The effect of relevance on your e-mail's deliverability

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Relevance is an e-mail buzzword we hear almost daily. How can we apply this buzzword to e-mail deliverability? Relevance means building a lasting relationship with your customer.

This relationship takes many forms, whether based on content or simply trust. It doesn't have to mean 500 individualized pieces of content. It just has to mean something of value to your customer.

Look at the direct effect of relevance on e-mail deliverability. Your complaint rate (the ratio of customer complaints vs. the number of e-mails sent) is the most important metric in deliverability today. Large Internet service providers (ISPs) give recipients the option to report unsolicited e-mail as spam. Recipients simply highlight an offending message and click some variation of a “this is spam” button.

ISPs also give senders the opportunity to participate in “feedback loop” programs so they can receive these customer generated complaints. When you join a feedback loop program as a sender, you agree to the terms set forth by the particular ISP. The terms usually require your agreement to unsubscribe all complainers immediately from your subscription lists. When your complaint rate goes up, your reputation score goes down.

If an ISP sees high numbers of complaints, they assume your recipients don't want your delivered messages. Relevant messaging remains the way to keep your customers engaged and away from those “Report Spam” buttons. Here's a look at some specific ways to increase user interaction: 

Consider your subject line. Do you have a subject line that clearly identifies you and states your intentions in the e-mail? Does your From name clearly identify your company? Remember these two pieces of information determine the reader's open/no-open decision. What happens after the user opens the e-mail? Does the layout of the content meet a reader's expectations? Does the content contain value for the reader? Will the reader be engaged to open and read your next communication?

Frequency is a top priority when planning your overall long-term e-mail communications strategy. Ask yourself: Do you overwhelm your audience with too much e-mail? Many great programs fail due to too many communications. A great subscription management program with multiple content and frequency options for the subscriber can be used to great effect.

Relevance doesn't always mean content. Think about your daily e-mail reading habits. Do your communications fall into that “must-read” category? Improving these factors will lead to long-term success in your e-mail programs.
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