Email Deliverability

Why should I care about email deliverability?

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For people not directly involved in email marketing, the word “deliverability” is abstract. Deliverability isn’t a tangible asset, so marketers may not understand why they should care about it. When someone asks me about my work, sometimes it’s easier to skip over the what of deliverability and get straight to the why.

The why is something anyone can understand: Email is an incredibly lucrative marketing channel, but only emails making it to your customers’ inboxes can turn a profit.

Research shows email is not just sticking around, it’s growing even more powerful as data savvy marketing strategies evolve. Adestra did a comprehensive study of consumer relationships with digital marketing, asking consumers to choose just one way for a business to communicate with them. (Un)surprisingly, 72% of consumers chose email over social media, SMS, app notifications, and direct mail. In 2018, 59% of marketers said email marketing produced the highest ROI. That same year, the DMA Email Council reported marketers could expect to make around $35 for every $1 spent.

Chris Farley removing his sunglasses in slow motion

Tapping into email’s unparalleled ROI potential is, of course, completely dependent on your ability to deliver email to your customers’ inboxes. Without a good reputation propping up your email campaigns, time and money you spend on content creation, promotions, and messaging strategies is wasted. Using email analytics to monitor your deliverability and committing to adhering to best practices are central to a successful email program.

If you’re not paying attention, you can quickly find yourself in a deliverability pickle that can take an enormous amount of time and money to fix. I once worked with a sender that sent a holiday re-engagement campaign to their entire database, which included contacts that had been inactive for as long as eight years. Their thinking was, these people all opted in and are our customers, therefore, we have the right to contact them. Even if only a small number respond, that’s money in the bank, right?

Danny DeVito shaking his head vigorously to say nope.

If email worked like snail mail, that argument might fly. But email deliverability is more complicated than that.

This sender ignored list hygiene and other best practices around re-engagement campaigns, like using permission reminders, list segmentation, and personalized content. As a result, what they hoped would be an easy revenue gain turned into a marketer’s nightmare. They were quickly put on the Spamhaus SBL and about 50% of all of their B2C mail was blocked. Yikes.

The first step in handling a listing like this is to stop sending email entirely, so they had to end all their holiday campaigns in the middle of peak season. It took several weeks for this sender to get off the Spamhaus block list, and they lost all the planned revenue for those critical holiday campaigns. Not only did they lose money, they had to invest an enormous amount of time and resources in repairing the damage.

Not all deliverability blunders are from bad, in-the-moment decision-making. Consider the importance of authentication, for example. I’ve seen seedlist delivery rates drop from 90% to 50% when a sender was being spoofed so heavily that certain mailbox providers started blocking 100% of the mail from their domains, even though the sender was following best practices. A bad actor decided to hijack their domains, and the legitimate brand was left to deal with the consequences. Unfortunately, situations like this can happen to anyone, which is why it’s so important to not only have proper authentication in place, but also to actively monitor your email infrastructure. Plus, spoofing can do real damage to a brand’s image of trustworthiness and stability. Do you trust a brand that seemingly can’t stop people from stealing their domains to send fraudulent email?

Tina Belcher confirming it could be worse, but not likely.

Beyond preventing doomsday scenarios, deliverability monitoring matters because it can help you work smarter and spend less on your email programs. If your email strategy is simply to collect email addresses and send mail to them, you’re not making the best use of your resources.

Monitoring deliverability helps you identify inbox issues you may be having that are preventing your customers from seeing your messages, and following best practices helps you to avoid those inbox issues in the first place! So what does caring about deliverability look like? In addition to following best practices, keep track of your deliverability health by keeping an eye on bounce and complaint rates, monitoring blacklist activity, ensuring your mail is authenticating properly, being aware of your inbox placement rate, and using engagement data to create compelling content for your customers.

A final note: If you aren’t looking at engagement signals, you’re likely overspending by sending to inactive addresses, or worse, recipients ready to complain about your email. Paying attention to your engagement data can help you segment your audiences and personalize your emails with dynamic content. These strategies are incredibly important in today’s market, as consumers increasingly expect brands to provide them with targeted messaging. Leveraging your data pays off, too: Marketers notice, on average, a 760% increase in email revenue from segmented campaigns.

Thanks for coming to my 250okTalk, hopefully you have a better understanding of why deliverability matters. If you still need some help, let me know.