We discuss all the fundamental questions you might have connected to running an LMS, membership, and eCommerce website connected to email what the difference between business, transactional, and marketing emails. Why using your hosting provider email service for marketing email or transitional is really a bad idea!
Johnathan: Welcome back folks to the WP-Tonic Show, this is episode 530. It’s going to be a discussion between me and my great cohost Adrian and we’re going to be discussing all things email. The different types of email, the different types of services that will send your email, we’re big covering the whole world of email me an Adrian, and I’m just going to introduce my great cohost. Adrian, would you like to quickly introduce yourself to the new listeners and viewers?
Adrian: Hi everyone, my name is Adrian. I’m the CEO and founder of Groundhogg. We help small businesses that use WordPress launched their funnel and grow their list and scale their business with proven digital marketing and automation tools.
Johnathan: And I’m, I’m the founder of WP-Tonic. We build courses for entrepreneurs, for educational institutes. If you’re into courses, we build support, maintain, and host your learning management system with the full package, which you can get at WP-Tonic. Before we go into the main part of the show, I also want to talk about one of our great sponsors and that’s Kingsta. They’ve been sponsoring the show for over three years now. I use Kingsta for the WP-Tonic main website for the past couple of years, fantastic service. If you’re looking for a premier WordPress hosting provider for yourself or for your clients, for woo commerce, or for course space website, I can’t highly recommend Kingsta enough to you.
You get Google technology plus a fantastic customer interface, fantastic support, and all the technology bells and whistles that you’re looking for, not only for your own websites or your client websites. So, go over, have a look at what Kingsta has to offer. If you decide to buy for yourself or for your clients also tell Kingsta that you heard about them on the WP-Tonic show and their ongoing support over the few years has been much welcomed. So, Adrian, how do we start the discussion about all things email?
Adrian: I suppose we can start off with talking about the different kinds of email that’s out there. For anyone who doesn’t know, I run an email marketing company, that’s really what we specialize in as we help or we provide tools that help small businesses communicate with their customers through email and SMS as well, but mainly email. So, over the last eight years I’ve been in this industry, yeah, eight years now, because I was like in Infusionsoft for five, and then we’re going on three at Groundhog here so yeah, just about eight years I’ve been in this industry. I’ve learned a few things about good email practices and bad email practices. So, I’m going to start the conversation off with the fact that there are two kinds or sorry, there’s three kinds of email in the world. The first kind of email out there is the one that people who have been around longer than myself are pretty familiar with back when email was first invented and that’s the personal email.
So that’s person A sending an email that says, how are you to person B, maybe they’re trying to book a meeting, maybe they just want to catch up, maybe they just want to follow up on something. Email is something that a lot of us use every single day. We use Gmail, we use Outlook, we use Office 365, and those are the clients that we use in order to manage our personal emails. So, sending one off emails from person A to person B. So, that’s the first kind of email that exists.
Johnathan: And that is subdivided into two areas. You’ve got the area light, you got Gmail. So, it would be [email protected] and you’ve got Yahoo. And then you go for business, you’d be highly recommended to have your email linked to your domain. So, [email protected], haven’t you?
Adrian: Yeah. So, you can use email clients like Google, Outlook, Office 365, Yahoo, or there’s open source clients out there that you can use for your personal email, which is hosted with cPanel or WBHM or just on your server so you can create personal email accounts through those. So, you have essentially, but those are all wrapped up under what we call personal email. The next kind of email is we have something that we call transactional email. Now, transactional email is often confused with promotional email, which is the third category, which I’m going to talk about in a moment. Transactional email are emails that are for commercial purposes, but are not promoting or requesting that you take any sort of action. So, transactional emails could qualify as password reset requests.
So, if you use WordPress, you’ve probably reset your password a couple of times. When you received that password reset requests, that is a commercial purpose email and it is a transactional email because it’s something that you specifically requested. Now, other kinds of emails, billing reminders. So, if you have some sort of subscription with a company and you receive a billing reminder that says, hey, your subscription is about to renew, that’s a transactional email. If you have an email that goes out to say, let’s say, confirm your email address after you sign up for a new account, that is a transactional email as well. And these are often confused with what I’m going to categorize, and the third category is promotional emails.
