Guest post by Chris Wheeler
After reading Laura’s and Steve’s posts on the gap between the “senders” and “receivers” (both excellent reads I recommend if you haven’t already done so), it really made me think about why I do what I do and why I think (hopefully not being too narcissistic here) that I’m reasonably good at it.
I was formally educated and then broken in after school with the technology world but have never considered myself a technology purist (I will never author a C# book or program my own killer app). However, I also enjoy people and working with (almost) all of them. Traditionally, these two skillsets have not meshed well in the technology industry to a nontrivial level. So, when I went into deliverability, I was intrigued by the fact that it is as much of a technology, business, marketing and people facing genre as any. And, one of the things I am highly grateful for was that I worked for a sender who really seemed to get it. Of course there were marketing jerks and revenue driven bullies there as well, but my management supported me in really trying to do the right thing by the end email recipient (and in this case, customer).
This helped me shape my view of my role in deliverability and decide which type I wanted to be. Mind you, I have never worked at an ISP. So, my bias is towards the senders. If you have a management team that understands that deliverability is not just a flashy word to throw around, push in prospects’ faces or otherwise excuse away as another service to potentially charge for when not necessarily needed, you’re in a good place. But, you also have to decide what you value as important and ethical for yourself. Unfortunately, there are a lot of folks who are in the deliverability space not because they like the work and are truly looking out for recipients, but rather (and as Steve’s post touches) out there to make money doing anything they can to drive revenue from their perspective without much respect or empathy for the person on the other end of the mailbox. ESPs have been given a bad name in the industry as the aggressors, those who are willing to use and abuse the email ecosystem to get money with no respect to the common rules of “best practices” or recipient perspective. Unfortunately, a lot of folks in the email receiving world have adopted this as their stereotype and dismiss anyone trying to triage a deliverability problem as one who is just wanting to get more emails in an inbox..to generate more opens…to garner more clicks…and ultimately put more cash in their pocket.
This is simply untrue. But, there are a lot of senders who do fit into this category, unfortunately.
The same can be said of ISPs, who seem to be on the defensive all the time and take every piece of incoming mail as having a negative relevancy score attached to the intended recipient and make the sender pay (literally in terms of some accreditation methods) to move towards what they perceive as a positive and user wanted email. The sloppy ISPs rely heavily on using highly automated systems to either do binary blocking outright on certain arbitrary indicators in mail or simply throw their hands up and call anyone not sending a one to one message from someone’s relative or friend spam. Again, though, this is an unfair stereotype that doesn’t apply across the board. I work with many ISPs that do take the time, effort and examination to help recipients get mail they want instead of just outright declaring jihad on mass senders altogether. If you pay close attention, these are also usually those who are very technicallly savvy (and thus breed a desire to keep the internet a free and open exchange for ideas to be messaged, including those that are marketing related and wanted). I enjoy reading the information they post. Our conversations. Listening to what they have to say. And in turn, I believe they do the same of me since they know I’m more about letting numbers and actions speak for themselves as opposed to trying to circumvent any process or “game” them. Numbers and actions, for me, are about spam complaints being driven down, email engagement being up, and benefit being gleaned from the messages sent via whatever method is most appropriate. CNN, for example, sends me transactional breaking news alerts. I may not read every one. And I certainly am not driven to purchase or pay into a service as a result. But, I do enjoy getting these and would be upset if that stream of information stopped. A lot of ISPs get this – the implied and real value I have as a result of knowing what’s going on in any facet of email communication when I don’t have a chance to proactively find out myself.
The rub is that ESPs are paid money to send email (with their hue changing based on types of email they send, the clients they onboard, adherence to their own rules, etc.). But, we are paid to send email (notice “quantity” is intentionally excluded from this sentence). It’s the core product of our systems…deliver communication via electronic mail. ISPs are not paid to receive email. Some ISPs are paid for the images or impressions they drop in which are driven by the mail a user gets being the catalyst for the times they check their mail. Or, some ISPs charge money for email (so in a sense, they are paid to deliver within their own confines of what is spam or not to the customer). Other ISPs just have email as an extension of their existing services (think cable providers or cellular companies) which ultimately can be ear marked for revenue.
So, not all senders are bad; neither are all ISPs good (and vice versa). But, at the end of the day, I can honestly say I don’t have that many problems when dealing with receivers since I tend to only really have a relationship with those I believe are trying to do the right thing, like me, in ensuring recipients get mail they want, need, or otherwise are just glad to have around.I don’t need to be yelled at as an abuser of the internet because I’ve found a living in sending email, as much as a mechanic does for contributing to global warming for putting gasoline burning cars back on the road. Nor, do the ISPs deserve to have fingers waved in their face either when, usually, they’re trying to keep their recipients happy and not melt under the deluge of true spam that technology has brought with it. I’m sure this will inspire some nasty comments, or at the least, a nonplussed double take, but ISPs are businesses as well. They are not run on cookies and rainbows. Same with ESPs. Finding a balance between the two with corporate management pushing down and reinforcing an intermediary relationship that doesn’t engage in an antagonistic or adversarial role is what will win every time.
It’s about the people, the personalities, and a new industry that’s evolved in the aftermath of the advent of spam and marketing mail. But, if your culture is one which doesn’t fit what makes you feel you’re successful or back your mores you’ve developed or adopted over the years, you must realize you’re empowered to make yourself respected and happy. No one else, though. And, at the end of the day, I think the issues between ISPs and ESPs not communicating effectively is more about what the company culture is and how well (or not) they respect and encourage their employees to drive for whatever measurement of success you both share (be it money, recipient satisfaction, client satisfaction, just putting in an honest day’s work, or the fact you get to work from Punxsutawney).