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An Advice Column on Email Delivery
When we work with brands and senders to improve email delivery, there are many questions that come up again and again. For 2016, we thought it might be interesting to answer some of those questions here on the blog so others can benefit from the information.
Confused about delivery in general? Trying to keep up on changing policies and terminology? Need some Email 101 basics? This is the place to ask. We can’t answer specific questions about your server configuration or look at your message structure for the column (please get in touch if you’d like our help with more technical or forensic investigations!), but we’d love to answer your questions about how email works, trends in the industry, or the joys and challenges of cohabiting with felines.
Your pal,

Dear Laura,
I’m having a hard time explaining to our marketing team why we shouldn’t send email to addresses on our lists with very low read rates, that are dormant but not bouncing, or that spend less than 2 seconds reading our mail. I’m also struggling to convince them that it’s not a good idea to dramatically increase email volume during the holidays (i.e. going from one send/day to 2-3 sends/day).
We already segment based on recency, engagement, and purchase behavior, and we also have some triggered messaging based on user behavior.
Can you help me find a way to help explain why sometimes less is more?
The Floodgates Are Open

Dear Floodgates,
ISPs ask two fundamental questions about email when it comes in:

  1. Is it safe?
  2. Is it wanted?

If the answer to both those questions is yes, the mail is delivered to the inbox.
Safe is something we don’t talk much about in the marketing space, because generally our mail is safe. But our mail has to go through the exact same filters that are set out to catch the bad guys. And sometimes we do things that trigger that set of filters unintentionally.
The second question — is it wanted — is where marketers can really shine. ISPs look at their user behavior to determine if mail is wanted or not. While their measurements are slightly different than what marketers use, senders must also find ways to determine if recipients want their messages.
Engagement with the email is part of it, but you can also use other metrics you have about that customer or prospect on your list. Do they visit your website? Are they active on your Facebook page? What other data do we have that says this person is engaged with your brand and won’t object to increased volume?
Spammers send unwanted mail. Spammers send mail to a lot of addresses where the address owner doesn’t log in. Spammers send mail to people who don’t want it, so they delete it immediately. If you are sending lots of mail and your recipient demographic looks like the typical spammer recipient demographic, then your mail will be treated like spam. It’s ALL about the recipient. That’s what the ISP uses to measure your mail. And if your recipients are reacting to your mail in the same way they react to spam, then you’re going to face deliverability challenges.

Both customers and ISPs expect increased volume around certain holidays and time periods. But, you need to be strategic with how you increase it.

For our clients, we’ve had to make some modifications to their holiday marketing programs to help protect them against deliverability challenges. We’ve done a careful warmup for their lists, which is really critical when you increase volumes.

Always, always, always, if you’re going to increase your volume, start by increasing volume to your most engaged recipients. Don’t just blast out to the entire list, pay attention to the data you have. Be selective about who you send to.

When you have this conversation with your marketing team, you might remind them that the larger goal is not around completing a single purchase, but around retaining and delighting that customer over a lifetime relationship. The more that a customer wants the email you send, the more likely it is to bolster that relationship.

Hope this helps,

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