Seven More Tips for Better Peer-Initiated Email Invitations

your_invitedSeth Godin suggests that we spend our marketing dollars wisely by targeting innovators—people who “get it” and adopt our product or service before the crowd. These customers are so enthusiastic about your service, they talk about it. That’s the “Ideavirus.”

Email can be a part of that viral marketing plan. In part one of this series, I offered seven tips for improving the success of your peer-initiated invitation system. Here are seven more tips to help your customers invite their friends to join the fun:

  1. If you let your inviters add a personal message to their invitation, make sure it isn’t abused by spammers. Keep it plain text. Don’t permit inviters to add HTML links or javascript.  Screen the personal comments automatically with a system like Akismet, which filters web spam, and integrates via API.
  2. Let your inviters preview the invitation in its entirety before it is sent—and give them a way to cancel it if they don’t think it is relevant or won’t be valued by the recipient. After all, the invitation is a reflection on them. Nobody likes a service that hijacks your address book and advertises itself automatically to all your contacts. That’s embarrassing.
  3. Include a conspicuous, functioning, opt-out link—so recipients can remove themselves from future mailings—otherwise they may report your message as spam. If a recipient clicks the opt-out link, suppress similar invitations from other inviters too. Don’t force recipients to opt-out repeatedly, or they will become frustrated and report your invitations as spam.
  4. Typos happen. Pre-screen the email addresses before you send the invitation. Ensure addresses are syntactically correct, and that the domain part of the address has a DNS MX record (which indicates that the domain accepts mail). Look for common misspellings of popular domains.
  5. Suppress invitations to addresses that bounced previously. ISPs will distrust your invitations if you repeatedly send mail to non-existent addresses.
  6. Don’t offer invitation incentives to your subscribers. Incentives encourage people to invite others who aren’t likely to want your service, and this could lead to a backlash of spam complaints, and that’ll get your future invitations blocked.
  7. Monitor the results of your invitations for spam complaints. If certain inviters cause multiple spam complaints, prevent them from sending more invitations. (Some ESPs, like SendGrid, provide a real-time event API that lets you receive spam feedback complaints in real time.)
Email invitations can help your service go viral, but you need to steer clear of these common pitfalls. If you have suggestions, drop me a line at paul [at] or via twitter @cyclingup.

Paul Kincaid-Smith

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Paul helps SendGrid make email awesome.

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