Understanding Open Rates

November 15, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Before reading too much into your Email Open Rates, it is important to know some background information on how this particular statistic is compiled and what it means.

First of all, it is important to understand how this information is gathered. Each email that is sent for you from Surefire has a tiny, 1×1 pixel clear image. Nobody can see the image, but it is always there. The image path is trailed by a unique identifier used by our servers to determine where the image is being accessed from. So each time that image is accessed from an email, we know exactly which email and who it was sent to. Sounds pretty straight forward right? Well here is where it gets tricky. You may have noticed in your email client (Outlook, gmail, yahoo, etc) that sometimes images in an email are not downloaded by default. You may see a warning dialogue like the one below:

As an Outlook user, if I don’t click on that warning bar and click “yes, download images”, then they don’t get downloaded. Basically, what this means is that any user can read an entire email, not download the pictures, and according to the statistics gathered they “didn’t read the email”. Even if you know for a fact they read it, they could even respond to you; if they didn’t download the images then your stats will not count them as a read.

This privacy/security functionality that causes the email client to not download images by default varies from email client to email client. Yahoo does it differently than Gmail which does it differently than Outlook, and so on. And to make matters worse, it can be changed on an account by account basis by individual email users. So there is absolutely no way to even guess what percentage of your recipients has this setting on or off.

So you can see that email Open Rates are not an exact science. Far from it actually. As a matter of fact, we debated back and forth for about a year before we even enabled this statistic in Surefire because it can be so misleading and is, by nature, flawed and inaccurate. But, it is an industry norm and people expect to be able to see this, so we caved and added this feature to our Surefire reporting.

Generally speaking most email marketing companies will tell you that 20-30% is about average for email open rates. This number can fluctuate drastically based on a lot of different things, but 20-30% is considered a healthy range. So what is happening to the other 70-80%? Nobody knows. Maybe they just deleted it. Maybe it went to their Junk Mail folder. Maybe they read it and didn’t download the tracking image. Maybe you have an incorrect email address for them. Maybe they read it on their phone which doesn’t support HTML or images. Again, nobody really knows what percentage land in which bucket.

Another thing to also keep in mind is you have to give it a little bit of time. Not everyone checks their emails every day. If you send to a personal account, they may not check that until the weekend. If you send to a work account over the weekend, they may not see it until Monday. Some people just don’t regularly check emails. So give an email blast a few days before looking at your open rates.

The good news is that you can be very confident those listed in your report as having opened the email, did actually open it. So while the statistic may be off as a percentage, this information can be useful in knowing which people for sure are paying attention to your marketing efforts.

Subject Line Best Practices

November 15, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Once an email lands in the inbox, there are 2 pieces of information the recipient uses to determine if they are going open it and read it or just delete it. The first of which is the sender, you. If you have done a good job with your email marketing, and more importantly did a good job closing their mortgage, they aren’t going to think “oh no, not another email from so and so.” Ideally they see your name associated with the email and gladly decide to open it.

The second thing is the subject line. The subject line can make or break your email marketing success, so here are some best practices to keep in mind when considering your email subject line:

  • Less is more. It is widely accepted in the email marketing world that shorter subject lines yield higher open rates. There is no optimal length for the highest open rates, but most agree that 50 characters is a good cap.
  • Expanding on the bullet point above, it is important to note that some ISPs (Internet Service Providers) will chop off any part of your subject line that is above 50 characters. Take the following 57 character subject line example: Do you sometimes think you need a new branding assistant? I will let you count the characters yourself to see what happens when the last 7 characters get chopped off to take it down to 50, you end up with a word you probably don’t want to include in your subject line. Now your email is probably going directly to the SPAM filter, and if anyone does see it you look like a fool. This particular example is pretty extreme, but you can see how words getting cut off in the middle might not be a good thing in a lot of other situations.
  • Again expanding on the first bullet, take into consideration people checking your email on their phone. I just checked my iPhone as I am writing this article and I only see the first 25 characters of the subject line, then dot dot dot (…). I would wager most other phones actually display even less. So now let’s see another example of how this can be less than ideal. If you have a 53 character subject line Governor Orsini comes out in favor of anti-widget legislation, and it is truncated down to the first 25 characters for all iPhone users, want to know what subject line you just sent to a bunch of people? Governor Orsini comes out… So you can see where both of these 2 subject lines convey 2 completely different messages and can determine how many people decide to click open vs. delete. Again this is a pretty extreme example but you get the point.
  • DON’T GO CRAZY WITH CAPITALIZATION – SPAM filters generally frown upon that and you can land in the junk mail folder.
  • Don’t go crazy with exclamation points or other punctuation!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! SPAM filters also frown upon that and you can land in the junk mail folder.
  • Monitor trends in junk mail you get yourself and just use common sense to make sure your subject lines don’t look like theirs. SPAM filter rules are constantly changing to keep up with the SPAMers, so keeping a pulse on what those subject lines read like will help avoid you inadvertently being marked as “one of them”.
  • And of course the same keywords you try to avoid in your email body should be avoided here. And yes, unfortunately that includes using the word mortgage.