So, transactional emails don’t have the same requirements as promotional emails, for example, they don’t need, for example, the unsubscribe link, they don’t need all of the compliance and stuff and information, and they don’t necessarily need to abide by castle GPR because their emails that are specifically sent for the sole purpose of providing a specific set of information that the customer requested or is required by law, password reset, billing reminders, you know account completion stuff, et cetera, et cetera. The third category is the promotional email. So, that is when you send a broadcast to your entire list of 10,000 people that says we have a sale going on right now, and you need to click this link to go buy and get 20% off or whatever. That’s not a transactional email that is a promotional email, that’s the stuff that goes into the promotions folder on Gmail. And it’s really important that the distinction is made between that kind of email and transactional and personal. Because lately I’ve been getting a lot of people coming on into the community and they’re confused about why we’re saying that they can’t use Gmail, Office 365 or Outlook to deliver their transactional and promotional emails.
Johnathan: Well, it’s not only that it’s also like I said, in my effort for Kingsta. Kingsta don’t provide email services, but there’s a lot of other hosting providers where you can utilize the email functionality of your hosting provider, but you would be highly advised not to wouldn’t you.
Adrian: Absolutely, and there are lots of…
Johnathan: Can you explain why you shouldn’t do that?
Adrian: So, the issue and I’m just going to clarify the issue. So, the issue is that if you’re using an open source tool like Groundhogg in order to send emails you can set it up in a way that it uses maybe G Suite or Office 365 or Outlook, or your postings email service as your transactional and promotional email provider even though those are technically the same things that you would use as your personal email providers, because that’s really what the hosting email services for. It’s so you can use the web mail client in order to main manage your personal emails between person A and person B, which is the first category of email. The reason why this is a problem is because if you confuse the types of email senders which are authorized in order to manage transactional and promotional email on your behalf with your personal email senders. You are going to end up getting your domain, your IP, your email, blacklisted spam folders, just lots of nasty, nasty stuff.
I had a conversation with a new client recently, and they are setting up SMTP, their SMTP connection with our website through Office 365. And after every step of the conversation, I tacked on to my support ticket with them was like, I highly recommend that you do not pursue this line of inquiry and you switch to a dedicated, transactional service. And his response to that was why should I do that? Because if I’m using a personal email service, I’m going to not end up in spam folders because it’s technically personal email. And maybe that would have worked five, six, seven years ago, but here’s the problem with that. Email clients, Gmail, Outlook, Office 365, Yahoo are very smart, they’re not dumb. Maybe at one point in time they were dumb and they didn’t know how to compare literally billions of emails sent per day viewing open rates, click through rates and discussing between each other, which senders are authorized or which senders have poor or good domain reputation.
So, picture this. You send a transactional promotion email to a list of 10,000 people through Office 365, which is a personal email service provider, it is not designed and was never designed to handle promotional and transactional email. Google or Gmail, if let’s say you send it out to a Gmail address, let’s say [email protected], for example, I received that email or rather Gmail receives that email and they see a couple things about it. Number one, they see that it has an unsubscribe link, tons of links in it, it’s formatted HTML, which most personal emails are not, or at least they have minimal HTML in them and they’re able to decide, or to confirm to themselves that this is probably a promotional email or better case a transactional email of some kind. Because Google can tell that’s why they have the promotions and the updates folder, because they can tell what’s promotional, what’s transactional and what’s personal, that’s why they have those different folders. They know.
So that’s going to then do something. They’re going to be able to tell what kind of email it is purely based on the content but then they’re going to check where it’s actually coming from. Now, since Office 365, Outlook, Gmail, et cetera, are all personal email clients not dedicated to sending transactional promotional email. They’re going to say this person’s probably a spammer because they’re using a free service or maybe it’s paid service, it depends on your plan, but they’re using a personal service in order to send transactional promotional emails so they’re probably spam. So, you end up in spam, they notify whatever your service provider is, Outlook or Office365, Gmail, et cetera and then your account gets suspended and your IP address is put on a blacklist and then, yeah, it’s just not good.
Johnathan: And you find that gradually a lot of your personal email is ending up…
Adrian: And that’s when your personal email…
Johnathan: In people’s spam and other things. So, it gets flaky, doesn’t it?
