3 Things Email Marketers Need to Know about Deliverability Today

By Heike Young

“In the First Age of Email Deliverability, there were no rules and few if any consequences for bad behavior.
In the Second Age, ISPs armed their users with ‘report spam’ and ‘junk’ buttons and senders that received too many spam complaints had their emails junked or blocked.
In the Third Age, which we are in now, ISPs also factor engagement metrics into their filtering decisions and make those decisions on the individual level as well as on a global level.” -Chad White, Research Director, Litmus

Email marketing trends come and go, but deliverability is an ever-present priority and concern. When deliverability is good, your subscribers reliably receive the messages you send. When deliverability is bad, you risk seriously harming your chances of future email marketing success.

Deliverability also changes—often, as the internet service providers (ISPs) become more strict against spam senders.

Because deliverability is tantamount to email marketing success, we talked to Andrew Barrett, director of deliverability & ISP relations at Salesforce Marketing Cloud on the newest episode of the Marketing Cloudcast. The Marketing Cloudcast is the marketing podcast from Salesforce.

In this podcast episode now available on iTunes, Andrew answers email marketers’ most frequently asked questions about email deliverability.

  • What’s the current state of deliverability?
  • What do email marketers need to know about top ISPs to ensure that every message ends up in customers’ inboxes?
  • Which ill-advised practices should email marketers stop doing today?

It’s all in this episode of the Marketing Cloudcast. Preview it here or download it on iTunes.

From the episode, we’ve pulled these three top takeaways that email marketers should know now about deliverability.

#1: Permission is more important than ever.

The senders that deliver the most engaging emails, the most often will have the easiest time reaching the inbox. As Gmail and other providers crack down on spam to improve customer experiences, this is more true every day. Is permission murky? Don’t send it.

Open rate and click-through rate can help marketers judge the efficacy of their messaging, but ISPs can’t measure clicks in an email, only open rate. So how fast and frequently is a subscriber opening an email after it’s sent? That’s what the ISPs care about. The more senders can shorten that time to open, the more engaging that email is perceived to be, and the more reliably that same sender can reach its recipient.

#2: Permission must be informed.

When you’re gathering permission to send emails, make sure subscribers are actually informed about what they’re agreeing to do. Andrew says a pre-checked checkbox on a purchase form isn’t useful. Many senders rely on the fact that most people didn’t notice the checkbox was clicked when they submit it.

The best deliverability outcomes are obtained when senders set and meet an expectation for their recipients about the mail they intend to send—and stick to it. Those expectations should be about content and frequency. Be totally transparent with the recipient as to why they’re asking permission and what in turn they’ll be receiving from the actual message, whether it’s promotional, transactional, or something else.

Andrew also underscored that permission isn’t transferable. If you acquire permission for transactional emails (e.g., your despoit was cleared or your shipment was mailed), that doesn’t mean you have permission to send that person whatever you want. You need permission for each mailstream, or else you risk your overall sending reputation.

#3: Looking for an ISP bat phone? It doesn’t exist.

Andrew explained that many email marketers, upon finding themselves in a deliverability bind, hope they can find a hotline to Gmail or Yahoo. Or they believe there’s a deliverability professional they can call up who can be the middleman and solve the problem. But the only thing that can fix deliverability issues is to stop sending to unengaged subscribers. Emails must meet expectations and drive engagement, every time. No bat phone or shortcut exists.

Spring-cleaning tip: “If you’ve got segments of your mailing list that haven’t had measurable engagement with you in six months or more, it’s time to kiss those segments goodbye,” Andrew says. That data is creating a huge drag on your engagement metrics, and after that six-month cliff, some of those email addresses may have been converted into spam traps in that time.

By continuing to send emails to unengaged subscribers, you’re trading the small possibility that they’ll reengage for the real possibility that you’ll no longer be able to send to your most engaged subscribers reliably. That’s a bad trade.

Want more email deliverability tips and data from an expert? Download Andrew Barrett’s episode of the Marketing Cloudcast on iTunes.

New to podcast subscriptions in iTunes? Search for “Marketing Cloudcast” in the iTunes Store and hit Subscribe, as shown below.

Tweet @youngheike with marketing questions or topics you’d like to see covered next on the Marketing Cloudcast.