge was diligent about managing their email list, which is crucial for any company that wants to maintain a strong sender reputation. Unfortunately, they sent their “Do you still want to get email from us?” message to the wrong group of people. Oops.

Luckily, this was the kind of “What a silly thing we did” error that allowed the marketing team to have some fun with their follow-up message. They kept it brief but pleasurable, even going so far as to quip: “It goes without saying, but we think you’re pretty awesome and we’re honored to frame the amazing items from your life.”??Note that they didn’t try to slip in a promotional message since that wouldn’t have gone over well, and they closed with an invitation to send them some feedback, which was a nice touch. After all, they goofed, so why not take a moment to let customers voice their opinions?

Barnes & Noble: Sorry this sold out, but here’s a gift card

Barnes & Noble’s new Nook Glowlight Plus eReader turned out to be so popular that it quickly sold out. That was good for the company, but irritating for customers who wanted one and missed the boat.

Rather than just email the people who placed orders that couldn’t be filled, B&N messaged all of (or a large chunk of) their list. It was a smart way to get in front of the situation while scoring some goodwill with an offer to receive a $10 gift card with a purchase of the device when it’s back in stock.

The “Notify Me” CTA button made sense here, since customers who want one will appreciate the chance to be alerted when it’s back in stock.

SPARK: We have some bad news…

In January 2019, SPARK, an organization devoted to autism research, suffered one of the worst things that can happen to any business: a data breach. Unfortunately, they weren’t aware of it until several days after it happened, and then they needed a few more days to assess the damage. They decided to send two emails, one to all their customers and another to people whose personal data may have been accessed.

They handled the mass email, as well as any organization, can in such a situation. They laid out the details in an FAQ format, making sure to put key information in a bold font and closing with an invitation to email them with any questions or concerns.

Some marketers might quibble with their decision to apologize at the end, rather than at the beginning, but they clearly thought it made sense to get the bad news out of the way before saying how sorry they were about what happened. At a time like this, people often want to get the bad news upfront, rather than scan through an apology to find information about the incident.

4. Watch your metrics after sending the email

As with any message, you’ll want to check, among other things, your:

? Open rates
? Click-through rates (if applicable – avoid CTA buttons unless they’re warranted)
? Unsubscribe rates (yes, even an apology email needs an unsubscribe link)
? Bounce rates (always apply good list management practices)
? Spam complaints (those shouldn’t be an issue, but it’s good to keep an eye on them)

You’ll likely notice a higher-than-usual open rate, but that doesn’t mean you should adopt a pseudo apologetic tone in future emails to increase your metrics. For example, saying “We’re sorry…” in a subject line might get more people to open your email, but if the body header says “For the discounts we’re offering,” you’ll likely see a higher unsubscribe rate and other long-term ill effects. Most people don’t like feeling tricked.

5. Create a plan for next time, if you don’t have one already

You likely won’t make the same mistake twice, but there’s a decent chance another type of error will pop up in the future, or something beyond your control will affect your customers. You should have an action plan in place for such a possibility, along with templates for the different types of apologies you’ll want to send, from “Forgive our silly goof” to “We sincerely apologize for this bad situation.”

You may also want to keep in mind some words of wisdom from Chad S. White at Litmus, who said in a blog post: “Yes, email marketing mistakes aren’t great, but not making any could be a sign of much bigger structural problems with your email program and within your company.”

He said that because, according to Litmus’ 2018 State of Email Survey, over 50% of brands didn’t send an apology email for an email marketing error during the previous 12 months. While some might see that as a good sign, he viewed it as a likely possibility that mistakes were happening and not being addressed.

Don’t be one of those companies.

~ Casey

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Performance Email Marketing Tips for 2020 Mon, 23 Dec 2019 14:00:23 +0000 Performance Email Marketing TipsProduct Marketing Lead, Angélica Garcia, explains three performance email marketing tips marketers shouldn't sleep on in 2020.

The post Performance Email Marketing Tips for 2020 appeared first on SparkPost.


Lately, it can feel like performance marketing is under attack. With continually updating algorithms, lack of clarity in governance, and more twisted content making its way through our streams, it is becoming increasingly difficult to not just to cut through the noise but filter through what’s relevant and not and engage in meaningful ways. The bottom line, in 2020, you can’t afford to put email performance on the back burner.?

Powerful AIs. The world of performance marketing is programmatic, and it’s more important than ever to dig into data and identify what works for your business to achieve success in these shifting landscapes and to get your message to the right person at the right time.

Predictive Insights are going to be your BFF. Know the difference between actionable predictive insights and historical data reporting. Not all analytics are created equal, and while we all love graphs and charts, past performance is only one piece of the analytics puzzle. Clear insights that dig beyond surface metrics and gives you a warning if you’re about to hit obstacles that will impact your success, will give your teams the power to course-correct before your business takes a hit.?

Optimize or Get Left Behind. Teams that don’t make it a priority to collect and synthesize data to inform their optimization are going to have a pretty hard time going against competitors using robust predictive algorithms to inform their email optimization and deliver value to their customers. Whether it’s A/B testing, content optimization, or time of send; optimizing your programs for a personalized experience is key to increasing engagement and conversions.?

What does all of this mean? It means that if your teams are going into next year without a real peak under the hood of your email performance, you are going to have a tough time playing catch up. Your competition is already doing these very things and finding the best ways to optimize email to engage and re-engage their customers. Cutting through the noise is essential, but how can you deliver thoughtful, relevant, and personal content to users at the time when they are most likely to engage? Predictive insights will be critical to identifying highly engaged or fatigued users, giving you the information you need to tailor your content and time of delivery to delight and engage your customers.?

~ Angélica

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On-Premises to Cloud Email Migration Guide Fri, 20 Dec 2019 14:00:03 +0000 Email MigrationDirector of Customer Success, Tom Mairs, shares his playbook for migrating from an on-premises installation to SparkPost's cloud platform.

The post On-Premises to Cloud Email Migration Guide appeared first on SparkPost.


So many times, we hear the question, “Do you have a playbook of some kind that lays out the process for migrating from an on-premises installation to SparkPost”?

Why yes, yes we do. Keep reading.

First, some back story. The SparkPost Cloud service was created in 2014 out of the enormous success of the On-Premises Momentum MTA solution. Momentum sits at the core of the SparkPost Cloud, providing high-speed delivery and traffic shaping for thousands of customers on the cloud service. Because of this, Momentum receives a large portion of our engineering attention, but the results of that work are often buried in performance improvements that don’t get a great deal of press.? Momentum customers see the benefits of this work every time a new public release of Momentum is published.

This does NOT mean that SparkPost is just “Momentum in the Cloud”. SparkPost is much more than that and can have added benefits for customers who choose to migrate or use them in a hybrid approach.? In addition, we have made it very easy for PowerMTA customers to migrate or use PowerMTA with SparkPost in a hybrid configuration as well. The rest of this document will describe in detail how you can migrate your message streams from Momentum or PowerMTA to the SparkPost Cloud service.?

There are really two separate scenarios to consider when migrating to SparkPost from Momentum or PowerMTA.?

  1. ?You are ready to leave the on-premises world entirely, shut down your physical data centers and no longer manage any on-premises MTA directly.? This means eliminating Momentum or PowerMTA from your deployment and sending messages directly to SparkPost for message handling.or
  2. You have reason to keep some on-premises footprint for one reason or another.? Some possibilities might be:
  • specific delivery streams that require pre-processing in Momentum
  • capacity splitting for burst or disaster recovery needs
  • supporting legacy customers in PMTA while shifting new customers to SparkPost

?…then you want to forward the other messages on to SparkPost for onward message handling.??

In either situation, you need to be aware that SparkPost will only accept SMTP messages for delivery that are injected over port 587 or 2525 and use SMTP_Auth with a specific username and password (See SMTP docs here). We also highly recommend connecting with a TLS connection, but that is not strictly required. If you are replacing your MTA layer entirely (scenario 1), then you may also want to consider using the Transmissions REST API which can accept messages over HTTPS connections. Documentation on that API is here.

Which option do I choose?

To figure out if you are in option #1 or option #2, consider these factors:

  • Do you use Momentum’s Lua scripting engine for anything more complicated than message routing?
    • Lua is a comprehensive script tool for manipulating messages in-line, but the vast majority of our users only use it to select a binding for delivery.? If that is the case, you can modify your generation code to add an ip_pool attribute to the X-MSYS-API header and have SparkPost assign the route for you.?
    • If you use Lua to do more complicated things like body filtering, Mail_From rewrites, or message cadence calculations, and it’s not feasible to move that logic into your injecting application, you may want to consider switching to the Option #2 camp.
  • Is your generation system able to send messages over port 587 using TLS and SMTP_Auth?
    • Some campaign management systems can only push mail out on port 25 in cleartext. This causes a security problem for SparkPost so you may want to consider Option #2
  • Are you using PowerMTA substitution syntax or other in-line message modification?
    • If you can move this function up into your generators or use the SparkPost Template Language, then you can still use option 1, but otherwise, you may need to think about keeping a PMTA node online for this message modification before shipping to SparkPost for delivery.
  • Do you require any inbound AV/AS scanning before injection? While this is possible in Momentum and PowerMTA, SparkPost assumes you have already performed all those checks.? You may want to consider doing that before injection.

No matter which way you go, it is sure to affect your commercial relationship.? As you can imagine, this is not our first rodeo. Be sure to loop in your Commercial Account Manager and Customer Success Manager so we can help you through the details and make sure you are getting the best value for your dollar.

For Option #1 Camp (Going “cold turkey”):

Let’s assume you are OK with option 1 and you are ready to shut down your on-premises MTAs and you have decided to continue using the SMTP injection method, not changing your message creation systems at all.? Your generation systems should create a fully formatted SMTP message, then push to Sparkpost over TLS using SMTP_AUTH where the username and password are as described on this page. Remember that the “password” is the API key you generate in your SparkPost account with the SMTP delivery option turned on.

If you are in the Option #1 camp, consider switching to the REST API right out of your generation system. In most cases, we find that customers’ processing systems are already using JSON over HTTP and have to convert to SMTP before injection. You can skip that step and send it directly to us as a JSON formatted REST payload.

If you choose to inject with the REST API, you may need to alter your content creation system a bit, but it may be worth it.? You can find out more here.

One of the biggest concerns large ESPs have with a Migration is IP Warming. Typically they have spent many years grooming their inventory of IP addresses with great care so the thought of abandoning all that work is painful. SparkPost has worked out a Bring Your Own IP (BYOIP) process that takes care of that issue. If you have at least one contiguous /24 CIDR block, SparkPost can use those existing IPs for delivery which saves you the pain of having to warm them up again. If you are able to take advantage of that option, you can skip the section here on IP warmup.

If you feel you are ready to go here, skip ahead to “Making it happen

Leveraging Option #2 (on-prem pre-processing):

If, however, you are on team Option #2, then you will want to add some configuration changes to your deployment. The least painful way to migrate some select message streams from Momentum or PMTA to SparkPost while still using SMTP injection from your generation systems is to add a special route in your config.

For Momentum:

  1. Set up a version of Momentum > 3.6.23.?
  2. Install a valid SSL Certificate and open outbound port 587 so Momentum can talk to SparkPost Configure an outbound domain so you can route a message through Momentum to SparkPost.?
  3. With the configuration below, any message hitting this configuration will be routed to using port 587 and SMTP_Auth with the username and password defined there.
    outbound_smtp_auth { }
    Keep_Message_Dicts_In_Memory = true
    Domain "" {
    ? Remote_SMTP_Port = "587"
    ? Outbound_SMTP_AUTH_Type = "LOGIN"
    ? Outbound_SMTP_AUTH_user = "SMTP_Injection"
    ? Outbound_SMTP_AUTH_pass = "17258redacted8bd6cd7a8redacted8c22bce"
  4. Configure the bindings you want to relay through SparkPost with TLS and gateway them to the domain you defined above.

    TLS is not strictly required but is a strong recommendation. If TLS is not possible for some reason, then IP whitelisting the API keys is also a strong recommendation.
    binding “CustomerA-Outbound” {
    ? Gateway = ""
    ? ? TLS = "required"
    ? ? TLS_Certificate = "/etc/pki/tls/certs/"
    ? ? TLS_Key = "/etc/pki/tls/certs/"
    ? ? TLS_Ciphers = "DEFAULT"

For PowerMTA:

  1. Set up a version of PowerMTA > 4.5.0
  2. Install a valid SSL Certificate and open outbound port 587 so PowerMTA can talk to SparkPost.
  3. Configure an outbound domain path so you can route a message through PowerMTA to SparkPost. With the configuration below, any message hitting this configuration will be routed to using port 587 and SMTP_Auth with the username and password defined there.? In PowerMTA, this is also where you can set TLS. Note this is also documented more fully here: in the PowerMTA User Guide starting at section 10.4.3?

<domain sparkpost.rollup>
???use-unencrypted-plain-auth yes
???auth-username SMTP_Injection
???auth-password YourAPIKeygoesherewhenyougenerateit
???use-starttls yes
???require-starttls yes
???max-smtp-out 10

4. Configure the VMTAs you want to relay through Sparkpost with the {sparkpost} rollup config you defined above.

<virtual-mta SparkPostRelay>
????<domain *>
????????queue-to {sparkpost}

Once you have those configuration changes made, any messages sent to the selected “binding” or “VMTA” should be routed automatically through SparkPost for delivery.??

Making it happen

When you start down this road, don’t make the mistake of thinking this is an overnight operation.? Doing this right will take some time and care.??

  1. Setup your SparkPost account and fully test using a development subaccount so you can filter out that traffic later.? You will need to do this for either option because you will need the API key for the SMTP_Auth password either way.
  2. If you are using SMTP injection, plan to add an X-MSYS-API header to incorporate all the metadata and message attributes needed.? Any X-Headers should be re-written as metadata and you should include the ip_pool and campaign attributes as well. A sample is available here:?
  3. If you are NOT using BYOIP, then you should make sure you set up slightly different sending domains for use with SparkPost so that you can run both environments in parallel for as long as it is needed.? If your current sending domain is, maybe set up specifically for SparkPost delivery.? This allows you to migrate slowly and carefully while not compromising either domain.
  4. Make sure you have full domain alignment and security features enabled.? In DNS, set up DKIM, SPF, DMARC, bounce and tracking domains so they all look like they belong to the same organization.
  5. Configure Automatic IP Warmup on your defined IP_Pools.? If you are using the previously mentioned BYOIP option, you can ignore the warmup step.
  6. Start with one message stream and move forward from there.? Just like IP Warmup, you don’t want to do this all at once. Redirect a few hundred messages first, then 10% of the volume, then 20% the following day and increase until you have moved all the volume over. If you are an ESP, select a customer you can work with and test the process with their feedback.? If it all works well, move on to the next one. If you run into problems, take the time to fix it and work it into the process for the next one.
  7. Automate as much as possible with APIs.? Outside of the DNS changes, the SparkPost config can be mostly automated with a few API calls.

Data Collection from SparkPost

SparkPost reports message delivery in a webhooks feed or in the message events API.? Accessing SparkPost plain text logs is just not possible. You can pull this data back to your environment with a webhooks collector or by calling the Events API periodically and consuming the data.? We recommend using webhooks and have some recommendations on doing that right.? In its most basic form, a PHP webhook collector can be deployed in a few? lines of code:

??if ($verb == "POST") {
????$jsonStr = file_get_contents("php://input");
????$rnum = rand(1000,9999);
????$t = date("YmdHis") . $rnum;
????$Jfile = './data/data_'.$t.'.txt';
????if (file_exists($Jfile)) {
???????$fn = basename($Jfile,".txt");
??????$seq = 0;
??????$ftail = substr($fn,-2,1);
??????if ($ftail == "-"){
????????$seq = substr($fn,-1);
??????$Jfile = basename($Jfile,".txt")."-".$seq.".txt";
??????$fh = fopen($Jfile, "w") or die("Unable to create file!");
??????fwrite($fh, $jsonStr);

While you are experimenting, you can try them out with free collectors such as Then when you’re ready to create production-grade webhooks collector code, take a look at

Once you have collected all the webhook data, you can read that into a data store for additional processing.? There are also ways to push Webhooks through services like StitchData and Segment.

The same information is available in the Events API if you have a need to PULL the data and cannot accept PUSH data.? Here is a sample Event API call:

That API is fully documented with samples here:?

And there is a very helpful blog post here too:??

If you really need the event data back in a form that looks like PMTA or Momentum logging, that is possible as well if you employ some additional conditioning code. The great news is there are a few examples to steal from already.


  1. Make sure you talk to your Sales and Success Management team.? We’ve done this before and can help you through it quickly and cost-effectively.
  2. Figure out if you are in Camp #1 (able to move entirely from On-Prem) or Camp #2 (Still need some on-prem MTA).
  3. Sign up for a free test account to evaluate the integration details.
  4. Decide on SMTP or REST API injection methods.
  5. If you are using SMTP injection, figure out how to get header data and message attributes into an X-MSYS-API header.
  6. Confirm if you can use our BYOIP process.
  7. Update your DNS with new domains if necessary.
  8. Build a small sample to test your migration.? You may need to adjust your config.
  9. Ramp up the volume until all the traffic is migrated
  10. If you fit into Camp #1, you can finally shut down your on-prem MTAs after all the traffic is migrated.

It ain’t over till it’s over

We would love to help you through this process.? We’ve been there and know how hard it can be to get On-Prem MTAs into the cloud.? We encourage you to read through our journey to the cloud and let us help you get there too.? When you finally get to the place you want to be, we can help you celebrate. Here are a few additional resources that may be useful.

Getting Momentum in the Cloud

Our DevOps Journey

The SparkPost Getting Started Guide

~ Tom

The post On-Premises to Cloud Email Migration Guide appeared first on SparkPost.

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EBAWU – The Newest Acronym in Email Success Wed, 18 Dec 2019 14:00:24 +0000 EBAWUTechnical Product Manager, Harold Vass, explains how Engagement Based Automated IP Warmup (EBAWU) makes building an email reputation easy.

The post EBAWU – The Newest Acronym in Email Success appeared first on SparkPost.


Engagement Based Automated IP Warmup Makes Building Reputation Easy

Being “in the know” is cool.? Especially when what you know can save you time, headaches, money, and precious roadmap space. Today we’re launching a major enhancement to our Automated IP Warmup feature that we’re excitedly referring to as EBAWU (eee-bah-Woo!). EBAWU stands for Engagement Based Automated IP Warmup and we think it’s one of the best products we can provide you as a sender when you need to add dedicated IPs.?

EBAWU works by segmenting your recipients to specific IPs based on their last interaction with your mail. Has this recipient engaged recently, do they seem interested in your mail stream, are they opening, clicking, and acting on your mail? EBAWU! That recipient’s mail is delivered through your warming IP to help it build a positive sending reputation.?

What if a recipient hasn’t engaged recently? Maybe they’re on vacation, maybe they’re taking a break from technology, maybe they’re dopamine fasting and your messages simply bring too much joy. Whatever it is; EBAWU! We make sure that recipients that aren’t as engaged are delivered over your already warm and reputable IPs.?

Because this feature requires a little bit of finesse from a Technical Account Manager, this is currently only available for our Enterprise Customers. If you’re passionate about that changing or just want to express some excitement for the newest email acronym – tweet us using #EBAWU @SparkPost! Check out the newly updated article about Getting Started with Automated IP Warmup to learn more about how and why it is important that we warm IPs.

EBAWU – it’s just another one of the ways that combining delivery and predictive analytics makes us #BetterTogether. It’s nice to be in “the know”.??

Happy Sending and Happy Holidays,?

~ Harold Vass

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5 Things Email Marketers Can Learn From That Peloton Ad Mon, 16 Dec 2019 14:00:17 +0000 peloton adSenior Manager, Digital and Content Strategy, Jen Lacey, explains 5 strategies email marketers can learn from that Peloton ad.

The post 5 Things Email Marketers Can Learn From That Peloton Ad appeared first on SparkPost.


Peloton is the latest craze sweeping the fitness world and earlier this month, it swept the airwaves (and Twitter) with an infamous ad that has been garnering a lot of backlash. There’s no doubt that the commercial was weird and off-putting but there’s also no doubt that it’s got the Peloton brand name on the tip of every reporter and internet commentator’s tongue. With any marketing blunder, there are lessons to be learned and refined for the next time – here are a few takeaways any email marketer can apply when looking to make a splash with their own efforts

Create divisive content to spark conversation

Depending on the brand you work for and how much creative control you have, this is easier said than done. But sometimes, there are big payoffs in not playing it safe. Experiment! Do something outside the box. It’s doubtful Peloton knew how controversial viewers would perceive the ad to be, so we can’t say this was fully planned, but as they say, there’s no such thing as bad publicity.

Stand by your campaign

Did you complete the step above and make a splash? I think one of the remarkable things about this ad is that Peloton issued a statement and stood their ground. They’re sticking with it, and I think there’s something to be said for a brand who releases a campaign, gets people talking, and doesn’t sway their stance on the issue because people disagree with it.?

Note** Use your best judgment. If you publish something that is truly offensive, off-color or just plain wrong PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE own up to it, apologize and make it right.

Know your champions

As a brand, you’re bound to screw up. When you do, both your haters and die-hard fans will show up. This is a good opportunity to identify some of your own brand champions. If you have a community or customer advocacy program, make sure these people are added to it or put into a special nurture campaign. There are endless opportunities here for product education and upsell (Peloton treadmill, anyone?).

Capitalize on the trickle effect

Maybe you didn’t make a splash but another player in your space did and there’s a way for you to quickly incorporate that into a campaign. Within days of the controversy spike, Aviation Gin hired the Peloton commercial actress (Monica Ruiz) and shot a response commercial, gently poking fun at the controversy while promoting their own product. Again, use your best judgment here, but if there’s an opportunity to be a part of the buzz and you can do it in a tasteful way, sometimes nothing is more appealing to consumers than humor and a brand that keeps their finger on the pulse of the pop-cultural landscape.

Bask in free feedback

I can’t tell you how many tweets I saw where people exclaimed that they own and love their Peloton but they too hated the ad! Single working parents, athletes recovering from injuries, people in remote locations who can’t make it to a gym because of distance, weather, etc, the list goes on. This feedback is a goldmine for any marketing team. What an opportunity to better understand your customer base, what they love about your product, and how they’re using it. Capture all of this feedback for your product teams and use it to influence your roadmap and ideas for future campaigns.

Whether you loved the ad or hated it – it got people talking about the Peloton brand, created buzz and awareness which was the whole point! I challenge you to emulate this in at least one of your 2020 campaigns and let me know how it goes. Just not from 5-5:30 am – that’s when I do HIIT and hills with Cody Rigsby. ??

~ Jen

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How Email Marketing Drives the Biggest Week of Online Sales Fri, 13 Dec 2019 14:00:47 +0000 biggest weekLet’s take a look at what we can learn from the merry marketing emails that went out during the biggest week of online sales in 2019, shall we??

The post How Email Marketing Drives the Biggest Week of Online Sales appeared first on SparkPost.


Give it up for Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Giving Tuesday: quite possibly the most important days of a retailer’s marketing year.?

According to the Practical Ecommerce sales report, this week-long period has demonstrated healthy year-over-year sales growth. Cyber Monday was the single most profitable sales day of 2018 in the U.S. We wager that $7.9 billion in revenue (up 19.3% from 2017)? is a darn good reason to look at some of the best emails that go out around this time of year. Black Friday isn’t too shabby either – it generated the second most online sales in a single day, a cool $6.22 billion.

So let’s take a look at what we can learn from the merry marketing emails that went out during the 2019 holiday sales season, shall we?

Mix it up!

In keeping with an obvious but effectively simple theme, many large brands opt for a black background to announce Black Friday deals. While you may want to A/B test (okay, always A/B test) ?to see how this performs for your brand, it’s good to note that this is the perfect time to experiment.

This is the week that most brands break away from their traditional email templates and dabble with other colors and formats. It’s a great opportunity to see what resonates with your audience by trying new formats while keeping the tone organic to your brand.

Keep it simple

Bed Bath & Beyond is an excellent example of a brand that’s keeping it simple and to the point. They embrace the black background too, use emojis in their subject lines and really just emphasize their offers with bold, contrasting colors. They tend to use a lot of emojis in the subject lines of all of their marketing emails, so it feels on-brand even as it stands out in your inbox.

BB&B also make a clear announcement of their early opening time, a helpful tip for buyers that saves them having to look it up. Adding in helpful tidbits of this sort can go a long way with your audience.

Amazon operates in a similar manner; they keep their email very simple, highlighting some of the deals they’re offering at the moment. Given that Amazon is a household name around the world, their readers know exactly what to expect from the brand. The sale ‘teaser’ included just tempts consumers to log in and fill their carts to the virtual brim.

In a truly powerful marketing move, Amazon keeps consumers checking back every few hours by offering new deals all day. It’s an incredibly effective way to keep people hooked on your site – and (ideally) add a few unplanned items to their cart, too!

Food delivery service Foodora sends a slightly more text-heavy message to its audience but takes a great approach with the way they present their service. With a clean use of animation and signature bright pink theme, they suggest “supporting” Cyber Monday shopping by offering discounts on the sustenance that can keep you going.

As this week grows in revenue and popularity, a lot of other industries are cashing in by taking a unique stance. Take a note from Foodora and don’t let retail have all the fun!

Extend (and change) offers

Extend your Black Friday/ Cyber Monday sale and weave it into a feel-good Giving Tuesday. Not only can it give you an edge over the competition by extending your sale, but it also gives you a chance to focus on giving back to your community. That’s an approach that’ll resonate with consumers anytime, but particularly during the holidays.

Take a look at this email by Peace Collective; it does a great job of extending their sale while doubling their usual charitable donation (5 meals donated for every garment sold) to encourage consumers to make a difference while spending money. It’s a win-win for your business, your shoppers and your community!

Peace Collective also did a fantastic job offering exclusive merchandise throughout the week. Both Cyber Monday and Black Friday had limited edition garments for purchase – and who can say no to an exclusive? Take a page out of their book and offer up some special items to encourage some spur-of-the-moment buying.

Giving Tuesday is also a great time for non-retail companies to email their subscribers. The Royal Ontario Museum, for instance, asks for donations with an emotional ‘lifelong learning’ message showcasing varied exhibits that appeal to a wide audience.

Embrace a sense of urgency – while still having fun!

Counting down the clock is a great way to remind your audience that they need to act fast to get these great deals. Some companies even use an actual countdown timer – just make sure it fits your brand.

This email by Clinique has a gentle nudge in the subject line – take 30% off before it ends! Other brands might use capitalization, emojis or the number of hours left in their sale, but this simplicity works well with Clinique’s brand voice. (Again, this is a great time to experiment, but the emails you send should feel organic and not jarring.)

Their use of animation works the same way. The first email showcases the variety of free gift options the reader can benefit from, while the second ‘clean start, new price’ message resembles faint glitter or snow, evoking all that holiday feeling! It’s a beautiful email, as they manage to add some fun to the message without taking away from the main focus or overwhelming the reader.

Don’t forget, seen below is what most people’s inbox looks like this particular week. Standing out may not be easy, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth the effort. Start planning next year’s email campaign for these three key dates early, so you can watch the sales roll in!

~ Casey

The post How Email Marketing Drives the Biggest Week of Online Sales appeared first on SparkPost.

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Jingle All The Way: Seasonal “Cliche” Email Subject Lines That We Love To Read Wed, 11 Dec 2019 14:00:21 +0000 cliche email subject linesSenior Marketing Manager, Silvana Theodoropoulou, pokes fun at some cliche email subject lines she's seen this holiday season.

The post Jingle All The Way: Seasonal “Cliche” Email Subject Lines That We Love To Read appeared first on SparkPost.


Don’t you just love December? The festive season is upon us, and most of us would happily embrace the festive spirit. Putting up decorations around the house, creating long shopping lists, diving into coziness by a wood-burning stove, and building up excitement and anticipation, these are clear signs that we are slowly but surely getting carried away. These, and the fact that we often read the “cliche” emails we ‘ve received with genuine interest and a smile.

And there are so many of them! Perhaps due to the fact that, as consumers, we tend to be less critical and more open and susceptible in December, we don’t seem to realize that many of those Business-to-Consumer emails lack originality, and tend to reproduce the same old cliches that we love to read:

  • The “Yule Love” Recipe. With family gatherings for lucullan dinings on our agenda, many of us will aspire to be “the host with the most” and look for impressive merry-licious delicacies (only to go for the traditional “turkey with all the trimmings” at the end). But going through those amazing recipes for reindeer-shaped caramelized meatloaves is an all-time favorite…. Oh well, maybe we’ll try that recipe next year.
  • “Deck the Halls”. A snowman. Lights. And a tree. How about a new sofa for the living room? Or that cute duvet with the snowflakes? As we are getting ready to open up our hearts and home to friends and family, we are also keen to open the emails that give us ideas for cozy furniture and smart decorations. But we have to be careful; that horrible sofa is not just for Christmas, it’s for life.
  • The “Most Wonderful Time of The Year”? Hardly. For most of us, it’s a very stressful time, with work and family commitments piling up fast. Still, we want to believe in the magic, and make sure to be jolly just because ‘tis the season to be. Yes, we’ll fall for this cliche every time.
  • The Discount “Advent Calendar”. With the promise of a new and exciting offer every day, Advent Calendars tend to work really well; as long as the countdown works too. It’s really confusing to receive emails telling you that it’s seven… no, six… no, seven days left for 2020. Whatever!
  • The “Santa-mental” Presents. OK, an office Secret Santa means we have to get a little something for that annoying “know-it-all” colleague, but most of the time we’ll buy presents for people we care about; and put a lot of thought and sentiment in the process. That’s why a “click for the most Santa-mental gifts” email will get our attention, even if it’s the fourth we’ve received… today.

I am not being a grumpy Ebenezer Scrooge. The truth is, I love December and everything it brings. I love going through my inbox and reading the cliche email subjects, often impressed with the brilliant ways businesses choose to approach their database. I believe these emails bear small but effective doses of joy and laughter. “There is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humor”; and not being that original myself, I am only quoting Charles Dickens here.

~ Silvana

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OptIn’19: What is Email Intelligence? Mon, 09 Dec 2019 14:00:28 +0000 email intelligenceCopywriter, email marketer, and OptIn Diversity and Inclusion Scholarship winner, Mariana Santiago, share what email intelligence means to her.

The post OptIn’19: What is Email Intelligence? appeared first on SparkPost.


Depending on the kindness of strangers has been my modus operandi for most of my adult life. The kindness of strangers is what brought me to OptIn ’19. While it’s a life approach that’s worked well for me, it’s not one I think email recipients should be forced to rely upon – neither to ensure a pleasant email experience nor to feel confident that their data is being used wisely.

OptIn ’19 leads me to believe that the email marketing industry is moving towards a mindset in which we expect email marketers (mostly strangers to the recipients of the emails we craft) to use what you could call “email intelligence” to create enjoyable customer experiences that not only drive ROI, but foster a culture of respect for our subscribers.

As one of two fortunate recipients of a Diversity & Inclusion Scholarship, I attended OptIn ’19 thanks to the largesse of SparkPost and of Women of Email, a professional organization I’m honored to have joined. The kindness of these groups of strangers allowed an email copywriter and strategist from an unconventional background to attend an industry-insider event – and I hope what I learned will benefit the many recipients of the emails I’ve created since the conference and will create over the course of my career.

Over the two days in late October, OptIn ’19 attendees enjoyed the opportunity to attend a number of panels and sessions that forced us to reconsider what the term “email intelligence” really means and perhaps even reconsider what the phrase should mean. “Email intelligence” could be used to describe any number of ideas within the email marketing industry. As an email copywriter and strategist, I hope the term “email intelligence” comes to refer to a sort of emotional intelligence in email marketing that results in fuller, more empathetic attitudes towards email recipients.

That core belief is much of why I was particularly struck by the Wednesday morning keynote presented by data scientist Hilary Mason. Her brilliant insights on the potential and evolution of data science forced me to reconsider most of what I thought I knew about data science. “Personalization at Scale”, a panel discussing exactly that, was similarly thought-provoking. The idea of “personalization” in email marketing loses any value when you take a one-size-fits-all approach to the concept. The way you personalize an email intended for a long-time Cracker Barrel customer has to be different from the way you’d personalize the email experience of, say, someone making their first purchase from a firm in a high-tech field in a B2B setting.

As email marketers, we have far more data points on our customers accessible to us than anyone speaking on the subject thirty years ago could have predicted. Instead of an opportunity to see this as a marketing free-for-all, this is a chance to create more fulfilling customer experiences through consideration, empathy, and common sense. As email marketers, we’re duty-bound to guard our subscribers’ data and – extrapolating from that – their privacy. However, it’s also worth considering whether our own choices regarding usage of the data we can access results in easier, more pleasant customer journeys, or if we’re simply using data to “personalize” our emails just because we can.

I’m confident that most email marketers use the data available to them prudently. Attending OptIn ’19 reaffirmed that belief and left me convinced that the terms “email intelligence” and “emotional intelligence” would only grow closer in meaning as our technological capabilities advance, as the email marketing industry evolves, and as consumer preferences change over the years.??

Are you interested in watching some of the panels I was able to attend at OptIn’19? Don’t miss SparkPost’s Winter Wednesday Webinar series. Register for the first of the series, titled “Leveraging Data in Marketing” on December 18th.


Mariana Santiago is a copywriter and email marketer based in New Orleans, Louisiana. She develops email strategies that meet your customers and prospects along each step of the customer journey. You can find her at


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[Video] Leveraging Data in Marketing Fri, 06 Dec 2019 14:00:56 +0000 Leveraging DataLearn how to leverage key data that your company already has to improve the relevance and performance of your email marketing campaigns.

The post [Video] Leveraging Data in Marketing appeared first on SparkPost.


How can you leverage key data that your company already has to improve the relevance and performance of your email marketing campaigns? This was the exact question that our panelists tried to answer during the “Leveraging Data in Marketing” chat at OptIn’19. We gathered experts from Madison Logic, Phrasee, Kayak and Havas Helia to discuss how their organizations make use of data to inform their marketing campaigns and improve customer experience. Moderated by Cory Johnson, this panel proved to be about more than numbers.

Jenn Steele, CMO of Madison Logic, began the conversation by discussing her experience working with Amazon’s vast data set versus Madison Logic’s, which is a much more manageable size. She made the point that having too much data can lead to major issues for marketing teams but also went on to say that “people with smaller data sets are more averse to testing which is a shame because you don’t get better if you’re not testing.” For Jenn, data sets of any size come with their own unique challenges.

Olivia Knighton, Sales Manager at Phrasee, focused on the pitfalls of using old data. Knighton said that a huge part of her work revolves around challenging the analysis and insights gained from older data sets. One way to turn old data on its head? According to Knighton, you should stop segmenting by “traditional” categories like men vs. women and opt for groups that reflect specific language patterns? (rather than just their gender).

John Ferris, Director of Engineering at Kayak, spoke to his organization’s strategy when recommending travel options to their customers via email. While Kayak certainly has a huge wealth of data about their customers, he said that Kayak tries to make very few assumptions about things like how much users are willing to spend on flights or hotels. Additionally, he focused on how Kayak was able to use trends in their data to identify the “Iceland Boom” before it happened and offer cheap tickets to Reykjavik to their email subscribers!

Finally, Michael Kinstlinger, Sr. Email Campaign Manager at Havas Helia talked about how his organization uses data to stratify customers into engagement tiers. By sending to those that have historically been the most engaged first, his team has seen positive impacts to deliverability. Additionally, he mentioned that when his team implements email strategy for their clients they use different subject lines for those who tend to open emails versus those who have never opened one of their emails before.

From AI to machine learning, our panelists discussed how to best leverage the right data in email marketing to maximize return. Want to hear all of the amazing insights our panelists shared during “Leveraging Data in Marketing” at OptIn’19? Be sure to watch the instant replay of the panel ASAP!

~ Erica

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Mission Impossible? How Email Marketers Face Patchwork Data Privacy Laws Wed, 04 Dec 2019 14:00:11 +0000 data privacy lawsLearn about the growing patchwork of state data privacy laws, and the enactment of the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) on January 1, 2020.

The post Mission Impossible? How Email Marketers Face Patchwork Data Privacy Laws appeared first on SparkPost.


Federal data privacy legislation is currently wishful thinking in the United States. There’s a growing patchwork of state legislation, and with the enactment of the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) on January 1, 2020, there’s mounting pressure for even more states to chime in with new legislation.?

These will potentially end up creating issues for email marketers that are trying to function within this maze of state-by-state regulation.??

The impact of the CCPA?