Adrian: Yeah. So, if your transactional email using Office 365 or Outlook starts getting those spam complaints because you can mark emails as spam, you can mark emails as bounced or whatever. So, once that starts happening, that’s when your personal email address is no longer hit the mark because you’re using a personal sending email service in order to deliver your transactional email, that’s going to adversely affect your personal emails as well. If that IP reputation goes down in your domain, reputation goes down because of sending those emails through your personal email service, then your personal emails that you actually are trying to send are no longer going to hit the mark either. And that’s no good, you don’t want that because if you’re trying to follow up with someone, let’s say a potential customer, and they’re not able to see your emails, because guess what, they’re all bouncing or your domain was blocked, then that sale goes out the window and then you’re basically start from square one where you have to go out and then find a new email sender.
So, it’s super important that the distinction between the types of email out there, personal transactional and promotional, there are different sending services for those three different kinds of email. And when you’re setting up your email marketing in your business, you have to be aware that you are responsible for knowing this and going out and procuring licenses and subscriptions with various different companies in order to have the different services for the different kinds of emails. Now you, most of the time, you are totally able to bundle promotional and transactional email into the same service. That’s usually a non-issue because depending on the type of email that you send, you don’t really have to worry about it all too much, although you can separate transactional promotional in two different accounts as well. So, what kind of email services exist out there in order to actually enable you to send all three…?
Johnathan: We’ll cover that in the second half, Adrian. It’s amazing. And we’re, we’re coming up to 15 minutes, it goes quick. So, we’re going to be covering that in the second half of the show with Adrian who really does know what he’s talking about. We read back in a few moments.
Adrian: Are we doing the sponsors today?
Adrian: Are we doing the sponsors today?
Johnathan: Yes. I’m going to do your sponsorship Adrian. I’m just saying that email, one of the older technologies, but still totally crucial. And what we’re discussing does cause a lot of confusion and then I thought Adrian was the right person to discuss it with. So, before we go into the main part of the second half, I want to talk to about Groundhogg. Groundhogg it’s just a fantastic product, I’ve been so happy that it came on the market, we actively use it at WP-Tonic for our clients. And basically, it’s a native CRM system, marketing automatization, been looking for a really rock-solid product like Groundhogg for a number of years and then Adrian and his team came on the market, it’s been growing for the past year.
I highly recommend it to you listeners and viewers if you’re looking for your clients or for yourself a native CRM system that really works and has intuitive and easy to use interface, go over to Groundhogg. They have free products as well which you can try out the system and then buy one of their packages, which is also great value. So, like I say, go over to Groundhogg, have a look where they’ve got offer and buy one of their packages. So, before I rudely interrupted you Adrian, you were just about, I think to talk about the…
Adrian: The different kinds of services for the different ends of email out there. So, most of us are familiar with marketing automation CRM, by this point. That’s what Groundhog does. There are other providers out there as well. There’s like ActiveCampaign, Infusionsoft, HubSpot Salesforce, Marketo, Convert Kit, Mail Lunch there’s so many…
Johnathan: Can I ask a question before we go into that. The transactional email you can use for… because I know you’ve got your own service; Mail Hawk isn’t it?
Johnathan: And then you’ve got services like SendGrid, then there’s a couple others. What do they actually do?
Adrian: So, I’m going to get to that as part of my upcoming spiel. So, for the promotional email category, whatever you’re using to manage your promotional emails, will generally have a sending service in order to manage that. So, if you’re using, let’s say Active Campaign or Infusionsoft, they have their own servers and their own email services in order to ensure that promotional email successfully reaches the inbox without negatively affecting your domain and IP reputation because they’re using their own IP address in order to authorize the transaction of said email. So, if you’re using those kinds of sources and MailChimp, again, another example, they are taking care of your promotional emails so that you do not have to route that through your own email sending service. So, hopefully that makes sense. So typically, if you’re using that, you’re good.
On the other hand, if you are say using an open source alternative like Groundhogg or maybe something like Modic or another WordPress CRM, or you’re just trying to send an email from your WordPress site, then you are responsible for getting an actual transactional/promotional email service on your own that doesn’t come bundled, you actually have to go direct the providers. Now this is when it gets a little bit in the weeds because when you load up WordPress on a lot of hosts, email just comes with it, you think I don’t need to worry about email because that’s just included. That’s not necessarily the case because again, the service that’s usually included, the hosting is a personal email service and it’s usually on a shared hosting account. So that means you and a thousand other websites are sharing the same IP address to send emails, so they’re users of that email can directly impact your sending ability and conversely you can totally tank a server’s IP address by using your website in order to send lots of emails. So, no good all in all.
