Today’s musings are on
deliverability, more precisely how important Internet Service Providers
(ISPs) are to getting your precious email marketing campaigns into
recipient’s inboxes.

They’ve been changing how they monitor what is
spam and what isn’t, which means us marketers need to make sure we’re
on top of this and reacting accordingly.

Do I need to worry about this?

Well actually if you are a low volume sender or are B2B this probably isn’t going to apply – also if you are of the spray and prey camp you probably won’t be reading this anyway..

OK, so I do need to listen. What’s the background?

ISP’s get a lot of email, nearly all of it is spam, they don’t want this spam to get to their users as no one wants it. If an ISP has a reputation for getting lots of spam, then less people will use them which is a bad thing for the ISP.

IP reputation is the largest contributor to delivery rates, these matter mainly if you are sending to the large ISP’s, (Hotmail, Yahoo, AOL and the like). Content also has a big impact and, increasingly, domain reputation but you really should have all that in hand.

What have they been doing then?

They have become increasingly sophisticated over recent years. Initially, the big thing was feedback loops(FBL’s). FBL’s work by sending a “feedback message” to the sender every time that sender is marked as spam, and this enables the sender to remove that individual from their lists and so not compound the problem by emailing people again who have marked them as spam.

Too many of these means you are bad sender and so will start going into junk mail filters, and will eventually get blocked.

This has worked quite well, and thinking about it, I only mark people as spam if I feel affronted by the email. If it’s just a bad email I’ll just ignore it. The flip side is that as people don’t bother to mark emails as spam as much as they should, and inboxes still get clogged up, which can lead to bad times for users and ISP’s.

What’s new?

These days ISP’s are looking at how engaged you are with the people that you are emailing, so they are looking at opens, clicks and replies.

This is actually very clever, as you can’t fake this and make people become engaged with you. It takes time and building that relationship through dialogue.

This is really good news for marketers, it’s like the ISP’s are trying to motivate us all to be better email marketers. It also means that those who were sailing close to the wind before are now way out on their own.

What can you do about this?

  • Firstly take a long hard look at your lists, are you emailing your whole database with the same message month in month out?
  • Be aware of the unresponsive subscribers and treat them differently if they aren’t reacting to the messaging that the active subscribers are. They are different so treat them differently!
  • Mix up the components of email campaigns for segments who aren’t responsive. Subject lines, offers, colours should all be tweaked.
  • Then think about the buying cycle for your product? Do people buy the product every day? (think @innocentdrinks) Perhaps it’s a once in a lifetime purchase or at least every year (think @gocompare).
  • In innocent’s case they should be changing the messaging to everyone to retain interest. GoCompare should be looking at what they can offer their subscribers in between car insurance quotes, both of whom do this well.
  • Begin the engagement at the beginning. Engagement is like literally getting engaged, you can’t rock up to an arch enemy or someone who doesn’t know you and pop the question (I’ve tried, resulted in a  very odd look). You need to start with some pleasant conversation, let them know who you are and what you are about, if they like you perhaps you can ask if you can meet for drinks etc etc.
  • With email, as soon as someone shows an interest, respond to that interest by sending a quick intro email, describing what you are about and what they can expect from you moving forward. The typical approach of silence followed by a generic newsletter just doesn’t work if you want to build long term relationship.

To conclude

If you have very low open rates (less than 15%) within minimal clicks you are probably failing to engage your base so you need to stop sending emails, sit back, get a cup of tea and consider what you should change.

How so your recipients feel? What value have you added to their lives in exchange for receiving your emails? Talk to your email marketing provider, and they should be able to provide pointers if nothing else.

If, however, you are already engaging the vast majority of your list then you are ahead of the pack, so give yourself a pat on the back and have a cup of tea, maybe even a biscuit or two as well.