As I think back on my many years working in the direct marketing industry, I am reminded of the French proverb, "the more things change, the more they stay the same." Here's why. While the medium has seen a tremendous shift to online, the message from many marketers is still the same: I need to grow my list and I need to mail everything to all people on it. Well ladies and gentlemen, get the kids, wake the dog, it's time to do some spring cleaning and wipe away the top 10 deliverability misconceptions direct marketers seem to consistently have.
The bigger I can get my list, the more money I will make from it. A large list might make you feel better, but unless all of the people on it want to be there, the size of your list could actually be losing you money. First, you are paying to send information to people who don't respond to it. Second, removing these people will change your denominator and your mailings will actually be more profitable. Lastly and most importantly, the old and unresponsive names on your list are turning into spam trap complaints, ruining your IP reputation and degrading your delivery and deliverability potential.
When consumers click the "report as spam" button it's OK to continue sending them marketing email. People primarily click this button because they don't see the value of your email. Some people also still believe this is the only way to safely unsubscribe. Continuing to mail to them is counterproductive. You need to unsubscribe people who complain about your mail. In fact, some ISPs will penalize you for not doing so.
I need to have 100 percent delivery and deliverability rate 100 percent of the time. For the most part, this is simply unattainable all the time. Surprisingly, you - not the ISP - have complete control over this metric. If you keep your lists extremely clean and your customers are actively engaged with your email program, you will have a great IP reputation and outstanding delivery rates and inbox presence.
Doesn't the ISP know how much money we spend in advertising dollars? Why are they blocking my mail? Clearly there is a separation of church and state here. Try as you may, your account person at your favorite ISP will have no influence getting you unblocked. No matter how much money you spend with them, you are getting blocked because you probably mailed something you shouldn't have (a bad list, mismatched content, your opt-outs thinking they will opt in again, etc.)
ISPs should care that my email gets through because we are a known brand. While this may seem redundant to No. 5 above, it is worth separating out. Honestly, ISPs don't care if you are the Girl Scouts or an adult video company. If the people on your list have asked to be there and are interacting with your mail, it will get delivered.
All of my customers want to hear from me all the time even if they never open or click on my mail. This one's easy if you put yourself in their shoes. At some point, don't you want the guy at your door to stop trying to sell you encyclopedias when you never answer your door?
I can pass this message off as transactional, so I can mail all of my customers who have unsubscribed. In the U.S., sending transactional messages containing content that you need to tell people (order/shipping confirmations, order status updates, warrantee, or legal notices) does not require suppressing opt-outs. Further, including commercial content in transactional messages can be done and is often very effective. But for example, messages that are sent to remind people that they forgot to buy something are most likely considered commercial and need to have opt-outs suppressed. Pretending this is transactional content will potentially raise enough complaints to instigate deliverability or even legal issues.
Just because it's legal, it's OK to do it. It's not illegal to color your hair neon rainbow colors. But it's probably not a good idea to go to a job interview with it (unless it's to a neon hair color salon). The same holds true for your marketing offers. Treat your customers with respect and tell them targeted and intelligent things. They will reward you with their continued business.
I got a CD for $50 with a list of 100 million double opt-in names. I am going to make so much money from this. By now, most people know better, but there are still a few hold-outs that think buying a list from an unconfirmed source is a good idea. If it sounds too good to be true…it probably is.
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Rick Buck is vice president of privacy and ISP relations, CIPP at e-Dialog, a provider of advanced e-mail and multichannel marketing solutions. Rick works with clients, ISPs, and privacy organizations to promote best practices around responsible marketing. He is an active member of the Direct Marketing Association where he sits on the Ethics Operating committee and previously served as the Ethics Policy committee chair. Rick is also a board member of the E-mail Sender and Provider Coalition (ESPC). Prior to his current role Rick served as vice president, business lists and data for Harte Hanks.
Rick is an accomplished speaker and author on such topics as e-mail deliverability, privacy, and CAN-SPAM compliance. Rick has over 20 years of experience in privacy, acquisition strategy, database management, and Internet marketing. He joined e-Dialog in 2000.