The CCPA requires disclosure from the marketer, when requested, detailing which parts of a consumer’s personal information might be shared with a third party, the category of the third party, and an explanation of the sharing of information. The CCPA uses an opt-out agreement whereby a business doesn’t need permission to collect personal information, but the consumer can ask to access it, opt-out of its sale, or ask for it to be deleted. With the CCPA, information is likely to be “bought” from consumers, rather than just merely shared, for the CCPA specifically authorizes “businesses to offer financial incentives for the collection of personal information.”?

In the event of a personal data breach, the CCPA also gives consumers the power to sue companies through the state attorney. ?This is a game-changer, and it’s potentially expensive: For each consumer data file that’s been part of a breach, or sold without permission, or retained even when the consumer requests deletion, the minimum fine is $2500. That can escalate to $7500 for various reasons. Multiply that times the thousands or even millions of files often involved in a data breach, and you can imagine the costs.

Another wrinkle? The CCPA will be implemented by California, but will travel across state lines – it protects residents of California even when they’re out-of-state. Plus, companies dealing in their data don’t have to have a physical footprint in the Golden State to be subject to the law.

As this affects businesses that market to Californians but are located in other states, different systems will need to be set up in different states with differing guidelines. So in this case, one state’s legislation that’s intended to mitigate confusion only amplifies it, thus causing a cry to Congress to set up a national standard.

Will it affect email marketing?

Up until now when it comes to regulating electronic marketing in the US, emails are regulated by CAN-SPAM, with an opt-out requirement. That means websites can send commercial emails until the consumer decides to unsubscribe, which must be cost-free and easily navigable from the original commercial email. Text messaging is more tricky and involves electronic or written consent.?

Depending on the scale of the company and its marketing reach, its email marketing may or may not be directly affected by the CCPA legislation, but in time will probably indirectly be impacted in one way or another.?

More states are getting in on the act

Amplified and more ambitious, the state of New York is aiming to pass privacy legislation that will include the right for citizens to sue companies autonomously, so the big names in tech have voiced a refusal to work with the state of New York if its privacy act passes with its current terms.? One deviation from the CCPA? Small businesses aren’t big enough to be liable under the CCPA would have to abide by New York’s legislation, which specifies no minimum size.

The New York law is just one of many state regulations springing up across the country, with many others having enacted or contemplating new laws. Some are closer to the CCPA than others, creating an uneven data privacy compliance landscape.

Hidden costs of ensuring data privacy

As if that weren’t enough, according to the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, privacy rules like the CCPA are not beneficial for the business and the consumer alike. This has to do with “hidden taxes” in costs paid for by the consumers, and a hindrance on innovation that affects both sides. The hidden tax results from companies paying Data Protection Officers and other staffers to ensure the quality and security of their data, costs that are passed along to consumers.

The costs of implementing data compliance within a company will put more pressure on the marketing department and email campaigns, too.? They may lose significant quantities of consumers through opt-outs, for instance, or find it risky to use third-party lists or outside vendors who may not be compliant.?

Another problem with state laws? They may be counterproductive by causing constitutional problems with the Dormant Commerce Clause, the First Amendment, and may in turn cause America to lose footing in the global marketplace.?

There’s also a fear American-style capitalism may be at stake with the emergence of regulations like the CCPA, though this breaks down along partisan lines, as usual. According to CNBC, Some Democrats like Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D.-Calif.) have said they won’t support a federal bill that ‘weakens’ California’s standards, while tech companies and some Republicans favor a national law that would override, and possibly ease, state requirements.”

How can email marketers cope?

There’s a six-month grace period after January 1 before CCPA enforcement measures are taken, but as we’ve shown, there’s a bigger issue at stake due to the lack of cohesive national regulation.? So what are a few basic measures email marketers should consider in dealing with the CCPA and other state data privacy laws, in light of this lack of a nationwide policy?

  • Map your data so you know where it is, where it’s coming from, and where it goes; analyzing this is essential to provisions under some laws regarding the consumer’s “right to be forgotten” and data deletion requests.
  • Make sure you thoroughly audit all your data; you probably have more information than you realize about people, like IP addresses, web form locations, opt-in locations, and more, all of which is behavioral data that might make them subject to these laws.?
  • Review third-party relationships with any of your own contractors or partners who might have access to consumer data; if they’re in violation of a state law, you’re exposed, too.
  • Limit what you collect about consumers; marketers can be guilty of gathering more data points than they’ll ever possibly use about people. Instead, collect only the minimum necessary for use right now or in the very near future. If you want to assemble an email list, don’t ask for snail mail addresses or phone numbers, for instance.?
  • Ask permission from the start from consumers; the new laws may demand you can show proof of permission from each subscriber before you send them anything, so begin obtaining consent at the point of acquisition, and make it explicit to consumers exactly what kinds of emails and messages they’ll be receiving after their opt-in.
  • Set up an internal data privacy review initiative that goes beyond just the marketing department, because they’re not the only ones who have to reckon with CCPA, GDPR, CASL compliance. Sales, Legal, IT and others need to sit at that table and take the right measures together.

~ Casey

The post Mission Impossible? How Email Marketers Face Patchwork Data Privacy Laws appeared first on SparkPost.

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4 Questions to Determine Which Email Segments Are Right for Your Brand Mon, 02 Dec 2019 14:00:37 +0000 email segmentsContent Marketing Manager, Anna Cunningham, discusses which questions you should be asking when determining which email segments are right for your brand.

The post 4 Questions to Determine Which Email Segments Are Right for Your Brand appeared first on SparkPost.


Looking to connect with your audience in a way that feels personal, but scalable? Email segmentation helps marketers build targeted, personalized emails that feel more like one-on-one conversations than spam.?

Segmentation is a powerful tool that lets you group contacts by qualities that are important to your brand, like location or purchase history. This lets you use your data to gain deeper insight into subscribers and make sure you’re sending the right emails to the right customers.

But where do you begin? When the possibilities are endless, it can feel overwhelming to decide which segments you should build. And you probably don’t have unlimited bandwidth – you need to carefully choose how you spend your time, and what strategies to test when it comes to your marketing.?Ultimately, the best email strategies tie directly back to your company’s goals. Use these as a jumping-off point to determine what’s important to your brand, and then reflect on your current and prospective customers to build your segments.?

Here, we’ve broken down the questions you can ask to decide which email segments are right for your brand:

How do your customers naturally group?

First, you’ll want to look at your current customer base. How do your customers naturally group?? Are there obvious demographics that stand out from the pack? And do these groups behave in any specific way??

You might have customers in Australia that love beachwear. Maybe half of your customers are students. Or your product is popular with pet owners. You’re likely familiar with these different personas already.

You’ll want to identify these groups and add them to segments based on their defining attributes (e.g. demographics or purchase behavior). Another way to think about these segments is to use them for the things you have to track over and over, and the people you send to repeatedly.

What does email engagement look like for you?

Segmenting your subscribers based on their email engagement is a fundamental piece in a strong segmentation strategy. Subscriber engagement dictates how ISPs rate your sender reputation, and therefore your overall deliverability.

Thinking about segmentation by engagement level will help you prune out unengaged and inactive subscribers, maintain a healthy list, and make sure your emails land in inboxes. But when segmenting on email engagement, you’ll need to determine what engagement is actually meaningful for your brand.?

Are you looking at opens? Clicks? Article reads? How often do you want the average subscriber to be engaging with your content? The types of engagement you use as metrics for your email marketing should lead your segmentation strategy.?

Then, you can send more frequent content and special offers to your most engaged subscribers, and build automation to win back your inactive subscribers.

How do you plan to use your segments?

The segmentation options are endless. You can segment based on your highest-value purchasers, send campaigns built for different interest groups, or retarget subscribers who engaged with a specific email.?

When deciding which email segments are right for your brand, you need to consider how you’ll be using them. Segments can be multi-purpose, acting as triggers for automations like welcome or win-back series, or offering deeper insight into customer data. Or maybe you’re hoping to power one-off email marketing campaigns.

In all likelihood, you’re hoping to achieve some combination of the above. No matter how you’re hoping to use your initial segments, it’s important to keep how you’ll be using them in consideration when deciding what to build. This way, you can focus on the segments that will actually help you achieve your goals.?

What’s your capacity??

The sky may be the limit when it comes to segmentation, but your marketing team can only do so much. You’ll have to look at how much bandwidth your organization has to focus on email marketing when deciding which segments to build.?

Your bandwidth will affect the complexity and scale of your segmentation strategy since you’ll be designing campaigns that target these segments on an ongoing basis. Based on this, you can determine if you’d like to segment on your most important groups or if you want to get more intricate.?

Do you have time to build that automation you’re hoping to trigger, or should you start with individual campaigns? Do you have the manpower to build campaigns for your smaller demographics, or should you focus exclusively on your heavy hitters?

No matter what, any level of segmentation will improve your email marketing strategy and ROI.

Now get started!

Don’t let segmentation intimidate you. Start small and work your way up – segmentation is a powerful email marketing tool to help boost subscriber engagement and revenue, even in small doses.

~ Anna

Anna Cunningham is the Content Marketing Manager at, a data-driven email marketing CRM that gives brands deeper insight into customer behavior so they can sell more. She creates content that fuels customer experiences across all marketing channels.

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How the Travel Industry is Powered by Email Wed, 27 Nov 2019 14:00:08 +0000 travel industryLearn how travel agencies, airlines, hotels, auto rental firms, and every other cog and wheel of the worldwide travel industry all depend on email.

The post How the Travel Industry is Powered by Email appeared first on SparkPost.


One sure way to measure the importance of email to a particular industry? Google a quick search for “[INSERT INDUSTRY NAME] Email Templates” and check the results.

Try that for the travel industry and it becomes pretty obvious how travel agencies, travel apps, airlines, hotels, auto rental firms, and every other cog and wheel of the worldwide travel business all depend on email.

Triggered emails make up a huge share of that.? That’s because a customer’s journey with your brand begins the very instant they engage with you, and the first email you send them is a big step along that path. Just as you want to be delivering a seamless travel experience that’ll keep them coming back for their next jaunt, you want email engagement to be just as flawlessly consistent.

So emails that are automatically triggered by customer actions and behaviors allow a travel-centric marketer to build that consistent experience both on the 1:1 basis and at scale across their customer base.?

Now onboarding all passengers…

What’s a good example to start with? Well, right at the start. Virgin America does a solid job of welcoming customers into the fold by including some subtle rock-and-rolla swagger in their trigger “welcome” messages, which give recipients a quick orientation on what’s to come, and links to fare deals they might be interested in.

It still has a certain plumminess and upscale frisson, though, in keeping with the brand.? JetBlue covers a lot of the same ground with its welcome emails, though they tend toward the punny and fun-loving in their copy – which seems like mandatory positioning for a discount airline nowadays, right?

Celebrating their loyalty

The classic triggered email tactic of recognizing red-letter dates holds for travel services marketers, too. As long as we’re looking at JetBlue, here’s an example of how they do it for customers who’ve been engaged with them for an entire year.? Tongue planted firmly in cheek, right down to the sassy final paragraph.


Knowing where they want to go

Tracking visitor behaviors at a website can give the marketer good hints at where a travel services consumer might like to go. So a triggered email like the example from Eurostar below includes deals on the very destinations they were just browsing.?

Plus, it looks like they may have identified their target as a bit of a foodie, so they’re able to add even more personalization to the message.

Keeping them on track

Cart abandonment emails are just as important in the travel industry as they are in any other area of eCommerce. Here’s a case in point from Virgin Trains that’s instructive on two levels: A) It shows how you can cleverly re-engage with a customer who may follow through just because they like your sheer cheek, and B) did anybody even know there was a Virgin Trains brand??

Fostering their feedback?

Once they’ve had that dream trip of a lifetime to exotic destinations – or just took a short hop to Passaic for their second cousin’s wedding – it’s an opportunity to deepen engagement with the customer by soliciting their feedback with a triggered email.

Airbnb has never been a slouch at this and has actually been a bellwether for others in how to do it right, as you can see from the survey email below.? One way to go even further than they do? Attach a targeted discount or premium offer to encourage them to participate…and, as importantly, be incentivized to use you again.

Keep them on top of their travel

One of the reasons people enjoy frequent flyer programs? Beyond the savings, it’s the sense of achievement; there’s an element of competitive gameplay in building up miles or capturing discounts.

JetBlue (yet again!) understands that, and this example of its points program recap lets its loyalists have some data-driven insights into how and others have been using their points.

Another way to help them out? Simply by reminding them they’ve got a trip coming up and making sure they’re set to go – and also driving them to use your app (and downloading it if they haven’t got it installed yet).

Surprising and delighting

By delivering unexpected good news – and evidence of their superior service to users – Kayak scores points with triggered emails like this that recognize how some customers might be eligible for compensation for that all-too-common annoyance, a delayed or canceled flight.


Any marketer’s engagement campaign should include some calculated moments of surprise-and-delight for customers because that helps go a long way toward personalizing the relationship you’re trying to build with them.

Delaying their departure

What’s the one good time to keep a traveler from taking flight? When they’ve decided to unsubscribe from your emails, or otherwise shown evidence of moving on.?

A triggered message will remind them of why they signed up in the first place, and what they’ll miss after the breakup. And once more, JetBlue shows us how to go about it with good humor and just the right amount of insistence that they really, really ought to stick around.?

~ Casey

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Brightwave’s Email Spotlight Delivers Weekday Fun and Killer Vendor Pitches Mon, 25 Nov 2019 14:00:54 +0000 Brightwave's Email SpotlightDirector of Strategic Insights, April Mullen, shares some of her favorite company pitches that she heard at Brightwave's Email Spotlight.

The post Brightwave’s Email Spotlight Delivers Weekday Fun and Killer Vendor Pitches appeared first on SparkPost.


Earlier this month, I had the privilege of attending what I’m endearingly referring to as an “email family reunion” in Atlanta. Brightwave hosted their Email Spotlight event at their beautiful Buckhead office, which lived up to its promise to mix education with fun.?

The event, which hosted nearly two dozen vendors in the email and MarTech space and hundreds of brand-side marketers, was chock full of good southern eats, drinks and a lot of laughter and cheer. The first hour for networking flew by so quickly, that by the time the programming started, I was still waving across the room at familiar faces that I hadn’t made my rounds to yet.?

You might think that programming might have slowed things down a bit, but Brightwave knows how to keep the momentum going at all of their events and Email Spotlight was no exception. 23 vendors were invited to come up and each give 2-minute pitches, using only a mic and whatever props they decided to bring. Here were some of my favorites:

  • Branch* presented while wearing a Burger King hat to promote how it helped the brand to drive press-worthy “Whopper Detour” results. (1.5 million app downloads in 9 days!!)
  • 4Cite touted its web visitor identity solution while wearing a Cookie Monster costume. I commend the presenter for wearing it all night–even after his presentation was done. Double kudos for the photobomb.
  • Iterable’s* Jen Capstraw wrote an email rap song and performed it while the audience clapped. So gangster, Jen! Can we get a video?
  • Cordial’s* presenter made a joke about usually being the token Brit in the room, only to have to follow another Brit. It was a hilarious moment that had the room laughing.?
  • Women of Email’s Aysha Zouian talked about what our organization (I’m a co-founder) has been up to in terms of mentoring and placing women in speaking spots globally and how we’re nearly up to 4,000 members on six continents. (Anyone out there in Antarctica that wants to join us to make it all of the continents?)?
  • Last, but not least, the presentation by our very own Casey Martin spoke to the audience’s hearts about how SparkPost is better together with our new colleagues at eDataSource, but more importantly, how the email industry overall is better together through our collective innovations. We’ve all made our beloved channel one that has withstood the test of time.?

Thanks to Simms Jenkins and the Brightwave* team for throwing a great party to get us over hump day, providing good connections and for allowing vendors to share what makes their offerings compelling. It was quite a memorable event!

*Huge shoutout for being a SparkPost partner. We love working with you.?

All event photos here:

~ April

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Stored Templates Gets a Complete All-New Refresh Fri, 22 Nov 2019 14:00:49 +0000 stored templatesTechnical Product Manager, Isaac Kim, explains the exciting updates to one of our most popular features: stored templates!

The post Stored Templates Gets a Complete All-New Refresh appeared first on SparkPost.


Similar to the auto industry where iconic cars such as the Corvette, Supra, and Bronco get completely redesigned, we are refreshing our own iconic feature, the very popular: templates!

But why templates??

Templates are critical for so many of our senders on SparkPost. Templates store, edit and reuse email content. SparkPost’s Template Language recognizes powerful customization and personalization opportunities.?

Rather than (sending inline content), save time by leveraging content you’ve already created.?

While the underlying API and templating language remain intact and untouched, we’ve completely changed the in-app experience, with an intuitive user experience that is more responsive and simpler to use. In other words, everything under the hood stays the same, but the exterior has been reworked to give you an enjoyable, template building and managing experience. We’ve heard friction points, and streamlined the template creation process to get you sending emails a whole lot faster!?

We want to create a seamless and great experience for you, and get you sending emails a whole lot faster!

So what’s so different? What can I expect to see??

There are a number of changes to the entire template experience in the SparkPost app. Let’s dive into them one by one!

Revised Template List Management

On the Template List page, you’ll find small changes that make a big impact; find, search, access, duplicate, and delete templates quickly. Most notable is the new Recent Activity section, which allows you to quickly jump into the last four templates you edited in draft mode or published. Also, you can now duplicate or delete templates directly from the Template List page, saving you time while managing your growing list of templates!

Intuitive Template Creation Process Flow

Get started faster with templates with a shorter process to create a template. Simply name your template (the template ID is automatically created as you type in the template name!), provide a subject line, and lastly the email address you’d like to send from. That’s it! Those are the only required fields that are between you and taking off onto the highway. Click on the Next button, and you’ll be taken directly to the template where you can begin developing your content immediately!?

Side-by-Side Code Editor

Our new code editor is a huge step forward for us! Watch your email content render live on the right-hand side as you create your HTML, AMP HTML, and text content. The subject line and From email address are rendered in the preview, as you’d see the email in the Inbox. You’ll also find we added a Mobile Preview option for your content.

Under Template Settings, you can adjust a variety of fields pertaining to the template, as well as adjust Open and Click Tracking at the template level.

AMP for Email Boilerplate?

Right now, there’s a bunch of excitement around AMP for Email. It’s easy to get started with testing with your own AMP email with our new template editor. On the AMP HTML tab, you can easily insert an AMP Boilerplate to get started faster with a basic template. As you start to edit your AMP email content, you’ll find we added an inline AMPHTML linter that provides feedback on potential issues or alternatives and ultimately ensures you’re not making any mistakes that would prevent your AMP content from rendering properly.?

Just like on the HTML tab, as you build your AMP email components, the live preview on the right-hand side will render in real-time, giving you a good sense of what to expect in the inbox! Honestly, who doesn’t want kittens in their inbox, right?!

Intuitive Test Send

Sending a test message is no longer hidden behind the Preview Page! You can easily send a test as you build your email content, directly from the side-by-side code editor page. Just enter in the recipient email address and send off your test message to the desired inbox.?

How can I get started with these new Template features?

Navigate to your SparkPost dashboard and under Content, you’ll find Templates. If you have any questions about our SparkPost templating language, check out our support page.?

The template refresh was built and completed with you in mind, to make your experience with sending emails an easier and more delightful experience. If you were already creating templates on SparkPost, they have all been transferred over to the new format, and you can easily manage those templates with the new Template List management page. No templates or data lost, just efficiencies gained and precious time in your workday given back!

Go explore our new stored Templates and if you have any feedback, reach me on Twitter or on LinkedIn at anytime!

– Isaac, Technical Product Manager

??Shoutout to Nick Lemmon, Brian Kemper, Lynn Murphy, Aubrey Altmann, Nathan Durant, the entire Transmissions Team, and to all the Product, Engineering, Marketing, Sales, and Customer Success teams whose feedback for templates was invaluable in making our product and service better.

The post Stored Templates Gets a Complete All-New Refresh appeared first on SparkPost.

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Deploying Signals for On-Premises: Momentum Integration – Part 3 Wed, 20 Nov 2019 14:00:00 +0000 Momentum IntegrationIn part 3 of his series Senior Messaging Engineer, Steve Tuck, dives into the details of connecting your Momentum server to SparkPost Signals.

The post Deploying Signals for On-Premises: Momentum Integration – Part 3 appeared first on SparkPost.


Part 1 of this series introduced SparkPost Signals for on-premises deployments. Part 2 walked through setting up PowerMTA step-by-step. In this part, we’re going to dive into the details of connecting your Momentum server to SparkPost Signals. You’re going to need:

  • A host running Momentum 4.x
  • The Signals Agent rpm file and User Guide
  • A SparkPost account with API key permission for “Incoming Events: Write” as per Part 1

We’ll set up Momentum to stream events up to your SparkPost account, then you’ll be able to use the following Signals Analytics reports:?

Unlike PowerMTA, which requires external engagement-tracking, we’ll use Momentum’s built-in engagement tracking to capture recipient opens and clicks. That way, the Health Score, Engagement Recency, and Engagement reports all work immediately.

Configuring Momentum for Signals

There’s a lot of flexibility when setting up Momentum, and each setup will be different. This section will cover adding Signals integration to an existing working Momentum setup, as that’s what I expect most folks are interested in, so you don’t have to wade through a lot of basics that you already know. For the truly motivated, the details of our demo setup are covered in the “Annex: Momentum Signals demo configuration” section at the end.?

Firstly, follow the steps in the “Signals Agent User Guide” that you’ll receive with your SparkPost Signals account. On completion, you’ll have your specific API key stored within the script?


.. and your file

will have (near the end)

include "signals-agent.conf"

.. and the file signals-agent.conf will be present in the same directory.

There is nothing special you need to do for clustered installations.? The Signals Agent must be installed on each node and each node reports events independently.

Momentum Engagement Tracking

If you’re already using Momentum Engagement Tracking, you can skip this section!

The setup of Engagement Tracking shown in some detail here, because it helps to get the most out of Momentum / Signals integration.

For this example, our Momentum demo server is on
?with a single elastic IP (and an A record pointing to it).

After following the Support instructions for enabling engagement tracking, I checked that mails delivered through our demo containing html have their links wrapped correctly, and an open-tracking pixel added. I chose to use port 81, and simple http (not https) tracking; your setup may vary. I saw the following, inside delivered mails.

<img border="0" width="1" height="1" alt="
" src="

As per the above instructions, I configured nginx, establishing the internal endpoints that will receive the clicks and opens on port 2081.?Here’s my setup in


upstream click_proxy {

This port is not exposed to the Internet. Instead, I use nginx to forward traffic on port 81 to the internal endpoint. I also set the headers to make Momentum “look like” SparkPost engagement tracking (so that my demo will follow the links). Here’s my setup in


# Simple pass through to internal engagement tracking
# SMT 2019-08-16
# some basic additions to harden the server (tokens off) and
# make the endpoint behave more like SparkPost (set Server: type)
server {
??listen 81;
??server_name?; ? # put your server name here
??location / {
????proxy_pass http://localhost:2081;
??server_tokens off;
??more_set_headers 'Server: msys-http';

Controlling what information your server presents publicly, by using settings such as

server_tokens off
??is generally good security practice. Now we test the nginx configuration:

service msys-nginx configtest
nginx: the configuration file /opt/msys/3rdParty/nginx/conf/nginx.conf syntax is ok
nginx: configuration file /opt/msys/3rdParty/nginx/conf/nginx.conf test is successful


configuration was done, and (in our case) AWS EC2 inbound security rule configured, we can test that our open pixel can be fetched from outside, using
? from another host:

curl -v
* About to connect() to port 81 (#0)
* ? Trying
* Connected to ( port 81 (#0)
> User-Agent: curl/7.29.0
> Host:
> Accept: */*
< HTTP/1.1 200 OK
< Date: Tue, 22 Oct 2019 18:38:46 GMT
< Content-Type: image/gif
< Content-Length: 44
< Connection: keep-alive
< Cache-Control: no-cache, max-age=0
< Server: msys-http
* Connection #0 to host left intact

That response beginning

is the server delivering the open pixel, as a GIF file, back to our client. We can see the contents more easily by piping through

curl | hexdump -C

00000000? 47 49 46 38 39 61 01 00? 01 00 80 00 00 ff ff ff |GIF89a..........|
00000010? ff ff ff 21 f9 04 01 0a? 00 01 00 2c 00 00 00 00 |...!.......,....|
00000020? 01 00 01 00 00 02 02 4c? 01 00 3b 00 |.......L..;.|

That’s all you need to have Engagement Tracking running on your server, and you should see Open and Click events appear in your linked SparkPost account:

Here’s what you’ve been waiting for …

After a day or two of running, you’ll see Health Score data building up:

Reporting facets

Here’s how Momentum attributes map onto SparkPost Signals Analytics reporting facets:

Momentum attribute Signals Analytics facet Comment
Sending domain Sending domain No config needed, this is the same concept.
binding Sending IP Your Momentum binding name reports in SparkPost as “Sending IP”.
binding_group IP pool Your Momentum binding_group name is reported in SparkPost as the “IP pool” name which is an equivalent concept.
Custom header
Campaign See “Setting Campaign” below – Momentum is flexible here.
Subaccount Create the subaccount in SparkPost account. Tag mail with the (numeric) subaccount ID in injected message header “X-SP-SUBACCOUNT-ID” and you’re good to go.
IP address of the remote host (logfile %H) ip_address Address that Momentum delivered the message to (recipient mail server).


Setting Campaign

Being able to report with Campaign as a facet is really useful. There are two ways to do this:

  1. Set up the X-MSYS-API header as described here. This special header provides various features as well, such as control of open and click tracking and metadata on your Momentum traffic stream. This is the method we used in this demo setup.
  2. Create your own custom X-header to carry a campaign identifier, and map this in the signals-agent-config.lua file. For example, this makes Momentum accept an X-Job header carrying campaign ID, just like PowerMTA:

local cfg = {}
-- to add more custom headers it would look like this
-- custom_header = { ["X-SP-SUBACCOUNT-ID"] = "subaccount_id", ["X-CUSTOM-HEADER"] = "custom1", ["X-CUSTOM-HEADER2"] = "custom2"}
cfg.custom_header = { ["X-SP-SUBACCOUNT-ID"] = "subaccount_id", ["X-Job"] = "campaign_id" }
-- set to true if you are using your own click tracking = false
-- set to true if you are using your own open tracking = false
return cfg

That’s everything you need for Momentum / SparkPost Signals integration. If you want to know more about our demo configuration, read on.

Annex: Momentum Signals demo configuration

The config file structure can be found in

. A reference copy of selected files from our demo server config is on Github here.

File Description
Top level config file. Notably includes signals-agent.conf (supplied for you, not given here).
Declares the open & click tracker scriptlets and engagement_tracking_host
Policy that permits relaying for selected “safe domains” only
Declares minimal binding_group and bindings for our demo
Declares our signing domain
Declares our port 587 listener, TLS cert/key, auth login, engagement tracking, FBL handling, OOB bounce handling
Signing domain keys live here ..
private key has been redacted

Momentum offers Auth login & STARTTLS on injection

Our demo has user/password protected message injection on Port 587, as we did with the PowerMTA demo and SparkPost itself. Following the inbound TLS setup instructions, we have:

??Listen ":587" {
????Enable = true
????# TLS key/cert for *
????TLS_Certificate = "/etc/pki/tls/certs/"
????TLS_Key = "/etc/pki/tls/certs/"
????# Reference client CA bundle from
????TLS_Client_CA = "/etc/pki/tls/certs/cacert.pem"
????TLS_Ciphers = "DEFAULT"
????TLS_protocols = "+ALL:-TLSv1.0:-SSLv3"
??????AuthLoginParameters = [
????????uri = "file:///opt/msys/ecelerity/etc/unsafe_passwd"
????????log_authentication = "true"

????# Engagement tracking
????tracking_domain = ""
????open_tracking_enabled = true
????click_tracking_enabled = true
????click_tracking_scheme = "http"
????open_tracking_scheme = "http"

A fresh reference CA bundle was fetched from Legacy TLS versions (prior to v1.1) are disabled here for safety. You can prove that by comparing the output you see (from another host) between

?from another host using

openssl s_client -connect -starttls smtp -tls1

Momentum out-of-band bounce processing

Firstly, we set up DNS MX records for our

? (which will be
?). Check using:

dig MX +short

The FBL and OOB listener on port 25 is separate to the injection port 587, and defined in


# FBL and OOB listener - no auth, but NOT open relay
??Listen "*:25" {
????Enable = true
????Open_Relay = false?

Now we check (from an external host) that this listener is NOT open-relay:

swaks --server --from steve@bouncy.test --to
=== Trying
=== Connected to
<-  220 2.0.0 ESMTP ecelerity r(Core: Tue, 26 Nov 2019 12:30:34 +0000
 -> EHLO steve-tuck-macbook-pro
<- says EHLO to
<-  250-8BITMIME
 -> MAIL FROM:<steve@bouncy.test>
<-  250 2.0.0 MAIL FROM accepted
 -> RCPT TO:<>
<** 550 5.7.1 relaying denied
 -> QUIT
<-  221 2.3.0 closing connection
=== Connection closed with remote host.

That “relaying denied” message tells us we’re safe. Next, we check it does accept messages destined for the bounce processor. This is not a true bounce message, but is enough to check the routing is correct.

swaks --server --from steve@bouncy.test --to
<-? 250 2.0.0 OK 7D/00-30572-40C655D5
?-> QUIT

Momentum FBL processing

The file


# FBL content added to outbound mail - SMT 2019-08-15
Enable_FBL_Header_Insertion = enabled
fbl {
  Auto_Log = true # default is "false"
  Log_Path = "/var/log/ecelerity/"     # not jlog
  Addresses = ( "^.*" )  # default is unset
  Header_Name = "X-MSFBL"           # this is the default
  Message_Disposition = "blackhole"         # default is blackhole, also allowed to set to "pass"

FBLs on a subdomain (in fact any address on a subdomain) is taken care of with a wildcard CNAME record:


This resolves via the return-path MX:

host is an alias for has address mail is handled by 10

We check basic connectivity with swaks (not actually generating an FBL here, as such):

swaks --server --from steve@fbl.test --to
<-? 250 2.0.0 OK B4/80-24808-BCA12BD5

Putting test traffic through Momentum

Firstly we check with a single message:

swaks --server --from --to --auth-user demo --auth-pass __YOUR_KEY_HERE__ -tls
<~? 250 2.0.0 OK C4/80-24808-00C12BD5

Then we use this Traffic Generator to inject periodic message batches through Momentum, which delivers onwards to the Bouncy Sink. The Bouncy Sink accepts, opens, clicks, and in-band-bounces messages, and occasionally generates Out-of-Band bounces and FBLs.

pipenv run ./
Not replacing URLs for tracking, before injection
Established SMTP connection to, port 587
Successful LOGIN with user=demo, password=********************************
Sending to 42 recipients in batches of 10
Basic stats for day in month: Spam trap = 0.0077%, Spam complaint = 0.1032%
Today scaling factor = 0.6645, giving Spam trap = 0.0051%, Spam complaint 0.0686%
??To? ? 10 recipients | campaign "Password_Reset" | ..........OK - in 0.157 seconds
??To? ? 10 recipients | campaign "Password_Reset" | ..........OK - in 0.147 seconds
??To? ? 10 recipients | campaign "Password_Reset" | ..........OK - in 0.137 seconds
??To? ? 10 recipients | campaign "Welcome_Letter" | ..........OK - in 0.146 seconds
??To ? ? 2 recipients | campaign "Holiday_Bargains" | ..OK - in 0.035 seconds
Done in 0.6s.
Results written to redis

We can check this is working as expected by looking in Momentum logs;
??shows lots of deliveries such as


? shows these are processed, then “blackholed” as expected, i.e. does not try to forward them anywhere.

==> /var/log/ecelerity/ <==
1571877606@4B/03-01988-6E2F0BD5@4B/03-01988-6E2F0BD5@19/DB-01988-6E2F0BD5@B@fbl@fbl.momo.signalsdemo.tryms 5.7.0 [internal] recipient
1571877606@9C/03-01988-6E2F0BD5@9C/03-01988-6E2F0BD5@99/ [internal] [oob]
The recipient is invalid.

You can deliberately cause FBLs and OOBs, by sending to specific bouncy sink subdomains (as per this table).

swaks --server --from --to --auth-user demo --auth-pass __YOUR_KEY_HERE__ -tls

swaks --server --from --to --auth-user demo --auth-pass __YOUR_KEY_HERE__ -tls

Checking results

Looking in our SparkPost Events Search report, we can see Spam Complaint and Out of Band events showing up:

Showing the reporting facets

Our demo has a set of example subaccounts.?Messages are assigned to specific bindings, via injected message headers.?The campaign ID is set using the

? header, for example:

X-Binding: medium
X-Sp-Subaccount-Id: 3
X-MSYS-API: {"campaign_id": "Charlie's Last Minute Savings"}

Name Binding
0 (Master account) trusted
1 Alice’s Adventure Travels new
2 Bob’s Brewhouse trusted
3 Charlie’s Creative Advertising medium
4 Diana’s Dog Grooming medium

We see message streams are flowing through these subaccounts on the Summary report:

We see the individual campaign names:

“Sending IP” (aka Binding) can be used as a reporting facet:

We can also use “IP Pool” (aka Binding Group) as a reporting facet:

~ Steve

The post Deploying Signals for On-Premises: Momentum Integration – Part 3 appeared first on SparkPost.

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5 Ways Your Emails Compare to Thanksgiving Sides Mon, 18 Nov 2019 14:00:29 +0000 thanksgiving sidesDiscover how the elements of your emails are like the Thanksgiving sides that round out the feast and leave everyone satisfied and happy.

The post 5 Ways Your Emails Compare to Thanksgiving Sides appeared first on SparkPost.


As millions of people prepare to indulge in their annual Thanksgiving meals, let’s give thanks for the bountiful feast that triggered, transactional, and promotional emails offer your company and thousands of businesses like yours. In fact, customers who make website purchases via email links spend on average 138% more than other people, according to Campaign Monitor, making email a key ingredient in your marketing meals.

Since we’re feeling a bit peckish, let’s imagine that your email marketing strategy is the main course in your Thanksgiving meal – it’s a perfectly cooked turkey that feeds a table full of guests and still provides leftovers for the three-day weekend that follows. And we’ll assume the elements of your emails are among the side dishes that round out the feast and leave everyone satisfied and happy.

The gravy: Your sender reputation

This is the part of the meal that makes everything taste a bit better. It may not be the first thing people notice, and they may not enthuse about it afterward, but they’ll appreciate that it was there.

That’s your sender reputation, which dictates whether the gatekeepers at Gmail, Yahoo!, and other providers deliver your emails to inboxes, relegate them to the promotions tab, or dump them in a spam trap. A sender reputation that leaves a poor aftertaste will quickly ruin the perfect email meal.

Keep your sender reputation fresh by:

  • Quickly honoring unsubscribes
  • Adopting an opt-in policy
  • Pruning dead email addresses
  • Looking closely at bounce codes and acting on them
  • Giving people reasons to open your emails and click a link or two
  • Creating and executing a warm-up plan before you start sending emails from a new IP address

The stuffing: Your header

?Everybody appreciates a good stuffing, especially one that’s created from scratch and is baked for the right amount of time. It will complement the main course, and that’s exactly what your “from” and “reply-to” addresses, your subject line, and your preheader text should do.

This promotional email from The Criterion Channel serves up a tasty serving of intrigue with a subject line that simply says “Somebody’s watching you.” The preheader text elaborates on that rich idea: “Paranoia reigns in a series of Hollywood thrillers and art-house classics that…” – the rest cut off on an iPhone 8 Plus, which gives you an idea of how much space you have on a larger smartphone screen.

While that subject line would be creepy coming from another source, subscribers to The Criterion Channel are likely aware that it’s packed with classic movies, so their marketing team can get away with it. While you may not want to go that far out on a limb with your subject line, we encourage you to be creative and try text that will get people’s attention without making them feel like you sent them click-bait.

The “from” and “reply-to” names and email addresses used here are straight-forward, which helps the recipient know that the message is from a trusted source, not a spammer trying to trick them. While reply-to addresses aren’t as important in promotional emails, it’s useful to have ones for triggered and transactional messages that are functional and send a reply somewhere useful, such as a customer’s CRM record.

The mashed potatoes: Your email body

Good mashed potatoes are inextricably linked to the rest of the meal. If you’re like us, you give them a good dollop of gravy and add them to the turkey, stuffing, and other parts of your plate. That’s also the body of your email, which binds together all the elements of your marketing strategy – if it’s not made well, everything else tastes flat.