This is when you would go find services like Mail Hawk, which is a transactional/promotional email service that I am part of. We specialize in delivering WordPress email, password reset notifications, WooCommerce billing orders and anything that comes out of Groundhogg for example, is something that Mail Hawk would be available to send on your behalf. We have our own IP addresses, we have our own reputation management systems, we have all of us stuff. So, we do all of the white label handling of email for you and then the only thing that you’re concerned about is connecting it to your website and verifying that we are able to send email on your behalf through various DNS settings and adding a couple of records to your DNS setup. Other providers that are notable, if you’re using SendGrid very, very, very popular option for both transactional and promotional emails, we have a very good integration with SendGrid and Groundhogg.
And it’s usually going through a transactional email provider is much cheaper than going through a CRM directly. For example, if you’re using Groundhogg and SendGrid, then your investment is whatever the yearly license fee is for Groundhogg like $480 and then you’re paying around $14 a month with SendGrid to send up to 40,000 emails per month or 14… yeah, no, it is 40. It’s 40,000 emails per month, which is a lot more than you’d usually get for the same value on let’s say a SAS based email marketing provider, for example, MailChimp or Active Campaign. So there’s also, you can go through Amazon web services, they have their own email sending service as well, it’s called Simple Email Service. Pretty simple. You can set that up with Groundhogg and we help broker that a lot and it’s a thousand emails for something like 10 cents.
It’s 10 cents per thousand email, rated usage so there’s no monthly fee associated with that, it’s just you pay for what you use so that’s also an incredibly popular option as well. And the reason you need SendGrid mail Hawk or AWS is because you are essentially offloading the responsibility of getting your email to the inbox to those persons. So, they handle all of the IP reputation, they handle the domain reputation, they handle the spam, they handle the blacklist, they handle everything on your behalf so you don’t have to and so that your personal emails that you’re using with Outlook, Office 365 or Gmail or Yahoo, continue to reach that person’s inbox. Because again, if you are relying on your personal email to send transactional promotional emails, if those start bouncing or getting marked as spam, you can be damn sure that your personal emails will suffer the consequences as well. Now, if you’re using a transactional email service and guess what your emails bounce, or they get marked as spam or people complain or whatever, that interaction will not negatively affect your personal emails, because it’s a different service taking care of it, even though it’s technically the same domain name. So, this is how you separate those emails, protect yourself because that’s super important and that’s why using personal email services for promotional and transactional emails from your WordPress website from Groundhog or anything is no boy, no. Not a good idea.
Johnathan: How do these different services handle different levels of your email be marked as spam? I would imagine… That’s a complicated question because imagine they have all different ways of dealing with how much…what levels spam is acceptable, when it isn’t and they start approaching the sender that’s utilizing their service. Don’t they?
Adrian: So, okay, well, I’ll start off with the customer to service relationship. So, when you sign up for something like SendGrid, for example you sign up for a plan, you have support, you have 40,000 emails per month that you can send out. For them to be able to broker the transaction if you send an email and them delivering to the client, you also have to agree to a couple of things. Number one, they will not tolerate spammers. So, if your sole purpose is to send people scammy emails and send spam that people don’t want, by the way, the definition of spam is whatever the customer thinks it is. So, as soon as your emails start getting marked as spam in the inbox, which they get notified of, by the way, because there’s backdoor reputation management systems that we had to set up for Mail Hawk, for example, to communicate with Office 365, Gmail and Outlook, to be able to say, when you click that spam button, we get notified. And if that starts to happen, you have a threshold, let’s say it’s 3%.
So, if 3% of your emails are marked as spam, they’re going to deactivate your account. And then you have to go through a reputation reclamation process, which means that you have to get on, fill out a survey being like, this is why it wasn’t spam, this is why people marked it as a spam. We’re not going to do it again, we’re really, really sorry, please reactivate our account is basically the reputation reclamation process and most centers have this. So, AWS has this process, I remember… so this was actually a mistake back in the early days. We loaded up a list of fake email addresses that we generated, that we were using for testing just on a local host site while we were testing some stress load and we accidentally used our live API credentials to actually send a bunch of emails to those fake email addresses and what happened, guess what? Like 80 to 90% of them returned as bounces and are the bounce threshold is on AWS is like 1%.
