Guaranteed email delivery

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Ben over at Mailchimp has a good post about his response (and his support staff’s more professional and helpful response) to inquires asking if Mailchimp can guarantee an improvement in delivery.
I sympathize with Ben, and commend his staff. I often get potential clients asking me if I can guarantee I can get their mail to the inbox or get them off a public or private blocklist. And, the answer really is no, I can’t guarantee anything. Much of delivery is solely in the hands of the actual sender. Sure, ESPs can enforce a certain standard of behaviour and they can do all the technical things right. And consultants like me can tell you how ISP spam filters work and explain how some of your choices and processes affect delivery. But none of us can guarantee inbox delivery.
Only one company has tried to guarantee inbox delivery, and they shut down earlier this year because they were non-viable and couldn’t get enough of a recipient userbase to attract customers.
For the rest of us, though, the best we can do is give senders the tools and information they need to succeed in getting mail delivered to the inbox.

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  • Here’s an off-the-top-of-my-head rough draft of how I’d answer that question:
    “Can I guarantee an improvement in delivery? Well, no, but then again, no one can, and anyone who claims to could either be mistaken or lying, but in a practical sense, it makes no difference. They’re wrong either way.
    Here’s the thing: you’re paying me to give you the best advice you can get, and I’m going to give it to you. Now, while I can show a pretty strong correlation between ‘improvement’ and ‘people who take my advice’, it turns out that I get paid exactly the same regardless of whether you take my advice or not. Sure, I can give you some of the information that will enable you to make better-informed decisions that will affect your deliverability in a positive way, but I cannot make those decisions for you. I’m not the CEO; I’m the consultant. You can ignore me, if you think that’s a good idea.
    My data suggests that it isn’t, but then again, I’m obviously biased.
    And although it doesn’t happen often, I still feel bad every time one of my clients chooses poorly. …but not too bad, because I know I gave them good advice, they just didn’t take it. And then I move on to the next client, and try again.”
    I’ve given this speech a couple times, but only once to a client. Usually to coworkers or superiors who ask “Doesn’t this piss you off?”
    Nope, it doesn’t, not since I realized that I get paid exactly the same whether you listen to me or not. I’ve done my best; the rest is up to you.

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