Before you begin creating the body of your email, make sure you’re using a responsive template, which means your messages will automatically adapt to your recipients’ devices. They should have the same experience whether they’re using a computer with a huge screen or a several-generations-old smartphone with a tiny display, and responsive email design enables you to deliver that.

This triggered email from NerdWallet, which is sent weekly, is a status update that they cleverly call “Your Nerd’s eye view,” complete with a simple illustration of a bird singing dollar signs. They lead with something a lot of people like to stay on top of – their credit score – and let this user know that they have two key features they can still unlock and start using.

A useful “Did you know…” item links to a page on their site, and they close with a pitch for their mobile app. The chosen photo, as well as the subject matter in the “Did you know…” part, makes it clear that they’ve done some audience segmenting and are targeting a younger audience with this weekly update.

The cranberry sauce: Your footer

Cranberry sauce seems to be a Thanksgiving meal staple, even if not everyone is a fan. That’s kind of like your email footer, which needs to be there and contain some basic information, even if it’s not the most exciting part of the email. To be fair, though, we’ve had some great cranberry sauce, and there’s no reason why your email footer can’t give your email strategy the right amount of zing.

The footer is where you’ll want to include:

  • A logo and/or a motto: It doesn’t hurt to do a little branding here and inject some business personality to close your message, if it makes sense.
  • Social media links: It’s always useful to let people know where they can keep in touch with you online, especially when many of them would rather send a direct message on social media than make a phone call.
  • Contact information: A phone number and/or a mailing address are always useful for people who prefer getting in touch that way. They also help legitimize new and relatively unknown businesses.
  • An unsubscribe link: Make sure it’s easy to see: hiding the link will just annoy people and greatly increase the chance that some of them will report your email as spam to get off your list, which will harm your sender reputation.
  • Legal disclosures: This is crucial, especially if you’re running a contest or offering a special deal that has terms and conditions. They’re also typically required for financial services emails. Check the applicable laws to see what you need to include here.

Depending on your business vertical, you can have a little fun with the footer, such as leading with, “Hey, thanks for reading to the end. Here’s some stuff you should know.” It’s kind of like cranberry sauce from a can versus the made-from-scratch variety, but sometimes you need to take a basic approach, such as in the financial services world.

This email footer from Simple is a good example of a no-frills approach that checks the right boxes.



If you’re looking for an example of an email footer that uses a more unique recipe, check out this one from online retailer Moosejaw, who like to have fun with their messages. Coincidentally, it was sent around Thanksgiving, so it includes a pumpkin pie tip as an Easter egg.

Pumpkin pie: What happens when they click

If you’re not a pumpkin pie fan, imagine your choice of dessert here. This is where you top off the experience with something sweet and delightful that ensures your guests will want to return next year or click-through in your next email.

Make sure the destination matches customers’ expectations. For example, if your call-to-action (CTA) button in your email is “Shop Now,” they should be taken to your online store, or a sub-section of it, if that was the focus of your email. Or if it’s “Apply Now,” they should see a webpage with a form.

You can use click tracking to see how much traffic came from the email versus other sources, such as social media posts or organic searches. Doing so involves adding unique information to each click-through URL. There are many third-party services for that.

And if people weren’t satisfied with what you served them and want to unsubscribe, you can try a few strategies on the unsubscribe page to keep the relationship going in some fashion.

  • Try an opt down: Let them choose less frequent emails or different types of mailings.
  • Offer other channels: Include links to your social media accounts, your blog, and anywhere else you like to communicate with customers. At least you know they’ll still hear from you somehow.
  • Find out why they unsubscribed: Offer a short survey to help you find out why they’re opting out. You can also use it to surface the other channels mentioned in the previous bullet point.

If it turns out they can’t devote a few hours at your place but would rather swing by for some post-meal dessert and coffee, there’s nothing wrong with that. Let your customers define their relationships with your company.

~ Casey

The post 5 Ways Your Emails Compare to Thanksgiving Sides appeared first on SparkPost.

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3 Strategies to Sell More Digital Products with Email Fri, 15 Nov 2019 14:00:35 +0000 sell more digital productsContent Marketer, Cyn Meyer, looks at three key ways Podia creators leverage email marketing to run and grow their businesses.?

The post 3 Strategies to Sell More Digital Products with Email appeared first on SparkPost.


If you’re a creator turning your side-hustle into a full-time passion gig, it can be overwhelming deciding how to spend your time.?

It’s tough enough to make it as an entrepreneur, let alone always knowing exactly where to focus your efforts.?

Some uncertainties that come to mind:

  • Should you focus on social media marketing?
  • What about SEO?
  • Your blog could use some TLC… is that your big priority?
  • How many marketing channels do you need, anyway?

Well, fret no more.?

Today, we’ve got one marketing channel that’s a must-have in your business: email marketing.?

Why? Simply because it works.?

A whopping 81% of businesses rely on email marketing to acquire customers. Another 80% rely on it for customer retention.

Plus, there’s a great ROI. For every $1 you spend on email marketing, you can expect $32 on average of return.

But they say seeing is believing, so rather than tell you about how email marketing can help, I’m going to show you. Today, we’ll look at three key ways Podia creators leverage email marketing to run and grow their business.?

#1. Use email to boost your content marketing efforts

A powerful way to use email is to notify your subscribers about exclusive, valuable content, products, or information. Whether it’s a new blog post or a new feature, a good announcement email can go a long way.?

For instance, Becky Mollenkamp, founder of the Gutsy Boss Club, provides educational content to her email subscribers on topics related to her mindset coaching business.?


?Email provides a channel for delivering relevant and exclusive content to her subscribers, which takes on a variety of formats.?

Delivered content can be as straightforward as announcing a new blog article or as custom as Becky’s 365 Journaling Prompts PDF.?

As you can see in Becky’s addition at the end, subscribers who benefit from her PDF can also opt for her paid offerings like her Master Your Mindset and Crush Your Goals online courses.?

You can follow in Becky’s footsteps and ship off a variety of helpful content to your email recipients like ebooks, guides, and articles. For the best results, though, consider including educational videos in your emails.?

Doing so could increase your click rate by a staggering 300%.?


Here’s how Becky entices her email recipients with a video embedded in her email.

Main takeaway:

If you’re selling info products, digital products, or memberships, use email to deliver educational and exclusive content to your audience. Or, if you’re adding a new feature, use email to keep your customers in the loop with every improvement.

#2: Support your customers after they purchase with key email messages

There are two effective ways creators can use email to support their customers post-purchase. The first is onboarding.??

An impressive 82% of welcome emails get opened. Unlike other email types, customers actually want (and need) your onboarding emails.


So, it’s important to send a welcome email that brings your new customer into the fold as soon as they opt-in for your offerings. Timing and content are key to this type of triggered email.

Take, for example, Larry Silverberg, the master behind True Acting.


Immediately after someone joins his Actors Revolution membership site, Larry emails pertinent login credentials and site access details, like so.?

For anyone who’s setting up a membership site, launching an online course, or selling digital products, successfully delivering your onboarding emails is vital to your business. Without it, your customers can easily lose their information or forget they signed up altogether.

Another way to support your customers post-purchase is by sending customer support emails.?

Check out Rebecca Holman, founder of Low Content Book Mastery, as an example.



Any time a customer has a question or request, Rebecca immediately delivers a customer support email that:

  • Confirms her customer’s request has been received
  • Sets the customer’s expectations for the time until resolution
  • Informs them that a ticket has been opened

With an email like this delivered immediately, Rebecca’s customers know she’s on top of it, which fosters a positive customer experience — something that’s crucial for your business.?

(And why email deliverability is such an important feature of an email service provider.)

In fact, 86% of consumers will pay more for better customer experience, and by next year, customer experience will be more important than price and product when it comes to differentiating your business.


Bottom line:?

Send prompt onboarding and customer service emails to support your customers when they opt-in for your offerings. This will boost your customer experience and overall business growth.

#3: Turn your customers into loyal repeat customers with email marketing?

Just because a customer purchases from you doesn’t mean the selling stops there. Just as you promote to prospective clients, continue to promote to your current clients.?

Yep, it’s a thing. It’s actually a big thing.?

Promoting additional online products to your current customers can save you a lot of capital. It costs five times more to market to a new customer than to market to an existing one.


This means it’s worth retaining your current customers, and one way to do that is by emailing them offers for more of your digital products.?

Or, put another way, email is a powerhouse tool for customer retention, loyalty, and sales, and to succeed in today’s market, you need a channel that can do all three.

No less, and maybe a little more.

For example, consider the case of successful entrepreneur, Justin Lee. He has multiple digital products on his storefront, all of which complement each other.?

A student who has completed his Finding Purpose online course could certainly benefit from his Finding Purpose Journal product.


This gives Justin the opportunity to send nurturing emails to his current clients, promoting additional (and relevant) products that continue to solve their problems.

So, if you’ve got several digital products such as online courses for sale, you’ll want to follow suit and feature them in emails to your current customer base, which will make your marketing dollars travel further.

(And if you want your marketing efforts to go even further than that, then check out this 12,000-word guide on how to create, sell and profit from online courses.)

For those of you who are afraid of peppering your client base with too many emails, don’t be. Clients who are happy with their purchase and fans of your brand want to hear from you — on a weekly basis, in fact.?

That’s right. Word on the street is 49% of customers want to receive promotional emails from their favorite brands each week.?


Another option is to send emails to your customers that offer a loyalty program, another tactic that will contribute to your annual earnings.?

In fact, if you refer your customers to loyalty programs, they’ll spend an average of 13% more each year.?

All in all:?

Use email to continue nurturing your clients into repeat customers. It’s an effective way to keep solving their problems with your other offerings — like digital products and loyalty programs — and turn them into lifetime customers.??

Make like successful Podia creators and prioritize email marketing to grow your business

Growing your business as an entrepreneur (or solopreneur) doesn’t have to be overwhelming.?

If you have the right tools in hand, you can shortcut your way through a ton of trial-and-error and streamline your efforts.?

Email marketing is one surefire way to grow your business. Neglecting email marketing, likewise, is another surefire way to leave money on the table.

Here’s to profiting off your passions (and delivering amazing emails while you’re at it).

~ Cyn Meyer

Cyn Meyer is a content marketer for Podia, an all-in-one platform where online courses, digital downloads, and membership websites — alongside their creators — thrive. Check out our free 12,000+ word guide to creating profitable online courses, even if you’ve never done it before.


The post 3 Strategies to Sell More Digital Products with Email appeared first on SparkPost.

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Like & Subscribe: How Influencers use Email Wed, 13 Nov 2019 14:00:05 +0000 influencers use emailSocial Media Manager, Erica Weiss, explores how influencers use email and the strategies they use to build their lists and keep subscribers engaged.

The post Like & Subscribe: How Influencers use Email appeared first on SparkPost.


With the rise of social media, Influencer Marketing has proven to be one of the most notable emerging marketing strategies. In fact, according to Digital Marketing Institute the Influencer Marketing industry is expected to hit $10bn by 2020. While Influencers no doubt play a huge role in marketing spend for start-ups and Fortune 500 companies alike, it’s important to keep in mind that in addition to creating sponsored content for things like hair pills and “tummy teas” influencers are also selling their personal brand— marketing oneself as a brand.?

Just as marketing leaders at traditional brands employ myriad communication channels to build awareness and drive revenue, so too do the “CMOs” behind some of the most successful personal brands out there. While many influencers tend to stick to the channels you might expect, like Instagram and Youtube, there are many who have expanded their marketing programs into their fans’ inboxes.? Whether it’s to sell merchandise or keep followers up-to-date via a newsletter, influencers big and small use email to communicate with their fanbase. Check out some of the strategies influencers use to build their lists and keep followers engaged via email:

Turning Followers into Subscribers

One of the most challenging aspects of email marketing is maintaining a list of engaged recipients. While Influencers have an audience of followers who are presumably interested in what it is that they do, those fans don’t necessarily translate to email subscribers. One way to turn a follower into a subscriber? Provide Value.?

In the example below, Casey Goode more commonly known by her Instagram handle (and personal brand), @OfficiallyQuigley, explains the benefits of signing up for her email list. Those who join Goode’s “newsletter family” can not only expect to hear about her “secrets” first but also will receive a free copy of her “Guide to Writing Instagram Captions”. For those who follow Goode, these benefits can be particularly enticing as much of her Instagram content focuses on how aspiring influencers can create engaging content. By offering her free guide in exchange for fans’ email addresses she creates symmetry wherein both she and her subscribers benefit.

Welcome Subscribers to the Club

The efficacy of Influencer Marketing is predicated on followers feeling like they have a personal relationship with the influencers they choose to follow…even though they don’t. These fabricated and yet deep connections to influencers can lead big sales (and are the reason I ONLY buy Bounty paper towels). Once a follower has converted into an email subscriber, it’s important to bring that same personal touch they apply to their youtube videos to their email sequence.?

Check out below how Emma Chamberlain, arguably one of the most prolificzoomers” out there, welcomes her newest subscribers to her club. Not only does she thank them for signing up, but also includes a signature quirky photo of her blowing a kiss. More than that, she includes three featured pieces of merchandise from her online store to seamlessly move the message from “Welcome!” to the CTA of “Shop Now”. While this welcome email is far from personalized, it does harken back to Chamberlain’s Instagram aesthetic, making the transition from the ‘gram to the inbox seamless.

The Beauty of Transactional Messages

As we saw in the previous example, it’s not uncommon for influencers to monetize their personal brand by selling merchandise. Accordingly, many beauty influencers have begun selling their own make-up, many of which garner a cult following like the Conspiracy Collection by Shane Dawson and Jeffree Star which completely sold out within hours of its release. With those kinds of sales, you can bet beauty influencers are sending a ton of transactional email.?

Take a look at how beauty guru, Nikita Dragun, uses transactional email to give her customer an order update without diluting her personal brand. Rather than simply saying “Your order has shipped” Dragun lets the customer know that they should “Get ready to slay” since “The secret to selfie slayage is on the way!” Dragun’s triggered email copy is written in her tone and with her vocabulary, making what could have been a downright boring email fun, engaging, and on-brand.

Goode, Chamberlain and Dragun prove that there is no shortage of applications of email in the world of influencing!

See ya on the ‘gram!

~ Erica, Social Media Manager

P.S. Are you as obsessed with Instagram as I am? Follow us on Instagram to keep up to date with all things SparkPost!?

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What it’s Like to be a Working Parent at SparkPost Fri, 08 Nov 2019 14:00:04 +0000 working parentsBenefits and Culture Manager, Michelle Cunningham, explains why SparkPost is a great place for working parents to be employed.

The post What it’s Like to be a Working Parent at SparkPost appeared first on SparkPost.


According to a 2015 study by Pew Research Center, 65% of working parents with college degrees– reported that it was “somewhat difficult” or “very difficult” to meet the simultaneous demands of work and family. Knowing this, I knew rejoining the workforce after being home for seven years with my two girls, now 10 and 12 was going to be a big adjustment for our family. I had been lucky that a significant part of my earlier career had been spent at an accounting firm, RSM that valued their employees and offered many programs for working parents with lots of flexibility. So, I knew that when I went back to work, I wanted to find a company that offered similar programs and that had an inclusive culture. I found that culture and fit at SparkPost when I joined the company in early 2017.

SparkPost is a company that values its employees and it shows within our culture, and our values. It’s evident in our normal workdays and in the programs we have in place. We offer flexible work hours, and all employees are able to work remotely on Fridays. We also have a significant amount of employees that work remotely every day. We demonstrate the value of flexibility knowing we hire the right people for a particular job even if they don’t live close to one of our offices.?

For me, I’m able to juggle working on meaningful projects and am still able to pick my kids up from school many days. Of course, all working parents juggle competing priorities, and at times, it can be overwhelming. Author and executive coach, Daisy Waderman Dowling recently wrote an article for Harvard Business Review, called A Working Parents Survival Guide. Her writing reinforces for those of us that are working parents that we all face conflicts and stressors while we try and balance home and work life. The author highlights different challenges we tend to face and five powerful strategies to consider as part of our toolbox as a working parent. Some other useful tips are being “present’ when you are at work, sharing how you can be contacted and when you are accessible. And learning it’s okay to set boundaries whether it’s in relation to work or in other parts of your life.

The leaders of SparkPost know, that working parents make up a huge part of our company. Our Managers look out for their team members, help them reprioritize work and give them encouragement when needed. It’s all about transparency and open communication. Our team members know that they have the flexibility they need to handle a family issue, see their child perform in a band concert, or attend a school play. One Manager in our Customer Success Team feels empowered to lead his team, handle customer issues and coach his daughter’s soccer, field hockey, and lacrosse teams.?

SparkPost provides many different benefits for employees. One benefit that supports our working parents is our eight weeks of Parental leave for those employees that either welcome a new baby into their family, choose to adopt or foster a child. There is definitely no negative judgment for those that use this leave. Some employees take all eight weeks at once, while others take it over a few months. No one size fits all. Speaking of which, we also have a Flexible Time Off policy which allows employees the opportunity to schedule vacations, volunteer, coach or address family situations that arise. Individuals are able to use the time when they need it and don’t have to worry about accruing time off.?

As a working parent, one of our favorite days of the year is Take your Daughters and Sons to Work Day. This is a really fun day where we share SparkPost with our kids. The whole office gets involved in activities that day. It’s a day in which the kids are so excited to come to work, and the parents and our teammates have a fun day.?

While not every day can be a party in the office, I find that many of us do want to work at a company that makes you feel valued and is committed to your professional growth. As a working parent, you spend a lot of time with those you work with, so it is important to find people that you like to work with as well. I feel lucky that I work with a great group of people at SparkPost. I want to send a shout out to all my coworkers that work hard every day and do their best in balancing their families and work life. It’s not always easy. And some weeks may seem harder than others. But together, we can make it work!

Interested in seeing what it’s like to work at SparkPost? Follow us on Instagram!

~ Michelle

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Looking Back at OptIn’19 Wed, 06 Nov 2019 14:00:28 +0000 Jen Lacey, Senior Manager, Digital and Content Strategy, shares her experience at our first-ever vendor-agnostic conference, OptIn'19!

The post Looking Back at OptIn’19 appeared first on SparkPost.


What a week! We just held our first ever OptIn conference down in Carmel, CA and it was incredible! We’ve done conferences and events in the past but this was our first ‘vendor-agnostic’ conference. What does that really mean? We pushed really hard to make sure folks from all corners of the email industry were invited and encouraged to attend – it was super important to our entire team to put together a conference where everyone in our industry (and beyond it) felt welcome. Competitors, industry pundits, journalists and plenty of folks NOT using SparkPost all gathered listen in on talks about email and the exciting strides they’re making with email. The weather was perfect, and attendees got to warm up to the conference on Day 1 by participating in hiking, archery, cooking, crafting or yoga before a delicious welcome dinner.


It’s incredibly exciting to me to watch our events evolve over the years and so promising to see the increasing number of women and minorities as both attendees AND speakers. A personal favorite was definitely Michelle Poler talking about her 100 days without fear project, where she conquered a fear every day for 100 days and documented the entire process. Her talk on pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone to achieve true growth resonated with everyone in the audience and of course, got the wheels turning on how we can all apply this philosophy to our day jobs and beyond.


The Diversity and Inclusion panel by the Women of Email was also very impactful, highlighting (among other things) the importance of representation on teams when hiring and recruiting in ANY industry. They also touched on accessibility in email, as well as authentic ways that brands can incorporate social messages and support for minorities and underrepresented groups into their messaging and campaigns.

As I said, the conference was jam-packed full of sessions on all things email, data, engagement & growth. I think you could probably poll our attendees (don’t worry, we did!) and learn that they felt their conference tickets were money well spent. We hope to see you at OptIn’20!?

Happy Sending!


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5 Tips for Integrating SMS Into Your Email Marketing Campaigns Mon, 04 Nov 2019 14:00:51 +0000 integrating SMSHere are 5 tips for integrating SMS into your email marketing campaigns, so you can deliver customers a consistent experience across communication channels.

The post 5 Tips for Integrating SMS Into Your Email Marketing Campaigns appeared first on SparkPost.


Of the 7.7 billion people on the planet, it’s estimated that about 3.5 billion of them have Internet access, and over half of them use email. That’s pretty impressive, but did you know that around 5 billion people can send and receive SMS (short message service) messages, also known as texting? It helps that SMS can be used on non-smartphones too.

Among consumers, according to TechJury, 75% of them don’t mind receiving SMS messages from brands (after they’ve opted in, of course). They also redeem coupons delivered via SMS 10 times more than coupons sent to them in other ways. In general, SMS messages have an astounding 98% open rate, with 90% of them read within 3 minutes of being received.

Before you stop reading and rush off to send SMS messages to your customers, though, there are some best practices to keep in mind. Here are 5 tips to help you integrate an SMS strategy into your email marketing campaigns, so you can create an omnichannel marketing approach that delivers a consistent experience everywhere you communicate with customers.

1. Approach SMS the same way you handle email

First, you need your customers’ permission to send them SMS messages, like email sending usually requires. In the United States, the FCC requires written consent before sending commercial texts, which you can handle by asking for cell phone numbers and then sending people an SMS message that requires them to reply with “yes,” or some other form of consent, to receive future messages from you.

As always, though, check the laws that apply to you and consult with legal counsel at your company, if necessary.

Next, you’ll want to segment your list of SMS message recipients, as you do with your email list, so you can speak directly to those cohorts in your messages. Many SMS message sending services offer personalization, so you can insert first names, birthdays, cities, and other information. Just don’t overdo it, since space will be at a premium.

Finally, make sure you honor unsubscribes sent via SMS too. You will hurt your company’s brand equity if you send SMS messages to people who have unsubscribed, and there’s a good chance that they will complain to their carriers, who will likely block you as a spammer. You could also incur the wrath of the FCC or other government agencies.

2. You can send triggered, transactional, and promotional SMS messages

Consider sending different types of communications via SMS, just as you do with email:

  • Triggered messages alert customers to events, such as order shipments, suspicious account log-in attempts, upcoming due dates for bills, and monthly reports.
  • Transactional messages are sent in response to customers’ actions, such as purchases, bill payments, new account creations, and password resets.
  • Promotional messages let customers know about new products, special deals, rewards based on their activity, and other ways that you drive sales. You can also create upsell and cross-sell opportunities.

Given the immediacy of SMS messages, they’re useful for communications that have more urgency than an email would. For example, you could send a coupon code that’s good for one day only, or let customers know about a new product or service, complete with a shortened link that will take them to your mobile website. (Your website is responsive, correct?)

SMS messages are also a good way to offer two-factor authentication for user accounts, which allows you to provide a useful layer of security for your customers.

If you’re going to send a lot of SMS messages, you may want to invest in a short code so carriers don’t consider you a spammer. A short code is a five- or six-digit phone number that’s typically pre-approved by mobile carriers for use with commercial activity. Try choosing one that spells out a word, so it’s easy for people to remember. For example, Kmart uses 562-78, which spells out the name of the retailer on a keypad.

3. Brevity is the soul of SMS messages

SMS messages can’t be more than 160 characters long, so while your emails should be short and to the point, your SMS messages need to make every letter count. It may be tempting to string multiple SMS messages into one communication, but doing so will increase the odds that your recipients will start opting out in droves. Try not to send SMS messages more than a few times a week, at the most.

If you had experience writing marketing messages on Twitter before the character limit for tweets was increased, then you should apply what you learned here. Limit each SMS message to one thing at a time, saving the fuller storytelling for emails.

Consider how your SMS messages can complement your emails. For example, if you email your list about a special deal that has an expiration date, you could send a follow-up SMS message reminder shortly before the deal ends. You can schedule SMS message sending, allowing you to orchestrate your marketing campaigns.

An SMS message can also be useful for alerting your customers to time-sensitive news, such as a delay with shipping an order or a problem with their account.

4. Use simple, relevant keywords and reply immediately to messages

When you publicize your new SMS message service, you can ask customers to text a word or phrase to your phone number (ideally, a short code) to enroll. Try using something memorable. For example, if you have an online store that sells women’s clothes and accessories, you could ask people to text “fashion” to your number to enroll.

Use an auto-responder to ensure customers receive an immediate response when they enroll. Welcome them to the service and let them know what to text back to unsubscribe, such as “stop.” Make sure it’s easy for them to opt-out, and acknowledge them when they do, so they know you will honor the request.

You can also set up and publicize keywords to enable customers to do other things, such as getting directions to your business location or to an event or receiving a link to download a mobile app. In addition, you can use SMS messages to gather information, such as asking people to text you their first names.

5. Find the right partners for your omnichannel marketing strategy

SMS messaging allows you to complement your marketing efforts via email, social media, your website, and other channels. That’s important because today’s typical consumer uses an average of nearly six touch-points per purchase, whereas 15 years ago, they often used two. In addition, 90% of consumers expect to see consistent interactions with businesses across channels.

Companies that implement omnichannel customer engagement strategies retain on average 89% of their customers, and those customers have a 30% higher lifetime value than those who shop with one channel.

If you’re using SparkPost to send email, you’ll be glad to know that we have a strategic partnership with MessageBird, a cloud communication platform that extends your messages across channels, including SMS. MessageBird’s platform is highly scalable and offers unrivaled speed and reliability for message sending anywhere in the world. You can read more about our partnership with MessageBird on our blog.

~ Casey

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Questions to Ask Your Next Email Vendor Fri, 01 Nov 2019 13:00:02 +0000 Email VendorSenior Manager, Digital and Content Strategy, Jen Lacey explains how to enhance your RFP and email vendor selection process with our RFP checklist.

The post Questions to Ask Your Next Email Vendor appeared first on SparkPost.


There is nothing I love more than a good checklist. There’s something about having a tactical plan of action that makes you feel in control of your day, productive and efficient. But a checklist is only as good as what’s on it, and sometimes, you don’t know what you don’t know. When you’re in charge of sourcing a new tech vendor, it’s easy to come up with the hard-hitting questions that affect your role, but maybe not so easy to understand how a new piece of tech might impact other functions of your organization.

As email and technology solutions become more integrated with every aspect of a business’ overall software stack, it’s important to be cognizant of how a new solution will impact other functions of your org, not just your role.

That’s why we thought it would be helpful to put together a checklist of questions you can use when creating an RFP to evaluate email vendors. We’ve grouped the checklist by category so it’s easy to quickly skim areas where you might need more assistance. An email marketer probably has their needs and use cases down to a ‘T’ but if they’re the sole purchaser, what technical or compliance questions might they need to be aware of?

This quick checklist will guide you on important aspects of an email service purchase including topics like:

  • Pricing: How is pricing measured and how will you be billed? What features are considered included vs. add-on?*
  • Analytics: What are the reporting functionalities of the tool or service you’re evaluating? How much detail is included in the reporting? Is there any kind of predictive data modeling offered?
  • Integration: What kind of functionality is available via webhooks? Are there automated alerts available?
  • Support: What kind of onboarding assistance is included? What support SLAs are issued with a standard contract?

The full checklist with suggested questions can be found here. As always, if you have any feedback or comments on something you think is missing, give us a shout!

We hope this list makes you feel a bit more prepared in your search for an email service.

Happy Sending!


*an important factor to hold constant when comparing vendors! Make sure all pricing packages are offering the same features

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SparkPost To Acquire eDataSource Tue, 29 Oct 2019 11:05:03 +0000 sparkpost acquires edatasourceWe are excited to share with you that SparkPost has entered an agreement to acquire eDataSource!?Learn more about the acquisition here.

The post SparkPost To Acquire eDataSource appeared first on SparkPost.


Today I am excited to share with you that SparkPost has entered an agreement to acquire eDataSource!

This milestone allows us to continue delivering on our promise to provide the best email sending and analytics platform for brands in the easiest and most efficient way possible.

The email market has been impacted by two conflicting scenarios: The increasing complexity of inbox strategies and an influx of marketers returning to email as the most efficient method for engaging their customers and opted-in prospects.

By combining SparkPost, the world’s largest sender, with eDataSource’s leading deliverability and analytics capabilities, we will enable our customers to successfully navigate the new email environment and enhance the distinguished portfolio of products and services we offer.

The new offerings planned for the next few quarters will enhance the transparency and efficacy of email sending without the growing friction between the sending layer and analytics layer that marketers seek.

I’m incredibly excited to welcome eDataSource to the SparkPost family. We share values with eDataSource, and their culture matches our own. Many joint customers will quickly benefit from the combination, and we will be bringing much more value to all customers in the near future. We are thrilled to bring these two organizations together.

You can read more about the acquisition here, and as you can imagine we’re excited to embark on this next chapter of our company. We look forward to hearing from you with your questions and suggestions on how we can best serve your email needs.

– ?Rich Harris
CEO, SparkPost

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Birthday Email Marketing: Have Your Cake and Send It, Too Mon, 28 Oct 2019 13:00:17 +0000 birthday email marketingLet’s take a look at some of the better examples of birthday email marketing we’ve seen, and what they’re doing right to engage their customers.

The post Birthday Email Marketing: Have Your Cake and Send It, Too appeared first on SparkPost.


Everyone knows birthdays are a big deal but did you know they can also be a great time to send out big deals?

Most successful marketers do. In fact, in September 2019 alone, Sparkpost sent out 88,394,863 emails with a subject line containing the word “Birthday.”

That’s a lot of b-day celebrations.

With 51% of marketing leaders choosing to treat their customers to birthday emails and 73% of them rating their birthday campaigns as effective or highly effective, they’re a proven way to connect with your customers and show them some love on the day that’s uniquely theirs.

Birthday emails regularly outperform other promotional emails. Take a look at some of these KPIs; birthday emails have…

  • 481% higher conversion rates
  • 342% higher revenue per message
  • 179% higher unique click rates
  • 89% higher open rates

While holidays like Christmas or Valentine’s Day have their own appeal for marketers, birthdays are special for two reasons. First, everyone has a birthday, while not everyone celebrates the same holidays. Second, a birthday feels uniquely yours, with good reason.? It makes you feel special and celebrated just for, hey, being you.

So there’s obviously plenty of opportunities to take advantage of birthdays every month. And with performance statistics like those just mentioned, there’s a good chance you already are, if you’re a marketer with a subscriber list. The question is, are you doing it as effectively as you could be?

Let’s take a look at some of the better examples of birthday email marketing we’ve seen, and what they’re doing right to engage their customers.

Every birthday is a gift – so offer them one!

Everyone wants to be celebrated on their birthday. Put a smile on your customer’s faces by spoiling them with an exclusive offer that can help boost your sales too. Sephora is no slouch at email marketing with a personal touch and drops a birthday treat to customers on their special day each year.

When sending out these offers, something to keep in mind is that you should add an expiration date to the offer to create a sense of urgency. Without a clear expiration, it’s far more likely that your customer will save the email to come back to at a later time…and then forget about it altogether.

Timing is another aspect of birthday emails to keep in mind. 55% of these are sent on the actual birthday, while 38% are sent one to three weeks earlier. It can feed into the recipient’s building sense of excitement, and even encourage them to treat themselves for their big day. This way, you’ve got time to send a few reminders, prompting them to take action before the offer expires.

A popular expiration date for birthday offers is 30 days after issuance, such as this sweet birthday promotion by Sweetgreen (and we can’t resist a great veggie-related pun).

What’s the big date?

A major challenge with these emails can be obtaining the customers actual birthday. Customers are less likely to opt-in if they have to provide more information about themselves when signing up for a product or newsletter.

One tactic is to be blunt. Hinting at an exclusive offer or gift may be enough to encourage your customers to share their information, and asking in a cute, fun way makes them feel better about giving their birthday out than filling out a form when opting in.

Seamless did a great job here by being straightforward and having a clear CTA (even including step-by-step illustrated guidance).

Bodyrok has done something fundamentally smart in this next example. Without going into a deeper level of personalization, this email makes sure the birthday offer can apply to everyone. The offer of 25% a retail item is a fantastic way to be inclusive and definitely something to keep in mind if you offer a subscription-based service that may render your birthday offer moot.

Not all successful birthday emails have to include a gift or promotion. Especially for companies who aren’t in retail, it can be impactful to emphasize the relationship you have (and have had) with your customer.

Intuit shows the way with a yearly recap of sorts – it’s a good reminder to check your numbers but sugar-coated (ha!) with an optimistic look forward to the upcoming year.

The main ingredient?

While it might seem like obvious advice, it stands repeating: have fun! Birthdays are a celebration, after all.

In that vein, what better way to celebrate another year of life than by really energizing your emails? GIFs and animation are a favorite of ours, and we’re willing to bet they’ll appeal to your customers. Take a look at these examples by Payoff and Artifact Uprising that sparkle with promise.

~ Erica



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9 Interview Questions You Should Be Asking Email Marketing Manager Candidates Fri, 25 Oct 2019 13:00:30 +0000 email marketing managerIn the process of hiring an email marketing manager? We’ve put together 9 questions that can help you during the hiring process.

The post 9 Interview Questions You Should Be Asking Email Marketing Manager Candidates appeared first on SparkPost.


Email may be the oldest form of digital communication, but it’s currently used by over half of the people in the world, with the population of email users expected to reach more than 4.3 billion by the end of 2023.

In addition, over 293 billion business and personal emails are sent and received every day, a number that will exceed 347 billion by the end of 2023. And if you’re worried that email usage could die out, never fear: 78% of teenagers use email.

Given its ubiquity, email marketing remains a key way to build brand equity, develop relationships with customers, and, of course, grow revenue. In fact, every dollar spent on email marketing can bring in an average return of $38, according to Constant Contact.

That’s why it’s important to hire the right person to manage email marketing at your company. We’ve put together 9 questions that can help you during the hiring process.

1. Which companies currently do email marketing well?

This question helps you set a baseline for the interviewee’s industry knowledge. This shouldn’t be a tough question for them, so if they struggle with it, then you know they’re not up to speed on the latest trends. Just because email has been around since the early 1970s doesn’t mean it’s a static medium.

The word “currently” helps ensure that they won’t cite an email they received from Amazon five years ago. You could follow up by asking for specific examples of email marketing campaigns from the companies they mention, as well as why those campaigns work well.

2. What’s the best email marketing campaign that you’ve created?

This is their chance to show how they apply what they know about the industry and its trends. After all, staying up to speed on their chosen profession is one thing – putting those lessons to use is another.

A good follow-up here could involve asking them to walk through that campaign and point out specifics about the subject line, preview text, tone of the text, and the imagery that was used. Bonus points if they can discuss the intended audience and why the email was geared toward them.

3. How do you develop the voice for your email campaigns?

Anyone who’s thrown off by this question, unless they need you to explain what you mean by “voice,” likely doesn’t understand audience segmentation, which is a red flag. No company should have a “one size fits all” approach to their email marketing, so it’s crucial that the interviewee be able to explain how they target their messaging to different audiences.

Bonus points if they toss in a few literary references. Sure, your email campaigns aren’t the second coming of Hemingway, but it’s never a bad thing if your email marketing manager takes a few cues from literary giants in their work. You’ll also get a sense of what they’ll be like to work with on a daily basis.

4. What are some of the ways you’ve used A/B testing in your campaigns?

Ideally, your new email marketing manager will understand the industry well, know how to target their messaging, and possess the desire to A/B test their content to see what works well. Every email marketer knows that no matter how well they’ve dialed in their campaign, they should try a test to make sure they don’t have any blind spots in their setup.

This is a good open-ended question that should involve not just a simple “We tested this” response but also an explanation of why they chose that variable to test. The interviewee should know that you test one variable at a time, to avoid muddying the results.

Bonus points if they’ve tried some tricky tests, such as seeing what kind of imagery resonates best with an audience.

5. How do you judge the success of your email campaigns?

The ideal email marketing manager should be as comfortable creating a style guide as they are digging through data. Ideally, they look at open and click-through rates, as well as conversion rates on a landing page or other destination. Hopefully, they’re well-versed in more advanced metrics too, such as deliverability rates, mobile vs. desktop email stats, and ROI.

A good follow-up here could involve how they’ve applied past lessons to future campaigns, with specific examples. Bonus points if they can show how they’ve moved the needle on a KPI (key performance indicator) with at least one campaign.

6. How have you used different kinds of emails as part of a customer lifecycle strategy?

Any good email marketing manager understands the difference between triggered, transactional, and promotional emails and how to use them as part of a customer journey. The interviewee should be able to explain how they’ve crafted a strategy that takes a new customer from onboarding to tenured status to a win-back situation where they’ve stopped making purchases or have closed their account.

Bonus points if segmentation is part of their strategy. For example, do they treat customers in one demographic different from those in another? Do they consider how long people have been customers, how much they spend monthly or annually, and how they’ve engaged with emails in the past? Ideally, they have developed parallel customer journeys that take those things into consideration.