Running the Calyx Point Report

November 11, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

This video shows you how to run the Top of Mind Networks report in Calyx Point. Once your report is run, please follow these steps to submit your report to Top of Mind Networks:

- Log into SureFire
- Select Need Help > Submit a Support Ticket from your top nav menu
- Select Create New Ticket
- Attach your spreadsheet and give your support ticket an “Uploading Contacts” category
- Click Submit

Installing the Calyx Point Report

November 11, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

This video demonstrates how to install the Top of Mind Networks report in Calyx Point. This video references a .RPT file that was emailed to you. If you do not have this file, please click below to download the file. Or you can download the spreadsheet to view what fields we collect.

Related Files:

Point Report RPT File


Point Report Fields


Get Local With Your Database

November 11, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Mark Green covers sending out hyper local content to your database using the Surefire System.

Related Links:


Point Data Server Reporting Error

November 1, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

This video shows you how work around an error that Point Data Server can cause while running the Top of Mind report. If you see an error saying “Errors were detected. Would you like to view the error report?” then please follow the steps in this video to resolve the issue. You will need to work with your company’s Point administrator to solve the problem, so they will need to watch this video as well.

Signature/Profile Blocks

September 12, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

The area on all of your letters, cards, and emails that is personalized with your contact information is referred to as a signature block. This is where your name, company, title, licensing info, and contact information goes. These signature blocks can be edited on a user by user level, or admins can customize the look and feel for the entire company.

  • License Blurb is account-wide and can only be modified by account admins. This is general company licensing information that will be displayed on pretty much everything we send out for you: cards, letters, emails, print surveys, digital surveys, and loan application.
  • License Blurb is not automatically added to your Lenderama websites. To learn how to add this to your websites you can watch this tutorial.
  • License Blurb is also not included on the Address Stamper simply because of lack of space. But individual user license information (ie NMLS number) can be included. Just make sure each user on your account has filled out that information in the license field in their Surefire profile.
  • If customizations are made to a specific signature block on both a user level, and company level; the user level customizations will trump the company level customizations. If this is undesirable for account admins then as an admin you can restrict users from modifying these signature blocks.
  • The card profile controls the profile section for both greeting cards (that come in an envelope) and postcards. Keep in mind, certain postcard layouts may override certain settings such as font color and font size, this has to be the case due to size constraints and postcard banner background color.

Working With Templates

September 9, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

In Surefire you can create templates for emails, cards, and letters. You can create new templates and modify existing templates. So if you want to change the verbiage of your thank you card, add a question to your survey, or add a new email template for a new campaign; all of which can be done within the Surefire CRM Launch Pad.

  • Templates are used to create campaigns. Campaigns are basically a group of templates that go out at various intervals or on certain dates to a contact in your database that you have assigned to that campaign.
  • You can create/modify templates for letters, print surveys, cards, and emails. You can only modify the address stamper template, you cannot create new ones.
  • Keep in mind, if you are using a specific card (thank you card for example) in multiple campaigns, the verbiage is the same across the board. So if you need one card to say one thing and another card to say another thing you will need two different templates.
  • Anytime you make changes to a print template, Surefire requires you to download a PDF preview before you can save your changes. This way you see a real world example of the changes prior to making them live.
  • Anytime you make changes to an email template, Surefire requires you to send a live sample of the email to yourself before you can save your changes. This way you see a real world example of the changes prior to making them live.
  • If you are a user on a company/branch account, administrators can limit this functionality or require admin approval prior to making these customizations live.

