Recent meetings with clients and prospects has raised this issue to the top of my mind: who exactly is responsible for deliverability?

And by ‘responsible’, who carries the can if it all goes wrong?

At a recent meeting, an ecommerce director was explaining a difficult deliverability issue that his business was facing. They were clearly laying the blame at the feet of their incumbent ESP.

When I asked, ‘Do you think your ESP should have been consulting with you on this and should have prevented this issue occurring?’ I was met with a very firm response… [with raised eyebrows] “Well, you would have thought so, wouldn’t you?”.

It is certainly true that ESPs hold the keys to the kingdom. They own the relationships with the ISPs and [should] build strong partnerships with third parties such as Return Path, who have made themselves indispensable to the science of Deliverability Management.

But ESPs should be doing far more than this. From the constant monitoring of Deliverability Scores to leaping on deliverability issues before they mushroom, ESPs are more often than not the party that fixes issues when, and hopefully before, they arise.

They should also, to my mind, be working with the mailer to ensure that strategies are in place to maximise the virtuous circle of improving results and excellent deliverability.

On the other hand, for most service business the customer is always (or must think they are always) right and ESPs are no different. Too many times I have seen mailers over-ride the advice of an ESP on deliverability matters. Furthermore, self-serve/ASP platforms leave deliverability in the hands of the mailer with no proactive support or consultancy. But is this sufficient?

An email campaign manager, faced with a marketing director stressed over missing targets, is not in any position to argue against mailing every single record available to try to drive extra orders. Should they be expected to have the depth of knowledge, or indeed the stomach, to argue with the marketing director that this is a very dangerous and short term strategy?

If, as I stated above, ESPs hold the keys to the kingdom, in the form of knowledge and relationships, then isn’t there a ‘duty of care’ on the part of the ESPs to educate and manage their clients? I like a good analogy, and I see this current approach tantamount to a manufacturer selling someone a product, warning them that it could be dangerous and won’t work if misused, but then not explaining actually how to use it or what you can do wrong. 

There are, of course, mailers who won’t listen, even to arguments such as ‘change your strategy and make more money’! But I find myself constantly drawn back to the conclusion that even self-service/ASP customers deserve consultancy and support on deliverability issues.

If a mailer chooses to ignore advice, then on their head be it… but that support should be there in the first place. I must also caveat this statement, with the point that should a Mailer make such a decision then it should be with the firm knowledge that it is likely to be accompanies by an invoice from the ESP to unpick the problems.

But, the final and over-riding argument should be that working in partnership is a win-win. If an ESP helps a mailer achieve excellent deliverability then more money will be made by the mailer and a key reason why mailers become unsettled with their ESP is avoided. But this cannot happen without trust and commitment on both sides.