7. How do you handle deliverability problems?

Anyone who’s been around the block a few times with email marketing understands that just because you send a message to someone, it doesn’t mean it will actually land in their inbox. It could end up in their spam or promotion folder, or it could simply never arrive.

An interviewee should demonstrate knowledge of sender reputation and how it affects deliverability. Bonus points if they can relate some examples of how they’ve fixed deliverability problems on their job, and extra bonus points if they understand Sender Policy Framework (SPF), DomainKey Authenticated Mail (DKIM), and Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance (DMARC), as well as how they use those security standards as part of their deliverability efforts.

They should earn some big bonus points if they’ve used an analytics dashboard, like the one SparkPost offers, to diagnose deliverability problems at a deeper level.

8. How have you reacted to an email marketing campaign that failed?

After giving an interviewee the chance to show off what they know and how they’ve shined in their work, this is a chance to understand how they handle adversity. Every email marketing manager will have failed campaigns, so they should be able to explain what they learned and how they applied those lessons to future campaigns.

Bonus points if their answer has a mix of technical detail, such as how they tackled a deliverability problem, and behavioral insight, such as how they handled the failed campaign within their company.

9. How do you manage your daily work?

Anyone with the word “manager” in their job title should be able to work independently, stay organized, and follow up on their to-do list. They should also be able to demonstrate how they work with their teammates, as well as their cross-functional stakeholders in engineering, product design, and other parts of the company.

Bonus points if they can relate situations where they’ve shown the initiative to tackle certain tasks without being told to do so. Extra bonus points if those tasks were outside their job description and/or their comfort zone.

~ Erica

The post 9 Interview Questions You Should Be Asking Email Marketing Manager Candidates appeared first on SparkPost.

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How to Build an Email Program to Increase DAUs Wed, 23 Oct 2019 13:00:03 +0000 increase DAUsLearn how to build an email program that will bolster and sustain meaningful engagement with your app as well as increase DAUs.

The post How to Build an Email Program to Increase DAUs appeared first on SparkPost.


If you’re marketing an app, you likely keep a close eye on how many daily active users, or DAUs, are taking action within your app.

Why? Well, many companies consider DAUs to be the most significant measure of product stickiness and growth – two factors imperative to measuring the success of your app.

Okay, so you have your DAUs. Any app does. What’s the issue?? It’s how, over time, the retention stats don’t look great for a typical app.

According to an in-depth study by Quettra, the average app loses 77% of its DAUs within the first 3 days of installation. Within 30 days, it’s lost 90% of DAUs. That’s pretty drastic.

Now before you think “that study has to be incorrect; our own experience is different, we’re seeing lots of regular engagement,” note that a lost DAU is not completely inactive – it may be a user that’s taking action a few times a month. Losing a Daily Active User isn’t the same as losing a Monthly Active User, but they do correlate.

So how do you bolster and sustain meaningful engagement with your app, and retain existing DAUs and even convert others into using it more frequently?

Why use email to drive DAUs?

As we’ve mentioned before, email isn’t going anywhere. With a predicted 255 million users in just the US by 2020, email is a channel that retains enormous reach and effectiveness. After all, it’s all about reaching your audience, and chances are pretty high that your audience is looking at their inbox at least once a day (if not constantly).? And a lot of younger or more app-savvy consumers view email as a key channel.

What’s wrong about relying mainly on push notifications? With the number of apps on individual devices soaring, consumers are growing more likely to download apps and then abandon them. Email is a channel to reach them that’s both non-intrusive and effective because of the fact its users feel they’ve got more power over it.


Push notifications, on their own, may not be enough to recover users who have forgotten about your app or may be slacking off in usage.? They’ve got a short character limit and rigid structure; even with emojis, there’s only so much a marketer can do with that. Plus, once they’ve abandoned the app, users are likely to turn off notifications, if they haven’t already. Some users simply don’t want to see them.

Email offers way more leeway in grabbing the user’s attention. As a marketer, focusing on optimizing what you do within their inbox opens up a world of possibility with images, messaging and personalization options.

We aren’t saying you should overlook other channels – omnichannel marketing succeeds by integrating different ones seamlessly. Stir in your push notifications and targeted ads, but with its wide reach and range of possibilities, don’t neglect email.


Types of DAU-directed emails

Here are some of the building blocks of a campaign aimed at retaining DAUs, or turning other users into DAUs. But one reminder: Don’t forget to test. No matter what type of email program you mount, A/B testing of different message types, timing, frequency, copy, creative, and incentives is always the key to success.


A simple welcome email can bring your app to the front of mind for users and tip some of them into usage.? Beyond reminding them why they downloaded your app, you can offer help with set-up, quick tips for using or navigating the app, or just thank them for their download.

Thank-you emails have an engagement rate of 62% and every marketer pulling his/her weight should be tapping into that. Everyone likes being thanked!


Sending users step-by-step instructions helps them become comfortable with your app, making them more likely to engage with it. Depending on your app’s functionality, you may want to have a more protracted onboarding campaign to get them really enmeshed in the orientation process over a longer time.

There may be hidden features or options and settings that are tricky to navigate, or that you can deliberately “reveal” at later stages of the campaign.


Whether a user didn’t complete signing up or has simply been inactive, email can provide the perfect tool for re-engagement.

This example from eFax, for instance, doesn’t offer anything new – the free trial is always included on signup – but it serves to remind the user why they signed up in the first place. They highlight some of the major features they offer, but place emphasis on messaging that’s structured around a keen financial motive: Stop wasting your money. Hard to argue with that, isn’t it?

Plus, eFax offers an incentive (more on these below) for customers to re-engage with the app: they’ll get a free month of service.

Here’s another approach to re-engagement: Cornerstone cares enough about the user’s reasons for not engaging with the app that they want them to fill out a survey. And by the way, they’ll give you free store credit for doing so.


As we’ve just seen, another popular method of encouraging DAUs? Offer incentives. We’re only human, after all, and putting something in our pockets, or helping us save, always draws attention.

Emails that offer users a reason to return (particularly for financial reasons) get traction with users. While many products offer sign-up incentives, using them, later on, can lure a user back to engagement. Motivating customers to come back is crucial and it doesn’t have to be costly; a discount, free upgrade, or “Exclusive! Limited availability!” feature unlock might do the trick without breaking the budget.

One good point to remember about using incentives? A DAU isn’t necessarily generating value for you unless s/he’s taking specific actions that drive revenue, like buying stuff or shelling out for upgrades. Incentives help steer them down that path.

One company that constantly sends rewards and special offers through email is Starbucks. While the rewards are easily loaded into the app, most are first sent to the inbox and require users to engage before they activate.

Community Announcements

Everyone wants to think they’re hanging out with the popular crowd, right? So as your user community grows, make sure members know they’re part of a burgeoning bunch of fellow cool kids. Or at least like-minded people.

This accomplishes a few things: It lets the user know you value him/her, and that others have ratified that user’s app choice – the sheer popularity of a product can be motivating for some users. Also, it makes you look successful and stable, implying the app will be more likely to be updated and supported in the future.

Here’s an example from Readdle that hits that mark:

Usage Updates

One personalization tactic? Celebrate user engagement! This shows a user you’re paying attention, and you’re going to recognize them for engaging with your app. Or you can go even farther, in an entertaining way. Lyft provides a great example below: their “year in review” emails are really just showing users their own usage data, yet it’s a fun way for them to feel connected to the company and the use of its app.

By providing your users with a sense of accomplishment, you give them a reason to come back to you every day.? Create some usage mileposts as the basis of a DAU-targeted campaign, even if they’re arbitrary or whimsical ones, to power emails that reward users with recognition so they can celebrate with a smile or a fist-pump.

~ Jen

The post How to Build an Email Program to Increase DAUs appeared first on SparkPost.

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Diagnosing and Solving Deliverability Issues with Email on Acid Mon, 21 Oct 2019 13:00:36 +0000 Solving Deliverability IssuesRead up on what we discussed during the twitter chat we co-hosted with Email on Acid titled Diagnosing and Solving Deliverability Issues.

The post Diagnosing and Solving Deliverability Issues with Email on Acid appeared first on SparkPost.


Earlier this month we co-hosted a Twitter chat titled Diagnosing and Solving Deliverability Issues with Email on Acid, a pre-deployment email tool that helps you to find & fix email mistakes while you QA, even if you don’t know HTML. During the Twitter chat, Email on Acid tweeted out deliverability questions and welcomed anyone who was following along to respond in live time.

Through this casual Q&A format, we intended to educate our followers on the basics of deliverability, something that can get lost in the shuffle when addressing high-level concerns about delivering to certain ISPs or increasing open rates. With Email on Acid’s email expertise and the overwhelming amount of #emailgeeks we have over here at SparkPost, together we answered and addressed deliverability questions big and small:

Here are the questions Email on Acid asked during the Twitter chat:

  1. What is the difference between delivery and deliverability?
  2. How can you determine if your email campaign is successful?
  3. How can you ensure that you are sending to legitimate addresses?
  4. How can sending to invalid addresses negatively impact deliverability?
  5. How does engagement affect my deliverability?
  6. What steps should you take to warm-up your IP address(es)?

Check out the answers to these deliverability questions below!


While the above questions may seem very basic to a seasoned email pro, there is no harm in re-reviewing their answers as concerns around deliverability are ever-changing. On the other side of the coin, these questions and answers offer a great jumping-off point for those just getting started in email sending.

For those looking for more information about deliverability, we recommend checking out our guide: The New Rules of Email Deliverability. In addition to addressing the changes to deliverability seen in recent years, this guide also includes new rules and techniques that email senders should be following. Additionally, if you’re looking for a quick read check out some of my favorite blog posts on deliverability:

17 Ways to Improve Email Deliverability

10 Steps to Email Deliverability for Beginners

Deliverability: Half Art, Half Science

How to Segment your Subscriber Data to Improve Deliverability

We hope that our Twitter chat with Email on Acid was helpful and would love your feedback! What topic should we focus on for our next Twitter chat? Feel free to drop me a line and let me know!

~ Erica

new rules email deliverability best practices

The post Diagnosing and Solving Deliverability Issues with Email on Acid appeared first on SparkPost.

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Macabre Marketing: Why Marketers Should Care About Halloween Fri, 18 Oct 2019 13:00:28 +0000 halloweenWhether you’re in B2B or B2C, we suggest pulling up your spooky socks and getting to work on your Halloween marketing campaign.

The post Macabre Marketing: Why Marketers Should Care About Halloween appeared first on SparkPost.


It’s that leaf-crunchin’, apple pickin’, scarifyin’ time of year!

Everything around you is pumpkin-related, spiced or spooky. And as the end of October creeps closer, black cats, broomsticks, and bones seem to spring up everywhere.

But if you’re not selling jack-o’-lanterns or IT costumes (yes, that creepy clown seems very popular this year), is Halloween really a holiday marketers should care about?


According to an annual survey by the National Retail Federation, Halloween spending will reach $8.8 billion this year. If you’re wondering where that stands in comparison to other years, that makes it the third-highest amount in 15 years.

172 million people plan to celebrate Halloween this year. So whether you’re in B2B or B2C, we suggest pulling up your spooky socks and getting to work on your Halloween marketing campaign.

Go big or ghost home?

“Ghost home.” Ouch. But it’s a season for puns, not all of them good.

A Halloween-themed email campaign should start with smart subject lines that sprinkle in a little Halloween wordplay but still serve as great CTAs. It’s the perfect time to test that pumpkin emoji you’ve been looking at. Just be sure to keep everything relevant. It’s too easy to be carried away by “boo”-related puns and bat graphics, so invest in messaging and design that’s more imaginative and doesn’t get buried in clichés.

But whatever you do, quickly relating the creative concept back to your product or service is essential.

Here’s an example of how a Halloween theme can “go big” across an omnichannel B2C campaign. While makeup certainly comes to mind when one thinks of Halloween, it’s more along the lines of face paint and glitter.

That’s why retail cosmetics brand Lush is a superb example of a brand that executes a powerful Halloween marketing campaign by relating their products to the holiday in a unique way.

Despite selling two fairly non-Halloween-esque products – bath bombs and body scrubs – their facebook campaign is relevant, creepy and cute all at once.

While that post has the most interactions, it was the first in a currently ongoing campaign that beautifully switches between adorable and chilling throughout the spooky season. What’s particularly powerful about this is that it’s just a body scrub – but the photography immediately relates it to something darker.

Social media is a solid avenue for engagement, particularly for a brand like Lush where you don’t want to email your audience every few days and overwhelm them with product announcements. By consistently posting thematically-congruent images and copy, Lush scares up better response.

But Lush complements its social media campaign with email that draws on the same spookified sources of inspiration. Here’s one that gives the customer a last-chance opportunity to grab seasonal specials:

Their website is tuned into the same idea – everything on their homepage is consistent with the countdown to Halloween.

All in all, this makes for a seamless, immersive customer experience that just screams Halloween.

Re-animating sales

A jolt of electricity to Dr. Frankenstein’s little re-animation experiment got his monster up and moving.? Why not use a similar tactic to animate sales lift during the Halloween window? It’s the right time to apply fun approaches that might be a bit offbeat for a brand.

This GIF-animated promotion from The Knot drives greater engagement from current registrants by offering the chance to win a $500 gift card just for reviewing their vendor list at the site. They know, of course, that users may take them up on a few featured offers at the site, or add other providers.

Black and orange is so in vogue for an October wedding…isn’t it?

Postable attempts something in the same vein. Though we’re not that sure about how effective Mr. Pumpkinhead is. That outfit does him no favors whatsoever.

Creep-ified content

As always, your audience doesn’t just want fun Halloween-related content – they also want it to be useful.

The U.S. Department of Energy provides a great example of this. Their video, “4 Tips to Keep Your Energy Bill From Haunting You” is fun and does a nice job relating helpful tips to the season.

Beyond this video, the Department of Energy developed other themed assets to play to the spirit of October. Their Spooky Energy Units Calculator, for instance, shows how your energy consumption stacks up against the energy found in candy (and chainsaw hours, because why not?) It’s fun, it’s consistent but most of all, it’s useful.

B2Beast: What’s the trick to treating yourself?

Okay, so a B2C marketer can get away with putting a ghoulish twist on their campaigns. But what if you’re in B2B?

B2B marketers need to work harder to make their holiday themes really resonate, and not simply look silly. Which is one reason many they may shy away from Halloween campaigns – and is exactly why a well-judged, well-executed campaign will have greater impact on the audience.

This example from Dun & Bradstreet from a few years ago highlights a great way to connect data and the Halloween spirit. It really makes a statement with its imagery and clear message, highlighted by a statistic taken from the accompanying report.

The timely image linked to a B2B Marketing Data Benchmark Survey, making an otherwise fact-heavy report (ironically enough) come to life.

Data storage and marketing site provider StorEDGE, on the other hand, uses email to deliver a time-sensitive offer for a free Amazon gift card just for filling out a demo form. This particular offer will turn back into a pumpkin at the stroke of midnight Halloween evening.

~ Erica

The post Macabre Marketing: Why Marketers Should Care About Halloween appeared first on SparkPost.

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6 Real Life Examples of Financial Services Emails That Don’t Use a “One Size Fits All” Approach Wed, 16 Oct 2019 13:00:03 +0000 financial services emailsRead about 6 different examples of financial services emails that do a good job of speaking to specific customer personas.

The post 6 Real Life Examples of Financial Services Emails That Don’t Use a “One Size Fits All” Approach appeared first on SparkPost.


Marketing emails remain a strong way to engage financial services customers and drive sales. According to OptinMonster:

  • 60% of consumers subscribe to brand email lists to get promotional messages
  • 44% of people check email when they want to find a special deal
  • 60% of consumers have made purchases after receiving marketing emails

However, it’s crucial to ensure that the messages your customers receive are relevant to their needs. If they’re not, the fallout can be deadly: according to SuperOffice, when people see emails that aren’t tailored to them:

  • 60% of them delete the message
  • 27% click the “unsubscribe” link
  • 23% do the worst thing possible: they mark the email as spam

All of those things can not only hurt your engagement numbers but also do damage to your sender reputation, which can make it tougher to reach your customers’ inboxes.

Create personas and develop a customer journey

The best way to keep that from happening and avoid the “one size fits all” approach is to slice your customer list into segments according to specific criteria, such as:

  • Customer’s ages, if you know that
  • How long customers have been with you
  • The last time they interacted with your company, such as opening an email or logging into their account
  • Where your customers live (certain financial services products may not be available everywhere, depending on local laws)
  • Which of your products they use (useful for cross-selling and upselling)
  • How much they spend per month or year, or if they’re only using free services (helpful for ROI calculations for different segments)

You can then create personas for those segments. For example, look at the data for your new customers and imagine who they are and how they feel. Do they tend to be younger or older? What are they likely hoping to get out of their relationship with your company? (That could be different from what your long-term customers want.) How do they feel when they get that welcome email? Excited? Nervous? Relieved that they’ve completed a difficult process?

Repeat that exercise for each segment. If necessary, create a quick profile of who the typical customer is in each segment, so you can write your marketing emails as if you’re talking to them. For example: “John is 28 years old. He downloaded our mobile app and created an account for the first time. He’s single, or possibly newly married, and has some extra money to invest every month, before he starts a family and those funds are diverted to other things. He’s open to riskier investments with bigger potential payoffs, such as crowd-funded start-ups, but he’s also nervous about losing money on them.”

Here are 6 examples of financial services emails that do a good job of speaking to specific customer personas.

1. QuickBooks: “We’re so glad you’re here!”

Intuit has carved out a nice chunk of the market by providing financial software to small businesses as well as accountants and other sole proprietors in that space. Their welcome email sets the right tone by making the customer feel like they made the right choice and, in a nifty bit of personalization, acknowledging why they’re there. (“You told us you want to send invoices.”)??The email is short and simple, as a welcome message should be, and puts the main focus on what the customer wants to do, complete with a list of steps and a CTA that sends them to the right place to get started. Intuit still does a little bit of cross-selling by closing the email with a list of other things that the customer is likely to be interested in too, but it wisely avoids any hard sells.

2. Weekly report from Mint: “Here’s how you’re doing”

This is a good example of a triggered email sent to a customer who has had an account for a while. Mint lets users link their bank accounts, credit cards, investment portfolios, and loans to one account, as well as create budgets and set financial goals. It drives revenues from referrals to financial institutions, credit cards, and other financial services products.

The company sends a weekly email that lays out everything the customer needs to know about their account, providing them with a useful visual snapshot of a point in time, so the customer understands the complete picture of their financial health. They adopt a breezy, conversational tone, speaking to the customer as if they’re a good friend giving them some useful advice.

Mint also uses the email to drive engagement if the customer hasn’t completed their account setup, with comments like, “You spent $0.00 in the last week. Wait, that can’t be right…” They make sure to include value props, so the customer understands why they should click through and finish those tasks.

3. ScholarShare 529: “The new year brings a new opportunity”

ScholarShare 529 helps parents save for their kids’ college educations, or private elementary and high school educations, by setting up 529 plans, which are college savings accounts that are exempt from federal taxes.

This promotional email was sent out during the first week of January, so it assumes the recipients are likely making personal improvement resolutions and feeling optimistic about getting a fresh start. It also acknowledges that the reader is very likely a parent, so it adopts the tone of a financial planner who’s letting their client know that they should start thinking about saving for college and, by the way, it’s never too late to get started on that.

4. Wells Fargo: “Depositing checks is as easy as snapping a photo”

This marketing email from Wells Fargo is aimed at longer term customers – probably older Gen Xers and Baby Boomers – who haven’t made the leap to smartphone-based deposits yet by showing them how easy it is. The lifestyle photo conveys the idea that members of an older generation can do it too: “Look how easily her daughter is making a deposit,” it seems to say.

The bullet points reinforce the idea that depositing a check with your phone is easy, convenient, and secure, and the Sign On CTA button takes the recipient straight into their account, which makes sense given how many people read email on their phones.

5. Great Lakes: “Your 2018 Student Loan Tax Information”

This triggered email was sent to all student loan borrowers at the end of November, a time when many people are not only thinking about the holidays but also wrapping up their finances for the year. The lifestyle image and the text assume the recipient is probably in their 20s, or maybe 30s, and needs a prompt to remember about accounting for their student loan interest on their taxes.

That’s why the tone is a bit parental, like someone sitting down with their adult child to remind them about something that may not be top of mind at tax time, when they’re more likely to be thinking about W-2s, 1099s, charitable contributions, and other items that tend to get more focus.

6. Acorns: “Let’s talk mortgages”

We’ll wrap up with a promotional cross-sell message that’s also aimed at a younger crowd. Acorns is an investment service that rounds up its users’ purchases to the nearest dollar and puts the leftover change into investment funds, so it fosters many partnerships with financial companies that can be useful to their customers.

This email is written as if it’s coming from a parent, or perhaps a financial advisor, who wants to explain how the home buying process starts before segueing into a pitch for a partner who can help with the first step in that journey. The message also assumes that the reader has been a customer for a while and trusts Acorns to steer them in the right direction with their financial decisions.


~ Casey

The post 6 Real Life Examples of Financial Services Emails That Don’t Use a “One Size Fits All” Approach appeared first on SparkPost.

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3 Key Strategies for Announcing New Features via Email Fri, 11 Oct 2019 13:00:18 +0000 announcing new featuresEmail is the best strategy for announcing new features, and we have some quick tips that’ll help ensure your customers love what you want them to know.

The post 3 Key Strategies for Announcing New Features via Email appeared first on SparkPost.


Rolling out new application features or content is exciting. Or it ought to be, for providers and users alike. As a software marketer, you know in your heart of hearts you’re launching highly valuable enhancements; of course, your customers should want to know what’s new with your product!

The challenge is to be conveying this in an exciting, immersive way. In short, your marketing has be equal to the coolness of your new feature or content – and that’s what we’re here to look at.

Your users need to know they’re top-of-mind, as far as you and your team are concerned, and announcing updates and new features can build their faith. If you fall flat in communicating these updates, either by providing poor information or uninspired execution, they may think you aren’t putting enough work into building the relationship.

Or worse? That your product isn’t evolving enough. Email is the best way to announce these new features, and we have some quick tips that’ll help ensure your customers love what you want them to know.

Keep it concise

While the meat of your announcement is important, the actual language and messaging relating new features can easily fall into being bland and – worst of the worst! – boring. Yet this doesn’t have to happen.

As seen here in this example by VWO, announcement emails don’t need to be long and drawn out. Introducing the launch of SmartStats, this email works because it keeps it simple.

With an attractive, on-brand color palette and a clear and very compelling CTA, the message conveyed here is effective because it’s simple. If reducing your testing time by half interests you, as a user, just go ahead and click ‘learn more’. It seems pretty apparent that any current customer of VWO would want to explore this update. Explaining not just the new update but the benefit it gives your current customer base makes it successful.

When the points of difference (PODs) and CTAs you communicate are strong, it’s essential to make sure they’re delivered clearly and cleanly. Think of a POD as a car design: A well-designed car will look good even in base white because it doesn’t need fancy paint jobs or overdone trim. A well-crafted POD statement doesn’t need flourishes – or should inspire creative execution ideas that flow naturally and directly.

Use your imagination – add animation or video

While we may never learn the correct way to pronounce GIFs, they can be a fantastic tool for email marketing. By keeping animation short but to-the-point, you add more interest to your announcements than just a static picture.

They aren’t a new tool – in fact, way back in 2014, Dell launched a GIF-centered email campaign and the results spoke volumes. Compared to quarterly campaign benchmarks, they saw a 6% increase in open rate. ?Not convinced yet? Wait for it…

They also say a pleasant 42% increase in click rate, a 103% rise in conversion rate and a whopping 109% bump in revenue!

Some things to keep in mind with animation or video – especially GIFs?

Once again, make sure you keep your animation on-brand and focused. GIFs or video can be fun, but it’s easy to get carried away, and it’s important you stick to your main message. Just because a GIF may be popular at the moment with, say, Millenials, doesn’t mean it properly reflects your brand, your message, or your audience. Be careful to make sure you don’t overwhelm your reader with arbitrary-seeming use of animation.

You’re also more likely to lose your audience if you use animation you’ve scooped off the web. Customized animation or explainer video that shows off your new features is more likely to resound.

Sprout Social knocked it out of the park with a simple animation to announce their iPhone and iPad app. It’s personal, quick and helpful. The immersive demonstration of their new app is much more engaging than a longer video, which many customers wouldn’t sit through in its entirety.

Don’t lose the fun

Just because an update may be somewhat technical or low-key in nature doesn’t mean your email has to be, as well. Mint regularly sends out tres engaging emails, and this is a great example of how they make them fun.

As always, they include a message to remind you that you matter most (you really are important to us!) and the tone of the message is familiar and friendly. The language serves to remind you that Mint works tirelessly for you, your money and your savings.

Combining positive, unambiguous message execution with user-directed personalization just plain works in optimizing engagement, no matter what kind of email campaign you’re setting up. Check out our tips on personalizing your next Martech email campaign.

~ Erica

The post 3 Key Strategies for Announcing New Features via Email appeared first on SparkPost.

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How ZipRecruiter’s Emails Empower Job Hunters Wed, 09 Oct 2019 13:00:24 +0000 ZipRecruiter's emailsEdTech Customer Success Manager, Stephanie Weiss, shares how ZipRecruiter's emails made her feel well-informed and empowered when searching for a new job.

The post How ZipRecruiter’s Emails Empower Job Hunters appeared first on SparkPost.


Job hunting can be scary and stressful particularly when making a big career change. When I began looking for opportunities in the EdTech world after years in front of the whiteboard as an elementary school teacher I was overwhelmed to say the least. During that time I found that while there was no shortage of job board websites there were few that made the job hunting process feel personalized to my needs and skills.

After looking through tons of job reqs on every site you can think of I found ZipRecruiter, an employment marketplace with a focus on tailoring the job hunting experience to each candidate (and their resume). One of the major ways ZipRecruiter executes on a highly-personalized customer experience is through triggered email. Whenever there was a position posted that they thought could be a fit for me, I received an email notification within moments. This allowed me to apply for positions as soon as they hit the market and be an early applicant for jobs that I was really excited about. When I saw the email to be an Account Manager at an EdTech company I jumped at the opportunity and scored the job!

In addition to helping job seekers, ZipRecruiter also helps companies find qualified candidates for their open roles. Hundreds of thousands of recruiters rely on new candidate notification emails to help them identify great applicants for the jobs they are hiring for. With such a great focus on email communication with customers and applicants it’s no surprise that ZipRecruiter relies on SparkPost to send their messages. In fact, SparkPost takes care of sending the 20,000,000 emails that ZipRecuriter sends daily!

Now, 2 years later, my days of checking my email for ZipRecruiter notifications feel like a world away. ZipRecuriter’s emails made me feel well-informed about job opportunities and empowered during a process that was at times incredibly taxing for me. With the help of ZipRecruiter and their personalized triggered emails I was able to find a meaningful career helping teachers and students across the country.

~ Stephanie

Stephanie Weiss is a Customer Success Manager at an EdTech company. With a Masters in Education and years of teaching experience, she is passionate about helping educators find new ways to engage their students.

The post How ZipRecruiter’s Emails Empower Job Hunters appeared first on SparkPost.

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Peeking into Email Validation Techniques Mon, 07 Oct 2019 13:00:33 +0000 email validationA long time ago in an era far, far validation was very different from what it is today. Learn about the different eras of email validation.

The post Peeking into Email Validation Techniques appeared first on SparkPost.


?Email validation has gone through a few different eras

A long time ago in an era far, far away… it started with Syntax Validation

Checking an email address for syntax accuracy has been the simplest version of email validation. The core elements of a valid email address are the local part, the @ symbol, the domain, and finally, the extension (.com, .org, etc.). To help standardize all the various syntaxes, specifications called Requests For Comments (RFCs) were published to determine what characters would be acceptable for local and domain parts. These RFCs eventually became quite extensive and created the need for open-source libraries to help validate email syntax in many languages.

Validation SMTP Command and The Attack of the Spammers

Recognizing the need for help on validating email addresses, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) started to build in email address validation functionality. Thus, “VRFY” (also known as Verify) was built as an SMTP command which enabled senders to ask a receiving mail server if an email address was valid. With the hope to use VRFY to bring peace and order to the galactic Internet, it soon fell into the wrong hands of the dark side; spammers. After wide-scale abuse of this functionality, ISP administrators disabled VRFY, leaving email address validation in disarray.

SMTP Ping (The Spammer Menace)

After the fall of VRFY, senders creatively devised SMTP Ping, a different method to verify whether or not an email address was valid. SMTP Ping would be used to check against a remote mail server to see if an email address was alive. A connection to the Internet Service Provider (ISP) remote mail server, such as Gmail, would be made as if actually sending an email, but abruptly cut short without actually sending the email.

Typically, the conversation held in the connection between the sending mail server and the receiving ISP mail server would look like this:

In some scenarios, the ISP could provide feedback like this instead:

With SMTP Ping, senders could cut the conversation short after seeing the response back from the ISP, after requesting to send mail to the specified email address. This became a way to ping against an ISP to see if the receiving mail server found the email addresses to be valid or invalid, with some degree of confidence.

The Dark Side of SMTP Ping

ISPs consider SMTP Ping as spammer behavior. ISPs can easily tell that you’re doing this by looking at the conversation patterns: Calling in and hanging up repetitiously, with no (or very little) messages actually being sent, ends up in their mail server logs, After the history with SMTP VRFY, this type of behavior is now known to be spammy. ISPs are cracking down on this behavior and cracking down hard. Microsoft for example, considers this type of practice to be malicious and Hotmail finds SMTP Ping as evidence of a directory harvest attack. SMTP Ping attempts in progress will typically drop a hard block on all connections from the sending IP address. ISPs dislike SMTP Ping, and so do blacklist operators. Keep it up, and you’ll almost surely end up getting blacklisted. Long story short, it’s a really bad practice.

A New Hope: Data-Driven

Rather than rely on SMTP Ping, there’s a different data-driven approach that does not make enemies with ISPs. Validating email addresses can be done by looking up against a large data set, with event data including hard bounces, deliveries, and engagement, as well as incorporating syntax validation, typo detection, DNS queries for valid domains, and quality checks for free, role-based, and disposable email addresses.? This method heavily relies on the depth and breadth of the data the email validation tool or service is built upon, instead of depending on the ISP to provide back a specific response. You may not want to judge Master Yoda based on his size, but you’ll want to judge an email address validation tool by its data size.

SparkPost’s Recipient Validation is built on top of its large email data footprint, sending more than 37% of the world’s B2C and B2B email. Our data science team has done a thorough analysis of billions of email bounces and delivery events. Our findings establish that a single hard bounce isn’t enough to establish you shouldn’t send to an address. Using our data footprint, we are constantly updating our list of recipients and our algorithms to capture the true validity of a hard bounce, and analyzing all related email events to best answer the question: Can you deliver to this given email address?

As we continue to build and iterate upon our Recipient Validation, our goal is to make ours the most dependable and fastest validation tool on the market. Rumor has it our Recipient Validation will be able to make the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs, or at least something along those lines…

— Isaac Kim, Technical Product Manager


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Spamhaus’ Crackdown on Abusers Fri, 04 Oct 2019 13:00:53 +0000 spamhausRead up on the new changes renowned blacklist operator Spamhaus recently announced to its DNSBL (a.k.a. blacklist) products.

The post Spamhaus’ Crackdown on Abusers appeared first on SparkPost.


Renowned blacklist operator Spamhaus recently announced some changes to its DNSBL (a.k.a. blacklist) products, and while we don’t think it’ll have a big impact on SparkPost customers, we wanted to bring it to your attention all the same.

Spamhaus has long had a policy of allowing free use of its DNSBLs up to a point, a policy that’s clearly spelled out on their website. Basically, if you’re a small site making a relatively limited amount of queries, you can make use of Spamhaus’ public DNS servers to facilitate your use of their DNSBLs. This usage came with the caveat that such queries couldn’t be made indirectly through open public DNS resolvers, such as those offered by Cloudflare (IP address or Google (, but instead would have to come directly from you. Those sites with higher volume query needs are required to become subscribers to the DNSBL products and pay Spamhaus an annual fee for a data feed.

In its latest announcement, Spamhaus is indicating that they’re stepping up enforcement of both of these rules. Like all DNSBLs, the Spamhaus DNSBLs function by answering DNS queries, returning a pseudo-IP address (e.g., if the subject of the query is listed, and returning the DNS code “NXDOMAIN” if it’s not. Most mail server software and other tools that query DNSBLs rely on the answer to this query to determine what action to take, with different IP addresses meaning different things.

What Spamhaus is doing is adding two new IP addresses to the list of possible returns:

  • if the query came through a public resolver
  • if the query came from a source that has issued too many queries

Spamhaus believes that it “will be quite uncommon for most Spamhaus users to encounter these codes”, but we here at SparkPost know from our own data that there are some sites out there that appear to be misconfigured in their use of DNSBLs. Those sites tend to be small ones that not many people send mail to, but the subset of those sites that try to make use of Spamhaus may encounter issues related to this change that causes them to incorrectly refuse mail that they might otherwise accept. Should this happen, we anticipate that they’ll figure it out in short order, especially if their inbound mail stream dries up, but we at SparkPost will do our best to spread the word about this change if we see it having a large impact on our customers.


new rules email deliverability best practices

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How to Incorporate Marketing Messages into Your Transactional Emails Wed, 02 Oct 2019 13:00:03 +0000 Transactional EmailsDiscover 7 best practices to keep in mind when creating double-duty transactional emails that also include a marketing message.

The post How to Incorporate Marketing Messages into Your Transactional Emails appeared first on SparkPost.


Every email has a recipe. Sometimes it’s a really simple one, such as a transactional “Your order has shipped” message. Other times it’s a perfectly crafted concoction, like a personalized marketing message that tells the recipient about new products that have been chosen just for them, based on their purchase history.

Like fusion cuisine, you can also mix different kinds of emails to create something unique, such as putting a marketing message in an email that has an order confirmation or an account update notice. According to Experian, transactional emails are opened 8 times more often than regular marketing emails, so that gives you an opportunity to slip in a marketing message.

However, if you don’t do it right, you’ll end up with an email that leaves a bad taste in your customers’ mouths, so here are 7 things to keep in mind if you want to spice up your transactional emails.

1. Be careful with certain kinds of transactional emails

When looking at your suite of transactional emails and considering which ones could benefit from some marketing, consider how your customer will feel when they receive the messages.

If it’s an order confirmation or a shipping notice, they’ll likely be in a good mood. The same should apply for new account creations, as well as triggered emails that contain monthly account activity summaries and similar types of information. That means you can probably slip in a marketing message.

However, if the transactional email lets them know that a product they ordered is on backlog, or it’s a password reset, your customers probably won’t be as receptive to an additional marketing message. The same goes for triggered emails such as suspicious log-in attempts and notices about upcoming payment due dates.

While you’re conducting that email audit, it’s also a good time to check for outdated information, review the conditions that cause those emails to be sent out, and so forth. Even the copyright notice at the bottom of an email should be looked out to make sure it’s current.

2. Watch your mix of transactional and promotional messaging

A good rule of thumb is 90/10: Roughly 90% of your email should contain the primary information while about 10% can be reserved for a promotional component. You could probably adjust it to 85/15 if needed, but it’s a good idea not to push that ratio too far. Promotional content should almost always reside toward the bottom of the email unless there’s a really compelling reason for putting it near the top.

Not only do you have to worry about how customers will react to your email, but you also have to consider any laws that apply to marketing activities. For example, the CAN-SPAM Act in the United States notes that transactional emails are exempt as long as they don’t “contain false or misleading routing information.”

You should also be careful with your subject line since email providers will typically handle a transactional message differently from a pure marketing one. (Consider Gmail’s Promotions tab.) Your subject line should only refer to the primary purpose of the email, such as an order confirmation. It’s a good idea to follow the same rule with the preview text.

While it’s tempting to throw a little marketing spin into the subject line and/or preview text, you run the risk of irritating customers and causing them to flag your email as spam. That will not only damage customer loyalty but it will also hurt your sender reputation, which will make it tougher to reach people’s inboxes next time.

3. Try cross-sells

Amazon is one of the masters of this technique – in fact, they’ve said in the past that up to 35% of their revenue comes from cross-selling, thanks to the “Frequently Bought Together” and “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought” notices that are found all over their site.

They’re also good at cross-selling after a purchase has been made, such as in this order confirmation email. Note that the bulk of the messaging applies to the email’s primary function.

This is an easy way to scoop up a few extra sales post-purchase, and you can even apply it to emails like product backlog notices. Yes, we noted in the introduction that consumers who receive such emails probably aren’t receptive to additional marketing, but cross-sells and upsells can be an exception to the rule. It’s an opportunity to let the customer know that even though the product they want isn’t available right now, there are similar items they might prefer instead.

