I’m sure that Dela has a smashing marketing program, but I keep hearing him say the things you’ve got in this article and that they’ll work “if you’re not doing anything stupid.” And he might even be right.
But, when I tell people the things that he doesn’t like for me to say, it’s well after they have been doing something stupid. Will what he says work in some or even many cases? Sure. If you’re not “doing something stupid” will hammering on “inactives” work for you? Only your data can tell you that.
But when there are already existing problems, Dela is like the guy who refuses to have his gangrenous arm amputated because he can’t imagine life without it.
Now, dear reader, please note that I’m limiting my comments to a certain realm: “they have been doing something stupid” and “already existing problems.” I think that a big part of Dela’s problem is that he gets to help his clients plan marketing, but he doesn’t help client fix delivery problems. His company leaves that to … well, people like me.
Here’s what Alchemy Worx, his company, says about their “delivery and deployment services“:
Our delivery and deployment services include data importing, data cleansing, de-duplication, filtering, targeting, testing and optimisation.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m glad that there are people like Dela out there, helping clients who are doing things right to do them even better.
That said, Dela has issued me a challenge in a comment:
No one disagrees that it is a good idea to remove certifiably dead email addresses, but what email marketers really need help with is how to ensure that they are not culling people (prospects) who are happy to be on the list and plan to re-engage in future – what I call the unemotionally subscribed because of overhyping by the deliverability industry.
So rather than accusing me of stupidity by comparing me with someone who refuses to amputate a gangrenous limb, why don’t you help readers of this column by scoring email marketing practices by their impact on deliverability. For example on a scale of 1 to 10 is emailing inactives a 1 or a 10 (I would rate it a 2 at the most)? Authentication 1 or 10? Not removing addresses identified by feedback loops, 1 or 10?
Well, okay, then. Challenge accepted. But, first, let me lay down a couple of ground rules. 1) I’m going to measure things on a 1-10 scale where 1 will equate to “will get you blocked by administrators” and 10 will be “a great way to see your mail in the inbox”. I hope that is understandable since I tend to work in delivery repair rather than reputation maintenance. Thankfully, this means that we will hopefully stay well away from The Spock Trap.
Let’s start with the items that he has identified for us:
- Emailing Inactives: 5. Notice how this one sits in the middle. Some of it comes down to “how do you define ‘inactive’?” (which is the question that kicked off my post on The Difference Between Triage and Planning). If you already have a good program, then mailing inactives isn’t likely to hurt you much. On the other hand, 6 or 8 times per month I’ll see a client who is having their mail delivered to the bulk folder trim their sends back to their most highly engaged recipients and things start appearing in the inbox again. The reason why isn’t magical, it’s engagement. Incidentally, my advice at that point is that they can generally start incrementally adding inactives back in without too much danger.
- Authentication: 6. Part of the issue here will deal with target audience. The larger the domain that you are mailing, the more important that authentication is likely to be to them. Some, like Yahoo, won’t let you participate in their feedback loop programs unless you are authenticating your mail. But, many smaller domains, especially in the B2B realm still don’t do anything with authentication. Some providers, like Hotmail, will give your mail a small boost if you are authenticating mail using their preferred method. And almost all of the mid- to large-segment mailbox providers will penalize you for getting authentication wrong.
- Removing addresses identified by feedback loops: 10. If someone expresses a preference not to receive mail from you, then it’s best not to mail them, even if they did not use your preferred unsubscribe mechanism. Further, feedback loop data is used by providers to feed their reputation systems, which can result in bulk folder or blocking.
Now, let’s move on to some other things that he doesn’t mention.
- Using append: 2. Believe it or not, using email append is a quick way into bulk foldering and blocking. I have had ISP reps tell me that they are looking for signs of appending and really want to block it. There’s a reason why M³AAWG has a position statement saying that they’re against it, why CheetahMail has dropped it, and Fresh Address has moved to opt-in appends. Even if none of that were true, I pretty consistently see appended lists turn up with higher bounces, higher complaints, and higher subsequent bulk foldering and blocking.
- List purchasing: 1. As with appending, there is a distinct lack of permission. If someone does not give you their address, then they likely don’t want to hear from you via email.
- Paying attention to data early: 10. If you are flawlessly executing a marketing program but noticing that all of the metrics that you have have are going the wrong way, then paying attention to those metrics early on will likely save you from a discussion with someone like me down the line. And by paying attention to things and acting early, you have the added benefit of being able to plan your changes, rather than have someone start a triage process because you waited until things were an emergency.
Have questions about how I’d rate your practice? Leave a comment.
- Cheetahmail on appending (wordtothewise.com)
- CheetahMail’s Stance Against email Appending (outwardmediablog.wordpress.com)