2009 Deliverability Benchmark Report: Don’t Be a Statistic

Posted by George Bilbrey on

Today Return Path releases a new Email Deliverability Benchmark Report. It’s been a few years since we published this kind of data and the big news is that the news hasn’t changed much in that time. On average, commercial email is still being blocked at a rate of about 20%.

There are a number of reasons that deliverability is still a crisis for email marketers, and we outline those reasons in the report, which you can download here. But one reason I’d like to talk about here is that the changes that are required to improve deliverability are sometimes perceived as difficult for a company to implement. Not because they are, I would contend, but because internal complacency can be a roadblock to marshaling even the small amount of resources needed. And in today’s economy that isn’t totally surprising. It’s hard to justify, for example, spending time and energy on fixing a sub-optimal unsubscribe process when activities that are perceived as having a bigger revenue impact are fighting for space at the top of the to-do list.

But I would argue that the time, money and energy spent on improving deliverability IS a revenue-generating activity. Or, at the very least, it’s a revenue-preserving activity, and in this economy is there really a difference? In our press release about this report we do some simple, back of the envelope math. Let’s say you have 100,000 email addresses in your database. Now let’s say that you generate $1 in revenue per email you send. If your inbox placement rate is 80% then you are losing $20,000 every single time you send an email. Even marketers with more modest lists can lose thousands of dollars when their email does not get to its destination. For bigger companies this cost can sky-rocket into the millions.

The good news is that it does not have to be so. We have plenty of clients who achieve and maintain average inbox placement rates of 100%. They reap the rewards of high deliverability, but they also reap the rewards from having a great email program. That’s the best news of all – the changes you may need to make to improve your inbox placement rates are usually changes that also lead to a better subscriber experience. This, in turn, leads to better response and more revenue.

So my advice to email marketers reading this report is this: Don’t be discouraged. Be inspired. You do not have to die by these numbers. They are, after all, an average. You can be better than average – way better than average, actually. I see it happen every single day.


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About George Bilbrey

George Bilbrey is the founder of the industry’s first deliverability service provider, Assurance Systems, which merged with Return Path in 2003. He is a recognized expert on the subjects of email reputation and deliverability and is active in many industry organizations, including the Messaging Anti-Abuse Working Group (MAAWG) and the Online Trust Alliance (OTA). In his role as president of Return Path George is the driving force behind the ongoing innovation of our products and services. Prior to Return Path, George served as Director of Product Management at Worldprints.com and as a partner in the telecommunications group at Mercer Management Consulting. He holds a B.A. in economics from Duke University, and an MBA from the Kenan-Flagler School of Business, University of North Carolina.

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