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Avoid the ISP War on Graymail

  |  June 20, 2012   |  Comments

Four tips for marketers to ensure their email messages get delivered.

In past years, email deliverability was primarily based on having quality customer data, relationships with the ISPs, good HTML coding, and the right email service provider. Relevant engagement in email marketing has always been important for campaign success, but relevant engagement is now essential for email deliverability as well.

Today, Internet service providers (ISPs) filter emails into more folders than simply the inbox and junk folder. Depending on the ISP, there may be up to six different folders for email that actively separate person-to-person messages from mass mail. The ISPs consider mass mail, commonly known as graymail, to be anything from newsletters and promotional offers to daily deals and social network updates. There's a challenge with this definition of mass mail. A last-minute travel offer might be graymail to one person and the perfect get-away weekend for another person. So what can email marketers do to reduce the impact of these ISP filters? Here are four tips to help marketers win the "war" on their email.

Tip No. 1: Engage Your Customers

Customer engagement becomes even more important for email deliverability. If the email appears to have higher value, it's more likely to reach the inbox. ISPs determine the value of an email by the past engagement between the sender and the recipient. Consider providing more compelling reasons for your subscriber to click on your messages. For example, have the subscriber click to read the full article contained in your newsletter. Another useful action is to get subscribers to reply-to your email. Of course, you need to give them a reason to reply, and actively monitor your reply-to address, but many ISPs will automatically whitelist you for that email account once the subscriber replies to your message. It immediately helps your sender reputation and future emails are more likely to reach the inbox as a "person-to-person" communication.

Tip No. 2: Target Your Marketing

Targeting and segmentation are also directly linked to inbox success rates. Create smaller, more targeted lists that contain more relevant content for each customer group. The smaller the list and the more engaging the content, the more your recipients will interact with your emails. This has an immediate impact on your deliverability rates. One of the best segmentation methods is to create customer segments based on behavioral data. If you want to predict future behavior, try analyzing past behavior in the form of user interests, preferences, and interactions.

Tip No 3: Gain Confirmed Opt-Ins

Subscribers are receiving increasing levels of emails so it has become a real challenge for marketers to differentiate themselves. Gaining consent from a new subscriber is a starting point in building a solid relationship between a brand and their subscriber. When marketers collect details for a new subscriber, they should choose a strategy with a confirmed opt-in. Additionally, marketers need to deliver a very clear message on what they will send once someone is on their mailing list. Many companies send a variety of messages that are not targeted to a subscriber's interests. This can result in poor response rates to campaigns, potential complaints of spam from a subscriber, and poor deliverability rates. The best practice is to provide multiple opt-in selections to the subscriber to ensure they are subscribing to receive content that's interesting for them.

Tip No. 4: Be Consistently Relevant

Look at email marketing from the subscriber's point of view and not just from the marketer's point of view. Companies often send generic content to a wide array of users resulting in a lack of useful information for the subscriber. Segmentation strategies and customer intelligence can solve this challenge by providing consistently relevant and useful content. This strategy is of particular importance in B2B email marketing where subscribers will quickly lose interest if they are receiving messages that are not relevant to their business area. Sending content that a subscriber views as low value is a very quick way of landing in the ISP complaint box or graymail filter so it's very important that emails be consistently relevant in all campaigns.

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Andrew  Bonar

With more than 15 years of industry experience, Andrew Bonar is a recognized expert in message sending and deliverability. As director of deliverability for Emailvision, Andrew is responsible for developing and evangelizing best practices in permission-based marketing with Emailvision clients and industry associations. Andrew maintains a respected blog, EmailExpert.org, and is frequently requested to speak at email marketing events around the world.

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