When troubleshooting a deliverability issue with a marketer, I always ask them to send me a copy of their latest email. Here is a recent conversation I had (that was all too familiar):
Question: "Would you send me an example of the affected email so I can look at it?"
Response: "Oh, I don't have one…let me ask around. I don't sign up for our program. I don't want to get that much email."
Let's pause to think about that for a second. You don't sign up for your own email programs because you would get too much email? It's one thing if you don't want to sign up for your own program because you aren't the target audience, but if your reason for not signing up is because you send too much email, I'd say there is a good chance your customers feel the same way.
How much is too much email? Is it three times a week? Seven times a week? Ultimately, that is for your customer to decide. For some, daily might be too much; for others, it may be perfect. If possible, give your customers a mechanism with which to choose, such as a preference center.
An extra email here and there outside of your normal cadence can be very effective, but it's a delicate balance. Your own experiences are your greatest resource. If you don't like getting overloaded with marketing mail, what makes you think your customers do? Are they that much different than you? Probably not. If you don't respect your customers' inboxes as if they were your own, customers may eventually become exhausted, angry, or indifferent. This can eventually lead to the junk folder…or worse.
It comes down to a simple rule that you probably learned in grade school: "Do unto others…"
Here's the challenge: sign up for your own program with your personal email address, not your work or a test account. If you're already cringing at the thought, that might be an indicator that you have a problem. You may also discover that by signing up, you start getting other email from your company that you didn't expect to see. Or you may find the opposite to be true; you don't send enough email (yes, this can happen). The reason it needs to be your personal inbox is to truly experience what your customers are experiencing in a real-world scenario: a crowded inbox that houses an assortment of personal and marketing mail that you check on your own time.
Tomorrow morning when you sit down with a cup of coffee and open your inbox, take a minute to analyze it - it may take a few days for your emails to start rolling in, but once they do, take notice. Depending on how much email you get, this may be a chore, but any decent sample size will do. If you want to go more in depth, try to log your experiences. Count how many emails other than your own that you read, delete without reading, mark as spam, etc. Note what you like and what you don't, and if you can get several others in your company to do the same, you'll have some great comparisons. To get a more unbiased opinion, ask friends and relatives what they think. Not everyone will like the same thing, but you might just be surprised at the outcome. As marketers, it can be easy to get caught up in overthought data models and market research. Sometimes it's best to just take a step back and look at it from the perspective of the most important people to your company: your customers.
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Jay Brangiforte is a senior deliverability operations manager at e-Dialog. He has been with e-Dialog for five years, and is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and a member of MAAWG. Jay works with e-Dialog clients to help them implement best practices for privacy and deliverability.
March 19, 2014