Your Legitimate E-Mail Is Getting Trashed

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Whether you know it or not, your business has an e-mail reputation. ISPs, spam-filtering companies and a growing number of e-mail watchdog groups catalog data on thousands of high-volume senders and share their findings with each other.


Do you know whether your company's e-mail reputation is good or bad? You'd better - because if your reputation isn't good, your e-mail won't always get delivered. And if your organization relies on e-mail for business purposes, that affects your bottom line.


But, hey, you're not a spammer. Your company uses e-mail only for legitimate reasons: to communicate with customers, partners and vendors and, in some cases, to send marketing announcements to people who asked to receive them. You're one of the good guys. This shouldn't affect you, right? Wrong.


Of the 30 billion e-mail messages bouncing around the Internet every day, most estimates suggest that spam accounts for almost 80 percent of them. That's a lot of junk in the average person's inbox. E-mail users and businesses alike have become increasingly demanding that their ISPs and anti-spam software providers block unwanted e-mail. ISPs and other volume e-mail receivers are aggressively filtering e-mail. The result: Even legitimate e-mails are mistakenly undelivered, or delivered to the e-mail graveyard - the "bulk" or "junk mail" folder.


This happens more often than you might think. Our customers often seek us out because their legitimate e-mail, such as monthly statements to customers or opt-in newsletters, is regularly blocked from reaching recipients. ISPs want to be vigilant and protect the integrity of their users' inboxes. If a word in the subject line of a legitimate message ("mortgage," "opportunity," "sale," etc.) is on the ever-growing list of red-flag terms, an ISP often flags it as spam rather than risk an irate customer.


Another danger to your e-mail reputation are phishers, crooks who highjack your Internet domain and send e-mails using your business' name to try to steal data or otherwise con recipients. As this practice grows more prevalent, businesses are being victimized and having their e-mail reputation ruined without ever knowing about it.


In the e-mail community, there's virtually no feedback loop from receivers to senders. This means that if your business engages in an e-mail practice that gets you marked as an unsafe sender by an ISP, or placed on one of the many "blacklists" maintained by watchdog groups, chances are you'll never be notified. You might notice a growing number of e-mails bouncing back as undeliverable, or you might not. Or you might simply notice your response rate plummeting. But it's unlikely that the ISPs through which you send your messages will tell you why your e-mail isn't being delivered.


Here are steps companies that rely on e-mail should take to preserve their good name as trusted e-mail senders.


· Get a full diagnostic of your e-mail reputation and sending practices. Have an impartial third party examine your e-mail streams (marketing, customer service, order confirmations, etc.) to determine any practices that could put you at risk of ending up on someone's blacklist.


· Get your company on a "safelist" as a good e-mailer. We're fast approaching the time when there are only two types of e-mail: accredited and non-accredited. If you're an accredited sender - an organization whose e-mail is recognized as legitimate by the major ISPs and other volume receivers - your e-mail will be less likely to get mistakenly filtered or blocked. Getting on a safelist is a crucial step to take immediately.


· Set up an early warning system for delivery problems. This requires a third-party company that can benchmark your performance within the e-mail community and monitor blacklists to ensure you know right away if you're marked anywhere as an unsafe sender.


· Get a good third-party expert to represent you in any disputes about your company's reputation. If you've adopted the above steps and stay proactive in your practices, such instances likely will be rare.


But if your good name is called into question by an ISP or blacklister, you'll need someone in your corner to represent your interests and get your e-mail delivered again at that particular ISP.


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