Thinking beyond deliverability

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Ellen Siegel
Ellen Siegel

According to the December 2006 ESPC/Ipsos E-mail Survey, most consumers decide to delete e-mails or report them as spam based on their “from” and “subject” lines, and nearly 80% do so without ever opening them. Hence, it is critical for small businesses to understand the importance of reputation and trust if they want to increase their open rates.

It is especially important for small businesses to build a reputation through consistent e-mail behavior and a good permission-based list. Negative results such as spam reports and bounce rates affect reputation and negatively impact deliverability. Your recipients' behavior (whether or not they report your mail as spam) is important to your reputation with them and their ISPs. Anything out of the ordinary may convince recipients that they have been spammed: Even opt-in mail becomes spam if a recipient labels it as such. Therefore, small businesses need to make developing trust and recognition a priority.

The first step is to organize your contact database. To ensure a good reputation, you should keep your distribution lists updated and your e-mail relevant.

  • All e-mail lists should be opt-in only. Let people know they can easily unsubscribe at any time and adhere to their requests.
  • Monitor your bounces and keep your list up to date. Mailing repeatedly to a bounced address can hurt your reputation with an ISP.

The second step in building reputation is exhibiting consistent e-mail behavior — make sure your recipients understand how often you'll send them e-mail messages. Additional steps to increase successful delivery include the following:

  • Be sure recipients recognize you as the sender. The name next to your “from” address must be clearly identifiable to your subscribers, bearing in mind that in many cases your company's name is more recognizable than those of your employees. Encourage recipients to put your “from address” in their address book, trusted sender list or approved sender list.
  • Content matters. Help ensure your recipients won't delete or report your mail by making the subject line clear and relevant. Also avoid “spammy” words, excess capitalization or use of exclamation points that may trigger ISP content filters.
  • If you use an e-mail service provider, improve your reputation by making sure they have solid, long-standing relationships with the major ISPs. If they look good, you look good.

Finally, follow industry best practices. Stand behind your e-mail and protect your brand by using e-mail authentication. Honor unsubscribe requests promptly. If you use an ESP, leverage its expertise and infrastructure in these areas.

By taking these simple steps you will be well on your way to developing trusted relationships with your recipients and ensuring your e-mail communications not only make it to your intended contacts' inboxes, but are also actually read.

(This article first appeared in the 2007 edition of the DM News Essential Guide to E-Mail Marketing.)

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