Manas Kumar, Thinking out Loud

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Archive for July 2010

Email Delivery To Inbox – The Mystery Unlocked And De-Jargonized

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Email marketing is only effective if the marketing message actually makes it to your subscribers inbox. However, thanks to the “Bad Apples”, some genuine email marketers and their messages often get trapped in Spam Filters and the sender is often painted with the same brush as a serial spammer.

Part of the problem is the mismatch in the understanding of what Spam is. direct marketing associations worldwide are the problem as the way they educate and promote email marketing to the end users (members of the DMAs) is misleading.

For instance, the DMA of USA openly suggests emailing with opt out links even if “express consent” cannot be proven.

The Can-Spam Act and other similar legislations are also very unclear and “grey” in the way the issue of Spam is highlighted.

While the government (legislators) say one thing and the local promoters (DMAs) say something else, there’s a third group who are the “key-holders” in this case – the ISPs.

ISPs have a completely different approach to Spam. Their approach is the strictest and in my opinion a bit over the top because with them there’s no concept of “benefit of doubt” – if someone complains to an ISP – even at the ratio of 1 out of 1,000 instances, you are instantly labelled as a spammer. No questions asked, no opportunity to explain your actions- you are a spammer.

However ISPs deal with spam at a content as well as consent level. While they can never regulate content (they can censor but not regulate) they can always go by a “I never gave consent” complaint and take evasive action instantly.

You see the issue of spam has never been about CONTENT. It’s about CONSENT.

Spamhaus, the leaders in educating, regulating, and attempting to eliminate the issue of SPAM altogether, believe that ” one should never be asked to opt out of something they did not opt into in the first place” – quite a statement, especially when, if you are a marketer, this is ,Iike a dagger ripping through your heart – what do you mean I can’t send campaigns with just an opt out link using the “inferred” or “deemed” consent card…

Regardless of what you think from the point of view of a marketer, Spamhaus and several other ISP level Spam fighting organizations have adopted this approach. And it is this approach that drives inbox delivery because ultimately inbox delivery is controlled by the receiving ISP.

So what can you do to make sure your emails are delivered to the inbox?

First and foremost you need to make sure you have CONSENT. Content is not such a big deal yet, first you need to establish CONSENT. This is a non negotiable as far as ISPs are concerned.

Make sure you have the ability to prove CONSENT if need be. Hence if you capture subscribers from your website you MUST capture supporting information to provide as evidence of CONSENT. capture the IP address, the date and time of subscription, capture additional information such as the operating system of the user, the browser used, the web address from which the subscription was acquired from and maybe even a screen capture of the page as soon as the user hits the “Subscribe” button.

The second option is to undertake a Closed Loop Opt in or Confirmed Opt In. Both these processes are industry recognized for confirming consent before subscription.

Once the issue of CONSENT is sorted, you then need to look at your sending procedures.

Delivering emails is no longer as simple as sending them in bulk, throttling emails so that they make it past ISP firewalls. That’s no linger enough. ISPs have become much more sophisticated and have advanced systems to detect and decide whether to send the email to the inbox, junk folder or not deliver the email at all.

DKIM, Domain Keys, SPF Records, PTR Records, Proper Reverse DNS Setup, Sender ID setup and list unsubscribe Setup are now critical for ensuring inbox delivery.

You can also ask your ESP to provided a dedicated sending service whereby your IP addresses are white listed with all major IPSs. This kind of a setup often requires you to have a premium service account with your ESP

There are only a handful of ESPs that can offer this service, with Maxmail and Constant Contact being two of the most prominent and credible providers.

The “how fast can you send” myth.

I have come across several marketers assessing email marketing platforms based on the sending speed of the ESP (email marketing service provider). Actually sending speeds are inversely proportional to inbox delivery rates. In other words, the faster you send, the least likely you are to have consistent inbox delivery.

Sometimes, even with all those technical things setup you may not get 100% inbox delivery. There are many reasons for that, the most common being the IP address you are sending from has been blacklisted or blocked by certain ISPs.

Don’t worry, it’s actually very common for IP addresses to get blacklisted. sometimes it’s your doing, other times it may be something historical about the IP address that causes it to be blacklisted. Talk to your ESP and tell them to deal with it ASAP or find another ESP.

The entire subject of inbox delivery is so huge that it takes companies years to understand this.

So remember the following simple pints:

Be able to prove that you have consent
Capture enough customer data to personalize your campaigns
Setup relevant technical stuff at the ESP level and demand a white listing service
Keep your content relevant, targeted and openly admit that the email has come from you. Keep your online identity as rock solid as you can
Do not attempt to hide or disguise your sending
Follow the best practices as provided by your local governing body regulating digital the communication in your country Include your full address in the footer of your email
Include a note in the footer that reminds your subscribers as to how and when they subscribed to your database

Once you have got all these measures in place, inbox delivery is that much more certain.


Written by manaskumar

July 24, 2010 at 8:49 am