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12 Checks for Holiday Inbox Delivery

  |  November 19, 2010   |  Comments

Three of the most common reputation issues that marketers encounter during this time and some simple checks you should do to be sure your holiday e-mail marketing plans go off without a hitch.

Halloween is behind us, Thanksgiving is coming up fast, and the early signs of Christmas cheer can already be seen in many places. If your business is not already in full-throttle promotion mode, it will be soon and the next six weeks will be a hectic and stressful blur of marketing activity. Getting your e-mails delivered to the inbox during the holiday season is often overlooked until it's too late. Here are the three most common reputation issues that marketers encounter during this time and some simple checks you should do now to be sure your holiday e-mail marketing plans go off without a hitch.

Volumes: Most marketers increase their frequency and volume during the holiday season but then find their mail queue backed up, so that a 24-hour sales notice gets sent by the time the sale is over! To avoid these embarrassing snafus:

  • Properly configure your mail transfer agent (MTA) for the number of connections and messages per connection.
  • Confirm your MTA can handle sending high volumes of holiday e-mail in the timeframes you require. If not, contact your e-mail service provide (ESP) or MTA vendor for additional hardware or IPs to handle your volume.
  • Set up additional IP addresses, warm or season them, and add to all your authentication records.
  • Fine-tune your retry logic to handle "too busy, try again later" bounces from the ISPs.

Complaints: After volume, subscriber spam complaints may be the biggest headache for marketers. Consider these items to keep your complaints low and your mail flowing:

  • Analyze spam complaints during previous holidays and high volume mailings, and identify correlations between items. Compare conversions, frequency, type of offer, and demographics, then fine-tune your program accordingly. For example, segment your mail based on tolerance to frequency levels.
  • Encourage your subscribers to update their mailing preferences now. You can also create a special "holiday bonus" promotion e-mail series and have people opt in to this additional frequency, or, at least, give the opportunity to opt out if they aren't interested in getting more messages.
  • Survey your subscribers to get valuable feedback on what types of mail they might be interested in receiving this year, and what their frequency tolerance would be.
  • Audit your feedback loops to make sure all IP addresses are listed, you're receiving all spam complaints, and your internal process is suppressing complainers against your file.

Spam traps: Spam traps indicate poor list health. Internet service providers (ISPs) use them to filter out spam. My company's studies have shown that just one spam trap hit can negatively affect your deliverability. As most senders reach out to older addresses during the holiday season, spam trap activity increases dramatically. Resist the temptation to mail to these addresses. The potential revenue you might make from them is always outweighed by having all of your e-mail blocked and sent to the spam folder where no one will read it. If the executives in your company insist on mailing to these older addresses, consider these strategies:

  • Approach older segments cautiously and use a win-back approach to non-responders.
  • Mail older, inactive addresses in small batches, preferably from a separate IP address, and monitor for spam trap activity.
  • Monitor for spam traps using sources like Microsoft's Smart Network Data Services (SNDS), SpamCop, Project Honeypot, and blacklists.
  • Analyze spam trap hits for correlations. Hint: compare between things like data source and age of the address.

These are just few things I would check. Do you have any deliverability checklists you use to keep your inbox placement rates high during the holiday season?

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Tom Sather

Tom Sather is an e-mail deliverability consultant for Return Path where he works with top-brand clients like eBay, MySpace, IBM, and Twitter. Tom's previous experience includes stints with e-mail service provider Experian and work on the abuse desks for AOL, Bellsouth, AT&T, and GTE. Tom uses his knowledge of ISPs, spam filters, and deliverability rules to advise marketers on how to get their e-mail delivered to the inbox and generate the highest possible response. Tom's clients have seen an average increase of 20 percent in deliverability rates.

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