Third Party Sending Services: Are You Getting What You Are Paying For?

As a marketing professional, you are always searching for new ways to increase your audience size and generate more engagement and revenue.

One way marketers are expanding their marketing reach is by leveraging third party email marketing campaigns. A third party marketing stream leverages a list that is made up of subscribers who have signed up for an email program and have also checked a box to receive emails from their partners. These are available from many sources, including retail brands, loyalty programs, media outlets, daily deal aggregators, and other web properties that offer up their emailing services and list of subscribers to market on behalf of their partners.

This can be a great way to broaden the audience for your brand by leveraging a large subscriber list and also use that brand to gain more visibility and engagement for your brand. (Subscribers might not open your marketing emails, but they may open the email from the third party sender!)

This process also provides a nice revenue stream for the third party sender. Sounds perfect!

Well, not quite. There a few things that you should be aware of if using a third party email campaign:

1. Are the emails making It to the inboxes of the subscribers?
If you are using a third party sender, this should be one of your first questions.When emails are sent from a third party sender, there is a risk that people are not going to be thrilled to receive a message about your specific brand or product (which they didn’t knowingly sign up for, or possibly forgot that they checked a box to receive partner emails). Their reaction could be to mark the email as spam/junk. Fortunately this negative engagement will not affect your sender reputation, but it will affect the sender reputation of the third party sender, likely increasing the amount that gets filtered to junk by mailbox providers. This is especially important if you are paying for this service regardless of whether the email actually makes it to the inbox or not. 

2. Are your emails being deployed from a shared IP address? 
If your third party sender is using the same email sending IP address for their other customer’s email marketing campaigns, there is a risk that your email on this IP address could be negatively affected by sender reputation issues and filtered to junk. For example, if another customer’s emails receive high complaints, all emails sent from the shared IP address could be punished by email providers by being routed to spam or blocked.

3. Don’t trust the delivered rate
If you are being given a “delivered rate” as a performance metric, keep in mind that this metric only measures the emails that were sent but didn’t bounce. It doesn’t tell you how many of your emails actually landed in the inbox, as it includes emails that were filtered to spam or blocked. This number can be surprisingly high (especially for third party senders!); however, it doesn’t give you an accurate measurement of deliverability. We have data on some senders that show almost 100% spam rates at some mailbox providers—and these emails will be counted as delivered!  

4. How can I check whether emails are reaching the inbox?
Find out if your third party sender is tracking their inbox placement rate (IPR). Chances are, they aren’t. They are probably just sending the email, checking that it didn’t bounce, and are assuming that the email is making it to the inbox. By not measuring inbox placement, it makes the performance story much easier for the third party sender to report to their customer. (See Item #3 Don’t Trust the Delivered Rate.) If your third party sender is reporting open and click rates, these are both good metrics to gauge the success of your email campaign. However, you should still be questioning whether all of your emails are reaching the inbox.   

If you are going to use a third party service, it is important that you get them to measure the inbox placement for your email campaign. This way you know that they are maximizing your investment in their service and that your marketing message is reaching the maximum audienceinto the inbox!

For more on the metrics that contribute to deliverability, check out The Guide to Email Marketing Metrics.

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