Email on Tap, Episode 11: Dan Deneweth, Senior Director, Strategic Services, Oracle

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Ever wonder what the senior director of deliverability at Oracle thinks about best practices, trends, and rules of email? We sure do. That’s why Anthony Chiulli, 250ok’s director of product marketing, met with Dan Deneweth, senior director of strategic services (deliverability), to talk about those very things and more. It’s another great episode in our Email on Tap series, plus, keep watching for a fun outtake!

(Keep scrolling for key timestamps and even a full transcript. Plus, find links to our podcast version!)

Total Run Time: 13 minutes
00:20 – Overview of Dan’s role and the deliverability consulting team’s responsibilities
00:57 – Why deliverability is so mysterious and difficult to comprehend for marketers
1:49 – Ways deliverability consulting tactics on best practices have evolved over time
2:28 – How mailbox providers have adjusted and influenced deliverabilty’s evolution
4:06 – What are the “go-to” recommendations for senders facing deliverability challenges?
8:15 – How to improve customer experience and trust with email for marketers with DMARC
10:09 – We shut this piece down.
10:30 – How has data privacy concerns and recent legislation impacted the email marketing industry?

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Anthony Chiulli
Hi everyone and welcome back to another episode of Email on Tap. I am your host Anthony Chiulli and today I’m joined by my guest Dan Deneweth. He’s the senior director of strategic services for Oracle Marketing Cloud. Dan, thanks so much for taking time to be on the program.

Dan Deneweth
Well, thanks for having me.

So tell me a little bit about you and your team’s responsibilities and what you do for customers here at Oracle Marketing Cloud.

Great. I lead a team of email deliverability consultants at Oracle, and we help customers improve their email marketing performance through better inbox placement. That’s deliverability. And our role has shifted over recent years from deliverability being a quick fix to us helping customers proactively manage their deliverability. Good marketers understand that it’s better to manage your deliverability than to wait for the sky to fall.

And deliverability is often one of those kind of mystical things, mystical disciplines, if you will, for marketers to really master. Why do you think it has such kind of a smoke and mirrors perception, if you will?

Well, there is some mystery surrounding deliverability. Some of it is self-inflicted, I think, because of the anti-spam nature of what we do. You can pull back the curtain only so far before a spammer will figure out how to ruin an email for everyone. So one of the upsides to spam filtering becoming more sophisticated in recent years is that it’s a lot harder for anyone to cheat, and that lets ISPs and others in the industry to talk more openly about the drivers of deliverability. And that’s a really good thing for marketers because it’s a marketer’s job to manage deliverability. It’s part of the job today.

So talking about deliverability, what recent changes have you seen with customers or just over the years and the way that you consult on deliverability best practices?

The best trend I’ve seen is a really good one, is that good deliverability and good marketing go hand in hand. This wasn’t always the case. It used to seem like they were at odds. And that really changed when ISPs added engagement metrics into their spam filtering. So now good deliverability and good marketing are both about driving engagement and sending email that people are reacting to and interested in. And so that’s all really good for the industry.

What about on the mailbox provider side? What changes have you seen in the evolution of how mailbox providers are kind of adjusting their filtering to perhaps either set the course of deliverability consulting best practices or perhaps kind of lead the way in that mail is accepted for their customers and for their users?

Yeah. There have been some really good changes in innovations in email on the mailbox provider side lately. And that’s really good because it seemed like we went a few years with little to no innovation around the way people are using and reading email. But lately, Gmail, Yahoo, Verizon, and Microsoft have all been implementing new changes in the way they display emails, which is really good. Some specifics around that; Gmail and their promos tab display, changes that they call annotations, are really good and make email more interesting. Verizon has implemented a few changes around promotions, including a personalized coupon digest, and also a way that they display top promotions, giving an email a second chance to be displayed and viewed when the promotions expiring. That’s really good. And then recently, there’s been cross-industry collaboration on AMP for Email. We’ve seen Gmail and Verizon both announce that they’re going to support the standard that allows new dynamic content to be displayed in email. And that’s really, really good for email because it makes it more interesting, more relevant, and it’s really good for all of us in the industry.

Yeah. It’s a great point, as far as the collaboration, because you typically don’t see that happen, where ISPs and mailbox providers are all coming together on a new authentication standard or feature or functionality with email. So very well said. I certainly would agree. I’m curious about customers that you work with that are facing deliverability challenges, whether it’s inbox placement or engagement or reputation issues. What are some of the go-to recommendations that you and your team provide in those types of scenarios?

Great. Yeah. That’s really a core of what we do with deliverability. When I talk to people outside the industry about deliverability, it’s interesting, you get a different reaction from people outside the industry because, well, the problem with deliverability is really simple, right? Either your emails are reaching the inbox or they’re not. And that’s true. It’s a simple problem. However, the solutions are very complex. Solving for a deliverability problem is like peeling back the layers of an onion. And likely, you’re going to find multiple causes for the deliverability problems that you’re trying to solve. Some things to keep in mind, specifically, we’re seeing that emails need to be customer-centric. Subscriber-centric, actually. Because if you’re not catering to the needs of your subscribers, they’re going to look elsewhere. And some things that really work well are content personalization, tailoring time to send, customizing the sending frequency based on email behaviors. These are all having really good results. Send triggered messages whenever you can because these perform better–

With automation?

