A few times a month, I visit with the largest and most sophisticated of my firm’s clients. In many cases, we are meeting with an email operations and deliverability team that is separate from the “marketing” team.
Over the last few years, a trend has become apparent: the recommendations that we’re making to improve the client’s inbox placement rates are marketing recommendations, not technical recommendations that can be implemented by an email operations team alone.
Why this change? I think the major driver is the increased use of relative engagement as a determination of inbox placement at Gmail, Microsoft, and other mailbox providers.
Relative engagement means the inbox placement rate for mail from a particular source is based on whether the particular subscriber interacts with messages from a given source more than messages coming from other sources. If the mail is of higher relative engagement, it is more likely to be placed in the inbox, all else held equal. For marketers this means that it’s not enough to have a good engagement rate. You must outperform messages from other marketers in your subscribers’ mailboxes.
This sounds complex. Fortunately, the practices that good marketers follow to drive opens, clicks, and conversions are the same practices that drive better inbox placement rates. A recent survey on the state of email engagement shows that many of the tactics that marketers follow to improve response from email marketing programs are the same approaches that drive better inbox placement rates. These approaches include:
Overall, marketers who understand engagement is important to inbox placement had better inbox placement. Those marketers that agreed (or strongly agreed) with the statement "Mailbox providers use subscriber engagement to determine where to filter (e.g. inbox, spam, blocked) the email you send" were 35% more likely to have good or very good deliverability.
These findings show that it’s not necessary to separate good marketing from good deliverability. In fact, these two things are inextricably linked.