4. Follow up after the purchase

Yes, this isn’t an example of putting transactional and promotional messaging in one email, but it is a way to leverage a sale for additional cross-selling or to simply follow up with some customer care. Making customers feel good about their purchase decisions doesn’t always lead to immediate additional sales, but it goes a long way toward creating goodwill that typically leads to loyalty.

This Apple email is a good example of a purchase follow-up. The buyer of an Apple Watch is invited to schedule a session with an Apple Specialist, and, of course, there’s a link to accessories at the bottom of the email.

5. Offer related information

Another less sales-y way to build goodwill with customers is to give them useful information, such as links to blog posts, how-to guides, and events, or short notes about things like referral programs.

You can also include relevant reminders, such as letting a customer know about mobile app deposits in a transactional email confirming an in-person deposit. And it never hurts to include links to your social media accounts, so customers can interact with you there.

This email from Airbnb does a good job of giving the user links to useful how-to information while confirming that their listing has been published, which is clearly stated in the subject line. The links address three concerns that many users are likely to have, so the email is a nice way of helping give them peace of mind.

6. Help people connect with the community around your business

People like to connect with each other in various ways, even if it’s as simple as reading product reviews. Just about any business can benefit from that, whether that means creating a forum where people can talk to each other, engaging customers on social media, or simply hosting product reviews and testimonials.

Appliance parts might seem like an unlikely topic of conversation, but Appliance Parts Pros has built a niche for itself by catering to do-it-yourselfers. This order confirmation email does a nice job of connecting its community by including links to relevant DIY stories with each part purchased. While the email could use some design tweaks, it’s a good example of building customer connections.

7. Check out examples of emails that do it right

In addition to the examples shown above, we wanted to close with an email that does a great job of balancing transactional information and promotional messaging. This order confirmation from Apple clearly lays out everything the customer needs to know about the expensive Apple Watch they ordered, since that’s what they’re likely most concerned about when they open the email.

The company leaves the promotional message for the end of the email. In typical Apple style, the email takes a Spartan approach, with minimal text and just a few images.

~ Erica

The post How to Incorporate Marketing Messages into Your Transactional Emails appeared first on SparkPost.

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Deploying Signals for On-Premises: PowerMTA Integration – Part 2 Mon, 30 Sep 2019 13:00:25 +0000 PowerMTAIn part 2 of his series Senior Messaging Engineer, Steve Tuck, dives into the details of setting up PowerMTA for SparkPost Signals.

The post Deploying Signals for On-Premises: PowerMTA Integration – Part 2 appeared first on SparkPost.


Part 1 introduced SparkPost Signals for on-premises deployments. In this part, let’s dive into the details of setting up PowerMTA for SparkPost Signals. You’re going to need:

  • A host to run the latest version of PowerMTA on – either new, or an existing machine
  • A SparkPost account with API key permission for “Incoming Events: Write” as described

We’ll set up PowerMTA to stream events up to your SparkPost account, then you’ll be able to use the following:

Signals reporting such as Health Score and Engagement Recency will take more setup surrounding PowerMTA for engagement tracking, covered in a coming article.

Firstly, install (or upgrade) to PowerMTA 4.5r20, following the usual instructions which are pretty straightforward. Then we’ll work through the following steps:

  • Configure PowerMTA connector to SparkPost Signals
  • Select which PowerMTA traffic streams to report to Signals
  • How to use meaningful names that show up well in reporting.

We’ll also cover the other specific PowerPMTA setup aspects used in our Signals demo:

  • FBL events (Spam Complaints) and remote (out-of-band) bounces
  • Injection configuration, including DKIM
  • FBL and OOB configuration
  • VirtualMTA setup and naming (and how this appears in your SparkPost Signals reports)

Finally, there’s a “bonus feature” with code to ensure your campaign names are compatible with PowerMTA

? name conventions.

Configure PowerMTA connector

The Signals configuration is described in the User Guide section 10.1. Here we’ll start with “Use Case #2”, which enables Signals for all traffic from this PowerMTA host.

# SparkPost Signals
  api-key ##my ingest API key here##
  log-verbose true
  engagement-tracking true
  min-free-space 1G
enable-signals true

Here’s what each attribute does:


This is unique to your SparkPost account, it’s the value you got from SparkPost earlier.


This needs to match the address of your SparkPost API service, whether it’s US or EU. For more info see here. The usual values are:

SparkPost (US):

SparkPost EU:? ?


This directive is optional and when enabled, gives a bit more info in the pmta.log file, which can be useful during setup to confirm that everything’s working correctly. Each minute, even when there’s no traffic, you’ll see:

2019-07-26 11:47:57 Signals: Discovered 0 files

With traffic, you’ll see something like:

2019-07-26 11:50:57 Signals: Discovered sp1-0000000000003FBD.json
2019-07-26 11:50:57 Signals: Transferred sp1-0000000000003FBD.json successfully.
2019-07-26 11:50:57 Signals: Discovered 1 file, transferred 1 file successfully


With this flag set, PowerMTA tells SparkPost Signals to look for engagement events (opens and clicks) relating to email deliveries. The open and click tracking requires an external integration, covered in part 3 of this series, rather than coming from PowerMTA itself.


This tells PowerMTA the disk space threshold at which it should start to delete the oldest SparkPost JSON event files to make space for new files when disk space is running low.


This tells PowerMTA to upload to Signals, in this case globally for all traffic (more info here). You can be more selective about what traffic streams to upload if you wish.

You can also mark particular PowerMTA traffic to be reported as belonging to a SparkPost subaccount – this is another way to distinguish one particular traffic stream from another.

Select which PowerMTA traffic streams to report to Signals

You can select Signals to be active:

  • Globally (this is what we used in the above example)
  • For some Virtual MTAs and not others
  • For some Virtual MTA pools and not others
  • For specific “Sender” or “From” addresses relayed by PowerMTA, in combination with the Virtual MTA / Virtual MTA pool selections

This configuration is very powerful and is illustrated through a series of example use-cases in the User Guide.


Here’s a view of SparkPost Signals, connected to PowerMTA. You can see on July 19, about half-way through this sequence, that engagement tracking (described in part 3) is switched on and begins to drive the health score. (Until you have that, the health score will just show values around 50).

The Campaign names are available as reporting facets, along with Subaccount, IP Pool, Mailbox Provider, and Sending Domain.

Using meaningful names that show up well in reporting

Setting up the PowerMTA VirtualMTA Pool names and Job names to be meaningful and human-readable is well worth doing. These show up directly in your SparkPost Signals facets and the Summary report.

As mentioned earlier, you don’t need to create these pools in your SparkPost account. SparkPost picks them up from your PowerMTA configuration.

Here’s how PowerMTA configuration terms translate to SparkPost terms.

PowerMTA term SparkPost Reports / Signals term
Recipient Domain
(domain portion of “rcpt” field in Accounting file).
Recipient Domain
The domain portion of the “Sender” or “From” header in the message relayed by PowerMTA.
(domain portion of “orig” in Accounting file).
Sending Domain
VirtualMTA (name)
VirtualMTA Pool (name)
(“vmtaPool” in accounting file)
IP Pool (name)
smtp-source-host a.b.c.d
(“dlvSourceIp” in accounting file)
Sending IP a.b.c.d
Job (name)
(“jobId” in accounting file)
Campaign ID (name)
Template (name)
“Subaccount” is not a native PowerMTA concept.

However, PowerMTA can tag virtualMTAs, virtual MTA Pools, or Sender-or-From domains with a subaccount ID for SparkPost reporting purposes.

Subaccount ID (number)
FBL (event) Spam Complaint (event)
Remote Bounce (event) Out-of-Band bounce (event)


Setting up at least one

? address also enables SparkPost to correctly identify the sending IP address so that it shows up on Injection and Delivery events, as well as in the Summary report view.

Job names are set in PowerMTA via a header in the injected message. As well as enabling individual job control (pause/resume etc) which is useful in itself, PowerMTA passes the names through to SparkPost Signals reporting as “campaign ID”. See User Guide section 12.8 “Tracking a campaign in PowerMTA with a JobID”.

There are a few things to be aware of regarding job naming. While SparkPost (with JSON format, and JSON escaping) allows characters such as

? in campaign names, mail headers are more restrictive. Valid characters allowed in the
? header are:


In other words, disallowed characters include

, double-quotes
? and backtick
. If you’re used to working with
names, this won’t be surprising, and your campaign ID names will “just work” on SparkPost reporting. If like me, you learned SparkPost first, you might want a tool to ensure your
values are safe; see the bonus feature at the end of this article.

FBL events (Spam Complaints) and remote (out-of-band) bounces

PowerMTA can receive and process FBL events (known in SparkPost as Spam Complaint events) and remote bounces (known in SparkPost as out-of-band bounces, because the reply comes back some time afterward, rather than during the SMTP conversation).

There are articles in the Port25 Support Forum on how to set up the Bounce Processor and the FBL Processor. If you are an existing PowerMTA user, you probably already have these.

Here’s the configuration I made for a demo, based on these articles and oriented towards hosting PowerMTA in Amazon EC2.

Injection configuration

We’ll use port 587 for injected messages, which will come over the public Internet from another host. We need to stop bad actors discovering and abusing this service, so we apply username/password authentication and optional TLS, similar to SparkPost SMTP injection endpoints.

We want to be able to send messages from sources that are properly authenticated to any destination. We also want a separate listener on port 25 for FBL and remote bounce responses that don’t require authentication

# IP address(es) and port(s) on which to listen for incoming SMTP connections

In the following

? declarations, we’re using username/password authentication and optional TLS to defend against rogue message injection. We also set rate limits on connections making failed password attempts.

Your setup might be different; for example, if you have a private network between injector and PowerMTA, you won’t need password authentication.

# One source rule for all injection, internal or external. Enforce auth, except for bounces and FBLs
<source 0/0>
  log-connections false
  log-commands  false   # WARNING: verbose! just for dev
  log-data    false   # WARNING: even more verbose!
  smtp-service  true    # allow SMTP service
  smtp-max-auth-failure-rate 1/min
  allow-unencrypted-plain-auth false
  allow-starttls true
  rewrite-list  mfrom
<source {auth}>
  always-allow-relaying yes # only if the auth succeeds
  default-virtual-mta default
  process-x-job true


<source {auth}>
? declaration (see here) applies once authentication has passed. Here, it allows onward relaying, sets up the default virtual MTA group to use, and adds the
header (which will be reported by SparkPost Signals as

The rewrite-list maps injected messages to use a specific MAIL FROM domain (aka bounce domain or Return-Path:).

# Rewrite the MAIL FROM address to match the bounce domain
<rewrite-list mfrom>
  mail-from * *

Then we set up our TLS configuration and SMTP username / password.

# Secure the inbound service with username, password and TLS. SMT 2019-05-31
smtp-server-tls-certificate /etc/pmta/pmtasignalsdemo.pem
smtp-server-tls-allow-tlsv1.1 true
smtp-server-tls-allow-tlsv1.2 true

# SMTP users (authenticated via SMTP AUTH)
<smtp-user SMTP_Injection>
  authentication-method password

We can check that the (insecure, deprecated) TLS v1.0 is not accepted using my favorite SMTP test tool,? swaks.

swaks --server --port 587 --to --from --tls --tls-protocol tlsv1

We see:

*** TLS startup failed (connect(): error:00000000:lib(0):func(0):reason(0))
*** STARTTLS attempted but failed

Let’s also apply DKIM signing on our outgoing messages, as it’s good practice (I followed these instructions to set up the key).

domain-key mypmta,, /etc/pmta/

FBL and OOB configuration

Now .. finally .. we declare which specific domains are open for remote bounce and FBL responses. We don’t want to relay those anywhere (to prevent backscatter attacks), just internally process those responses.

# Enable Bounce and FBL processing on specific domains
  deliver-unmatched-email no
  deliver-matched-email no
  deliver-unmatched-email no
  deliver-matched-email no

You can see I set up two bounce domains, as I was playing around with using/not using the

? rewrite rule.

The FBL domain is usually then registered with external services such as Microsoft SNDS; see this article for more information. For this demo, the FBLs will be coming from the Bouncy Sink, so no need to register.

Testing the SMTP listener

It’s important to test that your SMTP listener is requiring authorization for any general destinations, rejecting any messages that are not specifically addressed to the FBL and remote-bounce domains.

swaks --server --port 25 --to --from

The response, as expected, shows that relaying is denied:

550 5.7.1 relaying denied for recipient in "RCPT TO:<>

VirtualMTA setup and naming

PowerMTA VirtualMTAs (and VirtualMTA pools) are powerful features for managing message streams, and PowerMTA / SparkPost Signals reporting features work best with these active.

# Route all outgoing traffic through this virtual mta / pool.
# Declare the delivery IP address here, so that SparkPost signals ingest injection (aka "reception") events
# will carry the correct sending_IP attribute
<virtual-mta mta1>
? ? smtp-source-host
<virtual-mta-pool default>
? ? virtual-mta mta1
? ? <domain *>
? ? ? ? max-smtp-out? ? 20? ? ? ?# max. connections *per domain*
? ? ? ? bounce-after? ? 4d12h? ? # 4 days, 12 hours
? ? ? ? retry-after? ? ?10m? ? ? # 10 minutes
? ? ? ? dkim-sign? ? ? ?yes
? ? </domain>


? setting is reported in SparkPost as “IP Pool”, and is available as a SparkPost Signals reporting facet (the drop-down menu underneath the charts).

The Summary Report also shows IP Pool as a “Group By” reporting facet.

As noted earlier in this article, setting up at least one? smtp-source-host address also enables SparkPost to correctly identify the sending IP address, so that it shows up on Injection and Delivery events, and on the Summary Report:

That’s all you need to get a basic integration working between PowerMTA and SparkPost Signals. You’ll find the full config file example here.

In Part 3 of this series, we’ll set up Engagement Tracking alongside PowerMTA and stream the events into SparkPost. That will enable the Health Score and Engagement Recency charts to provide useful information, as well as making open and click events available on the Events Search and Engagement reports.

Before you go, here’s the bonus feature I mentioned.

Bonus feature: X-Job name checking/filtering

To ensure any character string is safe for use as a PowerMTA

? name, here’s a simple Python function to map any unsafe characters to an underscore “_”

import re
def pmtaSafeJobID(s):
? ?"""
? ?:param s: str
? ?:return: str
? ?Map an arbitrary campaign ID string into allowed chars for PMTA X-Job header.
? ?See
? ?Specifically disallow <sp> " ` but allow through most other chars.
? ?"""
? ?# Note have to escape ' - [ ] and double-escape \ - see
? ?disallowedChars = '[^A-Za-z0-9!#$%&\'()*+,\-./:;<=>?@\[\\\\\]^_{|}~]'
? ?return re.sub(disallowedChars, '_', s)

This uses Python regular expressions in a specific way. It declares the set of disallowed characters using the “set complement” operator ^ rather than list all allowed chars. That means we catch (and make safe) characters beyond the usual 7-bit set. We can show that using this test fragment:

for i in range(32, 256):
  s += chr(i)



You can see that

, double-quotes
, and backtick
, as well as all characters beyond ~ are mapped to underscore.

~ Steve

The post Deploying Signals for On-Premises: PowerMTA Integration – Part 2 appeared first on SparkPost.

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Why Data Integrity Matters Fri, 27 Sep 2019 13:00:49 +0000 data integrityLead Deliverability Analyst, Tracey Crawford, explains how and why senders should maintain data integrity when it comes to building email lists.

The post Why Data Integrity Matters appeared first on SparkPost.


Hello SparkPost Readers,

I’d like to introduce myself, my name is Tracey Crawford and I am the Lead Deliverability Analyst at SparkPost and this is my very first blog!? Today’s post will discuss why data integrity matters and how Recipient Validation can help improve your data integrity.

I know you may be asking yourself, what does data integrity mean? And, why does data integrity matter to me? I mean, SparkPost is already automatically removing invalid users, spam complainers, and list unsubscribers, what else is there? Well, I am here to answer these questions.

What is Data Integrity?

Data integrity is ensuring that your data is accurate and valid. For email delivery, this means ensuring that your email addresses consist of legitimate recipients. And, those recipients have consented to receive your content and are actively engaged.

Why Does Data Integrity Matter?

By maintaining data integrity, you are proving to mailbox providers that you are a responsible sender.? Mailbox providers look at data integrity along with other factors to determine deliverability, all of which ultimately dictates where your email lands.? If you do not maintain data integrity, you risk your reputation with mailbox providers and may suffer one or more of the following negative consequences, all of which result in low open rates:

  • Junk folder placement
  • Delayed acceptance of email
  • Blocking/Blacklisting

How can Recipient Validation Help my Data Integrity?

I am glad you asked. Keep in mind the first part of the definition of data integrity– ensuring that your email addresses consist of legitimate recipients.? How are you determining that your email addresses are coming from a legitimate source?? SparkPost has a new tool that can help, it’s called Recipient Validation and it can help you maintain your data integrity.

Some of the typical reasons for failing to send to a recipient are: sending to an address that has been incorrectly entered upon signup (aka fat-fingering), sending to an old address that is no longer active, and sending to an invalid address that was entered by more unscrupulous means (bot activity).? Let’s see what Recipient Validation can do to help with these issues:

  • Fat-Fingered Domains – ?Use the Recipient Validation tool to identify when a user inadvertently enters an incorrect email address, for example, “” instead of “”.? Correcting mistyped domains at signup will help you reach the intended user and eliminate the possibility of sending to an unknown or invalid domain.
  • Old Addresses – Sending to old addresses that are no longer active will hurt your reputation at mailbox providers and may cause your email to be placed in the spam folder, deferred, blocked, or even blacklisted if the old email address has become a recycled spam trap. To help you identify these old addresses, Recipient Validation makes use of SparkPost’s global data footprint to flag previously identified old accounts, saving you the hardship of discovering them on your own.
  • Invalid Address – Use Recipient Validation to identify email addresses with invalid domains.? Addresses that are inadvertently added by bots or some other method can result in sending to addresses that don’t exist.? Although this does not hurt your reputation (since the email never leaves SparkPost), it does use resources and these addresses are continually retried until they expire.

Remember, Recipient Validation is not intended to replace the industry-standard best practice of confirmed opt-in for acquiring email addresses, however, it can support your current opt-in methods by adding an additional level of checking to help maintain your data integrity.

To learn more about how Recipient Validation works, please click here.

Happy Emailing!

new rules email deliverability best practices

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What Traditional Financial Services Firms Can Learn About Email from FinTech Wed, 25 Sep 2019 13:00:42 +0000 financial services firmsDiscover what traditional financial services firms like banks and brokerages can learn from FinTech companies when it comes to email marketing.

The post What Traditional Financial Services Firms Can Learn About Email from FinTech appeared first on SparkPost.


There’s no denying that FinTech startups are disrupting the financial industry. Every day, more startups enter the financial scene with new trends and ideas. Searching for “FinTech” firms on AngelList as of this writing brings up nearly 2,800 of them. Is it time for traditional financial services companies – like an example we’ll call the Old Reliable Bank & Trust – to throw in the towel?

Absolutely not.

With these newbies eating away at market share, revenue and profits that used to belong to traditional financial services providers like the Old Reliable, the latter are being forced to adjust their marketing strategies. It’s adopt and adapt time, and luckily this is where they can swipe adapt a few things from FinTech.

According to McKinsey Panorama, nearly 80% of financial services institutions had entered FinTech partnerships as of December 2018, either as investors or through strategic partnerships. While this is a logical approach – “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em…or own ’em” – some might not be able to take that avenue, or may still want to go it alone, or just want to apply a partner’s best practices to their own marketing.

It’s time to take a closer look at what FinTech does well. More to the point, what can a traditional bank, brokerage or other financial firm learn from FinTech email marketing to become more effective?

Keep on keepin’ on

Sometimes, the lesson is to just keep doing what you’re already doing, because the new kids on the block are endorsing it, too.

With roughly 281 billion business and consumer emails sent and received per day last year, it’s safe to say that people check their inbox pretty darn frequently. In this day and age, email is a tentpole marketing channel for any industry.

But more specifically, email works for both FinTech and Financial Services. Especially when personalized.

According to an Epsilon report from 2018, 89% of consumers would be more likely to do business with a web- or app-based financial provider if it offered personalized experiences. When asked how they’d prefer to receive personalized experiences, 55% responded their most preferred channel would be email, which led all others.

As for financial institutions with brick-and-mortar footprints, the findings were similar. 77% of consumers would be more likely to do business with companies that offer personalized experiences. But again, email was the most preferred method of delivering personalization, picked by 61% of consumers.

In other words? Personalized email marketing is a top performer among both mobile/app and lobby-loving financial consumers.? It’s why FinTech marketers have embraced email – and why the traditionalists at the Old Reliable Bank & Trust should never overlook its power, or be tempted to replace it with some shiny new pretender.

Be sure you’re doing the right personalization

The problem isn’t that personalization is a newfangled thing to the folks running the Old Reliable.? According to the Digital Banking Report, 76% of organizations believed that personalization has a “strong” impact on relationship building. Still, a humungous 94% of financial institutions were unable to deliver on the “personalization promise” in 2018.

Why is this so hard? One reason might be that financial information is a sensitive subject. Not only are people less likely to broach subjects like money problems in open discussion, but they’re also wary of sharing information. In fact, 25% of consumers view personalized offers as “creepy” and 32% believe that personalization is not worth giving up their privacy.

Marketing guru, and OptIn’19 moderator, Neil Patel has an interesting take on personalization, and why people are put off by how some marketers attempt it. Just inserting a target’s first name into an email, he says, isn’t enough: everybody knows it’s sent by a robot, right? That’s what makes it “creepy.” Instead, personalization has to happen by customizing message content so it offers relevant value to the recipient.

FinTech companies are constantly re-designing their products and services around customer wants and needs, with marketing that articulates that focus. That’s a deeper form of “personalization” than merging names from a list.? So in financial services marketing, avoid telling them how lucky they are to have signed on with you, how established, large, and impressive the Old Reliable is.

Younger consumers, especially, don’t give a whoop: they expect you to be catering to them, first and foremost. 71% of millennials would rather go to the dentist than listen to what banks are trying to tell (or sell) them.

Streamline and simplify

To get past those financial services privacy concerns we mentioned, and make the Old Reliable come across as approachable?? Send them authentic, needs-focused onboarding emails. App providers have made a high art of this over the years, making sure messages seem genuine and tuned-in to the real motivations that brought people to their product.

Another way to accomplish this?? Simplify the complex. Ease-of-use is one of the main selling points of FinTech products, so why not emulate that when you’re trying to get customers engaged with financial services products? One of the biggest obstacles facing the Old Reliable Bank & Trust is how hard it is to grab and keep a customer’s attention because finance simply ain’t synonymous with sexy. Barring the occasional outlier, most people aren’t excited by the thought of retirement planning or mortgage rates.

So avoid complexity and remove confusion; they’ll appreciate plain speaking that seems transparent and sounds human, not legalistic. This example from ExpenseIt helps users jump right into, well, using the product, and makes the process easy-peasy.? Find ways of doing the same in your onboarding.


Instead of A.B.C. (“Always Be Closing”) as espoused by this guy, we should recognize what many app marketers already know and leverage: Always Be Giving from the start of any engagement with prospects or customers. What are you giving? That’s easy: something of value.

What kind of “value” do we mean? It might mean special content, a personal consultation, or a bonus offer or added service (just like a surprise feature unlock on an app) that keeps them interested. Here’s an example – cited by Neil Patel – from Carrot, a platform aimed at real estate investors and agents.

Notice something? It doesn’t ask for anything from the customer but simply offers up value on a very human level. In a world where most customers desert a brand or company because of perceived indifference, giving them a steady stream of value-oriented messages via email shows you care. That’s why FinTech companies, who survive or die based on user retention, pay close attention to keeping customers engaged through every means possible, especially email.

The Old Reliable should pay attention to optimizing its email campaigns for mobile, just like FinTech providers do; check out the best ways of doing this.? A couple of scary stats? An email that doesn’t render correctly on a mobile device is likely to be deleted in 3 seconds or less, and up to 15% of recipients will unsubscribe in that situation, says Campaign Monitor.

So in the end, what’s the biggest lesson for the old guard down at the Old Reliable Bank & Trust?? To stay flexible, innovative, and customer-centric in they market themselves, and to never forget the very significant power of the one tool they’ve already got in their arsenal: email. Because those in the FinTech universe are already all over it.

~ Casey

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How Zillow’s Emails Ease the Home Buying Process Mon, 23 Sep 2019 13:00:00 +0000 Zillow's EmailsThere are few purchases that are more time-sensitive than buying a home. Read how Zillow's emails help make the process of buying a home less stressful.

The post How Zillow’s Emails Ease the Home Buying Process appeared first on SparkPost.


Anyone who’s ever shopped for a home knows what a grueling process it can be. While it can be a very exciting time, it also tops the list for one of the most stressful things you can experience as an adult?

Having recently been through the process, I thought it was cool to know that Zillow, the leading real?estate database company uses SparkPost technology to send their emails! While we did work with a real estate agent through the process, Zillow was an awesome supplemental tool in our search. Zillow made it easy to quickly rule things out or favorite items to add to our weekend open house circuit. The tool allows you to save specific search parameters based on location, budget etc and get notified immediately via email as listings hit the market.

Before our agent could even dial my number, any listing that had gone on the market fitting my search parameters would be in my inbox. In a hot real estate market, delays in those emails could make a huge difference to home shoppers. With only a limited number of houses hitting the market each week, it was so important to get these emails as close to instantly as we could – and it was really sweet to know that SparkPost was responsible for making that happen!

Below is a bit more detail on how Zillow uses SparkPost to communicate and why it’s such a cool application.

When it comes to purchases, there are few that are more important and time-sensitive than buying a home. Not only do prospective homeowners have to handle timing their buy with the rise and fall of the housing market, but on a much smaller scale, they must make time in their schedules to go to open houses.

Launched in 2006, Zillow has become the dominant marketplace for real estate information online relying heavily on email to deliver up-to-date content to homebuyers. And, with over 110 million U.S. homes in its database, it’s critical that Zillow provides its users with timely notifications as to which homes are up for grabs. More than that, messages need to be sent out in time for users to build out their open house viewing schedules for the upcoming weekend. If a user’s dream home is open for viewing on Sunday but they don’t get the email message regarding the open house until minutes before the showing…that just won’t work!

That very scenario is why Zillow relies on SparkPost to send their email. In fact, Justin Faris, Director of Product at Zillow, said “SparkPost’s API and reliability have been solid. SparkPost can handle surges in our email volume any time those bursts occur, such as when we need to deliver messages for the time-sensitive weekend open house and buying cycle.”

Zillow carefully sends email notifications to customers based on where they are in the homebuying process. Are they just starting their search for a home? Are they in escrow? These two different customer profiles require different kinds of emails at different cadences. With such attention to detail and an overwhelming amount of customer personas, it’s not shocking that Zillow has chosen SparkPost to make sure emails are sent to users without any hiccups.

With SparkPost, Zillow has seen a 161% increase in open rates indicating that email continues to be one of the core ways that Zillow’s customers interact with their brand. Zillow’s continued reliance on and success with SparkPost isn’t rare. As the world’s #1 email sender, trusted to send 37% of the world’s business email, it’s no surprise that when great companies like Zillow need to get email right they choose SparkPost.

~ Jen

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SparkPost Navigation Updates: What’s Changed? Fri, 20 Sep 2019 13:00:05 +0000 Read about the new simpler and reorganized navigation in the SparkPost app. We are so excited to announce these navigation updates driven by user feedback!

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Today we are releasing some major navigation updates in the SparkPost app! Driven by user feedback, the new navigation is simpler and reorganized, with all the related sections grouped together.

And don’t worry – next time you visit the app, there will be a guide to assist you through these changes. If you have questions, you can learn more about the reorganization.

Why the change?

Over the past year, we’ve shipped a lot of new and exciting features. For most of them, we’ve created new pages and navigation items in the SparkPost app.

Here are some of the things we’ve launched:

Behind the scenes, we’ve been preparing for some substantial investments and improvements in the user experience of our app, big and small alike. This constant cycle of new feature development and improvement means that from time to time the navigation can get a little messy. We’re excited about the opportunity to start putting the pieces back together in a way that fits our users.

Research & process

To figure out the right information architecture for our app, Aubrey – our Director of User Experience – and her team ran a card sorting exercise with 50 SparkPost users. Without any outside help, each user sorted 33 cards into categories that made sense to them, and then named the categories. Using the results from the exercise, we created a plan on how to move our product towards the ideal state, with this update as the first step!? We were tempted to borrow Hogwarts’ Sorting Hat and have it decide on our behalf, but our User Experience team has been stirring up some magic of their own ??

Our other goal with this change is to rethink how Signals is presented in the app. When we first pushed Signals live, we shipped it under its own navigation item. But when we talk about Signals, we aren’t just referring to Health Score, Engagement Insights, and Spam Trap Monitoring; all of the SparkPost analytics features are part of Signals – from the Events search to the Summary report. PowerMTA or Momentum users who wire Signals up get access to all of our analytics features. This change aligns the product with your experience and access. Professor Trelawney, Hogwarts’ Professor of Divination, couldn’t find better alignment in her tea leaves.

What’s next?

We’ve got lots of improvements coming down the line that will make you a more successful sender. Check back in October for an awesome update from @isaacswkim.

As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts. Shoot an email to if you have any suggestions on changes or improvements we should make. If you want to get on a call to talk about email, Signals, or anything else, you can reach me at

Happy sending!

—Avi, Technical Product Manager


?? Thank you to Aubrey Altman, Patrick Sison, Kevin Chu, Cole Strode, Daeyon Griffin, and the Product, Engineering, Marketing, Sales, and Customer Success teams

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Welcoming PowerMTA 5.0 Wed, 18 Sep 2019 13:00:54 +0000 PowerMTA 5.0Technical Product Manager, Harold Vass, shares the key items included in the launch of the newest version of PowerMTA - PowerMTA 5.0!

The post Welcoming PowerMTA 5.0 appeared first on SparkPost.


Why On-Premises Solutions are a Vital Part of SparkPost

When I talk to people about SparkPost, it’s easy for the conversation to hone in on one of our cloud offerings. Specifically, SparkPost Cloud or SparkPost Signals – our analytics suite designed to optimize email performance and increase your customer engagement. And who can blame them? These highly performant tools are getting a ton of coverage in the media, growing like a wildfire, and are having a significant impact on customers’ bottom line. In all the hype, it is easy to forget about the steady drumbeat of innovation happening in other corners of the office. Specifically, our massive footprint in the on-premises MTA world made possible by our Momentum and PowerMTA products.

What’s new with PowerMTA?

One of the most exciting pieces of news I get to share about our on-premises products is the launch of the newest version of PowerMTA – PowerMTA 5.0! This product has spent years in development and many of the features included have spent substantial time being used and abused by our great network of early adopters in two separate beta releases. I’ll avoid going into too much detail here but a few key items of the 5.0r1 release include:

  • A huge refresh to our web monitor making things easier to find in a single place and reducing the need to reference the User Manual.
The revised Command Page is designed to create a more user-friendly experience without the need to frequently reference the User Guide.
  • Outbound proxy support allowing IPs to be placed in a centralized external proxy server rather than on each individual MTA.
  • Email submissions via HTTP – more on this below!

Signals for On-Premises (Momentum and PowerMTA)

SparkPost technology is used to send over a third of the entire world’s business email. That means we generate an absolute mountain of data which we can use to power the world’s best email analytics suite – SparkPost Signals. One of the most satisfying puzzle pieces to put into place on our roadmap is bridging the gap between the on-premises world and the cloud. We have dedicated a ton of time and effort in 2019 to building connectors that allow our on-premises Momentum and PowerMTA customers to use SparkPost Signals in a way that wasn’t previously possible for on-premises MTAs.

Not only does Signals provide insight into your own sending patterns but by leveraging our massive data footprint, we’re able to present benchmark data to compare your sending against the world. Leverage like this is the only way to truly optimize your messaging strategies and has never been possible for on-premises MTAs before now.

Here are a few roadmap highlights from out Signals for On-Premises development efforts for 2019. These features are available for Momentum and PowerMTA:

  • Subaccount designation enabling traffic segmentation and creating valuable reseller opportunities to bring the power of SparkPost Signals directly to your customers; and
  • Custom Message ID allowing for integrating your own engagement tracking data directly into SparkPost Signals. Simply let us know which header contains the message ID and we’ll take care of matching everything back up behind the scenes.

Leveraging On-Premises and Cloud Offerings in Combination for Resiliency and Disaster Recovery

Email is, hands down, the most valuable communication channel. A recent study by Litmus put the ROI for email at something close to 38:1. Couple that with the security and general acceptance of email as the go-to channel for transactional messaging and it becomes invaluable to nearly any business. That’s exactly why so many teams are investing heavily in creating a backup plan. Some teams are opting for a dual vendor strategy while others are choosing to use multiple products from the same vendor. Obviously, we’re partial to the latter when customers are choosing SparkPost to provide their solutions so we’ve made investments to improve how we’re able to be your sole provider while making sure we offer comparable resiliency to a dual-vendor strategy without all the extra headache.

One way that’s available now is a hot:hot strategy that uses an on-premises product in combination with SparkPost cloud. This works by simply maintaining an active SparkPost cloud account and an active PMTA or Momentum on-premises instance. Since both will have warm IPs, it’s very straightforward to reroute injections if an issue arises with one or the other. As a bonus, now that PMTA supports REST Injection, many of the processes in place will play nice with one another between SparkPost cloud and PowerMTA meaning a reduced learning curve to get started and less lost time switching between the two.

Looking Ahead

We’re excited about the opportunity to continue to serve both the on-premises and cloud markets into 2020 and beyond. Our on-premises customers can continue looking forward to regular updates as well as enhanced support for valuable integrations such as SparkPost Signals. By combining the security and flexibility of on-premises MTAs with the deep insights of SparkPost’s cloud offering the future for your sending is bright.

If you’re an existing customer that would like to talk shop or a team looking to add an on-premises offering to your existing environment, let’s chat.


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Deploying SparkPost Signals for On-Premises – Part 1 Mon, 16 Sep 2019 13:00:13 +0000 deploy SparkPost SignalsIn part 1 of his series Senior Messaging Engineer, Steve Tuck, introduces how to deploy SparkPost Signals for Momentum and PowerMTA.

The post Deploying SparkPost Signals for On-Premises – Part 1 appeared first on SparkPost.


You may have heard about the data science tools that SparkPost has created to provide predictive insight into your messaging and your customer relationships. We have been talking about the Health Score, Engagement Recency and Spam Trap Monitoring quite a bit, but were you aware you could get this awesomeness in your Momentum and PowerMTA deployments as well? We’ll go into the specifics for Momentum and PowerMTA in the following parts. Here’s an overview of how the various parts can plug together. Your Momentum Nodes can be upgraded to have the “Signals Agent” onboard. This is configured to talk to your specific SparkPost account, sending packets of data up to the “SparkPost Ingest API”. This feeds the events into Sparkpost analytics. The “Events Search” and metrics/reports that all SparkPost users are familiar with – such as Summary, Bounce, Accepted, Delayed – will show your traffic within just a few minutes. It’s amazing to be able to use Sparkpost Event Search tools to track down specific messages and event sequences in your mail streams that were actually sent by your on-premises MTAs. But wait, there’s more! the real power becomes obvious once you have a few days of running under your belt. SparkPost Signals gives you charts showing your daily variations in:

For PowerMTA, the process is similar. Starting with the latest software versions, a small addition to your config starts an upload process that streams events up to your specific SparkPost account, via the SparkPost Ingest API. Because PowerMTA doesn’t have its own engagement tracking, the events you’ll see will relate to email delivery, bounces and so on, but not opens and clicks. We’ll cover more on how to get open and click events into Signals for PowerMTA customers in a later article.

No stop signs, speed limits…

The SparkPost account you use should be new and unused for other traffic, to keep things straightforward. You don’t need to set up Sending Domains, Bounce Domains, Tracking Domains or any other usual sender configuration of your SparkPost account – after all, you’re already sending the messages via your existing MTAs.

The keys to the kingdom

One thing we’ll need from our SparkPost account is an API key. This needs one (and only one) permission, known as “Incoming Events: Write”. If you don’t see this permission on your account, contact SparkPost to have it enabled. Keep that key-value safe (see security notes here) – we’ll use it to set up our on-premises connector.

You get Signals, you get Signals, and you get Signals!

