A few days ago, I was approached by a delivery consultant. Frustration abounded, and while this person didn’t need my assistance with anything, there was a need for someone to vent at for a few minutes.
This person, whom we shall name “Gary” for the purposes of this post, agreed to write up a paraphrase of the day’s frustrations. So, I’ll post that and then some thoughts afterward.
So, take it away, Gary:
I get approached by a lot of prospective clients. It’s easy to call them “bad” companies, but perhaps that isn’t fair. It certainly would be fair to call them “deliverability challenged” companies. Their tales of woe are always very similar. They just got booted from either the Sender Score Certified program or the Goodmail CertifiedEmail program and now their deliverability is suffering.
Unfortunately, these companies are usually asking for something that I cannot provide: They want to know how to get back to the way things were. They want to know how to keep pumping their usual high volume, high frequency third-party mailings straight into the inbox. Now that they’re no longer certified, they’re getting dumped into the spam folder at Yahoo. Or worse, they’re finding all of their IP addresses now blocked at Yahoo.
Why did this happen? How did this happen? What steps led them to this place? And how do they fix it?
First, the how and why and what. Goodmail and Return Path both suddenly got much more strict about what mail they are willing to certify. After Goodmail and Yahoo stopped working together in March, Goodmail went on to terminate a number of clients sending. Why? Nobody has said for sure, but the people complaining about it now all seem to be people who were sending third-party advertisements. Reading between the lines makes me think that perhaps this Goodmail recognizing that their partner ISPs don’t want that kind of mail. Return Path is similarly declining to allow third-party advertising content to be sent via companies in their Sender Score Certified program.
The net result here is that you have the two leaders of the certification and accreditation space refining their policies to lock out a certain kind of mail, probably because ISPs don’t want to accept that kind of mail, e-stamps or no.
Offering up a “fix” is really hard. It’s clear that ISPs don’t want this kind of mail. If that’s the only kind of mail a company can send to survive, then that company is doomed. Their business model is out of sync with the rest of the email (and email marketing industry), and it’s time for them to find a new one.
It’s gotten so bad that I’ve decided that anybody who just got terminated from Goodmail is somebody I don’t want as a client. It’s not a moral judgment. It’s a practical one. If Goodmail wasn’t willing or able to keep certifying their mail, to get that mail delivered, then exactly what do they expect ME to do?
There are some good thoughts there. Delivery consultants have to walk a very fine line. On the one hand, we genuinely want to help people out. That’s why we got into this line of work. On the other hand, we are always running the risk of being used by someone who wants us to “consult” for them for the singular reason that “hiring a consultant” will help them get unblocked somewhere. No one wants to be a human shield.
Third party advertising companies are feeling a definite pinch these days. They tend to run high volume/high complaint mail streams. They tend to poorly target, and then over-mail. I get that this is the way to generate a sufficient revenue stream, but I also get that the complaint rate on such things burns up reputation quickly and that there is no getting around that.
Unfortunately, there is no quick fix to that. You have to send mail that people expect AND want. If you send mail that they expect but don’t want, they will complain, even though they expected it. The loss of ReturnPath or Goodmail certification is significant in that it shows that the mail stream is definitely not wanted — again, even if it is expected. It is an acknowledgment that certifying those mail streams is detrimental to their reputations as companies, which is no good for their other clients.
Companies who lose that certification are suddenly confronted some painful realities. They have to live with the actual reputation of their mail stream, without the propping up that certification gave them. And, so they find their mail blocked or sent to the spam folder. That means that their mail stream has to change. But, changing the mail stream means losing revenue that doing things the old way meant.
It’s painful to go through that. And so, it’s tempting to find a consultant for a few coins to tell you that everything is okay and try to parlay that into some way to get back what was lost with decertification.
But things don’t work like that. ISPs don’t listen to delivery consultants more than they listen to their own statistics. Ultimately, that means that the mail stream is what has to change.