So, immediately, like our account got shut down and I had to jump on support and I had to go through here’s what happened, here’s why we’re not going to do it again, here are the steps that we’ve taken to make sure that this doesn’t happen so that your IP reputation doesn’t go down in the future and we had to go through that process. That was a mistake we made a couple of years ago. But yeah, that’s, that’s how senders…so, SendGrid AWS and ourselves Mail Hawk protects our overall user’s IP reputation. If we see that someone is kind of getting out of line, we cancel it and then they have to go through and explain their process and say here’s why you should reactivate my account. They usually have thresholds. And on the flip side, let’s talk about the relationship between the transactional email sender. So, if I’m SendGrid or Mail Hawk or AWS, what’s the relationship between them and the email clients? Because that’s a different relationship.
So, the email senders, if you’re familiar with Stripe or PayPal, what are those? Those are payment gateways. So, Stripe and PayPal simply broker the transaction, they’re a middleman between whoever’s credit card and the business’s bank account, they’re just middlemen. SendGrid, AWS, Mail Hawk are all essentially also middlemen. They broker the transaction between getting the email from your business to that person’s inbox to your customer’s inbox. Which means that they need to maintain relationships on both sides, middlemen need to maintain relationships. So, they have a relationship with the customer, which I just talked about, it’s a very, very one-sided relationship.
The customer pays money and has to maintain below certain thresholds in order to be able to allow you to service and then the transactional email service has to maintain relationships with all of the blacklist providers, as well as all of the personal email clients, the big boys. Gmail, Outlook, Office 365 and Yahoo, and they had to develop relationships and essentially pay a lot of money to maintain those relationships in order to make sure that their IP addresses don’t end up on blacklists and are blocked and that they continue to get through to those personal inboxes. A lot of businesses that use Office 365 for example, have pretty strict firewall protection in order to block anything but purely transactional and personal emails s no promotion email even ends up in the spam folder, it just gets rejected. And they’re constantly fighting with whoever’s in charge of the email reputation Gods over at Gmail, Outlook, and Yahoo to say, hey, listen, we’re doing all of these things to make sure that our customers are sending good email, so you should let our customers good email get through to the inbox. And that is the relationship that’s happening on that end. So, there’s actually a lot of personal communication going on between the email senders and the email clients in order to say, we need you to start delivering these emails or else our business is going to falter and then our customers business is going to falter because they’re not able to deliver on their promises. So, that’s how that kind of relationship works
Johnathan: Well, we’re coming up to the half hour mark, are you okay to stay on for another 10, 15 minutes for the bonus?
Adrian: Of course.
Johnathan: And I’ll be asking some questions of Adrian about Groundhogg, about setting up a native system the best way, and also talking about some of the SAS systems as well and the things you need to know if you come to choosing the right service for your particular needs and set up. So, Adrian, what’s the best way for people to find out more about you and mail hogg?
Johnathan: Groundhog, sorry, Mail Hawk, Groundhogg.
Adrian: You can find more about Mail Hawk, Groundhog at groundhogg with two gs .io. You can pick up our free promotional and transactional email product Groundhogg, which is a free CRM and marketing automation plugin for WordPress. So, you can pick that up at groundhogg with two gs .io. Instructions to get started with Mail Hawk are embedded in the plugin itself, Mail Hawk will allow you to send promotional and transactional emails directly from your WordPress website with minimal hassle.
Johnathan: That’s great. And if you want to really support the show, go over to YouTube and subscribe to the YouTube channel. Pardon me. I’m going to be putting up more kind of training educational videos up on the channel, but it’s already got over, I think almost 520, 530 videos on the channel with a mixture about all sorts of subjects, topics around WordPress and online marketing. So, you can really feast out if you go over to the WP- Tonic YouTube channel and subscribe for us and also give us some feedback. That would be fantastic. We will be back next week with either internal discussion between me and Adrian, around the world of marketing automization email, or we’ll have a great guest. We’ll see you next week. Thanks. Bye.
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