Top 10 Tips for Driving Deliverability

We were recently joined on State of Email Live by two global deliverability experts: Steve Henderson, Head of Deliverability at Emarsys, and Tom Corbett, Senior Deliverability Consultant at Cheetah Digital. We covered a lot of ground, including which mailbox providers (MBPs) are toughest for achieving good deliverability and why, which pandemic best practices will outlast the pandemic, and their favourite deliverability myths (spoiler alert – deliverability doesn’t have to be difficult!).

The great insights and advice we heard from Steve and Tom could fill a book, but I’ve distilled them into 10 top tips.

  1. Optimise your sign-up process. Good deliverability starts with your sign-up process. Ask new subscribers to confirm their opt-in. Think specifically about how you optimise this process by using email address verification, clearly setting expectations around how personal data will be used, and providing genuine choice around email content and frequency.
  2. Be authentic. It’s vital to have a correctly authenticated domain so email filters trust you as a sender. If you have not done so already, introduce Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting and Conformance (DMARC) and move to a quarantine or reject policy as soon as possible. Once you’ve achieved this, introduce Brand Indicators for Message Identification (BIMI) to drive additional recognition and trust with subscribers.
  3. Warm up properly. For senders who have been inactive during the Covid-19 pandemic, proper warming will be essential as they resume activity. Steve said a good warm-up plan is like an atomic half-life in reverse: start slow and steady and give yourself time (typically 2 to 4 weeks) to re-establish your sender reputation. Send to your most engaged subscribers first and use content that will intentionally drive engagement.
  4. Maintain a healthy list. Poor data quality hurts your reputation metrics, which is important because reputation informs how MBPs see your program. Tom mentioned “postmaster empathy,” or taking a non-judgmental look at your emails from a receiver’s perspective (read more about that here). This means monitoring bounces, opt-outs, and complaints – at domain level if possible – and suppressing the email addresses generating these events.
  5. Ask yourself, “How much mail is too much?” Perhaps the best practice of “send only to your actives” should rather be “how do I create more actives?” We are very good at telling senders what they do wrong, such as mailing too often or not often enough. If you don’t have deliverability issues in the first place, you can certainly increase volume! However, context is vital. Knowing some subscribers may be interested at a given moment in time while others may be interested at some future point automatically determines two types of content.
  6. Engage with engagement! One big upside from the Covid-19 pandemic has been the shift from purely sales-driven messaging to interest-based content. Brands have been presented with a great opportunity to better understand their customers by demonstrating transparency, showing empathy, and being realistic in managing expectations. Generating positive engagement is a key part of successful deliverability, and brands are benefitting from stronger relationships because of this.
  7. Spend more time testing. Even established programs should spend more time testing. One of email’s great strengths is its measurability, meaning incremental improvements can quickly be achieved from multivariate testing. Charlie Wijen from Philips joined us at Inbox Expo, where he explained how they’ve tested aspects like whether product-based or human-based imagery is more effective for B2C vs B2B audiences. Using these learnings, his global program has almost doubled average click-through rates.
  8. Harness technology. While basic best practices are always a good starting point, clever use of technology makes a big difference. Senders have fast-tracked innovation during the Covid-19 pandemic. We’ve seen rapid growth in use of accelerated mobile pages, augmented reality, and artificial intelligence, and subscriber engagement has risen as a result.
  9. Make unsubscribing easy. While no email marketer wants to lose subscribers, making the process as frictionless as possible is a best practice. Unsubscribes have no impact on sender reputation, unlike complaints. In Europe, GDPR forced a simplification of the unsubscribe process and while subscribers have historically been more likely to use spam complaints to leave a program, this year’s DMA Consumer Email Tracker report (sponsored by Validity) shows the unsubscribe link is now three times more popular.
  10. Get Certified. Both Steve and Tom talked about the importance of Validity’s global Certification program as a key part of any sender’s deliverability strategy. Emarsys produced a case study showing average click-through increase of 35% for accredited email programs. As Steve noted: “Certification can give marketers the edge they need, and the results can be incredible, as this analysis clearly demonstrates.”

While email deliverability is undeniably part science/part art, a core theme of our discussion with Steve and Tom was the importance of doing the basics right. Some of these tips are more complex than others, but all are achievable, and senders should put them into practice without delay.

Want even more inspiration? Check out a full recording of our conversation below.

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