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Senders need to take responsibility

Having just returned home from another conference, my head is full of new ideas, new thoughts and new projects. I enjoy seeing old friends, making new contacts and sharing ideas. One thing I don’t enjoy, though, is listening to senders and marketers complaining about how hard it is to be a sender because the ISPs will not tell them what standards they need to meet.
If the ISPs would just tell us what they want us to do, we’ll do it.

The ISPs have told senders what they want them to do. They want senders to stop sending mail that their users don’t want. It is a very simple statement.
Stop sending spam.

For many senders, however, it’s not enough. “Tell us exactly what we need to do to stop sending spam. What complaint rates must we be under? What bounce rates do we have to be under? How do you want us to do this?” By this point in the conversation the ISP person is mentally rolling their eyes and looking for a way to escape the conversation.
The ISPs don’t want to tell senders how to behave, they want senders to start behaving. Stop sending spam should be all they need to tell senders.
Senders who ask for ISPs to tell them how to stop sending mail recipients think is spam are looking for specific thresholds they can stay under. They’re not really interested in actually sending wanted mail, they’re interested in sending good-enough mail, where good-enough mail is simply mail that gets to the inbox.
Want to know why ISPs don’t think much of many senders? Because the senders are not visibly taking any stand against abuse. I know there are a lot of senders out there who stop a lot of spam from ever leaving their systems, but there’s also a lot of unwanted mail that goes out, too. Some of that mail is even spam by any definition of the word. All the ISPs can see is the spam that gets through, and then they hear just tell us what to do and we’ll do it. From an ISP perspective, this means the senders only care about the thresholds and getting in under the ISPs’ radars.
Senders need to take more responsibility for the mail that goes out over their networks.
What do I mean by this? I mean senders need to stop waiting for the ISPs to define good practices. Senders need to implement standards and good practices just because they’re good practices, not because the ISPs are dictating the practices. Senders need to stop customers from doing bad things, and dump them if they won’t stop. Senders need to stop relying on ISPs for specific answers to why mail is being blocked. Senders need to take responsibility for the mail going across their networks.
It’s time for senders to grow up and stop relying on others for guidance. They shouldn’t implement good practices just because the ISPs tell them to, but instead should implement good practices because they are good practices.

7 comments

  1. Trout says

    Awesome post, Laura. It should have been in ALL CAPS. 😉

  2. Morgan Stewart says

    Yes, yes, yes! If marketers need non-marketers to tell them how to stop sending SPAM, then maybe those marketers need to start looking for other employment. It’s not that hard.

  3. Marc says

    Very true, ESP’s and clients need to be tougher with themselves. IT’s too easy to work to a maximum complaint rate, our goal shouldn’t be less than .05% complaint rate, it should be 100% engagement from our subscribers – much harder but ultimately more fulfilling for all.
    Just found your site recently, a real breath of fresh air!

  4. rebekah donaldson says

    HEAR HEAR! @Trout, @morganstewart and @Marc I agree with you too. I’ve had some interesting throw downs with other marketers about permission-based marketing and how it’s related to professional ethics.
    Sometimes I get pushback like ‘hey, that’s all really great Rebekah, but no one sells anything in the real world unless someone cold calls/ goes ahead and emails without permission…’ etc.
    It’s nuts — it backfires, esp in B2B — but perception persists among some marketers that being “in your face” — aka obnoxious, pushy, self-centered — is a necessary evil.
    Wish I could do like a Pope and excommunicate them.

  5. Barry says

    Indeed!
    We are not marketers.
    We are not interested in marketing practices.
    What we want are good results, and we need the same quality of results from every shape, size, and type of mail source on the internet.
    Not just the marketers.
    This is why we do not now and will never really care about marketing practices.
    It’s only one small part of the whole, and should be an easy part for all the attention it gets.

  6. @isprelations says

    But if the ISPs only took the time to understand our business plan!!

  7. Kevin Senne says

    Laura,
    It’s a great post. My theory is the breakdown comes in the communication chain. Execs see that when they send more email, something good happens. They don’t have the time or the right information, or something to really look at the numbers. It’s a good time to do things the right way. You can stand out just by following basic best practices.

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