You can invite more users into your SparkPost account so that many people within your organization can benefit from their own view of SparkPost Signals and analytics reporting. OK, that’s the basic steps needed to get your account ready for SparkPost Signals usage with on-premises solutions. The next part will dive into the details of setting up PowerMTA for SparkPost Signals. ~ Steve

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3 Things You Should Know About Email Validation Fri, 13 Sep 2019 13:00:33 +0000 Email ValidationDiscover how Email Validation can protect your sender reputation, drive inbox placement, and improve the performance of your email campaigns.

The post 3 Things You Should Know About Email Validation appeared first on SparkPost.


Email validation is an important tool for email senders. It can help you protect your sender reputation, drive inbox placement, and improve the performance of your email campaigns. Here are the 3 things you should know as you get started.

1. It helps you protect your reputation

Your reputation with mailbox providers is driven by many different factors. Your content, which people you send to, and whether those people engage or complain about your emails all feed into their picture of you as a sender. Having a bad sender reputation can reduce your inbox visibility, or cause your email to be quarantined or filed into the spam folder.

Sending to people who want your emails is key to being a good sender. One way that mailbox providers can tell that you’re not following this golden rule is if you send email to a lot of nonexistent addresses. Email validation can make sure the email addresses that people give you aren’t undeliverable so that you can avoid those hard bounces.

There are other indicators that can help you decide whether or not you want to actually send to someone. For example, role-based also known as shared email addresses tend to unsubscribe and complain more about emails. An email validation tool can help you avoid those hurtful subscribers.

2. It can increase your ROI

Email is one of the most powerful channels for marketers to drive revenue. But high ROI can hide opportunities for growth. There are hidden problems that are hard to detect that email validation can help solve to help you get more out of your sending. An example of this are human typos. When John is entering his email into your newsletter he accidentally enters “” instead of “”

Without a validation tool, his typo will slip by unnoticed and you’ll lose the chance to email him. Tools like Recipient Validation can help catch these mistakes and other impactful issues that take away your chance to connect.

3. Validation isn’t enough on its own

While validating emails will help you avoid a lot of potential problems, it isn’t enough on its own. Validation tools won’t catch every problem you’ll run into as a sender.? Implementing other protections and focusing on fundamental best practices will make sure that you are a successful sender.

Now that you’re an email validation expert, learn more about Recipient Validation and check out our guide on 101 best practices to learn about proven ways to boost deliverability and engagement.

Happy sending!

—Avi, Technical Product Manager

new rules email deliverability best practices

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5 Best Practices for Helping Prevent Email Address Typos Wed, 11 Sep 2019 13:00:14 +0000 prevent email address typosDiscover our five best practices for helping prevent email address typos when your customers fill out your sign-up form on your site.

The post 5 Best Practices for Helping Prevent Email Address Typos appeared first on SparkPost.


You’ve been diligent about your sender reputation. You know that it impacts how the digital gatekeepers at Gmail, Yahoo!, and other email providers view your sending domain, so you’ve been keeping best practices in mind by:

  • Honoring unsubscribes as quickly as possible
  • Adopting an opt-in policy
  • Pruning dead email addresses
  • Looking closely at bounce codes
  • Making your emails worth people’s effort to open them and click a link or two
  • Creating and executing a warm-up plan before you start sending emails from a new IP address

But you may not have considered one place that can negatively impact your recipient list and lead to a poor sender reputation: your sign-up form. It’s the first line of defense against ensuring that your customers provide correct email addresses.

One wrong character in an email address can create a bounce-back, or it can put your message in the wrong person’s inbox, which can lead to them clicking the unsubscribe link, filing a spam complaint, or simply never opening the email. All of those results negatively impact your sender reputation, which harms your ability to get emails into your customers’ inboxes.

But don’t worry – here are 5 best practices to help you prevent typos in your customers’ email addresses when they fill out your sign-up form.

1. Require them to enter their email address twice and check that they match

That’s a pretty common tactic to ensure an email address is correct, but go one step further by not letting them copy and paste from the first email field into the second one. That way you know that the email address is probably right, since there’s a decent chance that if the user typed the address wrong the first time, they’ll get it right on their second try. Then they’ll be alerted that the addresses don’t match and will fix the problem.

Doing so will add some friction to your sign-up process and could increase drop-off rates, but if you’ve had problems with typos in email addresses, or you foresee it could be a problem, this is likely a worthwhile trade-off. Yes, the owner of email-is-awesome-forever2019@[insert a domain].com may be annoyed, but to be fair, perhaps they should rethink that address.

2. Send an opt-in email to verify the email address

Many companies don’t do this, since it adds a step to the sign-up process and there’s a good chance people will miss the email, or it will never land in their inbox. Then they’ll be left wondering what happened to that thing they signed up for, and they might complain on social media and other places online.

We understand why it’s better to just take the email address they submitted and add it to your list, but the opt-in is a nice way of double-checking that it’s correct. If you decide to implement such an email, this verification from Jimdo is a good source of inspiration. It has a handy button, along with a link that can be copied and pasted, and it ends with a breezy PS to ignore the message if the recipient didn’t create an account, so they hopefully don’t file a spam complaint.

3. Offer a social media sign-up option

The nice thing about letting people sign up with a social media account is that it provides a one-click option that’s about as friction-free as possible, unless they’re not currently logged into that social media account on that device. And you know there’s a good chance that the email address they provided to that social media service is valid.

However, many people shut off email for social media, opting instead for on-device notifications, so they may be using a different email address than the one they provided when signing up many years ago. That old email address might be defunct, it could belong to someone else now, or perhaps they rarely check it anymore – all of those things can ding your sender reputation.

If you do provide a social media sign-up option, make sure you offer a standard registration form too, since some people are leery of giving third parties access to their social media accounts, no matter how benign the intentions may seem.

4. Give people a reason to not sign up with a fake email address

No matter what you do to avoid typos in email addresses, sometimes people purposely sign up with fake email addresses, or so-called burner accounts. That way they can get what they need without dealing with marketing emails, or because they’re not sure they can trust the site.

In fact, there are several services, such as 10MinuteMail, that let users create an email account that doesn’t even live as long as a housefly, simply so they can click a confirmation link or deal with a similar task. Once they do that, your database contains a seemingly valid email address that will start generating bouncebacks and – you guessed it – hurt your sender reputation.

To counteract that problem, make sure you’re clear about how often you’ll email them once they sign up. If they’ll never hear from you unless they need to do something like reset a password, then make sure you’re up front about that, because most users will love you.

Even if you’re going to send them marketing messages and triggered emails, you can still put people at ease by offering them options, such as message frequency and type of contact. If someone considering using 10MinuteMail knows that they can tell you to only send them triggered emails tied to specific account activity, they might be more inclined to give you their actual address.

5. Check out SparkPost’s Spam Trap Monitoring and Recipient Validation tools

Finally, we’d be remiss if we didn’t point out that SparkPost knows a thing or two about email deliverability, since we send 37% of the world’s B2C and B2B email. One of our tools that helps our customers with their sending reputations is Spam Trap Monitoring, which lets senders know how many spam traps they’re hitting, and what types they are.

Spam traps are a way to catch spammers and otherwise well-intentioned senders who don’t follow good list hygiene. They’re email addresses that seem legit but aren’t, and they come in a variety of forms – we have a blog post that contains all the details.

We also offer a feature called Recipient Validation that verifies email addresses are valid before you send them a message. It’s a great way to catch addresses with typos, burner accounts, outright fake addresses, and other problems before they negatively impact your sending reputation. Check it out.


The post 5 Best Practices for Helping Prevent Email Address Typos appeared first on SparkPost.

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Constant Vigilance: Improvements to SparkPost Signals Reports Mon, 09 Sep 2019 13:00:58 +0000 SparkPost Signals reportsTechnical Product Manager, Avi Goldman, reveals our newest improvement to SparkPost Signals reports. Try SparkPost Signals today!

The post Constant Vigilance: Improvements to SparkPost Signals Reports appeared first on SparkPost.


My fellow Harry Potter geeks probably had an image of Mad-Eye pop into their heads the moment they read the title. This is how I think about product development: “constant vigilance.” As a Product Manager, I’m always on the lookout for ways we can improve our product to better serve our customers.

Creating useful, intuitive products isn’t easy; it feels like there are a million considerations and deciding which problem to solve is quite the challenge to wake up to every day.

The most clarifying activity is simply getting on a call with our users and chatting about email and analytics. Those conversations uncover the most impactful ways we can improve our product and helps me focus on the most valuable problems.

For example, when our users want to compare several different domains or subaccounts or any other filters they have to rebuild the report in different tabs from scratch, which is quite annoying. One of our awesome power users walked me through one of his normal flows through SparkPost and showed me how much frustration this small issue caused.

All this is a very long way to lead up to the fact that you can now right-click on the filter links inside of the SparkPost Signals reports and open up the report in a new tab, as you’d expect.

In the end, this isn’t a big change or major launch, but it is the kind of quiet, behind-the-scenes, incremental improvement that helps make the product better.

So give it a try! Maybe this change will make your day a little bit easier.

As always, we love to hear your feedback. Send us an email to if you have any suggestions on changes we can make to make SparkPost work better for you. If you want to get on the phone and talk about email, analytics, or SparkPost, shoot me an email at and we’ll find a time.
Happy sending!

—Avi, Technical Product Manager

??Big thank you to Kevin Chu, Brian Kemper, Jon Ambas and to all the Product, Engineering, Marketing, Sales, and Customer Success teams for their effort in making our product and service better

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The Future of Voice in Email: 7 Things to Consider Fri, 06 Sep 2019 13:00:48 +0000 voice in emailThe future of voice in email is here: read up on 7 things to consider when creating emails that could be read by Alexa, as well as other virtual assistants.

The post The Future of Voice in Email: 7 Things to Consider appeared first on SparkPost.


Sure you’ve asked Alexa to tell you the temperature outside or the final score of last night’s big game, but did you know she can also read your emails to you?

Amazon’s Alexa can currently read, delete, archive, and reply to emails, with the ability to read emojis up to Unicode Version 10. However, note that Alexa can’t read Alt tags.

In addition to Alexa’s availability as an app for portable devices, Amazon currently dominates the American smart speaker market, with a 61.1% share compared to Google’s second-place 23.9%. By the end of 2018, there were 66.4 million American adults with smart speakers, comprising 26.2% of that population.

With that in mind, here are 7 things to consider when creating emails that could be read by Alexa, as well as other virtual assistants. While Alexa is currently leading the space, Apple’s Siri can read emails, and it’s not hard to imagine that Google and other companies are working hard to catch up.

1. Consider how your brand voice will sound when read aloud

You’ve likely created a standard for the tone you use when communicating with customers. Whether it’s breezy and informal, serious and business-like, or something in-between, it’s important to maintain consistency in your writing across all channels, especially email.

However, how will your messages sound when read aloud? It’s never a bad idea to read your emails out loud before you finalize the text, to see if you catch any errors or if anything sounds wrong, but doing so is even more imperative now. Ideally, you’ll want to also send a test email to yourself and have Alexa read the message so you know how some of your customers will hear it.

2. Watch your email length

You may discover that emails you think are short actually feel a bit tedious when read aloud. When Alexa reads a long email, it stops part way through, tells the user that it will take X minutes to finish, and asks if they want to continue. That’s a good reason to keep your most important information at the beginning of the message, so it doesn’t get lost if the recipient declines to keep reading.

3. Pay even closer attention to your subject line and preheader text

Writing an attention-grabbing subject line and complementing it with engaging preheader text is Email Marketing 101, but even if you feel you have that area dialed in, you need to revisit it if you think many of your subscribers will have their emails read to them.

One key concern is the fact that Alexa only reads the sender and subject line of an email when going through the user’s inbox, so you can’t rely on preheader text to help increase your open rates. However, Alexa does read the preheader text if the recipient says they want the email read to them, so that’s where you can help ensure that the listener pays attention to the whole message.

That’s particularly important if the email is long enough that Alexa will stop and ask the listener if they want to continue. If you know that’s going to happen, you could, for example, ensure that the preheader references information that will be read in a later part of the email.

Note that Apple’s Siri does read preheader text when introducing an email, so if you find that many of your subscribers are using that virtual assistant, you might want to try presenting your preheader as a question. Doing so will create a natural lead-in to Siri asking “Would you like to reply?”

4. Use a from name that makes sense and a reply-to address that’s functional

From names are another part of Marketing 101 that you’ve probably thought about, debated, and settled on, but they can take on a new dimension in auditory emails. Whereas many recipients may focus more on subject lines and preheader text and only give from names a cursory glance, having the from name read to them will change that mindset.

If you’ve been sending emails with an individual’s name on them, you might want to add “on behalf of,” or similar language, so it’s clear what company sent the message. For example: “Sparky on behalf of SparkPost.”

In addition, the reply-to email address you use is key because Alexa won’t read it. If the recipient decides to reply, they will end up with a frustrating bounce-back, or no response at all, if the reply-to address isn’t valid.

5. Watch out for image-heavy and image-only designs

Sure, an email that’s one nicely designed image is always appealing, but since Alexa ignores HTML and only reads what’s left, your message won’t come through to listeners. The same principle applies with emails that are heavy on images with text on them, as well as call-to-actions that are in images.

6. Use punctuation strategically

In addition to using proper punctuation because it’s important, you’ll also find that you should employ it in certain circumstances. For example, if there’s no punctuation in your header, Alexa could read the beginning of an email like this: “SparkPost News Update Hello! Here’s the latest news from SparkPost.” It will run everything together until it hits a punctuation mark. (Note that it doesn’t actually say “Hello exclamation mark.”)

Of course, you likely won’t want to put punctuation in your header, so that’s where you can employ some hidden punctuation. For example, you can add HTML like this. The recipient won’t know the period is there, and it won’t show up if they read the email, but it will cause Alex to pause at the end of your header.

<span style="display: none; max-height: 0px; overflow: hidden;">.</span>

In addition, you’ll want to tread cautiously with abbreviations. For example, if you write, “This deal is only available in the US,” Alexa will read “US” as “us” because of the lack of punctuation. You’ll want to either write “U.S.” or use a hidden punctuation hack to make Alexa read each letter individually, rather than run them together as one word.

7. Put these tips in a file and revisit them later

While virtual assistants are a new trend, they’re in the early stages of their existence; many people have expressed the kind of skepticism that accompanies any new technology. For example, while 26% of marketers surveyed by are enthusiastic or very enthusiastic about virtual assistants, 33% are interested but not fully on board yet, and nearly 40% are either not interested right now or have no opinion on the matter.

Unless you see a surge in subscribers using virtual assistants now, you should keep an eye on the macro trends and revisit these tips later. It might not hurt to include a question about virtual assistants in any surveys you do, so you can track responses over time.

Finally, keep in mind that when Alexa reads an email, it doesn’t trigger an open in your email analytics, so a drop in open rates could mean that many of your subscribers are having their emails read to them. If you can’t explain the decline any other way, maybe it’s time to revisit this blog post.

~ Erica

The post The Future of Voice in Email: 7 Things to Consider appeared first on SparkPost.

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Recipient Validation: API-based Validation Wed, 04 Sep 2019 13:00:48 +0000 API-based validationSenior Messaging Engineer, Steve Tuck, explains how to use his simple command-line tool to validate email addresses with SparkPost's API-based validation.

The post Recipient Validation: API-based Validation appeared first on SparkPost.


SparkPost has just launched Recipient Validation, a new paid product feature that checks email addresses for you, prior to sending to them. It provides a way to check for:

  • Email address syntax errors and typos
  • Invalid domains/domains unable to receive email
  • Throw-away addresses on disposable domains
  • Non-existent mailboxes
  • .. as well as telling you if the address is?served by a free email provider (e.g.
    .. is r
    ole-based? (e.g.
    .. or looks like a typo (e.g. ask about
    ?–? we will tell you “did you mean?

SparkPost has the broadest visibility into bounces and invalid addresses on the market because we send 37% of the world’s business email.?

Bulk validation

If you need to validate a lot of email addresses, the most efficient way is to use the page in the SparkPost app described here. This can deal with millions of addresses at a time and is the fastest form of bulk validation.

API-based validation

The API provides a way to validate email addresses one at a time. This could be built, for example, into your website sign-up process, and is an ideal way to ensure your contact database is as clean as possible.

You should call the SparkPost API from your server, not from the client (browser) side – don’t expose your API key, otherwise,?bad things will happen. To demonstrate how to call the API, I’ve built a simple command-line tool that you can play with. First, let’s set out some goals for this tool:

  • Provide a simple, short but working example of how to use the new API
  • Works with in the US, the EU, and SparkPost Enterprise
  • Easy to configure and get started with
  • “Scriptable” into your own processes and workflows easily
  • Takes either a single address or many addresses
  • Works with the same file formats (.csv) as our efficient bulk-load web app

I found the SparkPost API response time is pretty fast, but the round-trip time between your servers and ours is always a factor worth considering – more on that later.

Getting started

There are just a few steps to follow – see the GitHub repo

? for installation steps. You can quickly be up and running once you’ve set your API key, with the required permission. It’s good practice to grant keys with just the least privilege needed.

./ --email

You will see:

Scanned input from command line, contains 1 syntactically OK and 0 bad addresses. Validating with SparkPost..
email,valid,result,reason,is_role,is_disposable,is_free,did_you_mean,False,undeliverable,Invalid Recipient,False,False,True,

There’s a useful subtlety going on here. The text line “scanned input from …” is going via?

?– which means it appears on your screen, even if you redirect the tool output to a file.?The
parameter accepts more than one email-address, comma-separated; you can also use the short-form
. This costs us nothing in code complexity, thanks to the beautiful
?standard Python library. The command

./ -e, > out.csv


Scanned input from command line, contains 2 syntactically OK and 0 bad addresses. Validating with SparkPost..

Reading and writing files

You can also provide the tool an input file to process in plain-text .CSV format, the same as the SparkPost UI accepts. Thanks to Python?argparse, we can easily handle named input files, or from

?so that the tool acts as a “filter”. All the following are valid ways to provide an input file:

./ -i valtest.csv
./ --infile valtest.csv
./ <valtest.csv
cat valtest.csv | ./

The tool can, therefore, act as a Unix-style filter, so it can be easily plugged into your own workflows.?The first three forms allow our code to “rewind” (seek) the input file stream to re-read it. The tool can check, and report on the number of email addresses in the file before starting the actual validation, like this:

Scanned input valtest.csv, contains 15 syntactically OK and 0 bad addresses.
Validating with SparkPost..

The “pipe” form does not allow seeking, so you’ll see:

Skipping input file syntax pre-check. Validating with SparkPost..

You’ll see no actual code in this project for deciding whether to read from

?or a file and similarly for whether to write to stdout or a file. It’s all taken care of elegantly and automatically by the
parameter.?Yay! I love Python for things like this. Another sweet trick I should explain, is how the
option works. I made the file-input version first, and thought I’d have to refactor everything to handle command-line address inputs. But wait! Python lets you do this:

cmdInfile = io.StringIO(',', '\n')) = 'from command line'

Oh yeah! That takes the

?argument payload (comma-separated), makes a “file” with newline-separated input, and gives it a filename so the comfort reporting doesn’t look silly. Python makes lazy programmers look like heroes, definitely the bright side of life.?

Bonus feature: syntax pre-check

The tool counts and reports the number of addresses before starting the validation, if it can; so you know whether to go for a coffee, for lunch, or a short vacation while it completes.?Rather than just count lines in the file, it uses the excellent email_validator library to do a proper email syntax check, and report addresses as OK/bad before we start the actual validation. As long as we disable its own deliverability checks (like this) it will be fast.

validate_email(recip, check_deliverability=False)

Every address in the file is submitted to SparkPost, this is just a pre-check before we start.?In case you wish to disable the pre-check, simply add the



You don’t need Excel to work with .CSV files. csvkit is an awesome, free command-line tool kit that enables you to sort, filter, and pretty-print .CSV files, making them much easier to read. These tools also play nicely as Unix-style filters, for example:

./ -i valtest.csv | csvlook
Scanned input valtest.csv, contains 15 syntactically OK and 0 bad addresses. Validating with SparkPost..
| email                            | valid | result        | reason            | is_role | is_disposable | is_free | did_you_mean    |
| -------------------------------- | ----- | ------------- | ----------------- | ------- | ------------- | ------- | --------------- |
|             |  True | valid         |                   |    True |         False |    True |                 |
|  |  True | valid         |                   |    True |         False |   False |                 |
|              |  True | valid         |                   |   False |          True |    True |                 |
|         |  True | valid         |                   |   False |          True |   False |                 |
|            | False |               | Invalid Domain    |   False |          True |   False |                 |
|     |  True | valid         |                   |   False |          True |   False |                 |
|              |  True | valid         |                   |   False |          True |   False |                 |
|                  |  True | valid         |                   |   False |          True |   False |                 |
|              |  True | valid         |                   |    True |         False |   False |                 |
| |  True | valid         |                   |   False |         False |   False |                 |
|                   | False | undeliverable | Invalid Recipient |   False |         False |    True |                 |
|                   |  True | valid         |                   |   False |         False |   False | |
|                    | False | undeliverable | Invalid Recipient |   False |         False |    True |                 |
|                  |  True | valid         |                   |   False |         False |    True |                 |
|   | False |               | Invalid Domain    |   False |         False |   False |                 |

A few random thoughts.?Experienced Pythonistas can skip this section.

I have found myself forever needing environment-variable readers/checkers, URL fixer-uppers, and other helper-type functions. As a beginner Python programmer, I was copy/pasting these between files. No more! I’ve reached the point where I should have a file
?with this sort of thing, to bring order out of chaos.

Bringing these into the main code scope “as if they were in the same file” is simply a matter of

from common import eprint, getenv_check, getenv, hostCleanup

To pipenv or not pipenv…that is the question

An?experienced programmer has pointed out to me that

? is not good for everything. However, for mini-projects like this, it makes the installation easier for you. Because I make only basic use of external libraries, the Pipfile has:

requests = "*"
email-validator = "*"

I don’t put

??into the repo. That means your system fetches the current stable version of the above packages when you install it. If this was 24×7 Production code, having a defined
?(with versions and hashes) provides safety i.e. “the version you tested is now the version in Production”.?

I feel that would be overly pedantic for a demo project. The Requests library has had a few recent vulnerabilities found and fixed, and tying you to a specific version seems less good than you getting the latest stable versions.

Travis CI

This is another shiny thing. I love the way Travis tests my code is not broken, and checks for compatibility across several Python versions each time I check changes into Github.? Of course, it works on many languages, not just Python.

Environment variables vs .ini files

I’ve pretty much switched to using environment variables rather than .ini files now, for the following reasons:

  • Security. Having a .ini file lying around with API keys in is not great. You have to remember to
    chmod 0700
    ?it. If you really want to set environment variables up in a file, just create a .sh script (and
    chmod 0700
  • Heroku. This provides an elegant way to set config via environment variables that you can even edit after deployment on their web UI. I like that.
  • Playing nicely with Travis. It took me a while to realize this. You can set up private environment variables that get used for automated tests. That means your test cases can be “real” i.e. do things via a SparkPost account, exercising more of your code and providing better quality tests for little effort. In contrast, checking in a .ini file with credentials to your repo, so Travis can find it, would be a bad idea.

I think this sentiment applies to any language, not just Python – see here.

More on latency/speed

I found that response time from the UK to our EU service in Dublin was around 40ms, whereas the response time from the UK to the US service is around 200ms. There’s nothing too surprising about that – the difference is due mostly to the distance involved (nearly 10,000 miles round-trip) and the corresponding router hops. I suggest using the service endpoint near your own servers.

On an Amazon EC2 Linux host in US-West2, validating with, 100 recipients took around seven seconds. As you’d expect, runtime is basically linear for this tool. For large batches, the SparkPost app (web UI) is considerably faster – use it instead of this tool.

Number of recipients Demo tool runtime
SparkPost web UI runtime
100 7 21
1000 62 22
10,000 613 24

It’s a wrap!

We have taken a stroll through Recipient Validation via a tiny command-line tool.?I hope you enjoyed reading this (and using the tool) as much as I enjoyed writing it.?That’s it for now! Happy validating.

~ Steve

The post Recipient Validation: API-based Validation appeared first on SparkPost.

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Rest Easy with Real-Time Alerts Fri, 30 Aug 2019 13:00:30 +0000 Real-Time AlertsRead about Real-Time Alerts, our new feature which sends notifications about changes to important metrics that measure sending performance.

The post Rest Easy with Real-Time Alerts appeared first on SparkPost.


Keep your finger on the pulse of your email program 24/7 with our new feature: Real-Time Alerts!

We all know how important email delivery is. Whether it’s a password reset or a flash deal, we want our customers to get our emails on time and in the inbox. But sometimes things go wrong. As the old adage goes, “you don’t know what you don’t know.” Without knowing that something is off, you can’t fix it. That unknown danger hanging over your head causes unnecessary stress and worry.

Problems come in many different forms – drops in engagement rate, increase in bounces, and even going over your sending limits.

That’s why we’re excited to announce Real-Time Alerts. Alerts make it easy to receive notifications about changes to the important metrics that measure the performance of your sending. Powerful filters and multi-channel support, give you the flexibility to configure alerts about your important sending resources and ensure those alerts go to the right people.

Monitor key metrics


With Real-Time Alerts for hard bounces, soft bounces, and block bounces, you can configure alerts for when any of these metrics spike to dangerous levels. With advanced filters, you can configure your alerts to watch the resources that are keys to your sending and avoid unnecessary noise. For bounces, you can watch a combination of subaccounts, sending IPs, sending domains, and mailbox providers, meaning you can watch many combinations with just one alert.

Health Score

Major Health Score changes or drops indicate that something is wrong with your sending and you’ll likely see a drop in your email’s performance over the next few days. With alerts on your Health Score, you watch for predicted issues the moment they’re available. In fact, you can even set up a single alert for all subaccounts, so you can monitor all senders on your platform.

Monthly Sending Limit

As your business grows, so will your sending volume. It’s important to know when your volume is passing your limits so you aren’t surprised by overages and your emails don’t get delayed. With an alert on your monthly sending limits, you’ll know when it’s time to upgrade your plan before it becomes an issue.

Send alerts to the right place

You can receive alert notifications through email and Slack, so you can direct your notifications to the place that makes the most sense for your team. And with webhook support as well, it’s easy to connect alerts to any tool you use to monitor.

Get started!

Today, Real-Time Alerts are available for all Premier senders. For step-by-step instructions on setting up alerts, visit the User Guide.? We’re excited to see how you use alerts. If you have other metrics you’d like to see supported, let us know!

Happy sending!

—Avi, Technical Product Manager

???Special thanks to Aubrey Altmann, Tim Ecklund, Alice Haber, Jim Braman, Tom Thibodeau, Kevin Chu, Jon Ambas, Brian Kemper, Greg Walls, Julian Moyse, Sai Pisupati, Jose Zamora and to all the Product, Engineering, Marketing, Sales, and Customer Success teams

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How to Segment Your Subscriber Data to Improve Email Deliverability Wed, 28 Aug 2019 13:00:23 +0000 segment subscriber dataBrand Designer at, Cynthia Dam, gives tips on how to segment subscriber data to improve deliverability and increase engagement.

The post How to Segment Your Subscriber Data to Improve Email Deliverability appeared first on SparkPost.


**Today’s blog is a guest post from our friends over at, enjoy their tips and strategies on segmenting your subscriber data!

The most powerful data you have on your email list is subscriber engagement data – and every email marketer should leverage this data for healthy deliverability. Why? Email engagement and deliverability go hand in hand. Internet service providers (ISPs) like Gmail, Outlook, and Yahoo are looking to see if subscribers actively engage with your emails to determine whether to serve your emails to inboxes (in other words, whether you have a strong sender reputation). That’s why it’s best practice to segment your list by subscriber engagement level and use this as the basis of your email sending strategy.

Segmenting on engagement level will help you send targeted emails with a higher chance of getting opens and clicks. Think about it this way – your list is made up of subscribers in various stages of the customer journey. You’ll have some subscribers with no engagement history who have just signed up to your list, and others who’ve established a long history of engaging with your past emails. You’ll want to be sending your core blasts to subscribers who you know are likely to engage, because their engagement will signal to ISPs that you’re a strong sender. It’s riskier to send emails to subscribers you can’t positively say will engage, which makes it extremely important to send strategic emails to engage these segments. Here’s how:

Engagement Levels You Should Segment On and What to Email Them


Your most active subscribers are those who continuously engage with your emails. This is your bread and butter – these subscribers have engaged with your recent emails and chances are, they’ll likely open and click the next email you send them. You should be sending your core marketing blasts to this segment.

New Subscribers

These subscribers have just joined your list, whether through a signup form, in-store point of sale (POS), or contest. You want to treat new subscribers differently – you have one chance to educate them about your brand and you should use it to engage and convert. It’s best practice to send a welcome email right upon signup. You can automate this by setting up a welcome email series, which we’ll dive into in the section below.

At-Risk Subscribers

It’s natural for subscribers to start losing interest in your brand. When subscribers haven’t opened an email recently (e.g. your last 5 emails), chances are they’ll need a reason to re-engage with your brand. Your typical marketing blasts are less likely to be opened – you should send a winback email that includes an incentive to get these at-risk subscribers to re-engage.


Subscribers who haven’t engaged in a while (i.e. your last 10 emails) are likely to never engage again. You’ll want to set an intentional strategy to win back contacts in this segment because they’ll fully lose interest if you send them an irrelevant email. It’s important to spend time designing a winback email for this segment that you actually believe in.

Invalid Subscribers

These are contacts who have unsubscribed from your email list or have been marked as invalid (bounced, undeliverable). You never want to email this segment.

Email Automations to Optimize for Segment Engagement

Timing is everything, especially when it comes to email. You can leverage email automation (triggered campaigns) to engage these segments at exactly the right time with exactly the right content, further improving the chances they’ll engage:

Set Up a Welcome Email Series to Engage New Subscribers

New subscribers have just signed up to your brand, and have signaled that they want to receive email from you. Now’s the best time to send a highly relevant welcome email. With the highest open rate and a CTR 4x higher than any other type of email, it’s a smart move to automate welcome emails in your email strategy so you don’t miss out on engaging any of your new subscribers.

Automate an ‘Update Your Preferences’ Email to Engage At-Risk Subscribers

At-risk subscribers are starting to lose interest in your emails, and it may likely be because of the content you’ve been sending them. You should automate an email campaign with a link to your preferences center, and ask this segment to update their preferences so you can send them only the emails they want to receive. This is also a good time to ask for their birthday, gender, and any personal preferences so you can send more personalized emails.

Set Up a Winback Email Series to Re-Engage Inactive Subscribers

Inactive subscribers haven’t engaged with your emails for a while, and chances are they won’t engage with any basic emails you send. You should set up a winback email series with several emails including incentives that increase in value (e.g. each email includes a higher discount code). If a subscriber enters and goes through the entire winback email series without engaging, you should treat them as invalid since the chances they’ll ever engage again are close to null.

Wrap Up

Every email marketer has access to subscriber engagement data, and this data is a powerful tool you can use to improve your email deliverability. Basing your email sending strategy on engagement level segments will not only boost your email performance, but it’ll also help you send emails your subscribers actually want to receive. Plus, you can leverage email automation to trigger based on unique subscriber actions, so you send email exactly when subscribers are most likely to engage. It’s a win-win for your email strategy and your deliverability.

Cynthia Dam
Brand Designer @

Cynthia is the Brand Designer at and creates content fuelling the company’s customer experiences across all marketing channels. Read more of her email deliverability articles on the blog.

The post How to Segment Your Subscriber Data to Improve Email Deliverability appeared first on SparkPost.

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The Next Generation of Recipient Validation is Here Tue, 27 Aug 2019 13:00:55 +0000 Recipient ValidationRead about the next generation of SparkPost’s Recipient Validation – data-driven email address validation powered by the world's largest email database.

The post The Next Generation of Recipient Validation is Here appeared first on SparkPost.


Data-driven email validation powered by the world’s largest sender.

We are excited to announce the next generation of SparkPost’s Recipient Validation – data-driven email address validation powered by the world’s largest email database. Our Recipient Validation now catches twice as many invalid addresses as before, giving you the best sender reputation protection on the market. Our new data-driven system uses data from thousands of other senders, so you can remove more undeliverable and toxic addresses from your lists before they bounce and hurt your sending reputation. We analyzed a sample of customers using another validation solution and found that on average our Recipient Validation would catch an additional 31% of their hard bounces missed by our competitors, helping you send with confidence. With this release we have also added typo detection and suggestion, plugging a top source of lead loss for customers.

Recipient Validation

One of the hard and fast rules of being a good sender is to only send to real people who have explicitly opted-in. As an email marketer, you want to grow your list with real, high-quality email addresses that are going to engage, without letting damaging addresses through. You need to verify that an email address isn’t going to damage your reputation before you send to it.

Every experienced marketer and deliverability specialist can tell you how damaging it is to send to undeliverable and low-quality addresses. And just as important, you also want to be sure you never miss an opportunity to connect with someone. As a customer of yours, I want you to catch my mistakes before I finish signing up because I really do want to hear from you!

Diving in!

Hard bounces

Back in December, we decided to tackle this universal problem and released a beta of Recipient Validation. With it, we started with the industry knowledge and worked with our team of data scientists to validate best practices and create our solution. With our research, we developed a data-source to identify undeliverable addresses and released Recipient Validation for all SparkPost customers in June. Since then, we’ve continued our research and have constructed an improved system to identify undeliverable and risky email addresses so you can be confident in your sending, instead of relying on outdated and inaccurate checks.

Our data scientists discovered that not all hard bounces are equal – one hard bounce isn’t enough to discount an email address for everyone. When Recipient Validation suspects an email address will hard bounce, we surface that so you can make the decision on whether you want to take on that risk.

Low-quality addresses

Recipient Validation helps you identify low-quality addresses. It identifies disposable domains, including both masked email addresses – addresses that good engagement rates but can’t be tied to a real user – and throwaway email addresses – addresses that hurt your ROI with extremely low engagement rates. With the average engagement rate of less than 0.80%, you can confidently eliminate throwaway addresses. In fact, 95% senders who remove disposable addresses will see no change or an increase in their engagement rate while decreasing their overall traffic.

User experience

We know how important user experience is for your success (keep your eyes peeled for some exciting UX changes in the SparkPost app). That’s why we built Recipient Validation with that in mind. Recipient Validation will catch typos before your user submits, and with the majority of validations completed in under 30 milliseconds, you won’t introduce extra friction.

In sum, Recipient Validation will catch:

  • Email address syntax errors
  • Role-based or shared email addresses
  • Throwaway and masked addresses
  • Accidental typos
  • Potentially undeliverable addresses
  • Known undeliverable addresses

Jump into the SparkPost app (EU) to validate your list now. And dig into the documentation and start validating email addresses in real-time with our real-time API.

As always, we’d love to hear your feedback. Send us an email at if you have any thoughts or suggestions for Recipient Validation or our other sending features.

For more information about Recipient Validation?click here.

Happy sending!

—Avi, Technical Product Manager

???Special thanks to Sailakshmi Pisupati, Tim Ecklund, Jason Sorensen, Patrick Sison, Brian Kemper, Nick Lemmon, Jose Zamora, Lynn Murphy, Angelica Garcia, Julian Moyse, Jason Soni and to all the Product, Engineering, Marketing, Sales, and Customer Success teams

The post The Next Generation of Recipient Validation is Here appeared first on SparkPost.

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3 Steps to Using Email to Improve Customer Loyalty and Reduce Churn Fri, 23 Aug 2019 13:00:11 +0000 customer loyaltyDiscover how incorporating surveys and sentiment analysis technology into your email strategy can help improve customer loyalty and reduce churn.

The post 3 Steps to Using Email to Improve Customer Loyalty and Reduce Churn appeared first on SparkPost.


Customers are getting harder to please. According to HubSpot:

  • 55% of consumers in the US and the UK don’t trust the companies they buy from as much as they used to
  • 65% of them don’t have faith in company press releases
  • 81% of them prefer to get advice from friends and family rather than a business

It’s also getting tougher to acquire customers. ProfitWell found that overall customer acquisition cost (CAC) is up almost 50% during the past 5 years, so it’s crucial to keep as many current customers as possible. That’s where customer satisfaction comes into play, because it’s typically cheaper to retain a customer than acquire a new one. High churn rates have toppled many companies.

Luckily, you’ve probably already invested in a communication medium that offers plenty of ways to track customer sentiment: email. You can use email to get a handle on how people feel about your company and its products and services, and then you can tweak your triggered and promotional emails accordingly, along with your products and services and many other things.

