The e-mail deliverability blame game: Marketers need to look in the mirror

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The industry research, surveys and data all point to e-mail deliverability as one of the top concerns for marketers. According to JupiterResearch's recently published E-mail Marketing Buyer's Guide, 2008, 70% of respondents cited e-mail deliverability services as their top consideration when selecting an e-mail services provider, beating out cost (69%).

Marketers have reason for concern, but it's important to remember that marketers themselves — not just ESPs and ISPs — also play an important role in ensuring their e-mail messages get delivered. Google “e-mail deliverability” and you'll find a ton of articles with back to basics tips to help marketers improve deliverability rates and e-mail reputation. My firm, Campaigner, like many other e-mail service providers, has an entire section of our Web site focused on educating marketers on deliverability tactics, including best practices for building opt-in e-mail lists, maintaining list hygiene and e-mail relevance.

These educational resources can help, but there's another approach marketers could take that would really help them see what's working and what they need to change to deliver the value their subscribers want and deserve.

The first step for marketers who are serious about improving e-mail deliverability is to take a look in the mirror. What I mean by this is to take the time to become the recipient of your own e-mail campaigns. Only in this way will you get a true sense of how your recipients see you and your brand.

Here's how to see how you really look in the eyes of your subscribers.

Have your IT folks set up a pristine, never-before-used e-mail box. Take this new address and subscribe to all of your own marketing programs. Now take a step back and put yourself in the shoes of your users and ask yourself how many e-mails you send a week as a company.

If you are involved in co-branding, co-marketing, affiliate or similar programs, see how many other e-mails you receive. Did you know about all of the campaigns your partners, affiliates or even other departments in your company are running? How do your campaigns look and feel to the recipient? Are they confusing or misleading? Do they appeal to your unique interests or preferences? And if not, are you ever asked to share what you'd like less or more of, or to confirm that you'd like to continue receiving this information?

Also try to evaluate the content with the images blocked and see if the campaign still makes sense. And finally try replying, clicking and ultimately unsubscribing to see how user-friendly your campaigns are.

By doing this simple exercise of looking in the mirror you will have empathy with your subscribers. Ask yourself, “Is this something that you as an e-mail user want to get?” Then you can start getting back to the basics to improve your e-mail marketing best practices.

The litmus test that you're on the right track is when you're brave enough to add your mother to your e-mail list and you're confident that she won't hit the “Report as spam” button.

Jeremy Saibil is director of deliverability at Campaigner. Reach him at jsaibil@campaigner.com.  

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