Custom Fields

August 26, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

If you ever need to capture specific pieces of data for your contacts that Surefire does not have fields for, this can be accommodated using custom fields. Custom fields are managed company-wide for a specific account, not user by user. So only account administrators can add custom fields. But since they are account-wide they can be used for things like advanced searches and dynamic groups. If you delete a custom field from Surefire, all data currently stored for that field for each contact will also be deleted, so please proceed with caution when deleting these fields. Custom fields come in 5 data types:

  • String / Text
  • Number
  • Date
  • Drop Down List
  • Yes/No

Email Content Best Practices

August 25, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Generally speaking, with all email marketing efforts (in any industry using any email vendor), on average 10-20% of all emails do not reach their intended destination. The main culprit of this statistic is SPAM filters. SPAM filters have to constantly change to keep up with new spammer tactics, but sometimes they can get a bit overzealous and block innocent and legitimate email marketers such as our Surefire users. There is no magic pill or silver bullet to solve this problem (if there was the spammers would have used it and then it wouldn’t work anymore). But there are a few best practices to keep in mind to ensure that the maximum amount of your emails reach your audience:

  • Common sense: Every single Surefire user has an email account and gets some level of SPAM email. The #1 rule to authoring emails is to make sure your emails don’t look or read like those SPAM emails that you get yourself. Some of the other rules below expand upon this a little bit. But spammers are constantly trying new things to beat the SPAM filters, and the SPAM filters are constantly changing their rules to keep up. So keeping an eye on common themes you see in SPAM emails that you get will help you be smarter about the emails you send.
  • Do not send emails that are just one big image. SPAM filters obviously cannot “read” images, thus cannot look for key SPAM words. So a common spammer tactic has been to author an entire message as one big image and just send the image. SPAM filters have caught on, so if your email has very little or no text and has one giant picture then it will likely get filtered as junk. So use more text, and fewer images.
  • Avoid using high dollar amounts: Avoid anything above 4 figures. This can be challenging if referring to a specific property sale or loan scenarios that can have values like $120,000.
  • Avoid starting your email with “Dear”. This rule that may seem a little weird, but don’t start your emails with “Dear <firstname>,” just start it with “<firstname>,” for some reason “Dear” can be bad.
  • Do not go crazy with exclamation points!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • Avoid poorly written HTML code: If you do any manual HTML coding (which we don’t recommend) make sure the code is clean and perfect. Poorly coded HTML will get you blocked.
  • Do not use the word “Test” in your subject line
  • Use spell check: Often times spammers will intentionally misspell words to try to trick the filters. Even an innocent spelling error can harm deliverability. So it is best practice to type out an email in Word and paste it into the email editor to ensure proper spelling on everything.


Avoid SPAM keywords.


There are some common keywords that can trigger SPAM filters. I think it is safe to assume that none of our Surefire users are promoting male enhancement pharmaceuticals or selling pornography, so we won’t even go into those keywords. But below is a list of words and phrases to avoid. Unfortunately for us, one of the red flag words is mortgage. I know it will be impossible to avoid that word altogether, and using that word in and of itself shouldn’t land you in the junk mail folder. Just keep in mind you are basically starting out with one strike against you just for being in this business. So make sure you use it sparingly in your message body because it likely shows up 2 or 3 times by default just in your company name and maybe your title. So doing things like just saying rate instead of mortgage rate will help. And if you need to use any of the below words and try to trick filters by misspelling it or putting spaces in it like m o r t g a g e you are even more likely to get filtered. Some common words/phrases to avoid are:

  • “mortgage”
  • “money back”
  • “urgent matter”
  • “affordable”
  • “apply now”
  • “act now”
  • “free”
  • “weight loss”
  • “guaranteed lowest price”
  • “special”
  • “extra income”
  • “investment”
  • “risk free”
  • “work at home”, or “work from home”
  • “winner”

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