When you improve your customers’ satisfaction, you not only grow near-term sales but you create advocates who will recommend your company to their friends, family, and colleagues. That’s a key element of evangelism marketing, in which your customers preach the gospel, so to speak, of your business to others.

Here are 3 steps to using email to help improve customer loyalty and reduce churn.

1. Deliver 1-question surveys via email to calculate NPS, CES, and CSAT

You’d be surprised what kind of information you can glean from 1 question, especially since the low level of effort means customers are much more likely to respond than if you ask them to fill out a multi-question survey. There are a variety of options for 1-question surveys, but 3 of the most popular ones measure different aspects of customer sentiment:

  • Net Promoter Score (NPS)
  • Customer Effort Score (CES)
  • Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT)

Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a tool that helps you determine the loyalty of your customers. It ranges from -100 to +100, but any score above zero is considered good, while +50 is seen as excellent and +70 means your most of your customers aren’t leaving for the competition any time soon.

Calculating NPS is fairly simple: You ask your customers, “On a scale of 0 to 10, how likely are you to recommend our [company/product/service] to others?” You can hone in on a specific product or service, if you’d rather measure customer loyalty to it, rather than your entire company. All answers between 0 and 6 are detractors, 7-8 are passives, and 9-10 are promoters.

Toss out the passive answers and subtract the percentage of detractors from the percentage of promoters. For example, if you surveyed 1,000 customers and the passive/detractor/promoter percentages were 15%/31%/54%, your NPS would be +23. Track your NPS over time to see how it changes as you tweak your email strategy, roll out product updates, and make other decisions.

Here’s a good example of an NPS survey from Insurify, an auto and home insurance comparison service:

Any 1-question survey you send by email should be simple like this one. Your goal is to get them to click a response and give you a result, so there’s no reason to muddy the waters with cross-sells, upsells, and other promotional messages. Note that Insurify uses a color range to help cue what the numbers mean, and a simple image reminds the recipient what the company does.

You can take a similar approach when sending Customer Effort Score (CES) and Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT) emails.

Customer Effort Score (CES) measures how customers feel about their experiences with a product or service, including support interactions. They typically choose their responses on a 7-point scale from Very Difficult to Very Easy, although you can also use approaches like “[Product Name] met my expectations,” with a 7-point range from Strongly Agree to Strongly Disagree.

The scale might be something like this:

  • Very Difficult
  • Somewhat Difficult
  • Fairly Difficult
  • Neutral
  • Fairly Easy
  • Somewhat Easy
  • Very Easy

You can also try a scale of 1-5 that drops the “Fairly” responses or a 3-point scale where the choices are Difficult, Neither, and Easy. Those might be better approaches if you don’t get a good response rate from a 7-point range, which could signal that your customers are having trouble parsing the difference between answers like Fairly Easy, Somewhat Easy, and Very Easy. If they struggle with deciding how to respond, they could decide not to bother.

Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT), as its name implies, measures customers’ satisfaction with a product or service, including support interactions. Like CES, you can use a 5- or 7-point range from Very Unsatisfied to Very Satisfied (or variations on that, such as Awful to Great), as well as a simple 3-point range: Unsatisfied, Neutral, and Satisfied.

There’s no industry standard for measuring CES and CSAT, but the conventional wisdom is that you should average the responses and/or look at the median score, if you’re worried about very low or very high scores skewing the average. Anything above a 5 on a 1-7 scale, or above a 4 on a 1-5 scale, means you’re on the right track.

If you use a 3-point scale, you might want to take an approach similar to the one NPS uses: toss out the 2s (Neutral) and subtract the percentage of 1s (Difficult) from the percentage of 3s (Easy) to create a range of -100 to +100. As with NPS, a score above zero is good, +50 is excellent, and +70 or more is “Wow, people are thrilled with us!”

2. Use Sentiment Analysis to track customers’ tone in the emails they send to you

While many people like to interact with businesses on social media, they still use email and are likely to communicate with your business that way too. However, it can be hard to decipher how they feel, especially if a message is nuanced and people in your company who read it may disagree whether it’s net positive or net negative. And sarcasm, such as “Wow, great job taking a week to send my order,” can sometimes be hard to figure out.

That’s where you can use Sentiment Analysis, which uses Natural Language Processing (NLP) to process the raw text in the emails sent by your customers. Then it uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) to add a layer of emotion decoding, tone determination, and overall sentiment output. It’s useful for giving you an objective view of how your customers feel, without the bias people naturally bring to any situation.

You should use Sentiment Analysis in conjunction with survey emails to determine how your customers currently feel about your company overall, or a specific product or service, and then track the changes over time. Sentiment Analysis is a good way to add nuances to the data produced by surveys – for example, people may seem happy overall based on their survey responses, but a deeper dive might reveal a specific trouble spot to hone in on, such as lengthy shipping times.

Admittedly, Sentiment Analysis is much trickier to implement than survey emails, so you should do plenty of homework and spend time researching the available tools before creating a proposal for your engineering team.

3. Decide when to send surveys and how to act on the results from them and Sentiment Analysis

Create a strategy for sending your 1-question NPS, CES, and CSAT surveys, which should be triggered by certain actions, such as:

  • Key milestones
    • Time elapsed since sign-up (30 days, 60 days, etc.)
    • Actions taken in an app (the Xth time they’ve done something, for example)
    • User onboarding completion
  • Shortly after an order has been received, to give them time to form an opinion about a product
  • Immediately after a customer support or other 1-on-1 interaction, when their feelings are still fresh in their minds
  • When customers are considered churned, either by canceling their accounts or lapsing their activity for a certain period of time
  • When customers’ status changes in some meaningful way, such as on-and-off customers becoming more regular in their patterns or vice-versa
  • Just before and right after a renewal date, or when you issue a major release or announce important news

If you use multiple survey metrics, each one should have a specific purpose. While you can, for example, use NPS to gauge how a customer felt about a support experience (“How likely are you to recommend our company to others after your customer support call today?”), you should maintain consistency and always use it that way. One way to look at NPS, CES, and CSAT is like this:

  • Send out an NPS survey once or twice a year to get a big-picture view of how customers feel about your company.
  • Send a CES survey when a customer takes an action that can be a pain point for many people, such as calling your customer support phone number.
  • Send a CSAT survey to see how customers feel after receiving a product, or after you release a software update.

As you begin tracking survey scores and potentially adding Sentiment Analysis to the overall picture, decide how you will respond to your findings, such as:

  • Rewarding happy customers, and reactivating churned ones, with incentives or other kinds of offers
  • Addressing a thorny problem area with an announcement: “We’ve heard your dissatisfaction with our shipping times and we’re pledging to reduce them,” for example
  • Handling different customer cohorts in specific ways: For example, you might find that customers who live in certain areas have different needs than customers in other areas
  • Making changes to products and/or services
  • Altering your strategy for triggered and/or promotional emails – your customers may feel spammed, they may want to hear from you more, or perhaps you’re missing an opportunity to email them at a crucial juncture in their customer journey

If you see discrepancies in the data, such as strong NPS and CES numbers but weak CSAT scores, probe deeper to understand why. You might want to send follow-up surveys to customers who answered in seemingly contradictory ways. It’s possible that they are happy with your company except for a specific thing that they’re unsatisfied with. Then figure out a way to fix the problem with that cohort.

Over time, you should see an increase in customer loyalty and a decrease in churn. If not, you may want to try an in-depth survey with an incentive attached (a chance to win one of several gift cards, for example) to get at the root of the problem.

~ Erica

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What it’s Like to be a New Mom at SparkPost Wed, 21 Aug 2019 13:00:02 +0000 New MomIn honor of National Breastfeeding Month Technical Product Manager, Haley Solomon, shares her experience as a new mom at SparkPost.?

The post What it’s Like to be a New Mom at SparkPost appeared first on SparkPost.


In honor of National Breastfeeding Month, I wanted to share my experience as a breastfeeding mama at SparkPost.

A company’s attitude about breastfeeding can make a huge difference in a woman’s breastfeeding journey. Federal law requires that new mothers be permitted time and a private location to express milk while at work, but there is a difference between companies that “do it because they have to” and companies that truly are trying to enable and encourage breastfeeding. Coming back from parental leave is hard enough without having to worry about needing to assert your right to pump and any potential backlash. I wanted to share my top 4 reasons why I think SparkPost is a great place for new moms to work:

  1. Wellness Room: When SparkPost was designing the layout for its new Maryland office a year and a half ago, there was some extra space that was considered for a variety of uses. In the end, SparkPost decided to turn this into a dedicated Wellness Room, for breastfeeding moms to use as well as any other employees who need a little quiet time. Federal law requires “a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk”– but that can be interpreted in so many different ways. Having a dedicated room with a comfy chair, sink, and refrigerator makes pumping a little less sucky (see what I did there? ?? ).? I also love having lockers to store my pump, which means I don’t have to lug it back and forth to work every day. The Wellness Room also happens to be conveniently located right next to the kitchen (see #4 below!).
  2. Remote Work: With most employees split between our two offices in Columbia, MD and San Francisco, as well as a fair number of other remote employees, conference calls are the norm for meetings at SparkPost. Call-in information is included in nearly every meeting invite you receive. This means that even if a meeting happens to fall during my pumping time, I can participate by dialing in from the wellness room. I don’t need to ask for the meeting to be rescheduled, and it’s not an extra burden on the meeting organizer to set up a call since it’s so ubiquitous. I just double (and triple!) check that my camera isn’t on.
  3. Flexible Hours: I’ve heard tales of moms pumping in the car to and from work in order to be able to get enough pumping time without completely disrupting their day. Since SparkPost has flexible hours, I can get my first pump in at home before driving to work, meaning I have one fewer disruption during the day.
  4. Snacks, snacks, and more snacks! Last but certainly not least, SparkPost provides unlimited snacks for employees! Pop culture loves to make jokes about pregnant women being hungry all the time, but the same can be said about breastfeeding women, who generally need an additional 450-500 calories per day. SparkPost has a constant supply of healthy snacks on hand, like greek yogurt, fruit, bagels, and cheese sticks. And there’s also the candy bowl for the days you just really need something sweet.?

-Haley Solomon, Technical Product Manager

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9 Factors You Should Consider When Selecting an Email Vendor [Infographic] Mon, 19 Aug 2019 13:00:37 +0000 email vendorDiscover which factors matter most when "grading" email platforms with our new infographic: 9 Factors You Should Consider When Selecting an Email Vendor.

The post 9 Factors You Should Consider When Selecting an Email Vendor [Infographic] appeared first on SparkPost.


Whether you’re picking an email delivery vendor for the first time, or reevaluating your current provider there is no shortage of information out there to consider. To make an educated decision you not only have to learn all of the industry jargon (can you say Simple Mail Transfer Protocol 5 times fast?), but also sift through the biased reviews left behind by the email marketers of yesteryear. Once you’ve done all of that, you’ll have to narrow down the choices based on which factors are most important to your organization. But, what should those factors be?

In order to help you identify which factors you should use to “grade” email vendors and ultimately make the decision that is best for your business, we created the below infographic: 9 Factors You Should Consider When Selecting an Email Vendor. We hope that this infographic makes your selection process more streamlined and maybe just a little prettier!

While this infographic is certainly a helpful tool in its own right, we recommend using it in tandem with our brand new Buyer’s Guide to Email Delivery Platforms! The guide provides:

  • New trends in email technologies
  • Changes in email over the last 5 years
  • The core elements of email delivery
  • Questions you should ask email providers that you’re evaluating
  • Updated data, privacy and regulatory laws to be aware of
  • A comparison of features across the most reputable email providers

As a driver of nearly 18% of all business revenue, there is absolutely no doubt that email is integral to not only your business but likely your competitors’ as well. With such a great impact on your bottom line, it’s imperative that you select the right email provider the first time (or if you’re reevaluating your current provider…THIS time). More than that, email is often one of the primary ways customers choose to get in contact with businesses. With such a close relationship to the customer experience, email can be make-or-break for customers’ perception of your company. That’s a lot of pressure riding on your email platform!

The good news is that between our Buyer’s Guide and infographic…you’ve got this! We hope that these tools make selecting a provider a little less daunting. It’s time to start your decision-making process, good luck (not that you need it) and happy sending!

email buyer's guide

~ Erica

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Spam Traps: Break it Down Fri, 16 Aug 2019 13:00:00 +0000 spam trapsFind and fix issues faster with our breakdown of spam traps now available as part of our Spam Trap Monitoring feature inside of SparkPost Signals.

The post Spam Traps: Break it Down appeared first on SparkPost.


Spam traps are email addresses that look real but aren’t. Instead, they are used by mailbox providers, blacklist providers and filtering providers as a way to measure the quality of a sender and as a way to catch spammers.

Sending to spam traps can damage your reputation and result in your mail being blocked or placed in the spam folder.

At SparkPost, we know how important email delivery is to your business, and we want to help you succeed. Back in January of this year, we rolled out Spam Trap Monitoring with a superset of existing networks, giving us the broadest visibility across both commercial and non-commercial spam trap networks in the world. In addition, we created automated processes that constantly discover new spam traps so we can provide the most accurate information.

But just knowing how many traps you’ve hit may not give you enough to find the source of your problem, whether it be low-quality sources, no validation, or bad list hygiene.

To help you dig further, we’ve added a breakdown of the type of traps you’re hitting to help you find and fix any issues.

Spam trap types

Knowing which type of spam trap you’re hitting helps you find where your email program may have an issue.
Starting today, you’ll see traps broken down by type: recycled, typo, and parked.

Recycled traps are email addresses that once were real, but have been converted into a spam trap. If you have these on your list it’s probably a sign you need to clean out old unengaged recipients. You can look at your engagement recency cohorts (EU) to see if you are sending to a lot of unengaged recipients.

Typo traps are email addresses hosted on a domain that looks like a real mailbox provider, like These usually get onto your list when a real person tries to sign up but “fat fingers” their email address and accidentally adds a trap instead. These addresses signal that you should work to improve your enrollment process. Using a tool like Recipient Validation can help solve this problem.

Lastly, are parked emails. These are email addresses hosted by a parked domain provider. These addresses can point to list quality issues, though they will not affect your reputation.

Our customers have asked about this after we first launched Signals, and we’re really happy that we get to release this today. So jump into the app (EU) now to find what types of traps you’re sending to! With just a few small changes, you can see improvements in your list quality.

As always, we’d love to hear your feedback. Send us an email to if you have any thoughts or suggestions for Spam Trap Monitoring or other Signals features.

Happy sending!

—Avi, Technical Product Manager

?? Special thanks to George Schlossnagle, Daeyon Griffin, Michael Curtis, Aaron Shen, Brian Kemper, Cole Strode, Tonya Gordon and to all the Product, Engineering, Marketing, Sales, and Customer Success teams

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5 Ways to Optimize Your Financial Services Emails for Mobile Devices Wed, 14 Aug 2019 13:00:52 +0000 mobile devicesDiscover 5 ways to ensure that your financial services emails are opened, read, and acted on by customers receiving them on mobile devices.

The post 5 Ways to Optimize Your Financial Services Emails for Mobile Devices appeared first on SparkPost.


Mobile devices account for 42% of email opens, according to a Litmus analysis of 10 billion email opens. In addition, Litmus found that 61% of emails opened on mobile are read for more than 8 seconds, a percentage that’s been on the rise since 2015, and the average reading time is 13.4 seconds, a 29% jump during the past 7 years.

However, if your emails aren’t optimized for display on mobile devices, your carefully crafted messages will likely be for naught: An email that doesn’t render correctly on a mobile device is likely to be deleted in 3 seconds or less, and up to 15% of recipients will simply unsubscribe in such a situation, according to Campaign Monitor.

With that in mind, here are 5 ways to ensure that your financial services emails are opened, read, and acted on by customers receiving them on mobile devices.

1. Implement a responsive email template

A responsive email template automatically adjusts to the recipient’s device when it’s opened, whether they’re on a desktop computer with a large display, an older generation smartphone with a small screen, or anything in between. People with plenty of display real estate won’t mind a non-responsive email template, but those on the other end of the spectrum likely won’t appreciate having to zoom in just to read your message.

If you can’t create a responsive email template just yet, then opt for a scalable template, which uses a single column with large text. It won’t look pretty on a large screen, but it will get the job done on mobile devices.

2. Use preheader (preview) text, but pay attention to the devices used by your subscribers

The text shown below the subject line on Apple Mail for iOS, Gmail for iOS and Android, and other mobile email clients is known as the preheader, or preview, text. If you don’t specify it, your customers will likely see the first several words from the email, which could be the alt-text from the header image, “Click here to view this email online,” or other non-useful information.

Think of this text as a second chance to get people to open your email, if the subject line didn’t quite do the job. Use the preheader to complement your subject line – for example, if you’re pitching an offer, use the subject line to present it and the preheader to emphasize the expiration date or another key selling point.

While your subject line shouldn’t be more than six words, or about 50 characters, you have a little more room with the preheader. Check your analytics and see which mobile email clients are more prevalent among your customers, since Apple Mail for iOS typically displays about twice the amount of preheader text as Gmail for mobile.

However, note that if your preheader text doesn’t fill the space provided by the recipient’s email app, it may pull in the first several words from the email to occupy the gap. To stop that from happening, check out the hack explained by Litmus – it adds white space after your preheader text to ensure that it’s all your customers see.

3. Keep your content lightweight

While mobile email reading times are on the rise, that 13.4-second average still isn’t much time to engage customers and get them to take action. Use short paragraphs that are just a sentence or two, with a few bullet points that convey key value props or other important information. Your fonts should be large enough to read on small screens – make sure you use ones that are broadly supported by the major email apps.

Don’t be afraid to use multiple CTA (call-to-action) buttons. You might want to include one in the middle, if your email is a little long, and don’t forget to make the buttons big enough that the user can easily tap them with a finger from the same hand holding their device. Your CTAs should complete the phrase “I want to…”, such as “Apply Now” or “Check My Account Balance.”

Keep your image file sizes down, since not everyone has access to fast download speeds and you don’t want to take up too much of their data plans. High-def images are perfect for logos and other key visuals, but the rest of the pictures can likely be lower-def and still look fine on a mobile screen. Make sure all of your images have alt-text, since many email clients turn off images by default.

This email from Paypal is a good example of a mobile-optimized message.

  • The text is short and to the point, with no more than 2 lines in any section.
  • You could read just the 3 sub-heads and get enough information to decide whether to tap that nice big CTA button, which is centered at the bottom.
  • The photos are nice but aren’t needed to understand the email.
  • The subject line, “[First Name], 3 Ways We’ve Made Shopping Easier,” is short and to the point.

4. Consider when you send your emails

Litmus’s state of email engagement report also notes some differences in the best time to send email, depending on which platform is dominant among your customer base. This is important because if you send a message when your audience isn’t likely to be checking their email, your email could end up way down their inbox when they download their messages.

Litmus says the difference also depends on where your customers live:

  • United States: While webmail and desktop opens start dropping after 5 pm, mobile opens are fairly steady between 8 am and 10 pm.
  • United Kingdom: Desktop opens are highest at 9 am but have a little jump between 2 and 3 pm, while webmail is fairly steady throughout the day. Mobile opens are heaviest between 5 and 7 pm.
  • Canada: Desktop and webmail opens peak at 9 and 10 am while mobile usage is heaviest between 9 and 11 am.
  • Germany: Opens on all 3 platforms are strongest between 8 and 10 am. While desktop opens start to decline around 5 pm, webmail and mobile opens experience a bounce around that time before starting to drop into the evening.
  • Spain: Mobile and desktop opens are neck-and-neck between 9 and 10 am. Both of them drop after that but bounce up again between 4 and 6 pm. Webmail opens are steady throughout the day.
  • Australia and New Zealand: Mobile opens have a morning spike at 7 am and another one between 3 and 6 pm. Desktop peaks between 8 and 10 am before declining for the rest of the day while webmail is steady all day.

5. Test your emails on a variety of mobile devices and optimize your landing pages, too

Even if you use a responsive email template, you’ll still want to test your messages on as many kinds of mobile devices and in as many apps as possible. There could be quirks in your code that might create issues.

In addition to making sure your links work, check their destinations on mobile too. Your landing pages should also use responsive design.

Deep links into specific places in an app are possible too – see this article in our Help Center to learn more.

~ Casey

The post 5 Ways to Optimize Your Financial Services Emails for Mobile Devices appeared first on SparkPost.

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The Current State of Automated IP Warmup? Mon, 12 Aug 2019 13:00:34 +0000 Automated IP WarmupRead about some of the great results we’ve seen with our feature: Automated IP Warmup, designed to make adding a new dedicated IP a breeze!

The post The Current State of Automated IP Warmup? appeared first on SparkPost.


Checking in on one of our newest products that makes email easy.

Early in 2019, SparkPost released an Automated IP Warmup feature designed to make adding a new dedicated IP a breeze. We wanted to circle back around and share some of the great results we’ve seen with this product so far. First things first, if you’ve used the Automated IP Warmup feature or are thinking about using it in the future, I’d love to have a quick chat. Feel free to book me for a quick fifteen minutes to learn more or share your story.

Since releasing this feature, we’ve been able to warm hundreds of dedicated IP addresses with great results. As I’m writing this message, some 1,200 IPs are in the warmup process! Some of our customers have used the feature to warm up to just a couple thousand messages a day while others have gone all the way to stage 22 – that’s 1.75 million messages a day through their IP!

The really exciting part is that the deliverability and health metrics of these young IPs are just as good as the IPs that already exist in the pool! That means that we’ve been able to hone in on a good warm up pattern for most dedicated IPs. Whether you’re just getting started with email, growing your volume, adding a new stream, swapping out IPs, or transferring your traffic to SparkPost – we think you’re going to have a great experience!

We’ve gone through and taken a closer look at a couple accounts to see how their IPs are performing. Here are some great examples of a recent set of IPs that have been added and went through the Automated Warmup Process:

Sender A maintains a dedicated IP to alert customers of critical notifications. To add redundancy to their system, this sender added a second dedicated IP to their critical notifications IP Pool. At the time of writing this blog, the newly added IP is in stage 9 of warmup – capable of sending 50,000 emails per day before falling back solely to the warm IP. Here are the results of how the existing IP and the newly added IP are performing within the same pool for the last 25,000 messages:

Accepted % Hard Bounce % Soft Bounce % Block Bounce % Undetermined Bounce % Open %
Existing IP 98.28% 0.91% 0.40% 0.23% 0.19% 82.21%
Newly Added IP 98.33% 0.96% 0.36% 0.20% 0.15% 83.46%


Sender B added two dedicated IPs to an existing pool that previously only had one dedicated IP. Both of these newly added IPs have progressed to stage 8; capable of sending up to a combined 80,000 emails before solely relying on the warm IP. Here’s their performance recently:

Accepted % Hard Bounce % Soft Bounce % Block Bounce % Undetermined Bounce % Open %
Existing IP 99.98% 0.02% 0.01% 0.00% 0.00% 3.76%
1st Newly Added IP 99.97% 0.02% 0.02% 0.00% 0.00% 3.63%
2nd Newly Added IP 99.98% 0.02% 0.00% 0.00% 0.00% 3.97%


As you can see, in both situations the newly added IPs are performing just as well as the other IPs in the pool. This is great news and we’re thrilled to share these results.

Even though we’re excited about the results we’re seeing, we’re not done yet. Our goal is to continue to make email easy for our customers. Keep an eye out in the coming months for more posts and continued updates for our Automated IP Warmup product.

Happy Sending,
Harold and Balu

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Going Places…a Reflection on Ten Years at SparkPost Fri, 09 Aug 2019 13:00:19 +0000 ten yearsOur Vice President of Customer Success, Laura Rose, reflects on her first ten years at SparkPost from her first day until now.

The post Going Places…a Reflection on Ten Years at SparkPost appeared first on SparkPost.


Off and Away

Ten years ago on a warm August morning, I left my two young daughters at home with my husband and drove to Samuel Morse Drive for my first day at Message Systems.? I was carrying a new yellow Fossil bag and matching wallet and when I entered the building I really felt I had “arrived”. I was making a big step up from the field of IT consulting to a proper software firm!? I couldn’t believe that a company with technical powerhouses like George Schlossnagle and Dave Gray would actually hire me.? After I put my yellow bag on my new desk things moved very fast – my official start time was 10:00 am. All my forms were filled out and I was up and running on a Mac (another exciting step up) as a “Project Manager” by 11:07 am.? Little did I know then that my journey would continue to accelerate for a decade … never slowing down, always speeding up like a rock hurtling into outer space. It’s been an ever-evolving adventure full of excitement and challenges, laughs and tears, and many friends.

Steer Yourself

From the very beginning at Message Systems, I had complete control of my destiny and my customers’ destinies! Nobody told me what to do or how to do it. I had complete autonomy in managing customer relationships and getting things done. I went with what felt right, but I was able to do that and be successful because I knew my values were aligned with our company values. When I think back, though rather scary, this autonomy was an amazing gift and something many people don’t usually get in their career. I learned so much during this time and I found it deeply satisfying and rewarding. In terms of balancing work and home – again it was in my full control – never once was I questioned about hours worked, my availability or my commitment (many working parents are not so lucky).

Bang-Ups and Hang-Ups

I certainly didn’t always get it right and there many were stressful moments – especially when I felt the heavy burden of being the primary subject-matter-expert on customer deployments. In the summer of 2012, while on vacation in Colorado, I had to help resolve a production issue – no one else had the knowledge and experience to orchestrate the fix. That experience taught me the importance of having a solid backup plan, proper communication, and sharing risk. Whenever I made mistakes, I knew I would always be supported by our team and never feared I would be admonished. The focus was only on fixing the problem and how we could do better.

Another Chance

In late 2014 we started the transition to the cloud (the birth of SparkPost) and that’s when I began working as a “Technical Account Manager” (TAM). This was incredibly challenging because we had to figure out how to support customers in the cloud as we went along. We didn’t have a blueprint to follow but again leaned on some of our core values of empathy, transparency, and gratitude to get us through. That strategy served us well and during that time we developed symbiotic relationships with customers like Zillow (we like to call them “partners”) that still exist today.

As our cloud business grew, I took on a Team Lead role and gradually expanded the team of TAMs. What I looked for the most was a shared understanding of how to approach and treat customers – especially in tough situations. Using that strategy I assembled a strong team of TAMs with a great diversity of experiences, skills, and talents – many more than mine alone. Working tightly together we continue to keep our customers on track and moving forward.

In our SparkPost offices, you will find our values posted on the walls. In that physical context, they can seem abstract, but in our day-to-day world, they are very much alive. We try to consider our values in the smallest of exchanges (like how to phrase a response to a common support request) as well as large and complicated matters (like talking to customers about an outage). Perhaps the phrase “living our values” is overused but I believe relationships are built on the little things (saying “thank you”, a smile, a text message with an update, an extra loop around to pass someone’s desk) and I can’t think of a better way it can be described.

A Great Balancing Act

The past decade has seen my girls grow from toddlers to teenagers and fine lines develop at the corners of my eyes. I no longer have my yellow Fossil bag and we’re a SaaS company now. But things only move faster and now I have a new adventure – the role of VP of Customer Success. I’m excited and daunted by this new challenge but I’ll lean on my experiences of the last 10 years and this company that is now part of me.? And for that, I’m truly thankful.

~ Laura

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Why Security Breaches are Personal Wed, 07 Aug 2019 13:00:49 +0000 security breachesOur Vice President of Compliance and IT Security, James Sipe, explains why security breaches are more about people than data.

The post Why Security Breaches are Personal appeared first on SparkPost.


A few years ago, previous to my current position,? I was recruited for a leadership position in IT Security and Compliance at a large private company. The position was newly created and included PCI and data compliance. As I was going through the interview process, I found that the company was in a post-breach PCI settlement negotiation. They, like many others in their industry, were an ongoing target for bad actors stealing both credit card data and Personal Identifiable Information (PII); and they, like many others, had suffered a significant breach with costly results both in fines and also in time spent remediating.

I later found out that the opportunity I interviewed for and accepted was a direct result of that breach event. The Board of Directors had instructed management to go on a nationwide search for someone who could not only continue to remediate the breach and run the department but also help ensure a breach event was not repeated.

I had arrived well after the beach was cleaned up by third parties hired by the cyber insurance firm but before substantial and needed technology changes were implemented. Like most IT Security professionals it was easy to identify the missing layers and weaknesses within the technology stack. Even without reading the post-breach report, which was inconclusive in its conclusions after the discovery and forensics process, it was obvious that the investment had not been made for many years in ensuring that there was proper visibility and control to combat the present threats and risks.

In the past, all efforts and security had been focused on the PCI environment since as a private company, in their opinion, they didn’t need to protect anything beyond the PCI scope. In fact, that approach led to creating easily exploited weak areas that could allow for lateral movement of escalated privileges and data. It actually made the bad actor’s job easier. Compliance is not security.

In the first 3-4 months, we replaced every piece of security technology with new technology and added tools where needed to create defense in depth.

We concentrated on making the solutions highly integrated, creating wide-ranging viability and alerting, and took advantage of automation.? We consciously balanced preventive tools with detective capabilities instead of one or the other.

Just four months into the job I asked to present a 3-year plan to our Board of Directors that included both a plan for technology and most importantly, a more mature IT governance and controls environment to support those tools.

In my presentation to the Board in the opening statements I said that “this will happen again despite my plan and the improvements.” We could conduct data classification, improve access control, do user education, encrypt data, buy new technology, however, it was extremely likely that an event would still occur in the future. Maybe not a PCI breach but some other kind of breach like PII or other sensitive information. The key was how soon we knew something had happened, how quickly we could react and stop it, and how resilient our technology was to recover from a catastrophic event. In the end, preventing a future breach actually had less to do with technology than you might think.

Having gone through and seen many events over the years including breaches, attacks, criminal activities, insider attacks and negligent behavior, the one common denominator was, and still is, people.

In my experience, you can buy all the shiny new technology, but it’s useless without solid processes and controls in both IT and the business. Breaches and attacks, regardless of if they are from the inside or outside hinge on the behavior of people. No technology can stop a motivated person with enough time and resources. It can prevent the majority but not plurality.

Specifically understanding people in your organization and if they embrace security is everyone’s responsibility. How well trained and aware IT, IT Security, and their internal business partners are; and how knowledgeable they are in identifying an event (“See something, say something”) — all of these things contribute to a low success rate for cyber attacks and breaches. The time from detection to stopping an event is directly related to the cost of that event.

The behavior of your adversaries (also people) and their motivations and their habits are key. Due to time zones, activities that take place in the middle of the night in Washington DC when people are fast asleep are actually happening in the middle of the day in some of the places of the world where concentrations of bad actors and organized crime reside.

Having highly skilled and dedicated security and compliance professionals (people) is essential. My team at that company was dedicated and over time well trained. I was lucky enough to be able to build on that and those people were the frontline defense.

Most importantly the biggest takeaway is a company’s responsibility to its customers (people) and the employees (people). The breach I described above caused a lot of sleepless nights and hard work for the employees but for the people who’s card data was stolen it was personal.

IT Security and Data compliance continues to evolve and become more complex it seems. But the most successful security approaches are focused on the most complex element, the people.

~ James

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How to Set Up SparkPost as Your SMTP Relay Mon, 05 Aug 2019 13:00:58 +0000 SMTP relayA step-by-step guide to setting up SparkPost as an SMTP relay. Start sending emails quickly through any preferred email client with ease today!

The post How to Set Up SparkPost as Your SMTP Relay appeared first on SparkPost.

  • This blog post was originally published on 06/24/2016 and was updated on 08/05/2019

Note: If you’re using SMTP to route all of your personal mail through SparkPost, awesome! However, be sure to use an email address with a different sending domain (not one associated with your SparkPost account) for your account login. That way, if you ever run into any issues, you’re still able to contact us for help.

You know you need to send email, but you don’t want to spend a lot of time or effort on it — you just want something that works out of the box. It’s not too much to ask! Many frameworks, languages, and tools come with SMTP support, but the last step is the most important – an SMTP server. SparkPost fills that need with SMTP support and a simple setup process.

Today, I’ll be demonstrating how to set up an SMTP relay, so you can use your own email client to send emails from your personal domain. I’ll be using Gmail as my email client and as my sending domain.

Let’s get started!

How to Setup SparkPost as your SMTP Relay

There are a few things you’ll need before setting up an SMTP relay.

  1. A verified sending domain.
  2. An API key with the “Send via SMTP” permission enabled.
  3. An e-mail client or service which allows you to enable SparkPost as your SMTP relay.

For this walkthrough, I’ll be using Gmail. To begin, navigate to the settings.

navigate to the settings button smtp relay

From there, click on the “Accounts” tab.

click on the accounts tab smtp relay how to

Next, click on “Add another email address you own”.

add another email address you own smtp relay how to

In the pop-up menu, enter the (verified) email address and press next. I’d like to be able to send with “”, so that’s what I type in.

enter the email address you'd like to use smtp relay how to

Then, enter “” as the SMTP Server,“SMTP_Injection” as the username, and 587 as the port. Your password should be your API key with “Send via SMTP” enabled. This information can be found under Account -> SMTP Relay in your SparkPost dashboard.

enter your username and port smtp relay how to


Let’s get started!

Lastly, you’ll need to login to your inbox to confirm. After that, we’re done! Time to send some Shop With Kindness emails.

Other Resources

If it turns out that SMTP isn’t the right email solution for you, consider taking advantage of the SparkPost API. The API has many pros (and cons). Take a look at Dave’s blog for more information regarding the differences between SMTP and API.

Lastly, if you’re having problems setting up an SMTP relay, join our Community Slack channel or?tweet us!

~ Vincent

Dev Survival Guide Blog Footer

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Free Download: The Buyer’s Guide to Email Fri, 02 Aug 2019 13:00:02 +0000 Buyer’s Guide to EmailDeciding on an email vendor to deliver your messages doesn't have to be complicated.?Download The?Buyer’s Guide to Email Delivery Platforms today!

The post Free Download: The Buyer’s Guide to Email appeared first on SparkPost.


A Guide When Shopping for an Email Delivery Vendor

In the email industry, institutional knowledge in the form of blogs, guides, webinars, etc. can get pretty niche. As email marketers, email deliverability experts, and product professionals, we need and like to dig into the details. However, there’s a lot of information out there which can be daunting to sift through and cumbersome to find the right information to help make a decision on which email vendor will be most helpful for your needs.

That’s why we’ve put together this Buyer’s Guide to Email Delivery Platforms! This free download is a comprehensive guide to email delivery for those just getting started or those looking to reevaluate their current provider. We believe that while delivering email is complicated, deciding on an email vendor to deliver your messages doesn’t have to be.

Who this Guide is for?

This guide is for anyone who is looking for a new email provider or who would like to reassess their current provider. These roles might include (but are not limited to):

  • Email Marketers
  • IT Decision Makers
  • Product Managers

Why Read this Guide?

This Buyer’s Guide to Email Delivery Platforms will provide:

  • New trends in email technologies
  • Changes in email over the last 5 years
  • The core elements of email delivery
  • Questions you should ask email providers that you’re evaluating
  • Updated data, privacy and regulatory laws to be aware of
  • A comparison of features across the most popular email providers

As a driver of nearly 18% of all business revenue, there’s no argument that email is an important channel. It’s also often the primary way that customers experience your brand. That’s a lot of pressure riding on an email service to deliver your emails.

There are so many factors that go into delivering even a single email. When it comes to mass email communication to your customers, partnering with the right email vendor can be the difference between a so-so and great customer experience. Download The?Buyer’s Guide to Email Delivery Platforms now to find out which email delivery service is right for your business.?You owe it to your customers and yourself to get email right!

~ Jen

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7 Reasons to OptIn’19 Wed, 31 Jul 2019 13:00:12 +0000 OptIn'19Head of Marketing, Tracy Sestili, dishes on why our brand new vendor-agnostic conference OptIn'19 is THE email event to attend this year.

The post 7 Reasons to OptIn’19 appeared first on SparkPost.


In the past SparkPost has held customer forums where we’ve only invited existing customers to participate. That seemed kind of exclusive and not reflective of our welcoming company culture. This year, we decided to do away with our customer forum and instead offer a vendor-agnostic industry conference where everyone can learn and benefit from the knowledge of industry pros.

I’m super excited to announce OptIn’19: The Email Intelligence Conference, we’re holding at the stunning Carmel Valley Ranch resort in Carmel, California on October 29-30, 2019. We have a great lineup of speakers and panels, a professional vendor-agnostic moderator, and plenty of networking time!

Through the course of the two-day event, we will discuss topics that explore how leveraging data impacts email, the customer experience, and marketing organizations as a whole, as well as email best practices.

Now I want to give you 7 reasons on why you should opt-in to joining us at OptIn’19.

