E-mail reputation - critical to overall company branding

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While marketers focus heavily on consumers' perceptions of their corporate identity and the value of their brand names, many fail to consider the impact that their company's e-mail reputation has on both.

For many years, marketers have been aware of the challenges of e-mail deliverability. As a result, most companies with significant e-mail marketing activities have focused on getting their e-mails delivered as part of the need to make sales and drive conversions. But getting e-mail delivered is only one part of the e-mail reputation picture.

In the world of e-mail, a domain name is a company's identity. In many cases, it is one of the few pieces of information consumers may consider when deciding to read your e-mail. Internet Service Providers also use a domain name (along with its corresponding IP addresses) and the reputation associated with it to determine whether - and how - e-mail gets delivered.

Many companies have huge consumer goodwill built up through years of investments in their brands and their overall marketplace reputation. But for an e-mail server, even a century's worth of stellar corporate reputation doesn't entitle anyone to reach a consumer's inbox.

The process of assessing reputations and rendering decisions about e-mail delivery varies according to the policies and user demands of each and every ISP. Many of these criteria hinge on adherence to general industry best practices. Even then, an array of other factors can shape a company's e-mail reputation, positively and negatively affecting deliverability.

Failure to get requested e-mails delivered can reflect badly on a company. Customers perceive it as lack of follow-through, and might eventually choose a competitor who seems to be more responsive.

Yet, even if a message gets delivered, the question of where the e-mail lands also has a direct impact on its effectiveness, and on the overall perception of the company and brand.

For example, if a company's e-mail reputation is only positive enough for an ISP to permit delivery to the junk or spam folder, it can result in a negative consumer perception of the company. When legitimate e-mail lands in the spam box, a recipient may perceive a company's messages - and by extension, the company - as suspicious, even if the consumer opted-in to receive those messages. Landing in a spam box is "out of sight, out of mind" at best, and a sign of possible bad behavior at worst.

In the end, a poor e-mail reputation can be fatal to the utility and effectiveness of a company's entire e-mail strategy. Therefore, e-mail reputation is a critical element to a company's branding and to maintaining positive customer relationships.

Ray Everett-Church is the director of e-mail policy at Habeas, an e-mail reputation services provider. Reach him at reverettchurch@habeas.com.

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