Yesterday I talked about all the reasons that using affiliate email can hurt overall delivery. In some cases, though, marketing departments and the savvy email marketer don’t have a choice in the matter. Someone in management makes a decision and employees are expected to implement it.
If you’re stuck in a place where you have to hire an affiliate, how can you protect the opt-in marketing program you’ve so painstakingly built? Nothing is foolproof, but there are some ways you can screen affiliates.
Who are they?
First step is to ask them for a bunch of information about their company.
- What is their full corporate information: company name, address, phone number and online URL.
- Where do people sign up for mail?
- What domains and IPs they use to send email?
- Do they use ESPs or manage their own servers?
- Will they contract out your send to other parties?
Trust but verify
Next step is to visit the websites they shared with you.
- Does their corporate site have any person’s name on it anywhere?
- Does the corporate site mention any of their brands? Again, if they’re hiding something why are they hiding it?
- Does the signup site link back to the parent company?
- Is there any information about the corporate structure on the signup site?
?When should you worry?
Signs that all may not be as it seems.
- When the vendor can’t or won’t tell you the websites where they collect email addresses.
- When you visit the website they told you about, but there isn’t a clear way to opt-in to any mail.
- When they won’t tell you what domains they use in email.
Any one of these things signals something might not be right. But any combination of them should set off alarm bells.
Other investigative routes
Check the company and your contacts through LinkedIn. Do they have a profile and if so, how does it match with what they’ve told you? And, really, what sales person doesn’t have a LinkedIn page?
Sign up for their mail. I suggest you don’t do it through your regular mailbox, setup a freemail account on each of the major services and use that. See what happens. Monitor them for a while. The mailbox I shared in my earlier affiliate post was almost 2 years after I first signed up at a job site. It took about 6 weeks to start getting stuff that wasn’t job offers. Then it took another few months before I started getting actual spam. For that mailbox I initially signed up June 6; the first unauthetnicated and non-job email showed up September 16 (Quick Loans eLoanPersonal). The address got a mix of requested mail and spam through October 6 and then the spam floodgates opened.
One of the biggest red flags is not telling you what domains and IPs they send from. If you sign up for their mail you’ll get it. I once had a customer tell me their brands, domains and IPs were proprietary information. That’s just silly. And it reeks of the sender being a spammer and not wanting you to know they are using botnets.
Ask them how they monitor for and deal with delivery problems.
These questions and investigative techniques aren’t fool proof. But they’ll open up a discussion with the vendor. I pointed out some of the red flags here, but the crux of the matter is this is a company you are hiring to do work for you. If they do it badly you’re not just wasting money, you’re risking having to clean up a deliverability mess. Can you trust this company to value your mail and your company reputation the same way you do? If the answer is no, maybe this isn’t the vendor for you.