IP Reputation Could Be Hurting Your Marketing Automation

You’ve setup your inbound sales funnel and loaded it with helpful content that endears you to your prospects. Next, you start paid advertising to send prospects into your funnel. Then someone clicks on your ad, goes to your landing page and completes the form. You call to follow up with the lead and find they are happy you called! (Oh, the magic of inbound marketing). But you quickly find out they never received the email delivering the content. Unfortunately, this is a true story and it happened to me. Cold-calling is no fun and I’d rather have my eyes pecked out by vultures than do it. So it was invigorating to have a prospect excited to hear from me. But the excitement ended when I found out they never received the content. That content is critical to setup the perfect sales conversation about their needs.

How your IP reputation can be hurting your email delivery

The problem was our IP reputation was hurting our marketing automation and our email never made it into her inbox. OK, that sounds technical and complicated. But don’t worry, you will soon know what that means and how you can check your own marketing automation email deliverability. Unfortunately, you can’t always count on technical support to help you solve these problems.

Tech support isn’t always very technical . . . or supportive

In an ideal world, you call tech support and they diagnose your issue and fix it. That has been our experience with GoDaddy and WP Engine. Both are exceptional companies that invest heavily in tech support. Unfortunately that hasn’t been our experience with many tech support departments at leading companies. Here is an email we received from Microsoft’s tech support when we were trying to add a new employee to a computer.

“After carefully explained your issue to my superiors and show them what you were looking to get done. I am informed again that you are only able and allow to have just one user account on a pc, if you need to be an admin for the machine you will need a local admin account.” Actual email from Microsoft’s tech support

You would expect a company like Microsoft to know more about Microsoft Windows than anyone else on the planet. But evidenced by the above email, that is clearly wrong. In fact the only thing that is possibly accurate in the email is they talked to their supervisors. If so, then even the supervisors at Microsoft tech support are clueless to the fact that we are in the third decade of Windows supporting multiple user accounts on a single computer. They also seem clueless to the fact that an Office 365 business subscription includes login credentialing in the Azure cloud. If they had known that they would have never suggested creating a local account.

Unfortunately, if you are calling tech support at most companies you should carefully weigh their advice to see if it makes sense to you. The Microsoft example is particularly shocking.

Bad advice from Hubspot’s Tech Support

Back to our email deliverability issue — the issue above wasn’t the first time we suspected we had an email deliverability issue. It was just the tipping point that caused us to reach out to tech support. We had been concerned about deliverability for a couple weeks but didn’t have solid evidence. Armed with our evidence, we reached out to Hubspot’s tech support and they delivered the following response.

“Hey Elena,

Thanks for reaching out to Support. I have checked into this issue, and it looks like this contact’s email server accepted the email for delivery, but never placed it into her inbox. HubSpot cannot affect what occurs after the receiving server gives us a response — we see “250 OK” and display “delivered” to you. I’ve attached a screenshot of her email server’s response so you can see this.

To resolve this issue, you’ll need to have your respective IT teams whitelist your sending IP addresses. Each portal’s sending IPs can be found by navigating to Content > Email > manage whitelisting (menu on the left). Once this is completed, emails should be placed into the inbox.

I hope this clarifies things a bit — please let me know if you have additional questions. I’m happy to help!

Best,

Jessie”

Jessie, from tech support, also included a screen shot of the email delivery report from her dashboard. Here is the boiled down meaning of her response. Contact your prospect’s IT department to have them whitelist the Hubspot IP addresses used to send marketing automation emails. But there are several problems with that response:

  • If we could actually influence the IT department of our prospects, then we already have such a strong relationship with them that we don’t need to do marketing automation. Most IT departments don’t have the best reputation for supporting internal customers. Can you imagine their response to a company trying to sell to their employees?
  • Hubspot is supposed to be a lead generation platform. How do you contact the IT department of leads you have yet to acquire?
  • The email address of the example we provided was a gmail address. I seriously doubt we can call Google and ask them to whitelist Hubspot’s IP addresses because we want to market to their customers.
  • Jessie, from tech support, never bothered to look up the IP address in the screen shot she provided. That IP address is on 2 different blacklists and is the likely cause of the email deliverability issue.
  • Jessie, from tech support, also never looked up the entire list of IP addresses she pointed us to. More than half of the IP addresses Hubspot is using to send our emails are also on blacklists.
Hubspot should have checked their sending IP address against blacklists

What’s the difference between blacklists and whitelists

A whitelist is like an invitation to a party. You hand over your invitation card when you arrive at the party and they let you in. If you don’t have an invitation card, you don’t get in. Whitelists are maintained on the receiving end of the email. If you want to make sure someone always receives your email, you ask them to whitelist you.

A blacklist is much different. Think of a blacklist as being like the banned travel list. You are in a database and every time you go through the airport you are pulled aside and treated with suspicion. There are multiple databases that maintain lists of suspect email domain names and IP addresses. If you are listed in one of those databases, it is very hard for you to deliver emails to your prospects. If you check allies4me.com, you will find our domain name isn’t on any blacklist. That’s because we work hard to make sure people receiving our emails actually want our emails. But the domain name is only half of the equation.

There is also a sending IP address associated with the email. In this case the IP address was 198.37.146.119. It is shared across many accounts in Hubspot. Did your mom ever warn you against hanging out with the bad crowd because it makes you look bad? That’s what’s happening with the IP address. There are other Hubspot customers sharing that IP address that have obviously been spamming people with unwanted emails. Their bad behavior made our email look suspicious and it was likely delivered to the SPAM folder — or not delivered at all. This is disastrous if you’re trying to do lead-gen.

You can do it!

Yes, you can look and act like an IT wizard. It is made easy by an Austin-based company called MXToolbox. (We are a local Austin company and are continually amazed by the talent in Austin.) You will find many useful tools at MXToolbox including their Server IP or Domain blacklist check. You should check both your domain name and any IP address you or your platform use to send emails.

A quick check of Hubspot’s IP address reveals the problem.

Our domain name (allies4me.com) checks out with no issues. As mentioned above, it is a priority for us to only send emails to people who actually want our emails. That keeps our sender score high and our spam reports low. What’s a sender score? We’ll have to cover that in another blog article. Let’s just say that’s important also.

When we checked the IP address in the screen shot provided by Hubspot, we found that IP address was on 2 different SPAM lists. One list was NoSolicitado. After reading NoSolicitado it’s very clear what happened. Someone’s been naughty and we’re getting blamed for it.

Moving forward

As you can see, you will probably have to do the heavy lifting and tell tech support exactly what they need to do. Don’t let them bully you into a bogus answer. Trust your common sense and ask yourself if what they are saying makes sense. If not, then hold your ground and demand they resolve your concerns. Use the MXToolbox tools to change the tone of the discussion. When you flash out data from a tool like that, they will think you are an IT genius and treat you more seriously. If your platform provider is the rare exception and has brilliant tech support, then please thank them. Everyone needs encouragement when they’re doing a good job.

Originally published at allies4me.com on August 4, 2017.