You might think your response rate is the only thing your customers affect when you send them an email campaign. While that may often be the most visible metric, customers also affect your email delivery rates in a major way.
In fact, according to a recent Return Path study, nearly 19 percent of permission-based email does not get delivered to the intended mailboxes by ISPs -- which obviously affects every other campaign metric, as well. Your customers hold an important key to solving this non-delivery problem.
What’s your delivery problem?
The first step to solving your delivery issues is to recognize where your problems lie. Most marketers assume their delivery rates can be seen through bounce analysis. This is a bad assumption, as most non-delivered mail does not generate a response from ISPs or show up in SMTP files. To really know the extent of your delivery failures, you must monitor your delivery rates through an outside vendor or internal seed list system. If that analysis shows that a problem exists, it’s then time to solve it by looking at your technical configurations, content, and IP blacklist inclusion. It is the latter point that your customers impact.
Your customers’ role in email delivery
How, you might ask, do customers have an impact on something as structural as email delivery? This one is easy -- they complain to ISPs because they think your email is spam. In fact, much of the permission-email that gets blocked today is because of such customer complaints.
Customers can now easily get you added to a blacklist -- in effect, killing your delivery rates -- with the push of a button. When enough customers hit the "this is spam" or "block" buttons within email clients, you can be blacklisted. Unfortunately, there is no published standard for how many complaints are too many, and it varies by ISP. Our experiences show, however, that the threshold is a mere fraction of a percent at many ISPs. Clearly, even a small number of complaints can hurt you deeply.
Being blacklisted creates two problems: a spam perception by people who should be receptive to your messaging, and non-delivery to customers who did want your emails. If emails don’t get delivered, you can’t get a response. Assuming you don’t want to let 19 percent of your potential revenue go down the drain because of undelivered emails, you have some work to do around keeping customers engaged and emails delivered to the inbox.
Keeping customers engaged and emails delivered
When your customers think you’re spamming them, you have to seriously evaluate how and what you’re sending them. Think about it: enough people find your content so irrelevant to them that they consider it spam. Since they signed up to receive your email, you have to look at where you strayed from the expected.
First, let’s quickly look at email relevancy. To avoid customer complaints, it’s imperative you spend time up front to make sure people want to be receiving your emails. This should start with a review of your email acquisition strategies.
If you answered "no" to any of the above, you’ve found a problem that could be costing you volumes in terms of delivery, response, and reputation. When you aren’t honest about the email you send, customers certainly won’t respond, and they might complain.
There are several immediate steps you should take to reduce complaints, build customer trust, and increase delivery:
You can also increase delivery and response by further engaging the customers who do want your communications:
Email delivery -- and subsequent response -- should not be considered random fate. Remember that you control a major portion of what happens after you hit "send" on an email campaign. It is up to you to ensure that your customers want to receive your email and that they can help you make sure it gets delivered to their inboxes. You’ll be amazed at the difference that focusing on customers will have on their receptivity and response.
Matt Blumberg is CEO of Return Path, an email performance company that focuses on email deliverability, list maintenance and best practice strategies.
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