–than generic messages. That’s exactly right. And don’t take email permission for granted because permission can be revoked so easily with a single click, so it’s really important. Getting to the heart of deliverability, I don’t know everyone’s particular situation, but I can give everyone a good place to start around deliverability. The most important rule that people can implement is a new to file activity rule, and I see so many marketers don’t have this, and it’s really critical to deliverability. And what I’m talking about is when someone signs up—so, a new signup—and you mail to them multiple times but they never open or click. You know what? Something’s going wrong here. They were interested. They signed up. Pay attention to what that signal is telling you. They are either not interested and continuing to mail them is going to hurt your engagement or worse, they’re a spam trap, and you could easily get blacklisted from continuing to mail to them. Continuing to mail to email addresses that never open or click is the leading cause of deliverability problems.

Very well said.

Yep. And then the second rule that’s really important for everyone to keep in mind is for their general active audience tighten it up based on engagement. Recency of opens and clicks. So if you’re mailing for months and months and someone’s not opening, they’re not interested. And they’re either going to hurt your engagement rates, which can cause issues. In general, they’re going to hurt your reputation. So creating a rule that protects that and so you don’t end up with too low of engagement. That can really help solve deliverability issues.

It’s funny you said that because I certainly find in my experience that one of the hardest things to recommend to senders is to cut their list or decrease their active file because list size used to be everything and it still sometimes is kind of one of the metrics that email marketers kind of gravitate too about how big their list is. And to your point, it’s not always about the quantity. It’s about the quality of the list.

Well, and it’s also about the right quantity, right? Instead of, see how much you can send, let’s see how many opens you can get. How many clicks you can get. That’s what you really want. And we learn by cutting back on the unengaged segments of your audience they’re not opening and clicking anyway but they’re causing spam filtering, right? They’re causing filtering and blocking. So cut back on the unengaged audience you actually get more mail delivered to your engaged audience. You’ll have more opens. You’ll have more clicks. You’ll have more sales.

So one of the things I think that is most often overlooked when we talk about ways to improve email deliverability is understanding tightening up and things that marketers can do to improve email security. What are some of your recommendations in ways to improve customer experience and trust with email that may not be specifically a deliverability best practice but just more of a governance best practice for email marketing?

Yeah. Trust is critical to email, right? People won’t use it if they don’t trust it. They won’t click on your email if they’re not sure it’s from you, right? So brand spoofing and phishing remain real problems for senders. And there is some good news around that. There is a solution to it. It’s called DMARC. DMARC is a type of authentication. It’s the type that allows ISPs to block mail that is spoofing your brand, right? So it’s really important. But unfortunately, ESPs can’t solve this alone. Senders need to participate in the solution. They need to publish a DMARC record for it to work. And unfortunately DMARC adoption across the industry is fairly low and that’s unfortunate, and it’s because it’s not widely understood. And ISPs can’t solve this either just for their customers because senders control the records, and they need to publish their DMARC record. And it’s not terribly difficult. DMARC provides an on-ramp. An easy one, two, three into it. So you can test it as you go along. And they also provide free reporting so you can validate that everything’s working properly. So what marketers do? Look to see, are you implementing DMARC. And if not, get that on your radar. That’s something that you really should have on your planning road map for this year because it’s really an important solution to restore trust in email and reduce brand spoofing.

So around the same lines, there’s been a lot of recent changes and improvements to data permission and privacy laws. Most notably, the GDPR and most recently CCPA in California. How do you think that’s impacting email marketing as a whole?

Well, yeah, that’s a big topic. It’s definitely having a big impact on our industry. And it would seem that we haven’t been doing a good job of self-regulating because the governments are stepping in. For marketers, kind of the good news is we’ve been through this a couple of times. The first with CASL in Canada and then with GDPR in Europe and then now things are heating up in the US. So we’ve seen California pass their Consumer Protection Act last year. Goes into effect in early 2020. And it has some similarities of GDPR and certainly some overlap, but it also has some significant differences. Specifically, there’s no call out for email rules. Where GDPR had some specific requirements for email consent – no pre-check box, for example – the California law doesn’t currently have any provisions for that. Certainly, could change over time, but that’s the way it currently exists. And there’s also now a big push and a lot of support growing for US privacy law at the Federal level. And if they don’t come up with that we may see a patchwork of state-level privacy laws and that could be very difficult for businesses to comply with. That wouldn’t be a very good result. So it will be really interesting to see how US Federal law develops over the next several months.

Yeah. I agree. I think privacy has been in the crosshairs now with the likes of things happening with Cambridge Analytica and Facebook and some of these large organizations that sit on a ton of data. So we shall see. Interesting times ahead.

Yeah. Consumers are speaking. They want protections. So it’s up to legislators now.

I agree. Dan, this has been a very insightful interview. I really appreciate you sitting down and taking time with us today.

Thank you very much.

Thanks everyone for tuning in to this episode of Email on Tap. We look forward to seeing you on future episodes. Thank you.



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