A Coast Guard painting depicts a warning shot fired across the bow of a suspicious vessel bearing the State of Vietnam flag. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
This morning, I got a question about some, but not all, of a mailing going into the bulk folder at a large ISP. “What does it mean when they do that? What should we do?”
Most folks seem to think that sending mail to the bulk folder is an “all or nothing” proposition. They know that there is a problem if all of the mail goes to the bulk folder. And, of course, there is no problem and everyone is happy if all of the mail goes through. But, that is not always the case. Sometimes only some mail goes to the bulk folder.
Now there are a variety of reasons why this might happen. It could be (but probably isn’t) a mistake on the part of the filter. It could be a dynamic thing that happens due to complaints about that particular mailing and your next one will be fine.
Or, it could be a warning shot telling you that someone’s reputation system is taking another look at what you’re doing. That is to say that marketers are not the only ones testing out there. Receivers have systems that are constantly testing things to make certain that their filtering decisions are the right ones. And if your mail stream seems to be on the cusp of the Inbox/Bulk folder divide, guess whose mail is most likely to be the subject of one of those tests?
So, what can you do? I suggest restricting mail to the most highly engaged recipients for two or three weeks while you take time to have a good, hard look at your list and all of the feedback you get from various sources. Are people getting what they expect when they expect to get it? Do you have some (especially older) list segments that are dead on the vine and need to be trimmed? Consider doing a re-engagement campaign to get rid of the dead weight.
I often look at partial bulk foldering as that warning shot. Feel free to comment with the other warning shots that you look for.