Defining Delivered E-Mail

Last time, I talked about one of the first official standards in e-mail marketing, set by the Email Experience Council (EEC): to spell “email” without a hyphen. [ClickZ’s style is to spell “e-mail” with the hyphen. –the eds.] I received over 250 e-mail messages about the change. I realized those messages were fueled by the passions of marketers who were anxious to help drive change. I became inspired.

I started thinking, “If that many people took the time to reply to my column with questions, comments, support, and more, what else can we achieve?” E-mail marketing standards are few and far between. There are thousands of documents with recommended approaches, best practices, and tactics to implement. But no one has come up with any collective e-mail standards, other than opt-in compliance for the FTC. After reading all the feedback, I decided to step on the gas regarding usable e-mail standards. I turned to the EEC’s Roundtable leaders to see what we could release as our next standard.

After some great debate and conversations with EEC members (who consist of clients and agencies), we came to a decision: Deliverability is unequivocally the big issue in e-mail communications today and, by expert consensus, the issue that will drive much of 2007.

Simply put, if our messages never arrive, what’s in them doesn’t matter. If they arrive but our customers question their credibility, they won’t respond. If they arrive and our customers trust they are legitimate but our images don’t show and our links are stripped, they can’t respond. Permission policies, mailing practices, spam filtering, reputation management, image blocking, whitelisting, and certification are just some of the many elements that fall under the deliverability umbrella. Before we can truly discuss the means to optimize the deliverability, credibility, and rendering of our e-mail communications, shouldn’t we agree on the metrics we use to measure e-mail performance?

For example, how do we define delivered and nondelivered messages? Is the definition based on the number of total bounces, hard bounces only, or something totally different? Do we count blocked e-mail even if it doesn’t bounce? Should it be, as some suggest, only the mail that actually reaches the inbox? Ask 10 people, you’ll get 10 different answers.

The first project for the EEC’s Deliverability and Rendering Roundtable includes a comprehensive analysis of bounces as well as a critical assessment of the core performance e-mail metrics we use every day, including delivered, click rates, and open rates. If you send e-mail, test your knowledge on bounces and help shape the results of performance metric standards by participating in this survey. (By participating, you will receive a sneak preview of the results before they’re released.)

Your passions will really help shape the future and set some standards. I don’t know about you, but I am anxious to see the results.

Meet Jeanniey at E-Mail Marketing, the first in the new ClickZ Specifics conference series, October 24-25 in New York City.

Nominate your favorite product or campaign for the 2006 ClickZ Marketing Excellence Awards, October 16 through close of business (EST) on October 24. Final voting begins on October 30.

Want more e-mail marketing information? ClickZ E-Mail Reference is an archive of all our e-mail columns, organized by topic.

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