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Do’s and Don’ts: Managing your e-mail reputation

In e-mail marketing, reputation is everything. Users are able to make a decision about your e-mail without even opening it — if they don’t like what they see in the “Subject” or “From” lines, the delete key is never far away. Marketers also must contend with the negative connotation of “spam” — consumers apply the term to any unwanted e-mails, even if they are legitimate marketing messages to which recipients have opted in. To top it off, ISPs — always looking to streamline their networks and respond to customers’ frustrations — create their own barriers. Our experts examine the ways in which e-mail marketers can manage their reputation.


Rick Buck
Director of privacy and ISP relations, CIPP, e-Dialog

DO: Have a defined list hygiene program.

A key driver of delivery to an inbox is the reputation of the sending IP address. While each ISP has a different reputation assessment formula, some of the biggest influencers are hygiene related, such as bounces, unknown addresses, spam traps and complaints. Assess undeliverables, non-responders and complainers every 30, 60 and 90 days. Build programs to rejuvenate them or drop them from your list. This will enhance your reputation and optimize delivery by lowering the potential for complaints and bounces, and reducing the risk of mailing spam trap names. It will also change your measurement denominator so that all other metrics go up — most importantly, ROI.

DON’T: Mail questionable addresses, particularly at holiday time.

The age-old tendency during the holiday season is to mail to every name you can find — anyone who ever expressed any interest in your company, even if it was 10 years ago. This puts your reputation in jeopardy, so resist the temptation. Relevant segmentation is not just about matching new goods and services based on previous behavior. It is also about using good judgment with the non-responsive segments of your list. Another common mistake is to purchase large lists of prospects who are “sure to respond” to your e-mails. While list rental and other acquisition channels can be a good way to grow your list, dumping in 500,000 new names from the list you purchased for $50 might not be prudent. Work with your ESP, a seasoned list brokerage firm, or your marketing department to create a carefully planned acquisition strategy.

George Bilbrey
President, Return Path

DO: Know how ISPs view your e-mail.

Ask yourself three questions: First, are you on a blacklist? If you’re listed on even one of the top 12 public blacklists, your delivered rate can plunge to 35% vs. 58% for those not listed. Next, what is your overall e-mail sender reputation? What’s your Sender Score? A low Sender Score indicates you have reputation and delivery problems. Check your Sender Score at www.senderscore.org. Finally, is your list clean? An unknown user rate of 10% or more results in an average delivered rate 23% lower than for mailers with cleaner lists.

DON’T: Take your subscribers for granted.

Three more questions to ask, beginning with: Are your e-mails valued? Focus on helping your customer live, work and play better. Sending e-mail that is only about your business turns subscribers off, depressing response and deliverability. Next, do you re-affirm permission? Don’t take an opt-in for granted. If subscribers ignore messages (not opening, not clicking) offer them something different. If they don’t take you up on your offer, purge them from your list so you can focus on active subscribers. Lastly, what’s your complaint rate? If your percentage of spam complaints is high you need to figure out why your customers are complaining. Otherwise, your deliverability will suffer.

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