A lot of marketers spend countless hours before each campaign trying to figure out how to assure that their campaign reaches the inbox. Spammy words are tweaked, dollar signs are turned to images, and capitalized words are changed to normal prose. All the while, marketers lament the stranglehold that the ISPs have over their results.
But the effort is misplaced, as is the complaining. The ISPs are telling you what your boss would tell you if (s)he knew enough about e-mail marketing. Ultimately, the rules that ISPs place on your campaigns are the same ones that you should voluntarily be placing on yourself. They are the rules that lead to better performance in the e-mail medium.
For starters, make sure that you don't generate high spam abuse complaint rates. The ISPs really do not set the bar very high, yet many marketers cannot clear it because their lists are populated by recipients who are not interested in the subject matter or come from a source that was not genuinely opt-in, or both. Lists like these--by far the norm in the marketplace--simply do not represent a solid foundation for any e-mail marketing program. Similarly, another litmus test used by ISPs to separate bulk from the inbox is the freshness of the data. If your lists contain records that have not responded in many months, your boss should be asking you why you are mailing them. But since (s)he won't, the ISPs will bulk or block you.
My guess is that neither your boss nor your best friend is going to get on your case about how you market with e-mail. But the ISPs are there for you. They will remind you every day that you need to start with only people who are genuine hand-raisers. And, they will remind you that you will get the best results through segmentation--by mailing to fresh data that has expressed an interest in the subject matter of your campaign. So next chance you get, hug an ISP and embrace its values. This will be good for your e-mail program.