  1. It’s vendor agnostic. We welcome competitors, peers, analysts, practitioners, and anyone else who is interested in email to thrive, learn, and connect with email. In fact, that’s our internal motto (TLC with Email) and we have shirts to prove it!
  2. Professionally moderated. We’ve hired former CNBC and Bloomberg journalist, Cory Johnson, to moderate the panel. He’ll be doing his own research and coming up with his own questions so it should prove to be nothing short of awesome.
  3. Diverse and inclusive. As part of this new initiative, the conference is offering Diversity and Inclusion scholarships. SparkPost is subsidizing two of those and will offer up to six more if sponsors are interested in subsidizing. The scholarship includes full passes, hotel, and airfare. If you’re interested in applying for a free ticket, hotel, and airfare, please apply here.
  4. Network like no one is watching. There’s a bit more time built into the schedule to network with folks you really want to hang out with and get to know better.
  5. Be a part of something that was first. This is the first email intelligence conference and the only conference that is centered around data and the future of email. We can’t wait to geek out with you over data and email. #emailgeeks
  6. Great speakers. We have a great speaker lineup so far with motivational speaker Michelle Poler, data scientist Hilary Mason, and a popular magician on Netflix. We also have speakers from Google, Women of Email, Virtru, 250ok, Kayak, and more.
  7. Carmel Valley Ranch. Need I say more? Not only is it super relaxing but as part of your registration, you get to experience one free activity of your choice. Choose from archery (who doesn’t want to be Katniss Everdeen??),yoga (namaste), cycling, cooking, hiking, and more.

So, what are you waiting for? Early bird registration ends August 16th. And, if you’re interested in an extra $100 off, you can DM me on Twitter for a discount code.

Need to convince your boss? No problem, here’s a letter for you to copy and paste in an email:

Hi {boss’s name}

I’d really like to attend the OptIn’19 the Email Intelligence Conference taking place on October 29-30, 2019, in Carmel, CA. The conference is vendor-agnostic and will be covering how data impacts email, the overall customer experience, and email marketing best practices.

Here are three ways in which I envision my attendance at OptIn ‘19 strengthening {your Company Name}:

  1. Many of the sessions will cover best practices in {list what will increase efficiency, reduce costs, increase engagement, e.g. email deliverability, email security, personalization at scale, Google AMP for email, and general email best practices} —all areas that we need to get up to speed on to grow our business.
  2. Interactive Q & A sessions and keynote addresses from email and data science industry leaders and experts will bring me up to date on new and developing tools, which will help us build a more realistic and cost-effective short and long-term technology plan.
  3. Networking is also highly encouraged, so I’ll have plenty of time to speak with other attendees and speakers about issues and challenges facing similarly-sized companies like ours.

The cost of the event is $899, however, there is an early bird registration discount of $200, which ends August 16th. There will be additional travel and hotel costs, but I’ll do my best to stay within a mutually agreed-upon budget.

I realize that this is a significant funding request, and would be happy to write a post-conference report or blog detailing what I’ve learned, and provide a schedule detailing how to best implement any new changes that I learned. You can learn more about the event at Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns; I do hope we can make this work as I would really like to attend this conference.

{Your Name}

Hope to see you there!


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How to use Natural Language Processing and Machine Learning in your Email Program Mon, 29 Jul 2019 13:00:50 +0000 Natural Language ProcessingDiscover how to implement AI-related technologies like Natural Language Processing and Machine Learning into your next email campaign.

The post How to use Natural Language Processing and Machine Learning in your Email Program appeared first on SparkPost.


Do we really need to remind anybody about the fact that email (and email marketing) isn’t going anywhere anytime soon? If we did, we’d just flash this study by The Radicati Group on them, containing such zingers as…

By the end of 2019, the number of worldwide email users will increase to over 2.9 billion. Over one-third of the worldwide population will be using email by year-end 2019.

For those of us who work in email? Stats like that are pretty temptacious, as the kids say. But today’s email isn’t your mom or dad’s email. The continuing success of email lies, in large part, to how its ability to evolve. Going mobile put email into a lot more pockets, for instance.?

Now, with the arrival of AI-related technologies, your email campaigns can become even more precise, engaging, and effective than they’ve ever been.

The arrival of email AI? That’s so 2018?

At the end of 2018, PwC said it had surveyed U.S. execs, and found 27% of them claiming to be already implementing AI in multiple areas.?

On the global front, 30% of companies worldwide will be using AI in at least one of their sales processes by 2020. But only 17% of email marketers considering automation tools gave any thought to incorporating AI.

The laggards might not realize the impact AI has already had on the email ecosystem. One very visible example was how Gmail handles email classification using Natural Language Processing (NLP) to filter incoming emails as Primary, Social, or Promotions messages.?

Here’s a pretty good explanation of how NLP does its job, presented as a primer for coders who want to hack up a spam filter. But if you aren’t interested in all the plumbing, that’s cool. One thing worth remembering, though? NLP and machine learning are only branches of the bigger, broader category “AI” and have specific goals.??

  • NLP is intended to read, decipher, understand, and make sense of human language in a manner that’s useful in machine-human interaction.?
  • Machine learning involves the application of algorithms and statistical models so computers can make decisions and perform tasks without explicit instructions by recognizing patterns in data and drawing inferences.

Right now, there are multiple tools and tactics where NLP and machine learning are being put to use to enhance email programs. Let’s look at some of the places where you could integrate them into your campaigns, shall we..?


With machine learning, you can now execute multi-armed bandit testing. If you’re used to split testing, brace yourself: Now you’ll be able to run tests continuously and put your findings to work immediately. Over time, you’ll gradually optimize your results, and simultaneously be able to test content and messaging while also sending your best-performing variant out to prospects or customers.

How’s it done? You set up a campaign and a few email variations, and machine learning does the rest, running tests throughout your campaign and fine-tuning it on the basis of test data. What can you test? Pretty much anything you’re already testing, from copy to design to images to timing.?


Machine learning and NLP – and its cousin, Natural Language Genration (NLG) – are being leveraged by multiple providers to deliver solutions that can actually generate subject lines and other copy.

Take a company like Persado, for instance: Its “message machine” applies its grasp of natural language to create copy that speaks in the marketer’s “brand voice,” leveraging a huge database of tagged and scored works in 25 languages, a database that evolves over time as machine learning delivers insights (and makes judgments) about which messages hold the most appeal for your target audience.

Touchstone, as another example, compares your subject line against a database of 21 billion emails, as well as industry trends, to predict its likely impression, click and conversion rates. automated the newsletter creation process, and uses machine learning to optimize content based on each recipient’s behaviors to provide 1:1 personalization that’s “tailored to your subscribers’ unique interests and personalities, without the time it takes to manually curate your emails.”


Want to pull off a little real-time content optimization to drive engagement? Cordial says it can “ingest and process customer event, behavior, and purchase data from virtually any source,” so messages can be dispatched across multiple channels, based on up-to-right-this-instant behavioral data. So onboarding, re-engagement campaigns, and other triggered emails can be aligned with what they’re interested in this very moment.

Another way to engage? Add a personal touch. Well, a virtual personal touch: Conversica proudly claims to deliver “personalized human touch at scale” through AI sales assistants that reach out to a user within minutes of him or her showing interest in your brand or inventory via email or SMS.?

If you’re worried the “conversation” reads like robo-copy, they claim the AI “empathizes” effectively by analyzing replies to tailor the right responses.? Moreover, the platform isn’t intended simply for initial engagement or onboarding but can handle routine dialogues throughout the entire customer journey.


For companies investing in customer data management platforms, being able to milk the greatest possible insight and benefits from big data to deliver highly personalized user experiences, especially in email, is an obvious concern.?

A machine learning solution that’s connected to these potentially enormous pools of data can do insightful segmentation in ways no human being – or boiler room full of human beings – ever could, making continual adjustments and uncovering new associations, even generating product new segments where none were visible before.? SimMachines is one of these providers, calling their particular flavor “dynamic predictive segmentation.”?

Predictive delivery

If you haven’t heard of it before, that’s because it’s a new wrinkle in applying machine learning to email. By analyzing the behavior of trillions of emails, predictive analytics and machine learning are able to optimize delivery and the overall health of an email program.

This means real-time insights are available about deliverability and performance issues, problems can be identified before they happen, and data-driven recommendations can be made about how to optimize engagement and performance.? Outages can be avoided – while ROI is maximized.

And if you’ll allow just one self-plug? It’s new to the game because this platform, SparkPost Signals, is the first and only email intelligence platform of its kind in the industry, and we’re proud to be offering it.

It’s an AI-for-email explosion

These are just a few of the areas where AI, NLP, and machine learning are making a present-day impact on email marketing. If you think it’s the tip of the iceberg – or the first trickle through the floodgates – you’d be right.

One way to see how feverish a new technology segment is getting is to see how many companies and startups have hung out a shingle, using investor or job sites like AngelList. Right now, a search for “email AI” there shows over 600 firms in the space, and there’ll be more to come.

In other words, there’ll eventually be an AI add-on for every facet of your email program.? In the meantime? Putting today’s existing AI tools to work already offers plenty of potential for discovering how NLP and machine learning can improve the way you’re using a veteran marketing channel that’s just as leading-edge as ever.

~ Erica

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The Future of Email: Google Commits to BIMI Thu, 25 Jul 2019 21:56:01 +0000 bimi emailGoogle commits to BIMI! Learn what BIMI is and how it encourages legitimate brands and senders to adopt email authentication protocols.

The post The Future of Email: Google Commits to BIMI appeared first on SparkPost.


Google has announced support for BIMI (Brand Indicators for Message Identification). As the world’s leading mailbox provider—27.8% of worldwide mailboxes according to Litmus—Gmail can make or break a new email protocol or technology. This is a huge step for the BIMI working group and a sign of even greater things to come. Google is now the second major mailbox provider supporting BIMI. Verizon Media Group (Yahoo!, AOL) was the first, beginning their BIMI trial in 2018.

BIMI is a vendor-neutral standard that allows brands to display a verified logo in the receiver’s inbox next to fully authenticated emails. The intent of BIMI is to incentivize major brands to adopt proper email authentication—DMARC in particular—when sending mass messages to consumers. Senders who put in the effort to implement DMARC are rewarded with the display of their logo, similar to what appears for brands with a Google Plus profile.

Why do we need to “incentivize” this?

While setting up proper authentication as a sender isn’t rocket science, getting DMARC in place takes time, patience, and expertise. DMARC is a standard, open framework that allows brands (aka “senders”) to tell mailbox providers (aka “receivers”) what to do with mail that does NOT pass authentication on the sending domain.

The long-term goal for a sender is to enact a DMARC policy that specifically tells receivers to reject any mail that does not pass authentication checks on the sender’s domain, thus safeguarding against phishing and spoofing attacks which would otherwise appear to be “from” the domain in question. Because large businesses and major brands have many different streams of mail, there is risk involved: millions of emails could be rejected if this isn’t set up just right.

Feeling lost?

If you are new to email authentication, start by learning about SPF and DKIM, the building blocks of DMARC. These specifications are absolutely essential for any legitimate sender, especially if you have multiple different technology vendors sending email of any kind on behalf of your brand.

In addition to the resources linked above, SparkPost has the expert team to get your email up to snuff and on the road to beautifully branded BIMI emails! Contact us to get started today.



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Life at SparkPost: National Intern Day 2019 Thu, 25 Jul 2019 13:00:50 +0000 National Intern DayIn honor of National Intern Day, which falls every year on July 25th, we interviewed our amazing intern team about their experience at SparkPost so far.

The post Life at SparkPost: National Intern Day 2019 appeared first on SparkPost.


Here at SparkPost, we are so lucky to bring on an awesome team of interns every summer! In honor of National Intern Day, which falls each year on July 25th, we decided to interview our amazing intern team about their experience at SparkPost so far:

Tell us about a project that you were able to work on and the role you played.?

Isaac Luther, Engineering:?I worked on splitting two of our services off from each other. It was a great introduction to many of the services SparkPost uses since I had to set everything up for the new pipeline.

Matt Leifer, Engineering:?I was able to work on a project to create a new testing and validation system. I implemented part of the system, helped test the system, and helped monitor the system once it was rolled out. Being a part of this project during several different stages was an excellent learning experience.

Joseph Borden, Legal:?There are so many projects I could choose from, and all of my projects have
been rewarding! I wish I could share all of the work Jason has me doing, but there would be nothing to read by the time I finish redacting all of the confidential material.???

What’s the coolest new thing you have learned while being at SparkPost?

IL:?I’ve learned a lot about how different factors can affect productivity. My manager, Tim, has shared a lot of knowledge that he’s learned from books with our team, and it’s helped me understand the reasoning behind a lot of decisions.

ML:?I have learned how to work with several AWS services. I did not have much experience with AWS before this summer, and now I am much more familiar with how to use and maintain the services that AWS provides. With how prevalent and widely discussed cloud computing is today, it really has been exciting to work with it on a regular basis.

JB:?Working with Jason has been an invaluable learning experience thus far.? I have learned a plethora of new things, but the coolest has been learning exactly how legal suggestions/choices can positively impact a business.? For example, the use of a particular word or phrase in a contract can save a company thousands— perhaps millions— of dollars.? I knew lawyers could either anchor or sink a company; however, seeing the immediate impact of good lawyering first-hand has been a tremendous practical and learning experience.

What do you like about our culture?

IL:?I loved how close together everybody on my team was! I think everybody eating lunches together—especially in the office on Tuesday and Thursday—helps make a great team and company environment.

ML:?I really appreciate how willing everyone is to help other members of the SparkPost team. I always feel that I can receive help when I need it, and this has made me feel welcomed and comfortable.

Obviously, the office perks, such as the free lunches, are very enjoyable as well.

JB:?I love that SparkPost is inclusive and diverse; it makes for a great, comfortable workspace and environment.? SparkPost’s culture is what attracted me to apply for this internship and was a huge selling point when I decided to accept this internship.? I am happy to say the culture is better than advertised.

Matt – as a returning?intern?– can you share more about your experience coming back?

ML:?It has been a great experience coming back. Being able to start the summer in a familiar setting allowed me to start learning and working from day one. Also, working on projects that were not around last summer has provided me with many opportunities to learn about new technologies and ideas. Lastly, I really enjoy being around the same people as last summer and meeting new team members. Working with the helpful, friendly people of SparkPost every day makes me even happier with my choice to return this summer.

We also asked Isaac, Matt and Joseph’s respective managers to share their thoughts on our internship program as well:

Nate Durant, Technical Manager, Transmissions:?Interns at SparkPost provide a opportunity for not just or interns, but also our engineers.? They bring unique insight and new academic approaches to our team when dealing with technologies like machine learning and quality assurance.? Our interns, both new and returning, have a tangible impact on our products and are by no means limited to internal projects. I always look forward to their time here, and appreciate all their hard work and enthusiasm.

Jason Soni, General Counsel:?As valuable as my own?internship?experience was at SparkPost,?I’ve come to value the program more even more as a manager. ?While it’s certainly great to get some extra?work done around the house and mentor the next?generation of my profession, what I value most is that?interns?challenge “the?way we’ve always done it” mentality and bring fresh new ideas to the company.??Interns?are good at questioning processes and?can often see a better way of doing things that a manager might not.

Happy National Intern Day! Interested in joining our amazing team? Check out our open positions!

~ Michelle


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Getting Momentum in the Cloud Mon, 22 Jul 2019 13:00:36 +0000 cloudRead up on the ability to use any of the SparkPost products in a cloud environment either as stand-alone implementations or together as a hybrid solution.?

The post Getting Momentum in the Cloud appeared first on SparkPost.


This post is about the ability to use any of the SparkPost products in a cloud environment either as stand-alone implementations or together as a hybrid solution.

If you are a long time Momentum or PowerMTA customer deployed on bare metal in your own data center, you can use this guide to determine a path forward to migrating to a cloud service. If you are a new PowerMTA user wanting to deploy to one of the major cloud services, this is a good guide to a successful implementation.

For the past two decades, the Momentum MTA has been one of the fastest, most agile email engines on the planet.? Whether you know it as the original eCelerity MTA, or Message Systems Momentum, or as the core processing engine underpinning SparkPost, the world’s fastest growing cloud email service,? Momentum has had momentum for a long time. (see what I did there?)

?Alongside Momentum there lived another very similar product called PowerMTA (PMTA), which is equally capable and agile as well as being easy to install and support.? Momentum and PowerMTA were competitors for a long time, but several years ago, came together under one roof and now, along with the SparkPost cloud service, form a trio of email delivery engines that can satisfy any email transport need.

SparkPost lives natively in the cloud – it is built entirely on AWS.? Momentum and PMTA can be installed to run in a cloud platform if needed, but there are many things to consider before committing to a forklift into the cloud. There may actually be very good reasons for NOT doing it, so do your research carefully.

Look before you leap

Chris McFadden, our VP of Engineering wrote about our own journey to the cloud last year and made the very good point that many of the factors in your decision are not technology related at all.? Deploying to the cloud involves a new set of paradigms that you may not be ready for. Business processes may need to change and there may be privacy considerations that were not relevant in a bare metal infrastructure.??

Some time ago, our CTO and Co-Founder, George Schlossnagle wrote about some of the unique considerations for deploying email servers in a cloud service.? Cloud tech is designed for autoscaling and push button deployments that are ideal for stateless systems.? If you have a web service in the cloud, that is one thing, but running a stateful MTA on a cloud platform is a whole new ballgame.

When you deploy in your own data center, you control the environment and it is not unusual to see servers with no individual protection because they rely on the network firewall to protect them.? In a cloud deployment, doing that can be fatal. In the land of elastic computing, you need to be particularly diligent with security. It is extremely important to keep up to date with patches and updates.? Make sure your firewall is well maintained and close any open ports you don’t actually use. Deprecate weak ciphers, lock down ACLs, and remove any packages that are not required for the server’s purpose.

The last clear caveat we can offer is to be wary of the cloud provider’s DNS.? Remember that these systems were designed for web services and databases that only make periodic DNS lookups.? High volume email systems may perform millions of DNS lookups every hour and that has a tendency to break things.? Even running your own separate DNS for the unique needs of high volume email can lead to unforeseen problems.

Pick a cloud, any cloud…

There are many major cloud providers and even more lesser-known services to choose from when making the leap from hardware data centers to cloud services.? Even the concept of “cloud” varies between them. Here is a look at the most common ones we encounter working with our customers.

?AWS (Amazon Web Services)

  • We have the most experience here as SparkPost is built entirely in AWS fabric.
  • While you can deliver on port 25, you can only send very small volumes without attracting negative attention.? If you want to send volume mail, you will need explicit approval from AWS
  • AWS includes a marketplace of 3rd party services you can leverage

?GCP (Google Cloud Platform)

  • Google offers a development platform that enables you to build virtual servers in custom environments on the fly similar to Amazon’s EC2
  • Cannot deliver on port 25 without explicit approval
  • Marketplace of 3rd party services

?Azure (Microsoft’s cloud app platform)

  • ?Azure came later to the party, but has an equally refined tool set.
  • Similar offering to AWS and GCP including a marketplace of 3rd party services
  • Cannot deliver on port 25 without explicit approval

SAP, IBM, Digital Ocean, and VMWare Vsphere round out the list of common cloud environments we hear customers using.

There are some things to remember when moving (forklifting) from a hardware data center to cloud services. As you design your platform deployment, keep these in mind. Tackling these issues during your planning phase will save you a ton of stress and frustration in the long run.? For instance, you may find that your chosen cloud provider denies you access to port 25 under any circumstance.? In that case you need to change providers or consider a SaaS solution like SparkPost instead.

  1. Delivery over port 25 is limited or non-existent,
  2. 1 physical CPU != to 1 virtual CPU.
  3. IPs and MACs tend to change periodically; for instance, with AWS EC2, you have to allocate “elastic IPs” to be bound to your instances (or load balancers) to get stable addresses.
  4. Inter-node communication is not the same in the cloud

Before you decide on a cloud host, make sure you can actually deliver email from it.? Apply for any exception you need in advance because you may be denied – no matter how big a deal you think you are, Amazon, Google, and Microsoft are probably bigger.

Get full cost details on not only the compute instance that matches your needs, but also any additional charges for vCPUs, RAM, storage, in-bound bandwidth, outbound bandwidth, static IPs, and billing frameworks.? Each provider calls these something slightly different, but they exist and are often hidden costs unless you do the research.

?A case study

When building out a basic*?Momentum server, we recommend 8 cores, 32 GB RAM, and 600 GB of storage. Keep in mind that 1 physical CPU is NOT equal to 1 vCPU. When calculating virtual server sizes, each vCPU = 1 core.? We specifically quote our requirements in CORES for this reason. If you are building a cluster, you will want to enclose the instances inside virtual private cluster (vpc) with an attached elastic IP so you can control the public-facing IP without concern over whether the compute instance IPs change.? In the AWS universe, an M3 medium instance or larger is typically required.

?One interesting thing that the cloud host providers do not highlight, but has been our experience is that you can expect to see 20 to 30% less throughput in the cloud than with bare metal.? For instance, the Momentum deployment mentioned above should operate at ~1 million messages per hour on a physical server, but you should only expect 700,000/hour in a cloud host. This means you need to “supersize” your server deployment plan and overcompensate in the design.

?One last factor to consider is bandwidth cost.? Cloud host providers charge for outbound bandwidth just like most physical data centers do, but the cost calculations may differ from your expectation.? In addition, you may find that some bandwidth is exempt from billing. With Amazon, much of the bandwidth used within a region is not billed, though inter-AZ and inter-VPC is, and that can add up. If your message generation and delivery nodes are in the same region and you are running out of a single VPC, then you may see significant savings.? However, if your message generation is in the Ohio region and your delivery engines are in Oregon, you may find yourself paying bandwidth fees between those systems adding potentially unexpected costs.

?The above has been particularly important to our customers who use both our on-premises and SaaS solutions in a hybrid.? A customer moving their PowerMTA or Momentum cluster to the cloud and also wanting to use SparkPost SaaS delivery as a failover or alternate channel should be deployed in the same region as our SparkPost deployment for that part of the world.? The cost savings can be significant.

?We recently produced a webinar discussing this and also have blogged about our own journey to the cloud.? Here are some interesting links to those resources for some further reading.

*?A “basic” Momentum install is designed to delivery 1Million message per hour from a bare metal server assuming a 50k payload and 10Gb NIC.? A full hardware recommendation guide is available on request.

~ Tom

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The Risks of Sending Email to Inactive Users Fri, 19 Jul 2019 13:00:45 +0000 sending email to inactive usersOur SVP of Deliverability Strategy, Kate Nowrouzi, discusses the business risks associated with sending email to inactive users.

The post The Risks of Sending Email to Inactive Users appeared first on SparkPost.


When we onboard enterprise customers here at SparkPost, one of the topics we cover is list hygiene: removing inactive users from your mailing list. The definition of “inactive” really varies by email type (marketing, welcome, transactional) and industry (finance, marketing, employment, etc). For example “inactive” in the employment industry could be six months or more, meaning if a user seeking a new job has not opened or clicked on a piece of email sent by your company in half a year, they are considered inactive. But, for a company like Pinterest inactive could be 12 months, as some users might only check Pinterest during the winter months to get outfit ideas for their company’s annual holiday party. So, there is no hard and fast rule when it comes to defining “inactive” in the email marketing world.

The challenge is to convince the CRM team to remove inactive users as there can be push back since many see each email address a possible source of revenue. But, the risks of sending to a large population of inactive users are greater than keeping them for the sake of possible revenue.

Here’s why:

  1. ISPs turn old email addresses with no activity into spam traps after 12 months. Hitting too many traps will result in a lower IP/ domain reputation.
  2. Major ISPs take engagement into consideration for inbox placement. If a high percentage of the email addresses on your list have zero open rates in the past 12 months, this is an indication of poor list hygiene which will result in heavy spam foldering.

The truth is if you are sending email to the people who want to receive them, they have a higher chance of engaging with your emails. If they are not opening your emails, even if they signed up for them at some point, it means they are no longer interested. There is little benefit to keeping sending them on your list because there is a high chance that they will get annoyed with your company and could report your email as spam. A high complaint rate will damage your reputation. And, even if there is a small chance that a low percentage of these subscribers will open an email after 12 months of inactivity, the risks of hitting a trap are much greater than the revenue that can be generated from that user.

~ Kate

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Email Emojis: When & When Not To Use Them Wed, 17 Jul 2019 13:00:07 +0000 email emojisEmojis in email subject lines are becoming a "thing" - but are they the right strategy? Here are some tips on when you should use emojis, how to use emojis and some examples of what to do and what not to do.

The post Email Emojis: When & When Not To Use Them appeared first on SparkPost.

  • This blog post was originally published on 09/28/2016 and was updated on 07/17/2019

With the popularity of? Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn’s reactions, Twitter, and text messaging, everyone is expressing themselves with emojis these days. In fact, 53% of Millenials believe using emojis and text together allow people to better understand each other. This?may be why you’re seeing more email emojis in subject lines lately. But is it the right strategy for your email marketing program?

Tips for using email emojis:

  • Be sure you have an emoji that is relevant to your message. For example, Home Depot falls flat when they use falling leaves to signify (I think) the fall season. It’s weak and lacks relevance. Yet, Recchiuti uses a chocolate chip cookie when talking about cookie recipes they crave – very relevant

Bad example
Bad example of email emojis - HomeDepotGood Example
Good example emojis in email - Recchiuti Cookie Emoji

  • Use if your message would benefit from some emotion being added to it. For example, VRBO adds a generic smiley with shades but it’s the effect when you see it in your inbox reminds you that you want to go on vacation somewhere

?Good Example
VRBO uses emojis in email

  • Do use when you think your audience will be able to relate. For example, I’m a big Reddit fan, but Reddit doesn’t use an emoji in their email every time. They use it sparingly. In this example, Reddit uses the apple emoji and the detective emoji when communicating to their audience that a teacher posed undercover as a student on his first day of teaching high school.
    ? ? ? ? ? ?

Good ExampleReddit uses emojis in email

  • Make sure your emoji is legible.?The devices we read email on can be small and emojis are even smaller. For example, Williams-Sonoma uses the number five in a circle, but it’s so small that it looks like a black blob. Not until you open the email can you actually see what it was supposed to be.

WilliamsSonoma-email emojiWilliamsSonoma Email Emoji

  • Don’t overuse email emojis. For example, Last Call Neiman Marcus not only sends generic and not very relevant emojis, but they tend to do it often. The first time I saw it, their message stood out in my inbox. But now, I don’t even notice it.

Neiman Marcus email emojis

  • Be sure to TEST IT. Not all email clients accept the use of emojis in email subject lines and sometimes emojis can trigger spam filters or worse, look like?□ this. Be sure to test your email before sending it out to the masses.

How do you add emojis to your email subject lines?

Believe it or not, you can just copy and paste your emoji into your subject line. Not all email programs are created equal so not all of them will work with emojis.

Here are a few resources you can try in your next subject line.

See you online!
~ Tracy

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The Differences Between Using SMTP or API with SparkPost Mon, 15 Jul 2019 13:00:44 +0000 SMTPSending email through SparkPost can be done through SMTP or using our API. We'll take you through the pros and cons of each method with some examples.

The post The Differences Between Using SMTP or API with SparkPost appeared first on SparkPost.

  • This blog post was originally published on 06/10/2016 and was updated on 7/15/2019

Sending email through SparkPost to your subscribers and/or customers can be done two different ways: using our API, or sending via SMTP. The deciding factor will usually be some combination of convenience for your use case, availability/cost of coding/hardware resources, and the relative priority for your business of things like sending speed and ease of migration.

There are pros and cons to both approaches. Naturally, we think our API is pretty great, and that it has advantages over SMTP, otherwise, we wouldn’t have it. Offering SMTP in addition to our API lets us support a wider range of use cases. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons for both SMTP and our API, as well as examples of each approach.

Sending via SMTP with SparkPost

Sometimes SMTP is the only choice that makes sense, given your constraints. Maybe your legacy system uses SMTP, and nobody is available to write the code to send via API instead. SMTP lowers the friction for this migration path. Common steps such as modifying existing messages by adding a?custom header to set the campaign for different message streams, or enabling open/click tracking tend to be significantly less effort than starting to use a new API.

Which is a nice segue to show a pro/con list for sending with SMTP:


  1. Platform-agnostic – SMTP is accepted everywhere
    • If you want to migrate again, it’ll be easier
  2. You have full control over your “mail merge” process
    • Can generate messages however you like
    • Continue to use existing tools
  3. SMTP failures are in-band and always include context
    • Failed command and error code tell you what failed and why


  1. SMTP is not accepted FROM everywhere
    • Some environments’ firewalls block ports commonly used for SMTP
  2. You have to build your own “mail merge” messages
    • MIME and the?various email RFCs can be tricky
    • This has a resource (hardware & bandwidth) cost, especially for bulk sends
  3. SMTP is a chatty protocol
    • Each message requires several round trips to our servers
    • This adds up to longer bulk send times

Here’s an example of injecting some test content into SparkPost with SMTP, using?swaks. The API key you substitute below will need the

Send via SMTP
?permission, or authentication will fail with
535 5.7.8 Sorry.

$ swaks --server \
	--auth-user SMTP_Injection --auth-password $SPARKPOST_API_KEY \
	--to --from \
	--h-Subject 'smtp via sparkpost'
=== Trying
=== Connected to
<-  220 2.0.0 ESMTP ecelerity r(Core: Wed, 08 Jun 2016 15:55:19 +0000
	-> EHLO test
<- says EHLO to
<-  250-STARTTLS
<-  250-8BITMIME
<-  334 VXNlcm5hbWU6
	-> U01UUF9JbmplY3Rpb24=
<-  334 UGFzc3dvcmQ6
<-  235 2.0.0 Authed. Go on.
	-> MAIL FROM:<>
<-  250 2.0.0 MAIL FROM accepted
	-> RCPT TO:<>
<-  250 2.0.0 RCPT TO accepted
	-> DATA
<-  354 3.0.0 continue.  finished with "\r\n.\r\n"
	-> Date: Wed, 08 Jun 2016 09:55:20 -0600
	-> To:
	-> From:
	-> Subject: smtp via sparkpost
	-> X-Mailer: swaks v20130209.0
	-> This is a test mailing
	-> .
<-  250 2.0.0 OK 7D/49-16644-7EF38575
	-> QUIT
<-  221 2.3.0 closing connection

Sending with the SparkPost API

We like our API, and we hope you like it too. We think you should use it, as there are quite a few advantages over SMTP for many use cases, for example, triggering mail directly from your app’s server-side code. Besides, with a paid account you’re really not getting as much as you could for your money without offloading everything from your systems onto SparkPost that you can, which the API allows you to do.


  1. HTTP is allowed by all but the most restrictive firewalls
  2. Generation AKA “mail merge” is handled by SparkPost
    • Removes load from your servers
    • Can mean generation hardware/horsepower is no longer needed
  3. One connection round trip per API call
    • No per-message latency
  4. Async sending and concurrency is handled by SparkPost
    • Up to 10k message batches for best performance
    • Reduces complexity (AKA things to break) in your app


  1. Using our HTTP API means writing code
  2. Replacing in-house generation may require refactoring
    • Things like pre-processing data to format dates differently
  3. Stats are generally out-of-band
    • Some sending errors are in-band (invalid email, for example)
    • Others require processing event data one of two ways:
  4. For larger sends (10k+ recipients) batching or concurrency is recommended
    • This is a performance sweet spot, not a hard limit

Here’s an example with the same test content as above, using cURL. The API key you substitute below will need the

Transmissions: Read/Write
?permission, or the API call will fail with
HTTP/1.1 403 Forbidden
, and
{"errors": [ {"message": "Forbidden."} ]}
? in the body.

$ curl -v -X POST -H "Authorization: $SPARKPOST_API_KEY" \
	--data '{
	"recipients": [
		"address": {
		"email": ""
	"content": {
	"text": "This is a test mailing",
	"subject": "api via sparkpost",
	"from": ""
**   Trying
** Connected to ( port 443 (#0)
** TLS 1.2 connection using TLS_ECDHE_RSA_WITH_AES_128_GCM_SHA256
** Server certificate: *
** Server certificate: RapidSSL SHA256 CA - G3
** Server certificate: GeoTrust Global CA
> POST /api/v1/transmissions HTTP/1.1
> Host:
> User-Agent: curl/7.43.0
> Accept: */*
> Authorization: YSBmYWtlIGFwaSBrZXksIG1hZGUgeW91IGxvb2sh
> Content-Length: 312
> Content-Type: application/x-www-form-urlencoded
** upload completely sent off: 312 out of 312 bytes
< HTTP/1.1 200 OK
< Cache-Control: no-cache, no-store
< Content-Type: application/json
< Date: Wed, 08 Jun 2016 17:53:12 GMT
< Server: msys-http
< Vary: Accept
< Content-Length: 109
< Connection: keep-alive
** Connection #0 to host left intact
{ "results": { "total_rejected_recipients": 0, "total_accepted_recipients": 1, "id": "102364612952283792" } }

So there you have it! As with most things in life, the answer to which will work best for you is (spoiler alert) “It depends.”. We recommend using our API unless there are reasons that won’t work for you, such as lack of development resources to make the switch. SMTP is there as a safety net to help support those cases.

Whichever way you choose, make sure you set up DKIM! Authenticating the source and content of your email is very important, and can have a huge impact on the deliverability of your email. Instructions for setting up DKIM are here.

What were the deciding factors for your choice between SMTP and our API? Let us know on Twitter at?@SparkPost?or in our Community Slack channel!

~ Dave

Dev Survival Guide Blog Footer

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Be Our Guest: 4 Keys to a Great Welcome Campaign Fri, 12 Jul 2019 13:00:22 +0000 welcome campaignContent Marketing Manager at Iterable, Michael Huard, shares 4 welcome campaign strategies that will make your audience feel like the belle of the ball.

The post Be Our Guest: 4 Keys to a Great Welcome Campaign appeared first on SparkPost.


Put your emails to the test. When a customer subscribes, does your welcome campaign treat them like a valued guest?

The welcome campaign is your chance to show off the bells and whistles of what you have to offer. It’s a golden opportunity to kickstart a relationship with your audience.

It’s also likely one of your most successful campaigns, so it’s worth investing the time and effort to make it the best it can be.

But too often, brands are gruff, impersonal and, frankly, unwelcoming with their welcome campaigns.

That’s why we’re here to provide you with 4 ways to create a welcome campaign that treats your audience like the belle of the ball.

1. Properly Introduce Yourself

Treat the first email in your welcome series like the moment you invite a new guest into your home.

Introduce yourself. Be warm and express gratitude for them choosing your brand. Offer them a treat or gift as a token of your appreciation. After all, they gave you their personal information. That’s a big step for many.

In this process, make sure to fully introduce yourself and any iterations of your brand that may reach out. Establish your inbox identity by letting your customers know what addresses to keep an eye out for.

ISPs are monitoring spam like never before. Your welcome email needs to be clear with your sender identity for better deliverability.

Don’t be afraid to explain the differences between your brand identities. Your “From” name may change based on the type of email you’re sending, but as long as there is a clear connection to your brand, you can avoid the dreaded unsubscribe or spam folders.

2. Personalize by Their Signup Source

There are a variety of ways your customers can find themselves on your list.
Whether it’s a mobile app install, a first purchase, a contest entry, or gated content download, it’s important that you personalize your welcome campaign by the source of their subscription.

Incorporate the foundation of their subscription in your welcome email so they know exactly how you found them and why they are receiving a message. Let them know why you are in their inbox.

In doing so, you are letting the customer know you are paying attention to their actions. Providing relevant information keeps each member of your audience engaged and promotes interaction with your brand.

3. Give Them the Grand Tour

Your welcome campaign is more than an introduction; it’s the start of a tour of your brand. It kicks off the customer journey.

No matter how or why they subscribed, this is your chance to get them further involved in your brand in the ways that you choose.

Walk your customers through your brand experience. Let them know what it means to be a valued member of your community.

Try starting off with information about their account before describing the benefits of choosing your brand. Lead them to your mobile app and lay out the perks of being a member.

ASOS, a leading U.K. retailer, does a great job in their welcome email showing members how to navigate their product offerings by focusing on different categories (ASOS Brands, Labels you’ll love, Face + Body).

ASOS orients newcomers with their category-specific welcome email.

ASOS sells items from over 800 brands, but by giving customers a starting point, they guide them through the experience so they don’t become overwhelmed by all that the retailer offers.

There is a logical path—that you’ve likely set—to make the most of your brand’s offerings, so don’t make your customers search for it.

4. Incentivize Them to Take Action

The guided tour is an excellent addition to any welcome campaign, but what if you have a particular CTA? Perhaps you need customers to c