Why We’re Talkin’ Trump Lately

Return Path has been featured in the press recently surrounding presidential candidate Donald Trump and his first fundraising email, sent Tuesday, June 21, 2016. AdAge was the first to cover the story using our data and other publications have been running with it ever since.

So why this sudden media flurry? Most of the $690 million Obama raised online in 2012 came from email, so it’s no surprise that email deliverability is a talking point this election cycle. But, in our opinion, it’s also because some of these common email issues could have been prevented by using best practices and recommendations that any reputable email service provider (ESP) would give. Some metrics we’ve released:

Almost 60 percent of the fundraiser emails from Trump never reached inboxes.
Because Trump is not a career politician, he has not been collecting supporter email addresses with the same purpose that Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have.

With an undelivered number this high, we can infer that they engaged in list retail or purchased a list—something generally not recommended, but commonly used by political campaigns as the shortened time scale of an election season makes it more difficult to organically grow a subscriber list. List rental is always better than purchasing a list since it minimizes impact from poor data and lack of permission. While you don’t own the email, or in most cases never even see the email, subscribers can still opt in to your own email program. Purchasing a list is usually never a good idea since you don’t know the quality of the data until you send it, which at the point is probably too late. But if I haven’t convinced you of the perils of buying list yet, ask for references, check the sending reputation of the list owner or other organizations that purchased a similar list, and always run it through a list hygiene service.

79 percent of the emails sent by the Trump camp were caught in spam filters—this number is considered very high by industry standards
Throughout the primaries, the Trump campaign sent emails from the DonaldTrump.com domain with relatively no issues. In fact, during the first quarter of the year, not only did Trump have one of highest inbox placement rates out of all the candidates, he had the highest open rate, too. But on June 16, the campaign introduced its DonaldJTrump.com domain into its email efforts. Spam filters did not recognize the new domain.

This is exactly why it’s imperative to warm up an IP address before sending emails. 

Just 12 percent of recipients opened the fundraiser email and six percent deleted it without reading it.
If a tree falls in a forest, and nobody’s there, does it make a sound? Likewise, if an email lands in the spam folder, does it get read? The answer to the email question is a definitive no. In the case of Trump, who consistently had the highest open rate this entire race, his open rate was cut in half, and all because an overwhelming majority of his emails were delivered to spam.

Test campaigns, especially important campaigns, for any potential reputation or deliverability issues, before you send to your subscriber file. For Trump, Return Path’s Platform would have flagged the emails originating his new domain and new IP address and would have advised to “warm” the domain and IP address(es) before sending.

These metrics are commonly measured in the email marketing space. How do your figures compare?
We’re using this example to talk about data and just how powerful it can be. Metrics and figures can be used to interpret actions and activities behind the scenes. If we can look our panel data and figure all of this out for the Trump campaign, think about how it can be used in other ways!

Most importantly, this is a really great and easy-to-understand story for organizations to learn why deliverability is so important. Since you work in the email space, you probably understand exactly what we’re talking about – at times, explaining industry jargon and processes can be difficult.

For the most up-to-date media coverage, follow us on Twitter, where we post articles where we’re featured as they happen. You’ll also find an abbreviated list below. And if you haven’t used it yet, check out our interactive tool Email for President that uses real-time panel data to generate charts and graphs on the presidential candidate email numbers.

Wednesday 6/29:
Trump fundraising emails overseas prompt complaints here and abroad (Washington Post)

Monday 6/27:
Donald Trump has a big problem with email spam (Yahoo Finance/USAToday)
Trump’s fundraising: Size does matter (Reuters)
Experts: Trump Is Lying About His Fundraising Haul (The Daily Beast)
Trump emails: Can you spare $10 to help elect a billionaire? (AP, also republished on ABC News, Washington Post, Fox News, and 300 some odd sites)

Sunday 6/26:
Cracks deepen inside troubled marriage of Trump and Republican party (The Guardian)

Saturday 6/25:
Britain’s Tea Party: What it means for Clinton, Trump, and the era of globalization (Politico)
Video: Google Accused of Sending Trump Campaign Emails to Spam Folder (Fox News)
First Trump Fundraising Email Flops After Being Reported As Spam (Politicus USA)

Friday 6/24:
Trump’s first fundraising email had 60 percent spam rate (The Hill)
High spam rate hampers first Trump fundraising email (Politico)|
Donald Trump, SPAM, and the Mystery of Left Hand Enterprises LLC (Daily Kos)
Trump’s First Fundraising Email Suffered Huge Spam Rates (Newsmax)

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