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The Sooner, the Better?

  |  November 15, 2002   |  Comments

Hit ’send.’ Your email arrives... three weeks later. Not in time for the holidays. What’s going on?

When’s the Web slower than offline?

When mass emailers (many are top super affiliates) send messages -- or so it appears. Email is slower than snail mail delivery at some larger email houses that send millions of messages every day. Messages trickle through, one at a time. This holiday season, the question isn’t just whether your message gets there. How fast is of equal concern.

Besides making postal workers happy, impact on e-commerce during one of the busiest times of the year is tremendous. When it’s most important to reach customers, mass emailers often cannot get your message through -- literally.

Is your email delivered quickly? These anecdotes were shared anonymously by contacts in the email industry:

  • A company emailed an offer to its own opt-in list. It had used the same list for months. Fifteen days after the mailing, a spam complaint was made. Normally, such complaints are almost instantaneous -- who waits two weeks to report spam? The hosting service threatened to close the company down due to the suspiciously slow nature of the complaint.

  • Another company sent an email that took three weeks to generate spam complaints. When you send millions of messages a day, complaints are routine, no matter how opt-in your list. The company couldn’t understand what happened, since the message was sent weeks earlier.

  • A friend mails regularly to his list. He noticed revenue began to dip at the beginning of the month. When he did month-end tallies, the numbers increased significantly, albeit lower than his usual email numbers. His email was obviously delivered at a variety of times, and certainly not quickly.

Increased email blocking by AOL, MSN, Yahoo, and Hotmail, combined with sheer email volume, directly affects emailers (even legit ones). Isolated incidents? People I talk to say it’s endemic.

In the midst of an unprecedented flood of holiday email, the Internet is a clogged drain. Maybe it’s spam filters; maybe ISPs shut off outside email periodically; maybe mass abandonment of phony Hotmail and Yahoo addresses adds up. Many use Sendmail, a dumb program that, when overloaded with messages, slows to a deadly crawl until all are sent. This could affect other email’s ability to get through as well.

I tested the process. I wanted to send mail to 50,000 Yahoo users from my opt-in list. I selected a cross section for the test message. Eighty-five percent were undelivered because:

  • The inbox was overfull.

  • The user doesn’t exist.

  • The message was delivered to the bulk mail folder. Technically it arrived, but you feel slimy for having sent it.

Like most people, I didn’t use the most sophisticated tools. Yet I was shocked because my list does well generating revenue. Then I considered direct mail. How many people open a postal direct marketing piece? Fifteen percent? If you’re lucky!

That means the industry-wide 4 to 6 percent open rate for higher volume emailers (over 50 million per month) and a recent steep decrease in revenue may be a portent for affiliate managers.

Email is becoming direct mail. You can’t rely on it arriving immediately. Too many factors are out of your control. Although not challenged by weather or postal workers, email delivery is slowing dramatically. Fewer people respond to, open, or buy from email.

Is email dead? By no means. Overuse is a sign of effectiveness.

In the early days of the postal service, overeager marketers flooded homes with free catalogs. A price was levied for delivery to force marketers to share the costs. Our mailboxes remain full of junk mail.

Email is still the most effective game in town. Like all marketing, the game continues and the numbers fluctuate. Like direct mail, those numbers come in a little slower than in the old days.

Keep an eye on this as you watch the sales of your affiliates who use email. Their volume approach may affect us all.

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Declan Dunn Declan Dunn is CEO of ADNet International, a direct marketing services provider that focuses on select projects and its own super affiliate network, including the Net Profits business training systems delivered at ActiveMarketplace.

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