Delivery Breathing Room? Closer, But Not Yet

Twice a year, we release a report detailing the amount of commercial e-mail that gets blocked or filtered, based on the hundreds of thousands of campaigns for which our systems monitor inbox deliverability across all major ISPs and commercial filtering applications.  From 2002 to 2004, this number shot up from 15 percent to 22 percent, and the world clearly recognized a growing deliverability crisis for commercial mailers.  Since 2004, the number has been slowing declining, now down to 19.2 percent for the first half of 2006.  A nice directional trend, to be sure. 

But before you breathe a sigh of relief thinking that deliverability is becoming a non-issue, consider this:

Six leading ISPs still blocked more than a third of commercial e-mail for reputable marketers, with one (Excite) blocking more than 50 percent.   And the ISP with the lowest incidence of blocking, CompuServe, still blocked nearly 12 percent.

Let's face it--whether the figure is 12 percent or (gasp!) 50 percent, no marketer can afford to have that much e-mail go missing.  As I always tell people, if you printed 10 million catalogs, how would you feel if someone came to your warehouse and lit 1.9 million of them on fire?  Probably not so good. There are several things you can do right now to build your e-mail reputation, and give your e-mail the best chance of gaining inbox reach:

  • Stop focusing on tweaking content for delivery reasons. Content does matter, but probably not for the reasons you think.   Exclamation points, words like "free" and too many "click here" links are yesterday's news in the world of e-mail blocking and filtering.   But if you're sending content that is disengaging or unexpected, it hurts.  Your customers will be much more likely to hit "this is spam" if they don't like what you send them, which sends your reputation (and e-mails) straight to the floor.
  • Start fixing your list.   Make sure that everyone on your list wants to be there, is engaged, and is getting things from you that they want.  Get rid of the non-responders (one client of ours has a delightful term for these people--PNCs, which stands for persistent non-clickers), the unknown users, and the disgruntled, and you will be much closer to a solid e-mail reputation.   When you send to people who don't exist, you look like a spammer.  And when you send to people who no longer want to hear from you, they treat you like one.
  • Get technical.   Even if marketing is your bag, make sure you understand the e-mail technicalities that can get in the way of delivery rates.   Make sure that your entire e-mail program is using the appropriate authentication protocols.  Check your IPs for blacklist inclusions.   Use appropriate HTML code.  Avoid offers that have been Brightmail tagged.



The list of things that marketers need to know to reach the inbox is endless, but can be boiled down to this:  do the right thing, as someone is always watching.   By doing things above-board, you build a stellar reputation that will both get you higher inbox reach, and higher customer response.

We look forward to the day when the semiannual numbers for industry deliverability are out of the red zone, but we're still not quite there yet.


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